Tahu Potiki writes in Stuff in defence of Destiny:
Why is it that a Christian-based church that has never done anything legally wrong has raised the ire and suspicion of so many?
Because we expect better things of some, than merely not breaking the law. Lots of unethical scumbags never broke the law.
But the general population, and certainly the media, have an inherent distrust of the man and his church. In fact, he has been voted one of the least-trusted high-profile men in New Zealand on a couple of occasions.
How very sensible.
Let’s have a look at those accusations because, although his time as church leader has certainly been controversial and he stands for many things that are unpopular in modern times Destiny Church is certainly not alone with these views.
He has a big problem with homosexuality. He is outspoken and judgmental about the issue and has condemned the past Labour government for their civil union legislation which legitimises such relationships. Because of this, and other statements, he has been labelled a homophobe which implies he is frightened of homosexuals or homosexuality.
I don’t actually think he is any more frightened of gay people than the Pope is. Instead he has adopted a very puritanical and rigid interpretation of scripture which utterly condemns the idea of any sexual relationship that is not between a man and a woman. This is pretty consistent with other conservative church positions, including the official position of the Catholic Church. But, despite the proven Catholic clergy proclivity for moral indecency and the obvious hypocrisy of their stated position, the stated Destiny position is seen as more offensive than the Catholic one.
Potiki misses a huge point here.
The Catholic Church never formed a political party that stood for Parliament on a platform of forcing its religious beliefs on all New Zealanders.
The Catholic Church also never organised a march called “Enough is Enough” where a thousand or more identically clad black shirted followers marched in military like precision down the main street of Wellington, waving their pre-supplied signs to support the Church’s agenda.
Another criticism of Tamaki is that he is practically self-ordained and that he is the church. Followers pledge their allegiance to him as the “man of God” and not to the more depersonalised church itself. Religious and spiritual philosophy is a terribly complex subject but it is important to note that many of the large religions have a spiritual head who, although they are earthly and of real flesh and blood, are also a spiritual vessel on earth for their particular god.
Yes, but Catholics do not worship the Pope and Anglicans do not worship the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Most of us accept that this is simply part of the faith and do not lose sleep over such claims even though in general terms it would be considered pretty questionable. Despite that the Dalai Lama, the Pope and the Grand Ayatollah are followed both as corporeal individuals and spiritual representatives of God. But Tamaki’s claim to be a vessel of God’s power on Earth is treated with disdain by most.
Yes, party because he appointed himself God’s vessel. For all their faults, the other churches were not created just to benefit their current head. That is a huge difference.
Perhaps the most damning accusation of Tamaki is his wealth accumulation philosophy which apparently emerges from prosperity theology. This is the idea that personal empowerment is advocated as a core part of Christian doctrine and that part of empowerment is personal wealth. Not surprisingly this philosophy is very controversial and does not find favour with most mainstream Christian churches. But, as we know, most of the traditional Christian churches have also accumulated enormous wealth as a result of leveraging their position within their communities over the past couple of millennia, so assuming the moral high ground now that values and social mores have shifted dramatically is a little bit rich.
I think the Catholic Church is also obscenely rich. But again there are huge differences. Destiny mandates a 10% or more tithe, and aggressively pressure people to pay it. They actually pass EFTPOS terminals around their church. They visit you at home if you do not pay. And they come up with numerous other ways to fleece people into paying more money.
The Catholic Church doesn’t see Easter as a commercial opportunity. Destiny tends to see everything as a commercial opportunity. They are more akin to Scientology without the aliens.
So what is it that gets everyone’s goat when it comes to Brian Tamaki and Destiny Church? Is it more distasteful to us because his particular position is 100 per cent home-grown, or because we find it easier to accept such statements from geriatric Germans in golden robes and jewellery rather than a flashy toothed, Maori man wearing a tailor-made suit?
Nope, nothing to do with that. It is the combination of having formed a political party to force his religious views on us, having declared himself God’s vessel on earth and having an extremely aggressive approach to forcing believers to tithe that get’s my goat, and most people’s. Nothing to do with him being Maori.
Having said all that I acknowledge Destiny do some good with some of their community programmes in South Auckland. If they stayed out of politics, didn’t portray Tamaki as the Messiah, and were less aggressive in their fleecing of followers then most people would not care about them, or even mildly approve of what they do.