Some time around the end of the 60s I remember reading an interview with Abbie Hoffman, the activist-cum-clown of the Yippie Movement. In it he said he didn’t mind John Wayne -- a man whom we might have considered Hoffman's polar opposite -- because at least he knew where he stood with him.
This came back to me as I read the statements from Brian Tamaki in the past few days. I’d like to say I don’t mind him because at least I know where he stands.
I doubt however he knows where I stand.
Because we inevitably gravitate toward people who share similar views, social beliefs, taste, aspirations and humour, I might even go so far as to say that Mr Tamaki -- a self-styled “Bishop” in a church of his own invention -- doesn’t know where a lot of people like me stand.
If I may be presumptuous I would like to speak for us.
We believe in tolerance and understanding; in dialogue over diatribe; and in people’s right to hold and express their own religious, cultural or philosophical beliefs within the constraints of the commonly agreed laws of the country we share.
And we do believe in sharing this beautiful country, a small and interconnected nation where all should have the right to feel secure, free from hatred and oppression, and free from fear of marginalisation for reasons of complexion, belief or gender.
We believe that inflammatory rhetoric of the kind we have heard in the past few days is abhorrent, wilfully and transparently divisive, and doesn’t stand serious scrutiny by people of good conscience.
In that regard we believe that intelligent and informed discussion is preferable to bald assertions of personal faith or blind rhetoric.
We believe all these things, and we practice these beliefs quietly and without bellicose bannering of them. We pass these beliefs on to our children.
We are tolerant -- but only to a point.
If this “Bishop” decides to do more than exercise his right to spew his vile, divisive and insulting speech in the streets, or to run for public office on that platform where his mandate would be tested, then we might have a problem.
If the agencies of this “faith” -- what we see as a self-serving distortion of scripture, and common sense -- act unlawfully, attempt physical threat or harm to other citizens, or try to impose their views on others, then we too will stand up for what we believe in.
What the “Bishop” might learn is that people like us -- liberal humanists, Christian, Jew, Muslim, atheist, agnostic, the whole diversity of tolerant and law-abiding citizens -- also have deeply held beliefs and do have the courage of our convictions.
It may be that we -- surprising even ourselves -- are the Silent Majority.