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The pentecostal versus the press

Thu 27 Jan 2005 In: Comment

On Tuesday afternoon, an irate Brian Tamaki threatened possible legal action over reports that Destiny Church was contemplating civil disobedience to obstruct the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Was this justified? Let's examine both sides of the question. Tamaki can point to the fact that last August's "Enough is Enough" march was law-abiding and was praised by the police for its law-abiding nature. What context might media outlets claim for making an inferential jump about Destiny Church's intentions about the forthcoming "Defending the Legacy" march in March 2005? Firstly, Auckland fundamentalists do have a record of civil disobedience in pursuit of their ideology. In the early nineties, Operation Rescue fielded militant conservative Catholics and fundamentalists who invaded abortion clinics. However, Tamaki wasn't personally involved in any of this. In the early nineties, he was either an Elim Church minister or building Rotorua's Lake City Church. However, that historical context is there for conservative Christians in general. Secondly, he has shared platforms with figures associated with civil disobedience or armed rebellion against elected officials. Bernice King is only newsworthy because she's Martin Luther King's daughter, and trades on his name to further her antigay agenda, unlike King's widow, Coretta Scott King, who supports LGBT rights and same-sex marriage. In the sixties, Martin Luther King engaged in repeated acts of civil disobedience to break down Southern United States racist segregation practices. Again, though, there is an inferential jump involved here. Bernice King may or may not support conservative Christian civil disobedience in the context of abortion and homosexuality. Thirdly, there is obviously the seabed and foreshore issue. However, affronted iwi have not acted to obstruct others use of beachfront properties whose historical ownership is under legal debate. Therefore, it might have been arguable that Destiny Church could have undertaken civil disobedience to appeal to Maori youth or susceptible older Maori social conservatives outside their narrow catchment. Again, though, that is an inferential jump. Tamaki has shown no previous inclination to engage in civil disobedience on behalf of the seabed and foreshore debate, civil unions or any other issue. Fourthly, there is the Fijian factor. In 1997, Tamaki participated in the Pentecostal World Festival of Praise in Fiji, where one of the guests was Sitiveni Rabuka, a Fijian nationalist and fundamentalist Methodist, who made some interesting references to religion and politics in that context. Again, though, there is only brief reference to Tamaki's attendance, and nothing about what he might have said at the World Festival. Again, this may be seen as too much of an inferential jump. However, note all of the above. Until Tuesday afternoon, Tamaki did not clarify his position on religious civil disobedience. Granted, some news outlets might be guilty of inferential jumps without consultation of their news source, but whose fault is that? Tamaki likes to spin his own media web, and may have delayed comment about whether or not he supported religious civil disobedience until he was forced to do so. It is not difficult to see why this should not be the case- iwi-affiliated and young Maori social conservatives outside the fold, as noted above. It is good that Destiny Church does not intend to engage in hazardous activity that might endanger march participants and drivers on Auckland Harbour Bridge. However, it is not good that Tamaki is trying to intimidate the media, who might have made a series of questionable inferential jumps, but did have particular contexts related to both Auckland fundamentalists and Tamaki's own past associations as a newsworthy public figure. He needs to learn better media management skills and the politics of spin, methinks. Craig Young - 27th January 2005    

Credit: Craig Young

First published: Thursday, 27th January 2005 - 12:00pm

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