Title: Faith and politics rarely mix well Credit: Craig Young Comment Sunday 12th September 2004 - 12:00pm1094947200 Article: 411 Rights
It's interesting that Destiny Church guru Brian Tamaki hasn't been evaluated from one particular perspective as yet, although Peter Lineham made an excellent start in this week's New Zealand Listener. No-one has placed the pretentious pastor in the context of clergy and political aspirations, which isn't a particularly glittering field when one considers the low calibre of Australasian contenders. For glbt readers Fred Nile and Graham Capill would probably be the best known examples of politicised fundamentalist preachers before the advent of Tamaki. Having read Niles' autobiography, I conclude that he was the beneficiary of several advantages that have maintained his Call to Australia/Christian Democratic Party's toehold in the New South Wales Legislative Council. Judging from Niles' autobiography, Sydney Australian Anglicans are fundamentalists, and most mainline NSW denominations are under fundamentalist domination, apart from the Uniting Church, which is a beacon of progressive and liberal Christianity in that context. Until recently, Nile used to be a minister within that denomination, but quit when it started to ordain lesbian and gay ministers. Can anyone confirm rumours about massive celebrations within his former denomination when that happened? Wesley Mission Director Gordon Moyes has taken Niles' place as the latter is gunning for a federal Senate seat. It is to be hoped the CDP won't survive without Niles' 'leadership' in New South Wales, or NSW voters won't give him a chance of causing misery in the federal Australian Senate. Happily, New Zealanders seem to have little patience for bully pulpit tactics. Graham Capill led the Christian Heritage Party for fourteen years, and apart from the time that it stole Frank Grover from the Alliance in the late nineties, it has never been able to enter Parliament. It should be noted Capill was a full-time leader, as his former sect, the Reformed Church of New Zealand, told him he had to chose between pastoral duties and political ambitions. He chose the latter mirage. Capill and the CHP are throwbacks to the old Christian Right that existed before the mid-nineties, and its former leader and members were segregated from New Zealand's political realities within the New Zealand fundamentalist subculture. In August 2003, Capill finally stepped down, and now has a real job as a Christchurch Police Prosecutor. His successor, Ewen McQueen, is not an ordained minister. During his tenure as leader, Capill was widely regarded as the "Patricia Bartlett of the nineties," to quote Auckland University political scientist Raymond Miller. It may be remembered that Capill's CHP and Graeme Lee's Christian Democrats had a strange-sect marriage entitled the Christian Coalition in the mid-nineties, before it failed to enter Parliament and the relationship ended in a strange-sect divorce. Lee was evicted from Parliament in 1996, but not before he had turned Coromandel into a marginal National seat, which fell to Green leader Jeanette Fitzsimons in 1999 and ensured that party's political survival. Michael Bassett describes Lee's brief tenure as Minister of Internal Affairs in his departmental history of the Department of Internal Affairs as rather undistinguished, as Lee had to keep asking DIA senior officials and executives for assistance with his short-lived portfolio. Currently, Lee is serving as a minister at the fundamentalist (Auckland) Greenlane Christian Centre, and is associated with the fundamentalist national coalition known as Vision Network New Zealand. (He was also spotted in the audience of last week's Gay Auckland Business Association forum of Auckland mayoral candidates - ed.) There are some other candidates, past and present. Probably no-one remembers Ian Peters, Winston's brother, and National's one-term Tongariro MP before Labour recovered at the next election (1990-93). Hansard carries records about his signal ignorance about the Human Rights Act 1993 during its readings. Hopefully, United Future's clueless last-placed List MP, Paul Adams, will join him in oblivion at the end of this parliamentary term. Remember him? He believes in the feasibility of the recriminalisation of homosexuality, and said so at a Maxim Institute anti-CUB meeting at Milford Baptist Church earlier this year. There's a single woman amongst this lot, and at least she seems to have had a real job and pastoral responsibilities as a hospital chaplain, which means that Judy Turner is comparatively good on social policy issues, and even voted for the first reading of the Relationships (Statutory References) Bill, albeit not the Civil Union Bill. She was also opposed to the Prostitution Law Reform Act, and is anti-abortion. There's a pattern here. Apart from Turner, fundamentalist ministers never seem to make a satisfactory transition into mainstream political life. They tend to lack political sophistication, and don't last long if they are selected as National (or United Future) MPs. Nile was only an exception because of specific regional demographic and historical factors in his native New South Wales. And Brian Tamaki? Sure, the guy can organise rallies, and he dresses flashier than Capill, Nile, Adams, Lee and Peters did, or do. But is he really that different? He boasts that he'll attract over thirty thousand marchers to Parliament "next time," but Destiny New Zealand can't even manage to get to one percent amongst Maori or Auckland voters. Nor did Destiny Church or Destiny New Zealand make a parliamentary submission to the Justice Select Committee over the Civil Union and Relationship (Statutory References) Bill. Sure, he may be a televangelist, but New Zealand's catchment of fundamentalists may be too small to provide him with a political career, despite what it's done for his bank balance. Recommended Reading: Michael Bassett: The Mother of All Departments: The History of the Department of Internal Affairs: Auckland: Auckland University Press/Historical Branch of the Department of Internal Affairs: 1997. Graeme Lee: Faith, Politics and Servant Leadership: Auckland: Castle Publishing: 2002. Fred Nile: An Autobiography: Sydney: Strand Publishing: 2001. Websites: Christian Democratic Party [Fred Nile] Destiny Church/ New Zealand United Future New Zealand Craig Young - 12th September 2004    
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