Good people are rightfully alarmed that the ‘Bishop’ of the Destiny Church, Brian Tamaki, has linked tragedies like South Island earthquakes to ‘human sins’ like ‘homosexuality’. His comments are offensive to those affected by these natural (not God-made) disasters, as well as to ‘homosexuals’ and the public.
Tamaki’s comments have led to public outrage and to questions about how someone espousing such alarming views, can be a leader of a church, much less a church that pays no tax. We wonder how a nasty and narrow-minded man can get away with openly preaching such dangerous rhetoric in a church he invented and financially benefits from, but still have ‘charitable’ status. It’s a heartening sign that over 110,000 New Zealanders have signed a petition demanding an end to the Church’s tax free status.
Mainstream Christians are concerned that other churches could get caught up in a review of tax exemptions that apply to the Destiny Church, and risk losing their own charitable status. And as long as the Destiny Church continues to comply with the Charities Act, it can’t be struck off. Sadly, misogyny, irrationality, inciting prejudice, and hate speech aren’t enough.
It is indeed a problem with the Charity laws of the commonwealth, that organisations like the Destiny Church comply with the legal criteria required to become a charity, but groups like the National Council of Women and Greenpeace don’t, because they step over the boundary into advocacy – wanting to change inequities, not just make money from them.
According to Wikipedia, Brian Tamaki and his wife Hannah practice ‘prosperity theology’ – believing financial blessings reflect the will of God. Humility is certainly not the Tamaki’s strongpoint. Their gratuitous, profligate and unashamed reveling in conspicuous and vain trappings of wealth, display that prosperity belief to the hilt. But that wealth is derived from their poorer congregation, who are probably no lesser morally, and surely no less blessed by God, than Brian and Hannah Tamaki, even if inequalities in society fall most heavily upon those poorer people. In short, wealth has never equated to moral value – and surely not Godliness.
Tamaki’s attitudes are so outdated and narrow minded they have no place in civil society. Who actually believes that shit? and who in their right mind takes it seriously. But there’s a worry that the media attention helps his cause. It’s exposure Tamaki probably enjoys. He’s certainly unrepentant.
Even if religious leaders from more conventional churches say he’s misinterpreting and misquoting the Bible. Even if the Prime Minister says he’s ridiculous. Even if he looks unconvincing, superstitious, closed-minded, and potentially dangerous.
Unfortunately, such dog whistle hate speech gets him lots of media attention and that means potentially more church goers and more tithes for him.
Even though he’s been rated as one of New Zealand’s most distrusted personalities for many years in a row, video recordings of his church services show rooms full of seemingly ordinary looking people, who can be heard agreeing and endorsing his views.
It’s a worry if his views reflect an ugly, irrational undercurrent, and have a resonance among anyone – but in the era of Trump and ‘post-truth’ politics, hate speech could be the new MO. And it’s not just a concern that Tamaki’s jumping on a diversity-hating bandwagon, but if the bandwagon is already there, and he’s giving it voice.
Views such as his should be strongly and publicly rejected. He should be seen for the dangerous lunatic that he is. There is no charity and very little that’s Christian in his views. The petition calling for him to pay taxes, is unlikely to change a complex and long standing law with generations of case history confirming its unfairness. However, most Kiwis realise the devastating South Island earthquakes of recent days and years are caused by tectonic plate movement and geological forces, not by a God angry with gays and ‘sinners’.
The righteous are those who stand shoulder to shoulder with gays and the transgender community, and with victims of earthquakes, and against Tamaki’s cynical and fundamentalist bigotry.