4:00AM Thursday Oct 29, 2009
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10605956&pnum=0 - by Garth George
The Destiny Church is a small religius community which regularly punches above its weight in terms of gaining media attention. A lot of this is due to its leader, Brian Tamaki, a media-savvy opportunist who has transformed the tiny little Lake City Church from my home town, Rotorua, into a trans-Tasman religious money spinner. Destiny Church is a Pentecostal, strongly conservative religious group which favours the more literal viewpoint of the Bible and draws in worshippers from predominantly lower socio-economic and Maori + Polynesian sectors of the community.
The Church has aroused attention over recent years due to controversies surrounding its leader and its actions. In 2003 Brian Tamaki issued what he called a prophetic announcement that Destiny would be ruling the country in five years time. (http://tvnz.co.nz/view/news_national_story_skin/451171?format=html). In 2005 Tamaki had himself ordained a bishop, charging his parishoners $70 a seat to watch the ceremony amd warning that "the church must recover again its attitude of militance." He declared "war" on a so-called "evil" government (okay, it was Labour but even I would balk at calling them evil!), and on the modern "secular humanism, liberalism, relativism, pluralism" which apparently plagues our society. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10331506) Destiny is probably best known for the creation of a Destiny Party in 2003 to contest the upcoming 2005 election (it was the 9th most popular party on election night, winning 14,210 votes nationwide,or 0.62% of the popular vote - http://www.electionresults.govt.nz/electionresults_2005/partystatus.html); the August 2004 "Enough is Enough" march against the civil union legislation, where thousands of black-clad marchers evoked memories of the Nazi stormtroopers in 1930s Germany; and reports in October last year that Destiny planned to build their own enclave or 'city' where all followers could live, children could be educated and the outside world kept at bay.
Over the weekend, at Destiny Church's national conference, some 700 young men swore the following oath to Tamaki:
"To you Bishop we pledge our allegiance, our faithfulness and loyalty. We pledge to serve the cause that is in your heart and to finish that work. Success to you and success to those who help you - for God is with you."
The NZ Herald article explains exactly what this means - Tamaki's "spiritual sons" are obliged to always speak highly of their leader; to publicly acknowledge him first on formal occasions; to protect him from outsiders who are seeking to be "in his face"; to ensure that he and his wife are given "appropriate respect"; to "guard, protect and watch out for him" and his wife; to endorse and support whatever he endorses and to ensure that others do not cut in when he is speaking; to follow him on his speaking circuit in order to reflect his importance to them; to give gifts to him and his wife "on birthdays, anniversaries and special occasions or achievements" or just as a surprise; to never expose any weakness which Tamaki may have or demonstrate; to reinforce and emphasise his words, quoting him as often as possible in favourable terms; and, most chillingly,
They must never tolerate anyone (regardless of who they are) speaking or talking critically of Mr Tamaki and his wife/family or the church. "You are not only to stop them in their tracks but warn them that they criticise you when they criticise Bishop."
Some of my very distant ancestors, the Anglo-Saxons, swore an oath of fealty to their superiors. They would proclaim this binding oath: "I will to my lord be true and faithful, and love all which he loves and shun all which he shuns." Essentially, Tamaki could have just made his followers swear that oath, as it has the same effect. Much comment has been made in the media about whether or not this group is a cult. I say that if it wasn't before, this "cult of worship" created on the weekend confirms the status of this 'church' as a dangerous and oppressive cult. Those who challenge Tamaki now challenge 700 men who have pledged to follow and protect him, like clients surrounding their patron as he walked towards the Forum Romanum in the latter days of the corrupt Roman Republic.
Further to this are the revelations that Tamaki has, apparently, adopted the title of 'King' and that, in addition to the six figure salary he already receives from the 'church', he apparently pockets some half-a-million dollars straight from the collection plate (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10606489 and http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10606279&pnum=2). No wonder some of these people are struggling - many of his supporters being in the lower socio-economic groups anyway, struggling with paying their taxes, possibly affected by unemployment, yet having to pay a tithe to their leader AND pay to attend special services, not to mention getting guilted in to purchasing Destiny merchandise from the gift shop in the lobby. If tithing and the sale of indulgences created such a backlash against Catholicism in the 15th century, it is interesting to see a Protestant based faith going even further. This is no religion - this is a business, pure and simple.
My suggestion is that local dairies in the vicinity of Destiny Church buildings put their Refresh, Raro, and Rat-poison on sale to help Tamaki carry out his next Jim Jones impersonation. Hopefully he drinks it first and gives the rest of them time to realise that living with him was bad enough, let alone dying with him.
And that's my two cents to sense.