Driving Out The Money-Changers of Reactionary Christianity

26
1998

THERE IS SO MUCH which passes unnoticed in our society. So much greed and exploitation: not only in factories, shops and offices, where we are accustomed to finding it; but also in the supposed sanctuaries of ordinary workers’ private lives.

There are bosses who wring fat profits out of their employees’ poorly paid labour. But these are not the worst exploiters. That title belongs to those who prey upon the individual’s need for solace and affection in a heartless world.

The fat little pastors who strip their already poor congregations of what little spare cash is left to them and slip it to their own pockets. The petty tyrants who swathe their followers in ignorance and poison them with prejudice. The high-living preachers who rail against every manifestation of human happiness and pleasure. The ruthless commissars of a cruel and unforgiving dictator god.

They describe themselves, and the money-making rackets they dignify with the name of church, “Christian”, but these ravening wolves are no such thing. The essence of the Christian faith is the giving of love – not the taking of money. It is about opening oneself to the world and all its contradictions – not about imprisoning beaten-down individuals in narrow-minded sects. Most importantly, it is about allowing Love and Truth to set people free.

We learned today, from the Minister of Health, Chris Hipkins, that the congregation of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church numbers 323. From the NZ Herald’s veteran journalist, Simon Collins, we also learned that the collective contribution of these church members, many of them low-wage workers, for the year ended March 2019, was a “phenomenal” $1.8 million. Out of this sum, reported Collins, citing figures made available to him by former Massey University religious historian, Peter Lineham, an equally phenomenal $862,000 was distributed among the church’s two “key management personnel” and six “close family member employees of board members”.

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Information of this kind and detail is new to most New Zealanders. To most Americans, however, there is nothing new or shocking about such a close relationship between religion and money-making. Indeed, in the United States, evangelical Christianity is a multi-billion dollar industry. It’s “mega churches” – able to seat thousands of worshippers – are often located in economically devastated communities. The very same communities, in many instances, from which President Donald Trump’s most vociferous white, gun-toting, working-class followers are drawn.

Of course, it is not just among poor white Americans that these religious entrepreneurs rattle their collection plates. In the poverty-stricken African-American communities, also, the ruthless exploitation of desperation and despair is similarly rife. So called “store-front churches” are a common sight on the streets of the black ghettoes of America.

Like their white equivalents, the pastors of these African-American churches preach an ultra-orthodox version of Christianity – laying particular emphasis on the need to abjure the sinful ways of “secular-humanist” America. “Traditional family values”, by which they mean the unforgiving patriarchal values found in the books of the Old Testament, are promoted as a way of fencing-off oneself and one’s family from the very real dangers of crime, violence and addiction by which America’s decaying urban communities are beset.

Almost always absent from these money-making religious ventures is the radically progressive Christian theology exemplified by Dr Martin Luther King and manifested in the black civil rights movement he led during the 1950s and 60s. The life-affirming, justice-seeking, emancipatory New Testament messages of Jesus – most especially his rejection of material gain in favour of love-giving and truth-seeking – are essentially incompatible with the religious entrepreneurs’ business model.

It is not only in the secular world that the naked capitalist values of the neoliberal order have triumphed – putting to flight the “applied Christianity” of democratic socialism. In New Zealand’s churches, too, Mammon has triumphed over God. There are holdouts, still, of course: St Matthew’s in the City; brave officers of the Salvation Army; Pope Francis’s disciples in the Catholic Church. But, more and more congregations have turned inward: gnawing morosely at the dry bones of Leviticus; endlessly parsing the homophobic epistles of St Paul. Fundamentalist Christianity has gone into its closet to pray – and locked the door behind it.

It should not have taken the Covid-19 Pandemic to expose the tremendous danger posed to New Zealand society by this authoritarian, anti-science, anti-social and reclusive mutation of Christianity. The Left, especially, has been remiss in not assailing its gross exploitation of Maori and Pasifika believers.

No more objectionable legacy of colonialism exists than the alien repressiveness imposed upon the indigenous peoples of the Pacific by Western Imperialism’s missionary scouts. The social conservatism which missionary Christianity has entrenched, along with the political quietism and ruinously competitive piety it has encouraged, have stood, unrebuked by left-wing activists for far too long.

When Simon Collins asked a member of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Trust (which runs the church) if he had anything to say in response to Health Minister Hipkins’ comment that members of his church “don’t accept, or haven’t previously accepted, the science involved here”, the trustee replied: “What would Trump say?” It is hard to imagine a more startling indication of just how deeply the deranged ideas of American far-right evangelism have penetrated the desperate communities of South, West and Central Auckland.

The Left has for too long accepted the argument that any Pakeha criticism of the reactionary versions of Christianity (and Islam) embedded in immigrant communities is ipso facto racist. For the members of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship Church who have tested positive for Covid-19, and for the broader Auckland community put at risk by the dangerous, American-sourced, misinformation spread by reactionary Christians, the Left’s self-imposed ideological reticence has been singularly unhelpful.

Progressive New Zealanders of every hue should not hesitate to become missionaries for Love, Truth and Freedom – the emancipatory cause to which both genuine Christianity, and genuine Democratic Socialism, have always been committed.

 

26 COMMENTS

  1. It’s about time the scam of Christianity got highlighted and exposed for what it is because not only is there the ‘donations’ [to support the lifestyles of church hierarchy] aspect but also the ‘have dominion over’ aspect, whereby people who call themselves Christians greedily acquire possessions and assault the environment as a ‘God-given’ right.

    I sure am sick of these phony Christians, wearing the finest clothes and driving round in late-model planet-fuckers preaching to the rest of us about how to live and what to believe in.

    I think the hypocrisy of Bible-worshipping is summed up in the concept that you can beat your own slave to death if you feel inclined to, by you must not beat another man’s slave to death. Doing so incurs the penalty of having to compensate him for his loss; PLUS it’s okay to kill or enslave people of other nations but you mustn’t kill or enslave someone of your own nation;PLUS it’s okay to charge outsiders interest on loans but you mustn’t charge interest on loans to family members; PLUS you should gather your neighbours and stone to death any woman who wears clothing made of different fabrics and similarly stone to death any progeny who are disobedient.

    Let’s face it Chris, it’s all bullshit and control systems based on ancient beliefs about sources of light which, other than the Sun, are visible on a haze-free, cloudless nights.

    If we could only scrap all the religious mumbo-jumbo and create a society that respected scientific evidence and understood why poorly educated people are vulnerable manipulation and exploitation that would be a good start to dealing with the economic, social and environmental meltdown that is underway as a consequence of Christianity.

    After all, Christianity and its ‘cousin’ Islamism have been the greatest promoters of acquisition via violence and ravaging of the Earth on a grand scale in the name of greed, and are largely responsible for the shocking mess we are in now.

    If any groups of humans survive the meltdown that is underway it will be those who walk lightly upon the land or attempt to restore it, those who do not seek personal wealth and possessions all too often promoted by so-called Christians.

  2. By the way, Chris, whilst the legend has it that Chris drive the money-changers out of the temple, the government of NZ devotes a large portion of its time and energy accommodating the money-changers (money-lenders) and ensuring their desire to make money out of charging interest on money created out of thin air is not just tolerated but is fully endorsed and actively promoted. As does every other government in so-called ‘Christian’ nations.

    What was known as usury (and condemned) is now official policy.

  3. While I consider you are misguided in including Pope Francis’s disciples in the Catholic Church as among those holding out against the entry of mammon especially when you consider the damage that institution has done I think that your major mistake is in implying that Old & New Testament God’s are different. A major part of God is that He does not change, Ex 34:6 And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, this along with numerous other passages show that salvation has always been a gift but humans let selfishness interfere with Love, Truth and Freedom which as you say are the true gospel.
    You only need to look at the nation of Israel & their rejection of Jesus by crucifying Him to know that final events will involve forced worship by a church state combination & that true followers of Christ will not be part of that system.
    Prophecy tells us that a major contest between atheism & false worship is close, forced worship will win because seeing is believing for many people & when they see supernatural events they will be deceived because they don’t know the truth but a renewed outpouring of the grace of God will cause the final end of the false system. (Dan 11:40-45)

  4. “No more objectionable legacy of colonialism exists than the alien repressiveness imposed upon the indigenous peoples of the Pacific by Western Imperialism’s missionary scouts”.
    Spoken, or written, like a true colonialist Chris.
    Colonialism is a political and economic phenomenon, not a religious one. You choose to ignore (or actually support) colonialism in its political aspects, and seem to have a confused approach to the economic ramifications of colonialism. Consequently you urge our people to support the political party which epitomizes the colonial mentality and has sacrificed the lives of thousands of our people in order to keep us subject to colonial rule.
    Christianity has been freely adopted and modified, sometimes radically, to their own culture and social needs by Polynesian peoples. It was not imposed, as Catholicism was imposed in the Americas.
    Tell the truth Chris. Even if it hurts.

    • Tosh. Read the contemporaneous accounts of the ‘missionaries’ who foisted themselves on the people of Pacifica from around 1830 onwards and you’ll discover these petty-minded puritans whipped traditional people for not dressing like victorian englanders. They cut deals with one or two local leaders, ordained them and continued to ordain descendants making ‘man of the cloth’ an hereditary position.
      Those village leaders who did as these english & german preachers wanted, soon had extraordinary power over other villages that were none of their damn business & in doing so creating conflict where previously there had been none.
      The aggressive tithing those original god botherers instituted continues to this day, stealing from the poor to give to ‘the church’ ie the scum claiming they know what ‘god’ wants.
      Unfortunately this has meant that as Pacifica people emigrate to Aotearoa their sole community focus is not a village community center, it is a ‘church’ usually in a low rent building where the villagers are harangued & embarrassed in to handing over large chunks of change just for the right to meet up with their family & friends.
      Some friends in the local Pacifica community are well aware of this but are unable to right this awful wrong because of the stranglehold on power these xtians cling onto, including resorting to violence to ensure that their power isn’t taken away from them as well as consorting with politicians who protect these charlatans on the understanding the preacher will get his congregation to vote for them.
      This corrupt & criminal yet no politician is interested in righting this wrong.

      • Many Polynesians would rather give their money freely to their own church than have it extracted in the form of taxes by the colonial state. That may upset left-wingers, but the left will just have to live with that reality until they can give Polynesians some good reasons to trust and love the colonial regime. Which, frankly, will never happen.
        The missionaries did not and could not impose their religion upon the iwi of Aotearoa. The process of evangelisation was slow and protracted, and really only gained pace when Maori converts began evangelising among their own people. I believe that the same broadly held true in other parts of Polynesia.
        The civil power – the British imperial establishment – could theoretically have imposed Christianity on Maori, but never gave the slightest consideration to such an enterprise. Since the mid-seventeenth century, despite the presence of an established church, the governing classes in Britain had endeavored to keep a safe distance state and church, proscribing far left religious tendencies (such as the Quakers) and discriminating against Catholics and Jews but otherwise allowing a modicum of religious freedom. The British had learnt in the course of the Great Rebellion that religion is a double edged sword, which could neither be encouraged nor effectively suppressed without bringing the authority of the state into jeopardy.
        So in Aotearoa colonisation and evangelisation proceeded separately albeit in parallel. The colonial state was imposed by force of British imperial and Australian regiments, gunboats and artillery. Christianity was introduced and disseminated by European missionaries and local converts. The fact that when push came to shove many missionaries put allegiance to the Crown before loyalty to Christ was not lost on our people, and explains the rapid rise of indigenous churches and religious movements from about 1860 onwards.
        My beef with Chris Trotter is that he is quite comfortable with and supportive of the colonial political regime which was imposed by force, while railing against the Christian religion which our people freely adopted and modified to their own needs through such channels as the Hahi Mihinare, Ringatu and Ratana churches.
        He claims to be anti-colonialist, which he clearly is not, and his anti-religious tirade simply muddies the waters of the controversy over colonialism.

  5. Thanks for the last sentence Chris; – as we stand for all of that as “older generations of Christians are all bonded to in our christian up-bringing experience.’

    quote Chris Trotter; “Progressive New Zealanders of every hue should not hesitate to become missionaries for Love, Truth and Freedom – the emancipatory cause to which both genuine Christianity, and genuine Democratic Socialism, have always been committed.”

  6. Yes indubitably.

    But in an age where criticisms, or more importantly, perceived criticisms, are deemed unacceptable, who can be bothered to argue anymore?

    I’m tempted to let Darwinian imperitives determine the outcome. If these people wish to display their strength of faith and ignorance of science then let them. The virus will weed them out in fairly short order.

    • The trouble is that those ignoramuses are not only likely to contribute to their own demise but, by spreading the virus to others because of their unwillingness to accept scientific facts, contribute to the illness and death of others.

      I couldn’t care less what they believe in but, when those beliefs overstep the mark and as a result impinge on the health or well-being of others, the perpetrators need to be made responsible. Fines, confiscation of property, imprisonment or whatever it takes to keep us all safe is what the law should be mandated to do, no exceptions, not namby-pamby kid-glove treatment as happens at present.

      • My sister, for her self-salvation, has gone off into the Maori language and her uni friends, to escape from the fundamentalist christianity solid in her middle years. Her church spewing nonsense, delusion, derangement now but she still maintains she judges reality independently. Yet she must look beneath her feet for truth and that she’s obviously reluctant to do, and the idiot maintains reality can come from her quarter and she always eventually agrees with their propositions.

        Darwinism pealed off into social darwinism that informed the bullshit that produced both world wars. Not reality’s fault, but worth looking at in comparison to the crimes of religion.

  7. How is; ‘What has ‘Love, Truth, Freedom” go to do with …. political policys? Not quite what Tina Turner sung, but you know how it goes.

    Neither of these values can be quantified as a contributory factor to providing a quality of life that is ‘real’, in the real world. Feel good factor, 10!
    But when it comes to a capitalist neoliberal world, nada, nah, no way do any of those moral values put a roof over your head, kai on the table and everything else that follows.

    Liberals and the meek are suckers for that shite.

    Every third generation it becomes a political slogan and somehow a campaign strategy.

  8. “What would Trump say?” ……………

    ….”Trump just hired televangelical Paula White as his faith advisor, which doesn’t come as a surprise given that both of them worship the same god: Money.” .. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYE5Lipyh_Q

    The very cult like ‘ end of days’ ,,, Armageddon and ‘the rapture,,, is a delusion dangerous to the everyone in the world ,,, especially as USA evangelists support dogs of war super sinners …who move things in the direction of their ‘final; battle and end of earth’ prophesy.

    Bad preachers are getting in the way of true Christian values ,, and the same is true in all religions
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYWCpOHiNjk

    Any religious leaders lauding trump should self flagellate themselves severely ,,, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=af59U2BRRAU

  9. Both my daughters moved to Aussie to live with their mother, a Pentecostal believer, a world wide secular church also Branchs here in N.Z. in towns and cities. They are full-on weird very secular in themselves and only them, they say its don!t like to be judged by others, serious male Dominated and stringent censor of those family friends outside their warped doctrine and believe me its warped. My eldest daughter left her husband taking her children last year after decades of this Male/dominated doctrine, yet still attached brain washed in this sects washing.

    • The grip and fear the Pentecostals create is carefully designed and contrived by their USA based psychological advisers using the works of Freud and later research. The women are targeted and so the children
      Destiny Church and Arise church are particularly arrogant and nasty.
      Both the self elected “prophets” and their families and body guards live in luxury.
      Cameron of Wellington based Arise church breaks the founding trust statement and does not issue receipts. His body guards hassle anyone who questions this.

      Tamati of the destiny ilk insisted all followers present cheer and applauds when he speaks.

      Two very sick situation with the flocks being brainwashed into supporting the situation.

  10. The social conservatism which missionary Christianity has entrenched, along with the political quietism and ruinously competitive piety it has encouraged, have stood, unrebuked by left-wing activists for far too long.

    Of course it has. That’s what toleration is all about.

    I prefer acceptance. Accepting people for who they are allows people and society to move against those who are detrimental to them such as psychopaths and financiers, to pull them in line.

  11. Commenting before reading. Driving looking out the side window is no longer possible 10 seconds before the wall. Realism is the only way to approach reality now.

    I realise christians were strong for our cause in the past.

    My favourite religions are Anglican and Buddhist. Thin shandy care for others. The problem is religion is about certainty and so passion, why the C of E dies.

  12. Reading your first few paras, you don’t understand fundamentalist religion.

    Which I have an informal Ph.d for from putting up with it for 40 years as the major ideas in my life apart from social democracy.

  13. Finished your article. Utter bullshit about Black churches.

    A reality divorced from evidence was brewed in fundamentalist religion, why I attack it, knowing the shit from 14. Not understanding that disallows any of your interpretations of conspiracy theory belief growth here in NZ.

  14. Fabulous Post @ Chris Trotter.
    The thing I’ve learned about villainous creatures is that they screech the loudest just before they expire so here’s hoping.
    I think the best way to navigate around manipulative and exploitative bible bashing morons is taxes.
    Pay one’s tax then demand value for money in return which might be reflected in a secure society and in so doing relieve people from the tyranny of costly essential services and amenities which are used by the unscrupulous to keep people down trodden and in a constant state of banal and toxic anxiety. A perfect hunting ground for the likes of self titled preachers offering pay-and-pray solutions today for salvation tomorrow but in the here and now? Give me all your money!?
    I, myself like to think of all life and substance as being The God. We, including wee beasties, plants and the very soil and oceans on our wondrous planet are The God.
    When we can look back at our biosphere from well out in outer space and can know that what we see is we and us then we should remember that this is it.
    The day the evangelical pastors turn up at their chapels and no one’s there but are instead at home with the kids and beasties in the garden, then you’ll know that they’ve discovered The God.

  15. I know a woman who was confident, sexually liberated, socially liberal and independent minded. Then somehow she walked straight back into the religion she walked out of, and had a complete turn around with regards to her world view. In simple terms, she was like Mae West, now she is like Phyllis Schlafly.

    Kinda depressing really.

    I really think the left needs to start having the same attitudes to religion that the Spanich Republicans back in 1936, the Mexicans had in the 30’s and 40’s and the USSR had in the 1920’s, 50’s and 60’s.

  16. Good post, Chris. and it is not just christianity that preys on it’s worshippers.

    Charities are the new vehicles of the super rich and lobbyists.

    Sad that Greenpeace fights to keep charity status, while those charities that exploit and even sexually abuse children are protected financially. If criminal activity is found by church founders and leaders, the charity should be revoked and they need to reapply for charitable status.

  17. “The fat little pastors who strip their already poor congregations of what little spare cash is left to them and slip it to their own pockets. The petty tyrants who swathe their followers in ignorance and poison them with prejudice. The high-living preachers who rail against every manifestation of human happiness and pleasure. The ruthless commissars of a cruel and unforgiving dictator god.”

    Are you talking about these guys?

    https://aucklandev.co.nz/
    https://aucklandev.co.nz/about/health-and-safety/

    Well, I would not be interested in having anything much to do with them, but are we not perhaps also getting a bit over the top misinformation through the media and so?

  18. From my experience the money-changers are central to religion. The more rational a faith becomes the less sipid. Drive them out and you drive out the heart of the nonsense.

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