Title: Destiny's lurch: The anti-anti-gay backlash? Credit: Craig Young Comment Tuesday 31st August 2004 - 12:00pm1093910400 Article: 388 Rights
Will history show that Brian Tamaki's ill-advised Destiny Church "Enough is Enough" rally was the turning point in favour of lesbian and gay relationship equality? If one read INL/Fairfax newspapers, one could be forgiven for thinking so. The Dominion Post and Sunday Star-Times have had a consistently excellent standard of media coverage during the current civil union debate, along with Holmes and TV3's 20/20 current affairs programmes. The Weekend Dominion-Post had an article unfortunately titled "Hate Speech: Are Liberals the New Fascists?" Despite that unfortunate choice of title, David McLoughlin's article turned out to be an excellent analysis of the hate speech debate, in which the Wellington Jewish community and veteran LGBT activist Calum Bennachie put their cases for hate speech regulation. Destiny Church was interviewed as well. According to Destiny Church's Janine Cardno, their mode of dress should be seen in a Maori context. Oh, really? I've just had a look at Challenge Weekly's front page on the "Enough is Enough" march, and had a look at the advertised speakers and backing organisations. These include Trevor Yaxley (Lifeway Academy), Ewen McQueen (CHP), Peter Mortlock (City Impact Church, Auckland), David Vaka and Norm McLeod (Breakthrough Church), Dale Meachem (Palmerston North Apostolic Church), Mike Weitenberg (Metro Global Community Church), and backing from the fundamentalist Apostolic, Elim and Baptist churches. However, one 'classical' pro-gay Baptist stood up for that churches traditional adherence to church/state separation and meaningful religious freedom during the Christians for Civil Union rally on the day. Alongside them were Right to Life New Zealand, and, sadly, the Sensible Sentencing Trust. Where's the "Maori" context Janine? Apart from Tamaki, where are the Maori speakers? Where is mention of contentious issues of concern to Maori, like the current seabed and foreshore debates over coastal and marine property rights and resource ownership? No, I don't see any either. Destiny Church isn't circulating hate propaganda yet, as far as anyone knows. However, the New Zealand National Front was present at the march. It isn't as contradictory as it looks, though. Remember, the NZNF backs 'tino rangatiratanga', although Tariana Turia and her Maori Party have made it quite clear that they don't want their backing. Moreover, oddly, the straight media hasn't picked up on Brian Tamaki's previous contact with Sitiveni Rabuka, a noted Fijian indigenous nationalist and fundamentalist Christian, and organiser of a late eighties coup against a democratically elected Fijian Labour Party Government. However, the Sunday Star-Times has noticed the existence of one Ian Bilby, who, it will be remembered, fell spectacularly from grace when he was exposed as having sex with one of his Auckland Elim Church parishioners, and both Bilby's daughter-in-law and Auckland Elim Church spokespeople have written to Destiny Church about the fact that this defrocked minister is now apparently in charge of the Destiny Training Institute. He's currently on leave. At the same time, the Star-Times disclosed that Northland's Barry and Marion Wilson had lent Tamaki $450,000 to assist construction of a church while Tamaki was still pastoring Lake City Christian Centre down in Rotorua. The project was cancelled, and while Tamaki et al refunded $300,000, the Wilsons had to keep chasing Destiny Church for the remainder ($150,000), although the newspaper reported that the church hurriedly settled with the couple after it became aware that SST was on the trail. Elsewhere in that paper, Anthony Hubbard penned an excellent investigative piece that cited academic opinion about Destiny Church as a Maori Pentecostal entity. Massey University historian Peter Lineham and Victoria University Professor of Religious Studies Paul Morris didn't think Destiny looked fascist. However, Victoria University Political Studies Professor Jonathon Boston remarked that he wasn't that sure that Destiny wasn't. According to Morris, Destiny is more Pentecostal than Maori, which would explain the conspicuous absence of Maori speakers at the "Enough is Enough" rally, apart from Tamaki. I agree with Morris, it takes more than a kapa haka and Maori representation to be considered a Maori social movement, and Tamaki is no Te Whiti or Ratana. Those charismatic Maori religious figures stood alongside their people, they didn't lord it over them. Lineham struck an interesting note when he observed that it was questionable whether Destiny Church would appeal to strong iwi-affiliated Maori, and argued that its strong Maori representation was attributable to detribalised and marginalised urban Maori outside that catchment. I'm not so sure about that, as Destiny does seem to have a number of rural branch churches in areas of strong Maori habitation, although we don't know how strong they are. Hubbard did commit a faux pas when he argued that Destiny Church was isolationist. Sorry, but that isn't the impression that I got from reading Challenge Weekly's article about the march. It isn't isolated from the Christian Heritage Party or Right to Life New Zealand, or the pakeha Auckland march speakers listed above. However, Tamaki does seem isolated from mainstream Maori politics. Despite the march, Destiny New Zealand still isn't registering on the opinion polls. There's an interesting subtext here, too. Peter Lineham and Jonathan Boston are evangelical Christians themselves, although more moderate than Tamaki, McQueen and most of United Future's entourage. And given that Destiny Church member Kelly Chal was a UFNZ List MP temporarily, and that Gordon Copeland's anti- sexworker petition was circulated at the march, how can it be said that Destiny New Zealand and United Future don't have a working relationship? However, there does seem to be unprecedented evangelical dissent here, as Stuart Macmillan of the Character Education Project slammed Destiny for the presence of apparent truant schoolchildren on the march. Strikingly, other usual social conservatives are starting to dissent from Destiny's party line as well. Frank Haden is usually a conservative curmudgeon, but he made his dislike perfectly clear in an excellent column in which he compared Destiny's "black-shirted and black hearted" marchers and stiff arm salutes to the Nazi SS, Franco's Falange, Mussolini's Italian Fascists of the twenties and Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists. Or Fijian nationalist coup organisers, come to think of it? Haden didn't like the 'family values' stance and reminded us that gay men were amongst the victims of the Nazi Holocaust. Destiny Church Wellington has been left to pick up the pieces, given that Tamaki's little Nurembergesque number is over, and they still have to contend with Wellington High's plucky, heroic LGBT "School's Out" contingent, who conducted a silent protest at the back of the hall while Destiny was meeting, and organised a Sunday protest. The New Zealand Herald reported this item. All right, where's Garth George...? It's all starting to look like there is a certain liberal backlash momentum building, and we have Brian Tamaki to thank for it. Is he really working for our side? Craig Young - 31st August 2004    
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