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(Not) Taking Care of Business?

Sun 19 Mar 2006 In: Comment

Why is it that New Zealand fundamentalist Christians seem oblivious to concepts of professional and business ethics? And what does this have to do with us? Recently, Bruce Logan (ex-Maxim Institute) popped up in Challenge Weekly as a journalist. This was no surprise to me, as fundamentalist Christians appear to spend a lot of time pontificating about the sexual ethics of others, but very little on exploring questions of business and professional ethics. In the mainstream media, "Logangate" destroyed Bruce Logan's secular reputation as a 'professional' researcher and journalist. However, one can only assume that there's no such thing as 'professional' journalism evident in the fundamentalist media, otherwise Logan wouldn't have a new job, regardless of his plagiarist recent past and ample evidence of copyright violation from Paul Litterick of the New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists. Is this nepotism yet again? Are fundamentalist Christian activists so stretched for professional expertise that they are prepared to ignore this? Unfortunately for them, Logan's resurrection occurred at the same time as evidence of growing implication of key US Christian Right activists occurred in the context of a major national financial scandal. It hasn't been the first time, either. Thomas Berg has criticised the US evangelical and fundametalist communities for their lax response to the New Era Foundation scandal, which involved a "Ponzi scheme" which used investment capital from one group of donors to pay off creditors. Berg concluded that there was inadequate self-regulation and transparency within fundamentalist business interests. In New Zealand, the LGBT communities have been lucky. John Sax andthe Batts, as well as the Exclusive Brethren, haven't been as giving of their capital, and for that reason, New Zealand Christian Right organisations usually endure for a time, then gradually subside and eventually disappear altogether. On the other hand, our communities have had the New Zealand AIDS Foundation to act as an early advocate for HIV/AIDS related social reforms, and generated a cohort of younger professional community advocates who carried on its excellent work. We have a durable organisation and developed community structure, as well as a knowledgeable constituency. In the United States, the US Christian Right benefited from several factors, such as lax broadcasting content regulation, the lack of a public service broadcasting ethos and abundance of right-wing social conservative business interests in the Southern United States, which allowed US fundamentalists to transform their former seminaries into 'universities,' later supplemented by televangelists. It meant their pressure groups had professional business and management structures, and economies of scale. Added to that, the United States has never had as comprehensive a welfare state as New Zealand, and so, religious institutions serve as more important intermediary social networks than is the case in other Western societies, including our own. In New Zealand, the Savage and Fraser Labour Government laid the foundation for a fairly comprehensive welfare state, and religious observance has declined as higher education and immigration has increased. Added to which, public sector broadcasting dominated our television landscape, and the tiny scale of the New Zealand fundamentalist market segment has rendered any hope of a free to air fundamentalist national television network unreachable. Apart from the anti-abortion movement of the seventies, the New Zealand Christian Right has lacked professional, business and managerial skills, and face the bleak situation of a shrinking cohort of increasingly elderly cadre of activists, who often inhabit several pressure groups at once. The Maxim Institute was a comparative innovation when it first appeared, but was hamstrung by their narrow base of professional expertise, and overdependence on Logan as propagandist in chief. His enforced departure has crippled the organisation. Why do New Zealand Christian Right organisations fall over? Hiring auditoriums for rallies, bussing in supporters and use of information technology all cost money, as does paying staff and maintenance costs for organisational headquarters, which require financial and strategic management skills. In the United States, Charles Hambrick-Stowe traced the demise of (US) Promise Keepers to overreach, based on absence of financial and strategic management skill. In New Zealand, fundamentalist business interests are rare, and there are no fundamentalist 'university' business skills to provide that professional expertise, only basic skills training private training institutes. Thus, there are no skilled fundamentalist business professionals, management executives or entrepreneurs to serve a tiny fundamentalist market segment. For that reason, New Zealand fundamentalist social and political networks are stunted. Their media, schools, private training institutes and pressure groups have never had the advantages that their United States counterparts have had. We have considerable advantages over them, as we can rely on such professional and managerial skills. This is not America, for which let us be thankful. Recommended: -Charles Hembrick-Stowe: "Sanctified Business:" Historical Perspectives on Funding Religious Revival" (pp.81-103); -Michael Hamilton: "More Money, More Ministry: The Funding of American Evangelicalism Since 1945 (pp.104-138); -Robert Burkinshaw: "The Funding of Evangelical Higher Education in the United States and Canada in the Postwar Period)(pp.274-297); -Thomas Berg: "Too Good to Be True? The New Era Foundation Scandal and Its Implications" (pp.374-398): in: Larry Eskridge and Mark Noll (ed): More Money,More Ministry: Money and Evangelicals in Recent North American History: Grand Rapids: William B Eerdmans: 2000. New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists: (Logangate is chronicles in their Fundy Post section). Not Recommended: Bruce Logan "Television Show Demeaned, Degraded Humanity" Challenge Weekly 27.02.06 Craig Young - 19th March 2006    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Sunday, 19th March 2006 - 12:00pm

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