Hard News by Russell Brown

176

Bishop Brian: It's worse than you think

So I'm still a bit poorly to muster a Major New Blog Post. But I discovered that if you just link to an old one, 99% of customers won't be able to tell the difference. It possibly also demonstrates the cyclical nature of political argument.

Anyway, I was watching Campbell Live's excellent 20-minute feature on the New Zealand MPs who attended the Destiny Church conference at the weekend -- and, if their faces were any signal to their feelings, got hauled in quite some way past their comfort zones. You should watch it too, if only for Metiria Turei's excellent burn on Destiny's Richard Lewis in the studio discussion that followed Mihingarangi Forbes' report from the conference.

Several things jumped out for me. One was Hone Harawira's Shane Jones' response -- on being quoted a lacerating passage from a blog about the weekend's events -- that "I don't believe a Maori could have written that". Yeah, sorry, Hone. It was the most interesting and perceptive new voice in the Maori blogosphere, Morgan Godfery at Maui Street.

The other was that media researchers generally miss the most offensive shit to have been cast from the pulpit by Brian Tamaki. In 2005, I wrote a blog post about Tamaki's infamous 'Vipers of Religion' sermon -- one he liked so much that it was available as an MP3 on Destiny's website for several years. That was the post people mistook for a new one.

Here's some flavour:

Be warned that it is long and tedious, and that the Lord did not bless Pastor Brian with a lyrical tongue. In fact, feel free to skip through to just about halfway, where the really nasty stuff starts. He describes Islam as “that devilish thing” and the construction of a Buddhist temple in Botany Downs as “opening a door from Hell”, and then goes on to link both with “immigrants … who won’t change their demon religions” and are “pouring in” to New Zealand as a result of a “demon” looking around the world for openings where God has been pushed out. They are, he claims, bringing with them the economic and social degradation that their wicked faiths have wrought on their countries of origin.

That sounds quite “extreme” to me. Indeed, you probably couldn’t get away with this sort of ethnic vilification anywhere outside a church. Thereafter, Tamaki goes on to emphasise that he was appointed by God, declare that “democracy is a lower order of government that theocracy,” and declare, after serially trashing the various mainstream churches, that if he had half a million followers, he would “rule” New Zealand. Presumably, there is further idiocy but I felt it wasn’t really worth my time sticking around to listen to it.

Tamaki had of course been predicting his takeover of New Zealand for a while, notably in this 2003 clip:

You'll notice that an American preacher joins in. That's "Bishop" Eddie Long, another huckster who has long been praised by Tamaki as his "spiritual father" and mentor.

Two weeks ago, Eddie Long paid $6 million to avoid having to defend in court sexual misconduct actions brought by four young men who say he coerced them into sexual relations when they were as young as 17. Long -- while acknowledging sharing hotel rooms with the teenagers -- vowed to defend the allegations. Unsurprisingly, he didn't.

Eddie Long brought some of those boys to New Zealand. He brought them right into Destiny Church.

As you may already have guessed, Eddie Long preaches the same virulent strain of sexual hate as Tamaki and his church do. But strange things happen in authoritarian environments.

And yes, I know that Destiny has done a great job of helping people get up out of the gutter, making men fathers again. But much of its strategy has been aimed against allowing them to be citizens -- remember the citadel Brian was building? And can we really not conceive of pastoral goodness that isn't also connected with authority, abuse of power and personal enrichment?

I suppose there's an argument that MPs should and do attend the ceremonies of various faiths to which they do not subscribe -- although I'd refer you to Tamaki's words, above, on those -- but there is no justification for getting co-opted in the way they were.

The MPs all agreed it was a matter of electoral reality -- there are 10,000 votes for the having in the Destiny Church membership. But this isn't like seeking the symbolic endorsement of the Ratana church. Ratana members will, in the end, vote how they like. Destiny members will vote how they're told. Y'all comfortable with that?

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