Title: Pathetic utterance? Credit: Craig Young Comment Wednesday 6th October 2004 - 12:00pm1097017200 Article: 442 Rights
On Sunday (3 Oct), TVNZ's Sunday screened yet another item on Destiny Church and New Zealand. Again, it contained some surprises and verified some hunches. Once more, other New Zealand evangelicals broke ranks and criticised Destiny's empire. Tamaki made a grandiose claim about controlling the country in 2008, and the programme attempted to assess the validity of this pathetic- oops, "prophetic" utterance. Cultwatch and other mainstream commentators voiced concern at the degree of authority, hierarchy and obligation that centred on Tamaki. However, John Hudson and TVNZ didn't pick up on possible Christian Reconstructionist motivations, particularly when Tamaki made overt references to a "theocracy." It would be unusual if this were the case, given that theonomic/Christian Reconstructionist fundamentalists in this country have been largely centred on the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, an anti-Pentecostal fundamentalist sect, and are prone to obscure arguments about John Calvin's Institutes rather than practical matters of public policy. Unfortunately, this wasn't investigated in TVNZ's foray. Tamaki was argued to have excluded Christ from the apex of Destiny Church and New Zealand. Destiny now numbers seven thousand members, and we heard from two dissatisfied ex-members. One was a solo mum who had struggled with Destiny's overbearing demands for titheing, which meant that she didn't have enough to meet her children's needs for health, welfare and food after she'd paid up. In addition, Destiny Church Brisbane's ex-pastor's daughter expressed concerns about the lack of toleration for dissent within the sect. How realistic is Tamaki's claim of domination? Mainstream Maori organisations didn't back the "Enough is Enough" march, and Marae's Digipoll ranked Destiny New Zealand at the bottom of the heap, presumably because it didn't speak to mainstream Maori about issues that really matter to them, like the seabed and foreshore debate. Given that Maori voters seem ill-disposed to support Tamaki, what about fundamentalist ones? In the United States, televangelists run their own fundamentalist television networks, but broadcasting deregulation is comparatively new in New Zealand, and the potential fundamentalist television market is far too small to support one national fundamentalist television network. In addition, our Broadcasting Standards Authority is a far more stringent regulator than the equivalent US Federal Communications Commission, and Tamaki has already fallen afoul of them once. Used effectively, it could blunt his political ambitions. What about politics? Destiny New Zealand has the misfortune to be based primarily around a particular sect, much as the Christian Heritage Party is the Reformed Church of New Zealand's political wing. Because of this sectarian bias, there is significant dissent from elements of the New Zealand evangelical community. Christian Heritage has only polled two and a half percent at the most, and has never won an electorate seat of its own. As for United Future New Zealand, that party was the beneficiary of stealth tactics. If Peter Dunne had confessed that Future New Zealand had taken over his party organisation due to the non-existence of his former United Party, would the voters have gone down that road after a particular parliamentary debate two years ago? They will never recapture their highwater mark, primarily because New Zealanders are not rabid social conservatives. However, Tamaki isn't isolated within the pakeha fundamentalist community. Recently, TV3 began to screen its own televangelist slot, affiliated to Auckland's City Impact Church, although it is much smaller than Destiny, more upmarket and only has one 'godslot' per week, on Tuesday mornings. Its chief minister is Peter Mortlock, who was a featured speaker at the "Enough is Enough" rally. Interestingly enough, City Impact's website lists involvement with Destiny Television as one of its 'community activities.' It looks as if its parishioners are more upmarket than Destiny's flock as well. In addition, Warkworth's Trevor Yaxley (Lifeway Church) runs a local cable channel, the "Family Television Network." Either one or both of them may be providing Destiny's media facilities, if Destiny hasn't done so within its burgeoning empire itself. Outside the fundamentalist camp, though, the prospects aren't as rosy. It isn't the first time that the New Zealand Christian Right has made grandiose claims about their future political prospects. According to the late Keith Hay, fundamentalists "were going to take over this country." In 1987, they took over National Party electorate organisations and scared mainstream urban voters away from the party as a consequence, and the Lange administration won a second term. In the early nineties, Graham Capill boasted that the Christian Heritage Party would hold the balance of power in a future centre-right government, but disclosure of its extremism in the mid-nineties led to the unhappy electoral marriage of National and New Zealand First after the first MMP General Election in 1996. It has never even come close to winning an electorate seat, let alone passing the five percent threshold on its own, and Capill has now retired from active political life. Tamaki isn't the first to predict the march of phantom polyester legions, but he won't be the last, nor will he succeed, given practical organisational and demographic limits. Craig Young - 6th October 2004    
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