Sunday 9 June 2019

The Tamakis Quest For Dominion: More “Handmaid’s Tale”, Less “Modern Family”.

Second Time Lucky? Perhaps it was the abject failure of his Destiny NZ Party (2003-2007) which lay behind Brian’s clumsy attempt to relaunch his “brand” by having "Coalition NZ" reach out to those he had so trenchantly attacked in the past. If so, then his strategy is fatally flawed. A leopard is a leopard: red in tooth and claw; so any attempt to pass it off as a pussy-cat is doomed to fail.

WHAT ARE THE TAMAKIS trying to do? Is the “Coalition Party” a serious political project? Or, is it merely another example of the flim-flam for which religious hucksters the world over are notorious? Certainly, Brian and Hannah Tamaki would not be the first evangelical religious pairing to enlist the aid of politics when too many of the seats in their expensive megachurches remain unoccupied.

Even the new party’s name – The Coalition Party – has a flim-flammy ring to it. Coalition of what? Coalition with whom? Nothing we have heard from Brian or Hannah has been helpful in this respect. All we have been told is that the people of New Zealand have had enough. That the political status quo is no longer to their liking. That they are ready for someone to acknowledge their gutsfullness and offer them a heapin’ helpin’ of politics the way they want it.

But what do they want? That’s the question that the Coalition Party has yet to answer.

For a couple of days it looked as though Hannah Tamaki was preparing to place herself at the head of the movement against abortion law reform. Given the deeply conservative social character of Brian Tamaki’s “Dominionist” theology, opposing the Coalition Government’s moves towards decriminalising and (hopefully) liberalising New Zealand’s abortion laws would make perfect sense. And yet, in spite of Hannah’s early reference to “they” wanting to legalise “late-term” abortions, the issue was allowed to slip quietly off the Coalition Party’s agenda.

What about LGBTQI+ rights? For many years, Brian Tamaki has been an outspoken critic of rainbow politics – even, on one memorable occasion, characterising the Christchurch Earthquake as the earth “groaning” under the weight of the LGBTQI+ community’s unrepentant sinfulness. Here, surely, was a constellation of social issues ripe for the Coalition Party’s political exploitation?

But that was when everything turned decidedly strange. Rather than renew his condemnations of LGBTQI+ sinfulness, Brian reached out to the rainbow community. They were invited to join him and the other members of the Destiny Church in a service of mutual forgiveness and reconciliation.

Understandably, a great many members of the rainbow community were unconvinced. Some, suspecting they were being roped into a political stunt, urged a boycott. Could a preacher as historically hostile to non-cis lifestyles as Brian Tamaki: a veritable leopard in the long grass of social intolerance; really change his spots? Most of those gathered under the rainbow’s arc thought not. Even after the Brylcreemed Bishop delivered what sounded like an apology for his previous anti-LGBTQI+ outbursts, their scepticism remained strong. The handful of rainbow activists who had accepted Tamaki’s invitation were subjected to fierce criticism. The fruits of Brian’s outreach appeared to be rancour and division across the rainbow community.

Perhaps that was its purpose?

Whatever Brian was trying to achieve, his wife, Hannah, as leader pro-tempore of the Coalition Party, was still no nearer to defining its mission. This lack of clarity; absence of purpose; cannot continue for too much longer. To launch a new political party is no easy matter. If it is to have the slightest chance of success, such a party must impress upon the nation’s consciousness a very clear idea of what it stands for, and what it proposes to do. Failure to make this impression can only result in even potentially supportive voters turning away in confusion and disappointment. Hannah should know that time is running out.

Her task is made no easier by the signal failure of the Coalition Party’s predecessor, Destiny NZ. Founded by Brian Tamaki in 2003, the party left nothing more than the tiniest of ripples on the surface of New Zealand’s electoral pond. It received just 14,210 votes (0.62 percent) in the 2005 General Election. This lack of voter interest must have come as a crushing blow to Tamaki who, right up until election day, believed that the Lord would deliver dominion into his hand. He disbanded the party in 2007.

Perhaps it was this experience that lay behind Brian’s clumsy attempt to relaunch his “brand” by reaching out to those he had so trenchantly attacked in the past. If so, then his strategy is fatally flawed. A leopard is a leopard: red in tooth and claw; so any attempt to pass it off as a pussy-cat is doomed to fail.

A much more effective strategy would be for the Tamakis to make a virtue of their leopardness. To declare unequivocally that a leopard, red in tooth and claw, is exactly what this country desperately needs to vanquish the regime of sin that is fast driving New Zealand to destruction.

In other words, Brian and Hannah should go full “Handmaid’s Tale”, and forget all about trying to be “Modern Family”.

Such a stance would at least reflect the Tamakis’ authentic theological convictions. They are believers in Dominionism, which Wikipedia defines as: “[A] group of Christian political ideologies that seek to institute a nation governed by Christians based on their personal understandings of biblical law. Extents of rule and ways of achieving governing authority are varied.”

Unvarying, however, is the Dominionists’ utter rejection of the longstanding secular principle that matters of religion and politics should be kept separate. As in Gilead, Brian and Hannah would seek to establish a righteous nation, ruled by the godly, whose first duties must be the extirpation of sin and the redemption of sinners.

Achieving that “governing authority” by means of the ballot-box – which is clearly the Tamakis’ preference – requires a political platform with more to offer than covered heads and modest attire. As Poland’s “Law & Justice Party”, and Hungary’s “Fidesz” (both frighteningly successful electoral vehicles) have demonstrated, social conservatism, garnished with fundamentalist Christianity, is not enough. Populist Christian conservatism only succeeds when it is associated with an unwavering commitment to the institutions of the welfare state and unwavering support for the values and living-standards of a beleaguered working-class.

Are Brian and Hannah Tamaki up for that? If they are, then they’d better get their skates on.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 6 June 2019.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

If this were the US, I'd say follow the money. The declaration of intent, a gathering of funds, and a quiet slipping away and bowing out. Which I do believe Trump wanted to do, but ended up president.
And any gay people who are taken in by all this are naïve to the point of idiocy. Tamaki's churches are based on the techniques and beliefs of fundagelicals American mega churches, and there is essentially for them no room for compromise on abortion or gay rights. At least in their modern iterations.
Years ago they certainly didn't regard abortion is a huge issue – only the Catholics did that. Still, with the scandals affecting the Catholic Church now seemingly spreading to Protestant sects – who knows. There may well be sweeping changes. Sorry, almost fell off my chair laughing when I wrote that.
I don't know enough about the religious right in New Zealand, but I'm assuming that it is reasonably small. I hope it is, because we have no AFAIK (please correct me if I'm wrong) formal recognition in the law of the separation of church and state? I know much more about the American situation where it's being fought tooth and nail in the Bible belt.
Still, the Tamakis have caught the eye of at least one or two overseas bloggers who are active in this, but they seem to them a pale imitation of the real thing – at least until they get a private jet maybe.
The danger may be – if he gets enough of the PI vote. His style of Protestantism including the prosperity gospel seems designed to attract them. And if they abandon Labour, seems to me that Labour is in big trouble.

Polly said...

Both Brian and Hannah Tamaki do not give, they receive.
Both are rich to most peoples standards.
Leeching on the community is what is they practice.
Mind you so do many of our politicians.
In fact many of our politicians are first class leechers.
Phil Twyford and Winny come to mind.
There are more.

greywarbler said...

Leeches have a bad name but are very useful in medicine cleaning up oozing wounds. Be careful Polly and whoever agrees with the expressed sentiments - the politicians names may be just what is needed now. Until you yourself can do better, don't diss those who might move us along the way we want to go even with baby steps.

manfred said...

We don't have separation of church and state in NZ. Our head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is also supreme head of the Anglican church.

Geoff Fischer said...

"Dominionism" is actually mainstream Christian belief. In the words of the Lord's prayer "Thy will be done, thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven".
There has never been a time when Christians did not attempt to establish in one form or another "the kingdom of heaven on earth".
Catholics and Protestants, orthodox and dissenters have striven to create Christian community and impart Christian values into the wider society. Therefore Christians will reject "the longstanding secular principle that matters of religion and politics should be kept separate" (the principle enunciated by Cain in the fourth chapter of the book of Genesis) because to do so would be simply to submit to the rule of Satan in the world.
However, there are widely differing views on what the kingdom of heaven on earth would look like, and how it might be achieved.
The Jehovah's Witness organisation believes that all existing states (including the Realm of New Zealand) are irretrievably corrupt and that God's kingdom must be established independently of those states. Therefore they take no part in the secular political system.
Others, including most mainstream churches and Destiny church, believe that some good can come from engaging with, influencing and moderating the secular system.
Globally, while secularism and neo-liberalism are the dominant ideology of our time, there has been an across-the-board conservative reaction from religious believers which also has a global reach.
That is to be expected, and there are ample historical precedents. The late Roman Empire encouraged abortion and infanticide, legalized same-sex marriage, and condoned the recreational use of drugs in a socio-economic context which was remarkably similar to the conditions of twenty-first century capitalism. The religious reaction in those times covered the range from pragmatic engagement with the imperial system (Paul) to absolute rejection (John).
The question then is whether by forming yet another "right-wing" "conservative" or "Christian" political party Brian Tamaki will succeed in turning neo-liberal capitalism from its current course.
For a whole lot of reasons, among which his personal qualities are probably the least significant, I don't believe that he will.
Rather I believe that the system which he seeks to save from itself will meet its inevitable end from natural causes. Religion, which appears to be very much on the backfoot today, will however survive the end of the rule of capital and will have an essential role in the establishment of whatever new social and political order arises to take its place.

greywarbler said...

Geoff Fischer
A question arises - Destiny Church is one of the USA's Prosperity Churches that have arisen out of the desire to make money from every part of human thought and endeavour. That this was expressly negated by Jesus makes this entity calling itself a Church and ostensibly following Christian principles, in total opposition to those who wish to follow Christ.

If capitalism fails where is the Prosperity to come from? Will it be from the congregation helping itself to what is available from the 'Egyptians' as the Exclusive Brethren call the 'others'. Perhaps raiding other people's homes and assets as was done in Germany to the Jews; those others who were part of the polity till carved off, so their treasures could be carted off.

Laissez faire capitalism seems to be sinking us to that default position of slave-owning and exploitation that was so fervently fought against by social redeemers. Heaven help us if we can't organise ourselves into groups fighting the dual fight for environment and a human society with kindness and practicality, and heart and soul combined. The tech machines can be set for that, but we have to wrestle with ourselves to find our right settings; when we reach them, then we know human transcendence.