Thursday, September 08, 2005

the collision of faith and secularity in politics

Yesterday saw a collision of faith and secularity in New Zealand politics. Yesterday it was revealed that a group of business people who belong to the Exclusive Brethren sect had funded mailbox pamphlets attacking Labour and the Greens.

Yesterday Helen Clark dismissed this as the workings of a right-wing group. Helen obviously didn’t listen to the public press conference held by those funding the pamphlet campaign. If she did listen, she failed to notice the Bible on the table. Helen, this has nothing to do with right-wing and left-wing. This is a matter of faith. It’s a group of people who care enough about their interpretation of the Bible to spend large sums of money.

Labour can be glad on one thing at the moment. Fundamentalists tend to splinter. They are better at collision than cohesion. But stop for a moment and contemplate the impact of the financial resources of half a million dollars combined with the people resources of a Destiny Political Party. Both the Exclusive Brethren business leaders and Destiny are saying Enough is enough. Both are putting their faith on the line. Both are evidence of a new religious muscle in our public domain.

I might not agree with them. Nor might Helen. But to dismiss it as political is an insult to practices of religious freedom.

Posted by steve at 12:14 PM


  1. Oh I agree! I think those who are squeamish about this are guilty of an implicit totalitarianism. Politics is about participating in the life of the “Polis”. So “keeping religion out of politics” is effectively the same as saying, “keep down religion as a human force”. The Church (except when it’s gone into lunatic/extremist mode) has always engaged in politics. The Romans 13 is a political positioning of St Paul’s gospel. As you say, Steve, we may not like the theology, but unless a country wants to go down the path of oppression, religion can never be kept out of “the Polis”.

    Comment by Paul Roberts — September 8, 2005 @ 6:41 pm

  2. Indeed.

    Some of Labour’s policies are mobilising groups within society that see their way of life threatened.

    The tragedy is that the political right are embarking on divisive policies too, just in a different way.

    Comment by Paul — September 8, 2005 @ 10:22 pm

  3. I find it odd that the Exclusive Brethren are prepared to try and influence a political outcome, but are unwilling to participate in the process as they do not vote.
    I also do not understand why, if the Exclusive Brethren feel so strongly about the current political climate, they did not put their name to the pamphlets they are circulating? Is this because philosophically they are oppossed to the political process? If so then surely this is the ultimate in hypocrisy.
    Religion and politics is one thing, “covert operations” is another.

    Comment by Debbie — September 9, 2005 @ 12:18 am

  4. Steve, I am SHOCKED, Shocked I tell you!! To see political musings on this usually mystical blog ;o)

    Just as National has tapped in to Christian sentiment, it appears that Labour has tapped in to the long-standing anti-religious sentiment in NZ.

    Comment by peasant — September 9, 2005 @ 1:07 am

  5. Debbie,
    a few comments
    1- in the press interview on Wednesday the business people said they were acting as individuals who are exclusive brethren, rather than as an entire church.
    2 – it is standard practice in political advertisements for them to name one individual. So that’s not “covert”
    3 – yes it it strange that they might not vote, but would spend money. But then, lots of people in New Zealand this election will have political opinions but might not vote.

    Comment by steve — September 9, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

  6. Steve,
    In regards to your comments.
    Firstly, they may say they are acting as individuals, however I would expect that the common denominator they all share is the fact they are all part of the Exclusive Brethren. They do by choice separate themselves from the “community” so this cannot be overlooked.
    Secondly, I doubt whether anyone looking at that pamphlet would have suspected who was behind it, and as a citizen I would have no way of finding out. That “feels” like covert to me no matter who is behind it, Brethren or otherwise.
    Thirdly, I agree that many who express political opinions may not vote, however in the case of the Exclusive Brethren it is my understanding they are forbidden from voting which is quite a different manner entirely.
    My final comment is this. If they are acting as individuals why do they not vote on election day as individuals? The answer to that is, I believe, the crux of the matter.

    Comment by Debbie — September 9, 2005 @ 7:34 pm

  7. I’m a little surprised to see this being discussed here. But then I’m not in NZ and probably am missing something ?

    Comment by Lorna — September 10, 2005 @ 3:48 am

  8. Why are you surprised Lorna?

    Comment by steve — September 10, 2005 @ 11:36 am

  9. They are NOT acting as individuals. They are not allowed to do so. Their leader, Bruce Hales, of Sydney, Australia is behind all this. He may well distance himself from them now they have been rumbled, but mark my words, he is behind it. His family have harboured ideas of global domination for many years, and are now using a weird religious sect to achieve their dream. Dangerous people………I was one ! Till I saw the light, Thank God.

    Comment by mark — September 11, 2005 @ 6:59 am

  10. I think there are problems for the Christian political right wing to support the National party. Especially as the Christian right makes the family a major plank in their politics where as Don Brash had the cliche adultery and affair with his secretary, thus trashing his marriage and family. He is also un repentant on the whole situation. This is not a man who has any christain affliation at all. Why support them ?

    Comment by TonyMac — September 11, 2005 @ 8:54 pm

  11. Steve, you may be interested to know that the pamphlets attacking the Greens are almost an exact copy of simoilar pamphlets attacking the Greens candidate in Tasmania last year. Yet the EBs have said that these pamphlets are created from scratch. WHat happened to thou shalt not lie? I’ve blogged the NZ and the Aussie pamphlets for interest.

    The brethren are putting their faith on the line – and a close examination of it is not looking all that hot.

    Comment by dave — September 11, 2005 @ 10:04 pm

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