How wrong I was. He is not only back to the top of the page; he has in fact been given the whole page, which features, not one, but two columns about Brian 'Bishop' Tamaki and his 700 sons. If you haven't already read about the oath to honour and obey 'Bishop' and his wife, then you've missed out on one of those hilarious/terrifying moments where you don't know whether to laugh or crawl up into a foetal ball. The Herald is all over the story today: it's the front page lead, as well as the website poll:
Currently 96 per cent of people are siding with 'a cult', but presumably at least 700 people will vote 'valid church' by the end of the day. Quite what is meant by 'valid church', I am unsure. It could, of course, be the technical meaning in logic: a church whose premises entail its conclusion. More likely, I feel, is the idea that the Destiny Church is ridiculous in a way that mainstream churches are not.
The old saying goes that a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. A similar sort of thing could be said about religion: a 'valid church' is a cult with fancy robes and the favour of journalists. Jesus may have said some pretty fundamental things, but if he and his followers weren't a 'Jewish cult', what were they? This isn't a new idea; in The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan tells the story of a resurrected Christ being thrown into the dungeons by the Spanish Inquisition, on the grounds that his return is too dangerous for the Church. In the Herald, however, such irony is unrecognised.
I never thought that I would find myself siding, even in part, with the Destiny Church - but here I am. Of course they're ridiculous - but are "Bishop's" teachings any sillier than most other religions? Garth certainly thinks so and, well-known for his progressive views on gender - he hates male homosexuality but has no problem with lesbians - he mocks Destiny Church for their sexism:
On Tuesday, meanwhile, the paper reported on another religious organisation that discriminates against women: the Catholic Church. That time, however, it was a perfectly straight-faced report that didn't ridicule the church at all. I mean, it's an absolute gold mine - funny robes, chanting, having to call the boss 'Holy Father'. I hear the 'priests' even have to take 'vows' not to have sex with anyone for their whole lives! It seems to me that you should take one of two relatively consistent views: either treat them with the same respect, or mercilessly ridicule them all.
Another enigma in this business is that no mention is anywhere made of the women of the church, apart, of course, from Mr Tamaki's wife, known as Pastor Hannah.
I presume that Mr Tamaki and his church leaders take literally the three-verse passage in Paul's letter to the Ephesians which says: "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church ... Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything."
One might argue that the Destiny Church is different in another important sense. In 2005, thousands of Destiny Church members, mixed with the odd National Front nutjob, marched up Queen St shouting 'Enough is enough'; the previous year, a rally in front of Parliament had attracted thousands of people to protest New Zealand's moral decay. And these weren't the nice old ladies going to mass on Sunday. These people were loud; they were young; they were overwhelmingly male; they were angry; and (whisper it) they were almost all Maori or Pacific Islanders. Though violence never really broke out, the threat of violence was always implicit - at least, that's what one picked up from the media. This organisation was a threat.
In reality, the 5000 people gathered in front of parliament would have been dwarfed by the crowd seeing Hannah Montana at a mall. When the church's political wing ran in the elections, they got 0.6 per cent of the party vote - more than the Legalise Cannabis Party, but not enough to get anyone into parliament. The fevered reports this morning of cultism are, in fact, the first time I have heard of the organisation in a couple of years. (Actually, that's not true. The Herald on Sunday last weekend carried a fascinating report on Bishop Tamaki selling his house.) Is the Destiny Church really a threat to anything?
Let's just wait for the poll to finish so we can find out.