Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Feel Bishop's Flow"

Astrology, said J.K. Galbraith, was invented to make economic prediction look reliable. The latter, it seems, could be substituted for journalistic prediction. Last week, I predicted the end of the road for Garth George's Herald column; in the wake of climate change denial (sorry Garth, but it is denial) and a scandal around alleged plagiarism, he had seemingly been demoted to the bottom of the opinion page.

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:

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."

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.

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.


  1. It's a threat to every gay and lesbian child and/or young adult under its care, for a start. Sure, that might not be many people, nor a point of difference with other religions, but it's still abhorent.

  2. Don't get me wrong - I detest everything that the Destiny Church stand for.

    But I don't know if that's the point here.

  3. Mainstream churches get their credibility from their power, success, and for at least having a committed and often intellectual approach to philosophy and theology.

    Sure, they might be equally ridiculous on a superficial level but you can't equate, say, Thomas Aquinas to Brian Tamaki's autobiography (it's in the library, skim through it sometime, it's horribly fascinating).

    If you want the Herald to become a bastion of atheism and rationalism or social commentary on a par with Dostoyevsky, you might be setting your sights a little high :-)

    You're right about Destiny not being a threat though - anything as ridiculous as Brian Tamaki tends to be self-limiting, at least in good times.

  4. "anything as ridiculous as Brian Tamaki tends to be self-limiting, at least in good times."

    Yeah, that explains why Scientology died out years ago. Oh, wait...

    Let's hope you're right, though!

  5. All religion is a threat to humanity.

    It would be a great thing if people put all that mental energy they waste learning the bible into educating themselves about the world and improving humanity. But that's not likely to happen. I always cringe when the phrase "freedom of religion" comes up. "Hey you can believe in fairies and hate on gay people if ya want to."

  6. only problem with the kind of people that put all there mental energy into learning to parrot of the bible to anyone who walks with a limp is that they usually lack the mental fortitude to apply it to anything useful... the empty vessels are often the ones that make the most noise. In saying that, I am an idiot, but at least i don't force my views on anyone, especially not christians, and especially not white christians, with their lovely faces and their nice clean shoes, aren't they lovely, love a good christian, big bunch of lovely bastards

  7. Density Church Has Arisen From The Dead!

    Hallelujah at the power of res-erection!

    Our spanking brand new site is here at

    Yours in the Spaghetti Monster, Lord High Bishop Brian Tamariki

  8. We don't ridicule the Catholic Church to the same extent because they've been doing this sort of thing for centuries. But actually, the Church has been the subject of many a comedy routine over the years.

    I take your point about the similarities between Destiny and other religions/superstitions. But Destiny is building a cult of personality around one living individual. Sure, the Catholic Church has something similar with its popes, but popes come and go. What will happen when Tamaki ascends into the heavens? Who will lead his flock then?

  9. Come on, you have to admit that the "feel Bishops flow" quote is worthy of a pisstake article all by itself.

  10. Agree and disagree. On the one hand, you're quite right: if the Herlad is going to take the mickey out of one church they should really do the same to all the others which have equally silly things going on. On the other hand though, I agree with 'gazzaj': the older traditions (Catholisicm, Anglicans, Orthodox) have at least been forced to try and grow in progressive ways as society has progressed (although you still couldn't call them 'progressive' in any meaningful sense of the word), and at least have an established framework based on a scholarly theology.
    Penticostal churches like Destiny on the other hand, well, they can make up whatever suits them now as they go along. Their complete lack of understanding of the Bible as literature means they interpret it however they wish without any reference and to suit whatever whims they might fancy. Add to that the extreme case of cult of personality, complete and utter in group-out group mentality, and an agressive stance against, well, everything it seems, and in my opinion you have a cult cult, rather than a mere cult such as Catholicism. Degrees of cultiness perhaps?

  11. They're all a bunch of cults. Myself, I'm in with Apophis - even SG1 couldn't kill him off.

    'It's a threat to every gay and lesbian child'

    oh! think of the little gay children!

    'In saying that, I am an idiot, but at least i don't force my views on anyone, especially not christians, and especially not white christians, with their lovely faces and their nice clean shoes, aren't they lovely, love a good christian, big bunch of lovely bastards'

    It seems to me that that is EXCACTLY what you are doing, Beef sandwich

  12. dear anon, I hate having to explain jokes, especially when the jape was directed at myself. but more to the point, especially when the joke was about people commenting for the sake of commenting. loves your blog btw james.

  13. What Tamaki demands of his followers, currently, eclipses any claim of any pope.

    "I love what God loves, I hate what God hates". In other words: "My will is God's will. If you want to argue with it, you're wrong. By definition." No pope has ever claimed that - even the much-mocked Doctrine of Infallability has all kinds of safeguards and limitations built into it.

    And no-one swears personal loyalty to the pope, either. (Well, I guess the Swiss Guards might. I really don't know.)

    It's the difference between a prophet and a priest. The pope is a priest - high-ranking, certainly, but still basically a bureaucrat. Tamaki is now positioning himself as a full-blown prophet - privy to his own personal revelations that set him apart from normal people.

  14. Destiny Church is as stupid as every other church.

    And any child - gay or straight - shouldn't be raised in a church. They're dangerous places for kids.

  15. Well beef, sarcasm is hard to gauge on the internet, you great fucking pile of scum you.

  16. Messiah complex at 85% and loading.

  17. sticks and stones may break my bones, but you are a dear freind and I hope our love and time combined will heal all wounds, kisses and shit BP.x