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Malingering in the Cathedral

Wed 3 May 2017 In: Politics and Religion View at Wayback

This is the third and final Politics and Religion farewell article, focusing last and definitely least on our inept and incompetent enemies within the New Zealand Christian Right. As acceptance of LGBTI individuals and human rights grows within Aotearoa/New Zealand, what about those who oppose it? Unlike the United States, but like much of the rest of the mainstream western world, Christian religious observance has been steadily declining in New Zealand for quite some time. This has affected New Zealand's conservative Christian pressure groups, which mostly consist of fundamentalist Protestants and a smaller handful of conservative Catholics. Like their counterparts elsewhere in the western world, these religious social conservatives have a handful of anathematised subjects- feminism, abortion rights. comprehensive sex education, LGBTI rights, corporal punishment, sex work and voluntary euthanasia. And, outside the United States, they've steadily lost ground on these issues. Apart from Eastern Europe, the United States is the only mainstream western nation that restricts abortion access, for example. Most mainstream western societies have had female prime ministers, of varying ideological hues and persuasions, and within Western Europe, Australasia, Canada and South America, there is a steady line of succession from decriminalisation of male homosexuality to anti-discrimination laws to relationship equality and same-sex parenting recognition to marriage equality. New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom have trodden this path for the last five decades and despite local warps in the path when it comes to marriage equality within Australia and trans-inclusive anti-discrimination laws in New Zealand, we have made steady if intermittent progress. When it comes to New Zealand's Christian Right, the chief blessing has been their inability to form a coherent unified front. Although there is much debate about non-class based social movements and 'identity politics' on the centre-left, the Christian Right has its own version of identity politics, only theirs is founded in conservative Christian sectarian differentiation. When I was engaged in pro-choice defence of abortion clinics in the eighties and nineties, I would often spot conservative Catholics telling their rosary beads- and fundamentalist Protestants objecting to this time-honoured Catholic ritual, or to the presence of the Virgin Mary on placards or in devotional literature. The two Christian Right major denominational divide has been bridged uneasily within the anti-abortion movement, although there is some perceptible friction. Conservative Catholics think fundamentalist Protestants are strategically inept and politically unrealistic, and sometimes despair of their sectarianism and separatism. When I began writing for Gaynz.Com in 2002, the two major New Zealand Christian Right pressure groups were the Christian Heritage Party and Maxim Institute. The CHP had begun its existence in 1990, breaking away from the Coalition of Concerned Citizens, a short-lived Christian Right organisation formed to combat homosexual law reform which fell under influence from entryist neo-fascist members of the New Zealand League of Rights in the late eighties after their defeat on that issue. Consequently, members of the Reformed Church of New Zealand sect formed their own testimonial religious social conservative political party. However, it never made any substantial inroads among religious social conservatives outside their sect, especially given their narrow sectarian base and advocacy of long-resolved issues like capital punishment, which was abolished in New Zealand in 1961. For almost thirteen years, former Reformed Church minister Graham Capill was the leader of this tiny sectarian, separatist microparty, which rarely polled above one percent in most opinion polls. In 1996, the Christian Heritage Party had formed a coalition with the Christian Democrats, another fundamentalist microparty established by Graeme Lee, former National Party Coromandel MP, fundamentalist Protestant and opponent of homosexual law reform. It was exposed as an opportunist charade and fell apart one year after it missed entry into Parliament. The Christian Democrats evolved into Future New Zealand and then merged with Peter Dunne and the United Party to form United Future, more of which later in this article. Sadly for the Christian Heritage Party, Capill developed a cardiovascular condition and then engaged in a spat with his erstwhile deputy, Merepaka Raukawa-Tait. Shortly after, he stepped down from the position, to be replaced temporarily by Ewen McQueen. However, in 2005, three female children came forward and exposed Capill as a serial pedophile, leading to his conviction and imprisonment for the next six years. Given Capill's strong CHP linkages, his fall led to the dissolution of the CHP as a political party in 2006. The Maxim Institute is another story. In 1994, it began its existence as the Education Development Foundation, a conservative Christian educational lobby group based in Christchurch. Its director, Bruce Logan, was shoulder-tapped to form a broader conservative Christian pressure group, the Maxim Institute, in 2001, and it accordingly fought against prostitution law reform, civil unions and voluntary euthanasia, until progressive atheist blogger Paul Litterick exposed Logan as having infringed intellectual property on several uncredited articles, leading to Logan's retirement, the closure of Maxim Institute Christchurch and its Evidence magazine, and its reorientation toward predominant fiscal conservatism rather than religious social conservatism. Since then, other Christian Right lobby groups have come and gone. The aforementioned Future New Zealand became a constituent of the United Future Party and when Peter Dunne performed unusually well at the 2002 New Zealand election leaders debate, its carpetbagger MPs formed the majority of Dunne's shortlived United Future caucus. Within three years, their militant fundamentalist antics had led to their near-demise at the next New Zealand election in 2005. Dunne and his remaining Future New Zealand List MP, Gordon Copeland, came to divorce over Dunne's liberal advocacy of the abolition of parental 'rights' to corporal punishment in 2007. Copeland left to form the short-lived Kiwi Party, whose lack of practical political experience led to its demise. Meanwhile, the United Future caucus had failed to halt prostitution law reform (2003) and civil unions (2005). However, the corporal punishment debate led to the rise of two new entrants within the New Zealand Christian Right- Family First and the Conservative Party. (I suppose I should briefly note Brian Tamaki, Destiny Church and the Destiny and Family Parties here. Tamaki was a Tainui iwi morehu, who converted to fundamentalist Pentecostal 'prosperity gospel' Christianity and came under the mentoring of African-American Pentecostal fundamentalist and opponent of marriage equality Rev. Eddie Long, of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. He marched against civil unions and formed a short-lived Destiny Party. Pakeha fundamentalists criticised him of cultist leadership practices and even the partnership of City Impact Church, another Auckland fundamentalist sect within a "Family Party" front group wasn't enough to rebrand him. Consequently, Tamaki has retired from active political participation. From time to time, there are still anti-LGBT outbursts). The Conservative Party is the seventh consecutive New Zealand fundamentalist microparty, formed out of fundamentalist Baptist Auckland property developer and millionaire Colin Craig's animus against the abolition of parental corporal punishment in 2007. As a result of the barely sublimated fundamentalist enthusiasm for 'reddening rearends for righteousness', there were marches and petitions, although the general public cooled down on the issue. The Conservative Party became the standard bearer for self-righteousness and came close to four percent of total voter share in 2014. However, in 2015, the property developer fell afoul of his committee and much of his rank and file membership, resulting in interminable litigation against his perceived detractors, which is ongoing and reciprocated. Colin Craig stepped down as Conservative Party leader and was succeeded by former Kiwi Party Christchurch East candidate Leighton Baker. Baker has only commented once on anti-LGBT issues, namely the non-issue of transgender student social transitioning within schools. He is mostly ignored by mainstream media outlets and even conservative Christian media. Under Baker, the Conservative Party's political stance seems to be predominantly religious socially conservative and he has eschewed Colin Craigs' earlier attempts at clip-on fiscal conservatism, apart from building and construction policy. Its future seems bleak, given Craig's continuing legal headaches. Otherwise, the global economic recession (2008- ) has adversely affected the New Zealand Christian Right, causing its contraction. Older organisations, such as Voice for Life (SPUC) and the Society for Promotion of Community Standards are almost invisible and largely inert. Right to Life New Zealand is mostly focused on opposition to abortion and euthanasia. The Conservative Party has stability problems, as noted above. As noted below, Family First has become the dominant New Zealand Christian Right pressure group. In late April 2017, however, yet another New Zealand fundamentalist party emerged- the eighth such political vehicle for conservative Christians. However, unlike the former United Future caucus in the Noughties and Conservative Party, at least they're refreshingly honest and direct about the fact that they are mostly fundamentalist Protestants. So, who are the GOdsown New Zealand Party? At present, Clare and Alan Holley, the party co founders, have no logo and have not apparently registered GOdsown New Zealand according to the Elections New Zealand website. They live on the West Coast of the South Island and Clare Holley states that she was involved with the Conservative Party Board of Management before Colin Craig's shenanigans and resignation and the state of civil war between Colin Craig and John Stringer that ensued through most of 2015. Accordingly, Clare Holley resigned and the couple have just founded New Zealand's eighth consecutive fundamentalist party. Rather like the old Christian Heritage Party (before Graham Capill's spectacular fall from grace and into Paparua Prison for six years after revelations about his serial pedophilia), GOdsown's website is fairly direct about its religious social conservative identity politics. Unfortunately, this means a whole set of garrulous conservative Christian cliches such as 'political correctness', 'social engineering', 'immorality', 'traditional Christian values' ad nausea. There are also numerous biblical proof texts sprinkled throughout its website. It would ban (deep breath) abortion, emergency contraception, euthanasia, stem cell research, maintain criminal sanctions against cannabis use, and recriminalise sex work. It would raise the age of consent to eighteen and the voting age to twenty. It would repeal civil marriage equality legislation for same sex couples and prohibit same-sex parenting. It would not recognise gender dysphoria and would not support trans-inclusive public policies within education and other social policy arenas. It would fund alternative "health" nostrums. It probably wouldn't recriminalise male homosexuality. Adult erotic entertainment would also be illegal. Incest and pedophilia would stay illegal -which I have no problem with whatsoever. Mind you, LGBTI communities aren't the only ones that they dislike. They would declare Christianity the 'state' or established religion and impose onerous obstacles to Muslim immigration (although they say little about Hindu or Buddhist immigrants, who are more numerous according to the 2015 New Zealand census.) I don't want to give the impression that GOdsown is yet another one-track militant fundamentalist Christian political party, because it does have other policies, even if they aren't elaborated all that much. In fact, there are no corroborating citations or footnoted references to indicate why they have adopted their specific policies. GOdsown New Zealand would ban 1080 drops, shut down the Emissions Trading Scheme, dismantle the Waitangi Tribunal, support Buy New Zealand made campaigns, raide the minimum drinking age to twenty, investigate the advisability of a flat tax, crack down on white collar crime, encourage small businesses, subsidise first home buyers, stop further asset sales, subsdise Plunket, support the right of the State of Israel to exist, provide greater funding to alcohol and drug residential treatment services, increase criminal sentence severity, fund more police officers, decriminalise parental corporal punishment of children and repeal civil unions and statutory recognition of same-sex relationships. In short, it looks GOdawful. This appears to be little more than a belligerent wish fulfillment fantasy by militant fundamentalist Protestant New Zealanders who fail to realise that their aggressive, xenophobic and sectarian approach to religious expression turns off mainstream secular liberal New Zealanders, as evidenced by the incontrovertible steep decline in Christian religious observance stated within successive New Zealand censuses. Sorry, but in order to convince mainstream New Zealanders, GOdsown will have to elaborate its policies. The Holleys look like fundamentalist activists and that will turn many people off their agenda. And why are they doing this a mere four months before the next New Zealand general election? Still, at least it'll divert still more votes from what will probably be a quite minuscule voter share for Leighton Baker and his Conservatives. A recent Roy Morgan opinion poll indicated the Conservatives are now polling only at half a percentage point. With the arrival of GOdsown, New Zealand politics now has two fundamentalist microparties, much as it had with the Christian Heritage Party and Christian Democrats/Future New Zealand/United Future and Destiny and Family Parties and then the Kiwi Party and Conservative Party until 2011. However, at the time of writing, GOdsown had yet to mass the requisite minimum of five hundred members to become a registered New Zealand political party under the Electoral Act 1993, although it does seem to have a logo. Family First is the other petty nuisance, with pretensions toward being a Christian Right lobby group. It has not won a single legislative reform contest since its abortive campaign against the abolition of parental corporal punishment in 2007. Since then, whatever the issue, it has failed to secure any political successes, be the issue restriction of abortion access, parental corporal punishment, marriage equality, adoption reform or the victimisation and harassment of transgender primary and high school students. It seems to think that parroting the rhetoric, tactics and strategy of the US Christian Right, even to their habit of importing their subcultural luminaries from the United States to act as 'experts' at odds with mainstream medical and scientific evidence, research and professional practice. It is affiliated to the World Congress of Families, an international US Christian Right led network of kindred anti-abortion, anti-feminist and anti-LGBT organisations. It holds annual 'Forums on the Family" for New Zealand Christian Right pressure group networking, and prints Value Your Vote guides for conservative Christian voters...and anyone else who happens to visit their website, which means that their opponents know who to avoid in terms of constituency votes and party list composition. Its leader, Bob McCoskrie, is not terribly good at his self-appointed task as wannabe guardian of public morals beyond boring moralistic rhetoric and public spectacles. While it at least has some idea of institutional politics, primary stage lobbying, writing parliamentary submissions and mobilising anti-reform groups, it fails to follow through, particularly when it comes to later stage parliamentary debates, abdicating the space for lobby efforts to its social liberal opponents. Moreover, despite the bombastic populist efforts of Bob McCoskrie, it has yet to win any permanent political traction on any of its broad spectrum of targeted issues, or significantly obstruct liberal legislative reform. Even the New Zealand Christian Right might be getting sick of Family First, as it seems to have a new bevy of single-issue anti-euthanasia groups focused on that issue, suggesting that it may not trust Family First to maintain a coherent or consistent focus given its broad spectrum approach to political concerns. Given that the New Zealand LGBTI legislative reform agenda is almost wholly achieved, the mobilisational capacity of anti-LGBTI concerns is ebbing. In jurisdictions where it has concluded, euthanasia and assisted suicide have become frontline Christian Right issues instead, broad spectrum conservative Christian groups are faring poorly. Even Family First has had to realise that, with its news aggregation increasingly focused on issues like medicinal cannabis and euthanasia-related issues. On the latter, it has been (deliberately?) marginalised by the aforementioned anti-euthanasia groups- Euthanasia-Free New Zealand, Care Alliance, the Maxim Institute and Nathaniel Centre. The latter appear to have concluded that the time has passed for poorly strategised political efforts on tangential issues like anti-LGBTI activism. A recent Maxim Institute anti-euthanasia symposium even invited a prominent disability rights activist and out Maori lesbian, Dr Huhana Hickey, to address them. Dr Hickey certainly could never be described as a religious social conservative- she supported marriage equality and is a campaigner for the decriminalisation of medicinal cannabis It will only be a matter of time before the clock runs out on Family First's futile political ambitions. Most mainstream New Zealand political parties have little time for religious social conservatives, with the exception of New Zealand First, given its disproportionate elderly and socially conservative core social constituency. Prime Minister Bill English may be a devout Catholic, but his own religious social conservatism now appears restricted to abortion and euthanasia, raising the question of whether his personal politics could best be described as influenced by European Christian Democratic centre-right politics. Added to which, there is some degree of de-politicisation among conservative Christian communities after nearly four decades of cumulative political defeats today. When it comes to conservative Christian mass media, New Zealand fundamentalist channel Shine Television is concentrating on US fundamentalist made for television movies, with only an hour or so dedicated to the US Christian Broadcasting Network's700 Club and Christian World News.Much the same is true of fundamentalist radio, namely the Rhema Broadcasting Group. Family First's news aggregation is largely limited to US conservative Christian fake news websites, pressure group media releases and overseas Murdoch chain newspaper outlets. Thus far, neither Shine nor Rhema have been taken to New Zealand's radio and television regulator, the Broadcasting Standards Authority, for broadcast of contentious anti-LGBT content, even given Shine is now available on the Freeview free to air digital television platform. Tabloid newspapers and talkback radio do not dominate New Zealand media markets, in any case. Other conservative Christian media outlets, such as Investigate magazine and the long-lived fundamentalist newspaper Challenge Weekly have fallen by the wayside, leaving Shine, Rhema and New Zealand Christian News' monthly content. Monthly publication isn't suited to New Zealand's real-time political cycles, and bimonthly or quarterly publication is even less suited for its needs. And with that, I bid you all adieu. And I haven't retired from liberal social activism. However, this phase of my life is over after fifteen years. I have enjoyed providing information about our adversaries to New Zealand's LGBTI communities. Recommended: Wikipedia/Christian Heritage Party: Christian_Heritage_Party_of_ New_Zealand Wikipedia/Maxim Institute: Maxim_Institute Wikipedia/Graham Capill: Graham_Capill Peter Lineham:Destiny: The Life and Times of a Self-Appointed Apostle:Auckland: Penguin: 2013. Elections New Zealand:http://www.elections. Current Census data about New Zealand religious observance: Religion_in_New_Zealand Elections New Zealand: "New Political Party for New Zealand" Scoop: 26.04.2017:http://www.scoop. new-political-party-for-new- zealand.htm Tony Wright: "Losing our religion: Kiwis losing the faith in record numbers"Newshub:06.02.2017:http://www. zealand/2017/02/losing-our- religion-kiwis-losing-the- faith-in-record-numbers.html Not Recommended: Conservative Party:http://www.conservativeparty. Godoswn New Zealand Party: Policies:http://www. Stand-For/ Who They Are (Clare and Alan Holley): Who_We_Are Family First: nz http://www.forumonthefamily. org.nzhttp://www.protectmarriage. anti-transgender website) Radio Rhema: Shine Television: (US) Christian Broadcasting Network: - 3rd May 2017    


First published: Wednesday, 3rd May 2017 - 9:04am

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