Title: Brian Tamaki and the politics of "shepherding" Credit: Craig Young Comment Saturday 20th November 2004 - 12:00pm1100905200 Article: 488 Rights
As a Christian Right watchdog, I realised that the New Zealand Christian Right was a satellite movement some time ago. Recently, Brian Tamaki exemplifed this. On his Destiny Television weekday morning godslot (TV2,6.30 am), Tamaki is currently engaged in deliberate isolation of his flock from outside 'wordly' influences, so the senior minister can control every activity of his parishioners if at all possible. They are supposed to keep away from critics of his church, and ignore them through constant attention to the minister's messages. Tamaki's rhetoric convinced me that he is probably in this for the long haul. At a time when pakeha fundamentalism is subsiding, the New Zealand census has disclosed the growth of "Maori Christianity." To be sure, the census results didn't include the operational definition of what constituted a "Maori Christian." Hypothetically, it might be possible for nominal lapsed members of Ratana or Maori Anglican churches to define themselves as such. However, don't be fooled by cynical manipulation of external ethnicity. Tamaki doesn't really care about 'pork and puha' issues like the rancorous seabed and foreshore debate, of concern to many iwi-based Maori, especially if they alienate pakeha fundamentalist allies prone to conspiracy theories about Maori demands for land, language and cultural preservation. I suspect that few LGBT readers have heard of 'shepherding.' It constitutes a pressure cooker version of fundamentalist Christianity that involves micromanagement and deliberate isolation of one's followers from the outside world, under authoritarian leadership, and without tolerance for dissent. Ultimately, these willing adherents will be mobilised into voting blocs that might affect the political process. It doesn't matter if Destiny Church and New Zealand don't win initial battles, as long as they gain eventual numbers to begin to implement their political initiatives at some point in the future. However, even given his churches growth, Destiny will be unable to marshall sufficient numbers to influence the political process for several years. By that time, LGBT spousal and parenting rights and responsibilities will have been secured, and HIV/AIDS will be the sole issue that preoccupies our communities, given perennial prevention and medication access issues. However, there are some interesting external connections, which disclose that someone in the New Zealand Christian Right has been planning this for quite some time. In the mid-nineties, the defunct Strategic Leadership Network used the work of Christian Reconstructionists Dennis Peacocke and David Chilton in their newsletters, and their networks use 'shepherding' tactics to maintain the cohesion of their flocks. Peacocke has had contact with one Eddie Long, who is Brian Tamaki's mentor and Atlanta-based 'shepherd,' who has been active in organising against same-sex marriage within African-American communities. Moreover, Bernice King is also an accquaintance of Eddie Long, and as we know, she was a recent Destiny New Zealand guest. Shepherding is not without controversy within the international evangelical and fundamentalist communities, who worry about its possible destructive consequences on the mental and financial health of affected adherents, and lack of checks and balances on 'shepherd' leadership. Already, Destiny Church is starting to show worrying signs, and New Zealand's "Cultwatch" has expressed its concerns about such attributes. Is Brian Tamaki a long-term plant and US Christian Right sleeper? His current rhetoric suggests so. Recommended Reading: Cultwatch [New Zealand evangelical organisation. Criticises high-pressure 'superpastors' - a veiled criticism of Destiny Church and its counterpart 'shepherding' churches/] Shepherding: [Canadian evangelical website, critical of current developments] Sara Diamond: Spiritual Warfare: The Politics of the Christian Right. Boston: South End Press: 1994. [Diamond is one of the most articulate and insightful analysts of the US Christian Right. Especially note her chapter on 'shepherding' in the United States.] Craig Young - 20th November 2004    
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