Aug 15, 2013

Destiny Church: the media racism edition

Peter Lineham has a new bookDestiny: The Life and Times of a Self-Made Apostle. A kind-of-but-not-really authorised biography of Destiny Church and its leader.

The book covers the history and rise of the church, but attention has revolved around Lineham's claim that coverage of the church carries racist undertones. I'm still skeptical. Brian Tamaki put his neck out. Destiny Church runs religious programming, applies for government funding and has led (bigoted) social causes. Even if the claim is true, there's only so much sympathy you can hold for a perpetrator of bigotry complaining of like treatment.

Coverage of Destiny's can be alarmist, though. New Zealand's other pentecostal churches - despite running religious programming, tithing, and running social programmes - don't register. Destiny Church (Tamaki especially) juts against narratives we expect of Maori. He's flamboyant (which is grates against the kiwi character too) rich and proud of his heritage. Tamaki and the church reject assimilation and integration and have created their own ideologies. That's sometimes perceived as a threat.

My problems are with the Church's ideology. It represents a sickly fundamentalism fused with Maori undertones. The patriarchal views Tamaki perpetuates are outdated and have no place alongside Maori culture or in 21C New Zealand. The good the church does - and Lineham highlights it - doesn't negate the bad. The masculinity that men are encouraged to conform with is toxic and the role of women's wrong on so, so many levels.

But maybe I'm an elitist. And maybe I'm not in the best position to comment. I can't bend my worldview to see things from Destiny's point of view or its members perspective. But I'm not going to extend much sympathy for a bigot becoming the victim of bigotry. I'll pass on Lineham's book.


  1. I'm not a huge fan of Tamaki or his church, but I am sure that he has had a positive impact on some of his flock who might otherwise have self-destructed (drink, drugs, crime, etc). I guess it is the pedestal that they put him on which really grates and he doesn't appear to be very humble, unlike other Māori religious leaders in the past. The question is, will Destiny fall if he isn't there to lead it?

  2. One thing I have personal experience in is cults, and Destiny has many hallmarks of a cult, including often intimidatory tactics, secrecy, and preying on the vulnerable. My statement of personal experience is important, because rationalist though I am, cultist behaviour has a 'feel' about it that those who have individual/family backgrounds in cults pick up on quickly. Cults are not ultimately an issue of race, but the mindless following of a religious ideology centred on a charismatic leader (who may be either self-serving, crazy, or both). Cults never end up well. I view Destiny as little different from Exclusive Brethren, and the prospect of a Destiny city, school, etc, is completion of a vicious circle as Destiny members can then be shut off from the outside world totally. From that point they will be totally immersed in doctrine from childhood, with little hope of escape.

    Oh, I've missed the point. Not much interested in the book either :)

  3. It's a Protestant church. Nearly all Protestant churches, with the notable exception of the Anglicans, have no apostolic succession - all their pastors are self-appointed, and they all espouse heterodox views to one degree or another. There is a lot of pots out there calling the kettle black. Or should I say... brown?

    If they help people grow in their faith and do good in their communities, then blessings on them. I'm not concerned by them. Just another Protestant church to me.



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