|Brian Tamaki Considerable controversy currently surrounds Brian Tamaki's former mentor and shepherd, 'Bishop' Eddie Long of New Birth Missionary Church, Georgia. What does this scandal say about the future of Long's protege and his sect, Destiny Church? It tends to be the case that Brian Tamaki's Destiny Church has more to do with African-American 'prosperity gospel' Pentecostalism than with mainstream Maori political movements and concerns. Understandably, the latter centres primarily on issues like linguistic and cultural renewal, land reclamation and questions of resource ownership (like the current seabed and foreshore debate) than with policing the individual 'moral' and social behaviour of other Maori, except where vulnerable individuals are harmed. Because of this disconnect, Tamaki's political ambitions were stillborn. In August 2004, the Enough is Enough march targeted the Civil Union Act, but ironically led to a liberal backlash in favour of its passage. Similarly, his political vehicles, the Destiny Party and Family Party, polled poorly and were subsequently abandoned, given evident Maori and Pacific Island voter preoccupation with more important issues.
Why did Tamaki seem to think that he could attract Maori social conservative supporters? I believe that this can be traced to mimicry of Eddie Long, his mentor and Pentecostal 'shepherd' overseer. Long was an ardent campaigner against same-sex marriage within African-American communities, cynically manipulating them using the legacy of Martin Luther King's renegade conservative daughter, Bernice King, despite Coretta Scott King's support for LGBT rights as part of her assassinated husband's civil rights mission. Much like Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church in our own national context, Long was fiercely criticised for his affluent lifestyle and obliviousness to more traditional African-American church concerns about social justice and antipoverty work. After the US economy started to hit the skids after a decade of Bush administration neglect and economic mismanagement, mortgage foreclosures, small business failures and unemployment started to hit Lithonia hard. The hold of prosperity gospel theology faltered, and resentment toward Long's high life and expensive titheing requirements grew. As a result, several young African-American men came forward with allegations that Long seduced and had gay sex with them. These have grown into ongoing court cases, although it remains to be seen whether the accusations are valid or not. If the recession has hit New Missionary Baptist Church hard then, what about its carbon copy, Destiny Church? For all Brian Tamaki's large-scale megachurch congregational scale, that is hamstrung by the relative poverty of his predominantly South Auckland parishioners. It probably put paid to the Destiny Party and Family Party, although pakeha Christian Right resentment may have played a part, as did Tamaki's own hostility toward that constituency (that said, the eighties New Zealand Christian Right was prone to ridiculous redbaiting conspiracy theories about Maori political reassertion). Destiny Church has shrunken and it remains to be seen whether or not Brian and Hannah Tamaki's rackrent titheing and the growing impoverishment of his South Auckland parishioners caqn co-exist in the context of the current recession without a collision course warning. Destiny might continue to experience gradual membership exit or face internal schism, as often happens with Pentecostal churches, or there might be a more cataclysmic denouement should there be any shortcomings within its church hierarchy. New Zealand's LGBT communities have nothing to fear from Brian Tamaki. As with the current downfall of Eddie Long, he may well be living on borrowed time. Recommended: Ben Anastas: “Mammon from Heaven” Harpers Magazine: 320: 1918: March 2010: 55-62. “A Life with Brian” Sunday Star Times: 21.03.10. Not Recommended: New Birth Missionary Baptist Church: http://www.newbirth.org Destiny Church: http://www.destinychurch.org.nz Craig Young - 4th November 2010