March 21, 2005

Good God

Olivia Kember crosses herself and then writes...

Brace yourselves – I’ve decided to get chummy with God. If you’re intentionally reading this – rather than coming to the page by mistake looking for dogs or men or Jim Hopkins - there’s a good chance you’re an urban agnostic who finds serious mention of a deity in rather bad taste. But after watching yet another sideshow from our local greasy televangelist I’m finding the Destiny brand of Christianity worse than tasteless; I think it’s disturbing. A Powerpoint presentation that draws a line from God to Brian Tamaki via Jesus is funny. But 7000 people believing it – that’s dangerous. So I’ve decided not to let God get claimed by the fringes. It’s bad enough that family values, most of which we can all agree on, has become a rallying cry for the bigoted and the fearful. They’re not getting God too.

Even if I don’t believe in him terribly much, I don’t want him on their side. I want him somewhere in the middle, reclining divinely in the middle of the road or hovering above the fence. I want him neutralized.

Some time when I was in school I realized that among my friends the only people who could be safely mocked were fat people and Christians. We weren’t racist, we weren’t really sexist, we were vaguely into Buddhists and Ba’hais and anything exotic, but we found the idea of believing in God - particularly one who required acts of obedience we saw as nothing more than inconvenient - ridiculous. We lumped all shades of Christianity together, demonstrating the same simplistic view that we accused them of. It was of course the 1990s, when ironic self-consciousness was the desired pose, and Christians, with their unfashionable sincerity and humourless principles, seemed as dated as telephones with dials and similarly doomed to the rubbishpile.

Well, we got that one wrong. The Destiny gang are still a small minority, and some of them look as if it’s as much as they can do to walk and chant at the same time. But you have only to look at the United States to see how a fringe movement can take over the mainstream. The religious Right is setting the agenda - from persuading Bush voters that the entire US election was about gay marriage to curricula supporting “intelligent design” instead of evolution. Anyone who disagrees is stigmatized as the “liberal elite”.

If Hillary Clinton now finds it necessary to tell everyone at every opportunity how she is “a praying person” - and the Clintons’ ability to sniff the winds of political change is positively rodentlike – we can safely assume God isn’t getting out of politics any time soon.

Democrats have realized too late that to have any chance of winning in the future they need to close what’s been catchily termed the “God gap”. They need to get onside with Jesus. After all, they’re supposed to be about poor people and so was he. But Jesus was an eloquent iconoclast with humble transport, doubtful company and a message of love – not really ministerial material. Especially when political Christianity equates to little more than simplistic rants about how we’re all going to hell in a handcart.

By the way, a Google search of “Destiny Church” and “poverty” (which I admit has all the scientific value of the Stuff poll) produces a cassette tape called “Poverty a satanic viper” (lack of punctuation theirs), available at for $NZ7 alongside similar items with titles like “Exposing the spirit of whoredom” and “Identifying demons”. The only times “Brian Tamaki” appears anywhere near “poor” are in descriptions of people getting rich through “the Tithe principle”.

If you believe that, you’ll believe anything. And if people are so ready to believe they’ll turn to Brian, or Kabbalah, or Scientology, I say, bugger the Enlightenment. Reason is so last century. If you really want to make your point, if you are that keen to win followers and influence people, either get God or start your own religion.

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