Brian Edwards Media

‘Bishop’ Brian Tamaki – Mad, Bad, Neither or Both?

Photo: Stuff.co.nz

Photo: Stuff.co.nz

The most charitable interpretation of Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual  Father & His Spiritual Sons, Brian Tamaki’s latest encyclical to his followers in Destiny Church, would be that he is insane. Certainly there are a number of manias that would seem to describe his mental state, egomania and megalomania being the most obvious. To those one might add the delusion of being God’s chosen emissary in Aotearoa and an incipient, if not yet full-blown messianic complex which seems to be leading Mr Tamaki to the inevitable conclusion that he is not merely an emissary of the divine, but divine himself.

The interpretation is ‘charitable’  because the insane cannot be held responsible for their beliefs or actions.

 The less charitable interpretation would be that Mr Tamaki is a charlatan, in the tradition of many such religious charlatans, particularly in the United States. His opulent  lifestyle, when compared to the relative poverty of most of his followers,  provides the most compelling argument in favour of this explanation.

When I interviewed him some years ago on Radio Live, he and his wife Hanna had just returned from a nine-day luxury cruise on the Queen Mary II, allegedly costing around $40,000. His largely Maori and Pacific Island followers, who funded the cruise, pay 10% of their income to the Destiny Church as a tithe. They also give ‘offerings’ above the 10% each week. Many repatriate significant parts of their earnings to their families in the Islands. The people who support Tamaki’s lifestyle are undoubtedly among New Zealand’s lowest income earners.  Most of them are very poor. The money that went on that cruise was more than most of them earn in a year. None of them could even dream of having a holiday like that.

And then there were the expensive cars, the expensive homes, the designer clothes, the diamond encrusted watch, the Harley, the boat and all the other expressions of ostentatious consumption.

When I suggested to him that he was ‘a rich man, made rich and kept rich by the poor’ he replied that it was OK to do well as a Christian. ‘God wants you to have a positive faith, but he also wants you to do well financially.’

This is of course totally at odds with the life and teaching of Christ whose apostle Tamaki claims to be and whose message could not be clearer:

‘Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.’

By the end of the interview I was left with very little doubt where the self-styled ‘Bishop’s’ heart was. He certainly had no intention of following Jesus’ advice to the rich young man who wanted to know what he should do to gain eternal life:

‘If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven.’

The rich young man was no more keen on this advice than the ‘bishop’ and went away sad, leading Christ to observe: ‘A rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.’

If he’s to get through that needle’s eye, Brian may have to lose a little weight. And dress down. After all:

‘Why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They toil not, neither do the spin. And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.’

Tamaki had ordained himself ‘Bishop’ about a year before the Radio Live interview. More than 3000 people attended the ceremony at the Telstra Clear Pacific Events Centre in Manukau. They paid up to $70 a ticket to attend the ordination and were encouraged to dig deep into their pockets for more. Richard Lewis, Destiny’s political party leader, said: ‘We don’t come to the house of the Lord empty handed. There’s Eftpos available out front.’ He or Tamaki added: ‘You charge people to go through the gate to watch rugby matches, to watch some of the shows.’  When Tamaki took the stage it was to a trumpet fanfare. There is, after all, no business like show business.

I rarely agree with Garth George. But where Brian Tamaki is concerned, we are in absolute accord. In a superbly argued column in today’s Herald, he begins:

‘In requiring its men to swear an oath of loyalty and obedience to Brian Tamaki, the Destiny Church – having glorified the messenger above the message – has begun to transform itself into a cult.’

And ends:

‘History is littered with evidence of the tragic results that can come to people bound up in religious cultism. To Destiny Church members I simply say: “Be very afraid.”‘

He is absolutely right.

So should we adopt the more or less charitable view of Tamaki’s Protocols and Requirements Between Spiritual Father & His Spiritual Sons? Is the ‘Bishop’ mad, bad, neither or both? I don’t intend to answer the question. Instead, I invite you to read Garth George’s instructive summary of the contents of the encyclical and decide for yourself.

Now watch this: Campbell Live infiltrates the Destiny Church – Part One

And here’s Part Two of Mihingarangi Forbes’ investigation.

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38 Comments:

  1. No, Garth George is not absolutely right. If he were absolutely right, he would acknowledge the difficulty in providing a substantial reason why the Catholic Church is not a cult while Density Church is.

    • No, Garth George is not absolutely right.

      Can’t follow your reasoning there. George’s column was purely about Brian Tamaki and the Destiny Church. Whether or not the Catholic Church is or is not a cult is an entirely different topic.

  2. Amen brother!

  3. My son drew my attention to this news. As an aethiest I said Bloody Hell. But then as a humanist, on reflection, I wondered if the focussing of energy from the poor and the misguided might give them a reason for existence. Belonging to some group if you have been dis-jointed might be a better thing that they do.

    • I wondered if the focussing of energy from the poor and the misguided might give them a reason for existence

      Alternatively, let them eat cake.

  4. BE,

    My reasoning is this: Garth George criticises Destiny Church for being a “cult”. In his article, he explicitly and implicitly contrasts Destiny Church’s approach with the approach of those churches in which loyalty is “freely” given and which follow “scriptural mandate”. But the term “cult” is a populist term for what are largely superficial distinctions between various factions of religion and Christianity. Therefore, Garth George’s distinction between Destiny and other churches is fundamentally invalid. Therefore, as an example of this invalidity, Garth George would have difficulty in providing a substantial reason why the Catholic Church is not a “cult” while Density Church is.

    • My reasoning is this: Garth George criticises Destiny Church for being a “cult”. In his article, he explicitly and implicitly contrasts Destiny Church’s approach with the approach of those churches in which loyalty is “freely” given and which follow “scriptural mandate”.

      Well, maybe they’re both cults. But this cult seems to be to be potentially very dangerous. I suggest you look at the Campbell Live item which I will link to tomorrow.

  5. I tend to get worried when the shepherd fleeces his flock rather than tends it. And he is certainly doing that.

  6. I am having horrible forebodings of the Jonestown or Waco variety.

    • I am having horrible forebodings of the Jonestown or Waco variety.

      Possibly well founded, Ashley. I will link tomorrow to tonight’s Campbell Live item on Tamaki. Scary stuff!

  7. I’m Catholic and I think there is a vast difference between Catholicism and the Destiny Church. I have never been pressured to pay money to the Church. I have never had to pay to attend an ordination either.

    Likewise our local priests live a very basic life and they spend their time caring for the people in our parish – they are always at the hospital or travelling to say Mass somewhere at one of our rural churches. Our local Bishop, Bp Barry Jones, certainly doesn’t live large.

    But is Destiny Church a cult? Maybe, maybe not. I think the important question is – is Destiny Church a business? Genuine expressions of spiritual belief give back, think Caritas, or the Anglican City Mission.

    Could Destiny Church give us a St Francis who said “Grant me the treasure of sublime poverty: permit the distinctive sign of our order to be that it does not possess anything of its own beneath the sun, for the glory of your name, and that it have no other patrimony than begging.”

    What about a St Damien of Molokai who cared for people living in a leper colony until he too succumbed to the disease? Will Destiny Church’s spirituality produce someone prepared to love the unloved, even to the point of sacrificing their own pleasures and lives?

    “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20

    “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

    “Then Jesus said to his disciples, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matt 16:24

    True love of God produces people with a deep humility. They are aware of their own frailties and realise that any strengths they possess are from the grace of God. Is Brian Tamaki a humble man?

    • I’m Catholic and I think there is a vast difference between Catholicism and the Destiny Church.

      Thank you, Tess. More interesting material in this morning’s Herald about the ‘business’ side of the Bishop’s activities.

  8. Density Church Has Arisen From The Dead!

    Hallelujah at the power of res-erection!

    Our spanking brand new site is here at http://DensityChurch.net/

    Yours in the Spaghetti Monster, Lord High Bishop Brian Tamariki

  9. This oath of allegiance required of followers of Mr Tamaki is not dissimilar to oaths of allegiance sworn too such notables as Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Mao Tse Tung.

    Whether one is atheist or Christian, this is the antithesis of the teaching of Christ; it is a perversion of Christianity and it is dangerous nonsense.

    It is also absurd to draw comparisons between the Roman Church (or Anglican, Methodist, etc for that matter) with Destiny Church. The established churches have many faults as do their followers, but above all they promote the worship and love of God not the worship and love of an individual. Even the Pope does not attract this type of veneration.

    Bishop Tamaki has presented a convincing argument for either getting rid of MMP or ensuring the 5% threshold is never reduced. The thought of this mob ever reaching the corridors of power causes me to shudder.

  10. “True love of God produces people with a deep humility. They are aware of their own frailties and realise that any strengths they possess are from the grace of God. Is Brian Tamaki a humble man?”

    My thoughts exactly, Tess.

  11. I am gutted and ashamed to be a member of the same culture and society as Brian Tamaki.

    In my eyes he is no better than (in fact worse than) a cheap carnival huckster, a psychological thug.

    To those who are members of Destiny Church, a message of community, charity, right action and love is of the greatest virtue. To have to pay for this message debases and befouls all those principles Christ espoused.

  12. I would have thought the differnce between a “mainstream” church and Destiny are obvious.

    1/ If asked, the Vicar will happily explain to you straight away the key tenets of his belief, and his eyes will sparkle at the opportunity if you want to debate these in good faith. Compare and contrast this with the Protocols of Brion.

    2/ The local Vicar or priest is unlikely to preach a radically different sermon if he thinks there is no one with a covert recording device in the room.

    3/ The Vicar will politely let the ladies pour the tea first, and ask first before taking a sandwich.

    4/ When attending the Curch fete, you will not be accosted and cajoled by an army of menacingly besuited vergers and curates with ear pieces. They will not demand to know who you are and why you have a camera. They will not be swimming in hair product.

    5/ The keen sales pitch of the women of a certain age who (wo)man the baked goods stall does not an equivalence with Bishop Brian’s sophisticated telemarketing make.

    6/ The local Vicar is unlikely to shun or threaten you with expulsion from his community because you popped along to a meeting of the Society of Friends last Wednesday.

    7/ The vicar won’t insist that your Bible be purchased from his shop and include his comments, note, forword and interpretations.

    Get the picture?

  13. Who said the Catholic Church is not a Cult? I always thought it was!

  14. Hey, if Tamaki’s flock want to be shorn with blunt, rusty shears — then why should we feel sorry for them? These drongos don’t need saving from the Good Bishop, they need saving from themselves.

    The good thing is they’re kept in tight, together, so as not to pollute the gene pool.

  15. 15

    What I love about Brian Tamaki is that he made himself a bishop. A Bishop! Why not go the full and become Pope Brian the First? I mean, clearly he has no care for historical precedent or tradition.

    I also think it is absurd to compare the Catholic Church to Destiny. First off, Catholicism has been around for 2000 years and has a rich tradition of intellectual-philosophical development. Some of the brightest men and women in Western civilisation were/are Catholics. At least Joseph Ratzinger has a respected theologian! I hate to think what Brian’s credentials are! Busisness or commerce? Not to mention that the Catholic Church is the world’s largest chartiy org.

    Therefore, it’s an unfair comparison.

    The real test of a cult is whether the whole organisation collapses with the death of the dear leader.

    cheers,

  16. “Let them eat bread,” indeed Brian. However the reality of any group of people who feel no hope or purpose or connection, is a serious drag on society and a recipe for family disaster.
    I too fume over the “ripping off” of the vulnerable. Today it was reported that the Destiny Church gives Tamaki $500,000 as a gift on top of his 6 figure salary. (Gift from a church Taxable??)
    But I separate the graft from the chance that the joiners have a purpose and feel connected. I can think of another group who are closed from society, are indocrinated and pressured to remain intact with the flock. Do they feel connected? I think so as do the members of a Rugby Club or the Business Round Table or….

  17. Jesus said judge not or you will be judged. To all people who has said negative things about Bishop you are judging him. He was ordained by his Pastors not himself, and he did not make himself a Bishop. He did not received $500,000 that is a lie. All the money if he has goes to the future building of our new church and Destiny tv program and internet to preach the word.

    Why don’t you look at what he has done that is good, instead of believing the lies of the media.

    Jesus said love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus is the judge and not us human beings.

    To those who are criticising, did you ever for once have one follower and change their life from the teachings of Jesus, people with mental illness and drug addiction and family violences. Bishop change our lives through his preachings.
    I had been moving from church to church looking for answer in God, When I joined Destiny church I was mentally disturbed and manic depressive. After listening to his preaching from the bible I became stable and healed so as the others with other issues, surely God is working with him. When I was a catholic I was always in fear of God, when I became born again believer, I learnt from the bible that God Loves me and merciful to me. Everthing that critics do is to pull down and look for negative that is their job but is very sad if you all believed all the lies. You should come to Destiny church and check for yourself. As a member we are glad that Bishop has a high standard because God is rich in Heaven and we have faith that we will be rich too but the bible said Seek the Kingdom first and His rightousness and everything will be added unto to you. I believed Bishop has already reached it and so he deserved to be blessed.

    I pray that you all say nice things about people who are serving the Lord Jesus if you believed in God and goo virtues.

    • Jesus said judge not or you will be judged. To all people who has said negative things about Bishop you are judging him.

      Thank you Lucy. I have no interest in undermining your relgious faith or your belief in the goodness of Brian Tamaki. I’m delighted that it has changed your life for the good. The main criticism of the ‘bishop’ is that his lifestyle is entirely at odds with the life and teaching of Christ, whom he claims to follow.

  18. I hope for your sake, Lucy, that ‘Bishop’ Tamaki does not turn out to be a false prophet; a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If one judges him by his lifestyle, actions and his words, particularly the Protocols that sparked this debate, the judgement is not likely to be very flattering.

  19. Ben, your cautionary warnings will be lost on ‘Lucy in the Sky’. Besides, she won’t read it, because she’s singing pagan songs to the goblins and fairies, who are playing at the bottom of her garden.

  20. The Tam and his wife are just the run of the mill common everyday evangelist preacher tag team with a milling adoring flock/mob.
    They’re everywhere and nowhere.
    As blinkered and murky as their world-view may be I only hope their potentially vicious christian approach to the factors of this shared-life does more good than harm to their bewildered bunch of believers.
    Amon.

  21. Eggwhyte, your comment is unfair and insulting. Whatever my thoughts about Bishop Tamaki I would not question Lucy’s beliefs and faith. That is why I am genuinely concerned for her and others who have committed themselves to this church that they do not end up disillusioned; it would be painful for them.

    Whilst you may not agree with Lucy’s beliefs do not belittle them

  22. You’re right, Ben. I’m just so happy for Lucy — that she wasn’t in Jonestown, Guyana, in 1978.

  23. Brian Tamaki appears to be sliding into that heady web of self deception common to rock stars, bankers, and religious leaders (to name a few)… while adoring crowds urge him on. He fills that hunger in the lost and under-parented in offering focus, guidance, righteousness to the guilty, and an exquisite sense of belonging to the pack.
    To males he cleverly offers membership to ‘the brotherhood’ with all the trappings – uniform, secrecy, rites of passage, power, and an exclusivity that has drawn males through all history: to lodges, gangs and war machines. People switch addictions and mind distortions as they run at the ‘perfect solution’ he offers with a singular focus that temporarily blurs reality.
    The ultimate betrayal will be cast in his spiralling greed, and his ‘followers’ will eventually hide away with their grief as history always shows.
    The tragedy is that figures like Tamaki offer false hope. All this ‘circus’ reveals is that too many vulnerable people are desperate for a social acceptance and opportunities that our society fails to provide, and there is always a wolf in the shadows waiting to fleece them.
    No surprises there.

  24. Gosh this is worrying — millions fleeced off the masses who can least afford it to line the pockets of the cynically pious in the name of salvation from a scientifically dubious if not ridiculous proposition. It almost sounds like the emissions trading scheme.

    • Gosh this is worrying — millions fleeced off the masses who can least afford it to line the pockets of the cynically pious in the name of salvation from a scientifically dubious if not ridiculous proposition.

      Lovely summary, Martin.

  25. I think the single most worrying sentence in the church document is that Tamaki is now regarded as the “tangible expression of God”.

    Has Jesus been made redundant, or what?

    Re the Eye of the Needle – I seem to remember being told once that this was the name of one the gates into Jerusalem. It was a very narrow gate, and hard for a heavily-laden camel to get through. The implication was that it was not impossible for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven – but he’d probably have to unpack rather a lot of his treasures, and reduce his load to a more modest size, before he could squeeze in.

  26. Re: the tithes – a fool and his money are soon parted. And it’s all relatively small-scale in comparison to the thieving scum who ran Bridgecorp! (Though Rod Petricevic didn’t demand a Hitleresque oath of allegiance…)

    I hear the “Bishop” is planning to set up some sort of Destiny-only residential development. Fantastic! Means we’ll know who the morons are by their address – they won’t even need to open their mouths.

  27. Lucy:- I believe that you’ve missed something extremely relevant. Tamaki has his followers swearing total allegiance to HIM. If you are a Christian, then your first allegiance is to Jesus and not another living soul. Tamaki has become rich off the backs of some of the poorest in his community. The man has no shame. This is just another cult. No ifs or buts . My sympathy to those poor suckers who cant see through it.

  28. Having seen him on television a few times it never ceases to amaze me as he doesn’t appear to be too bright & yet people follow him….???????

  29. Destiny Church and Brian Tamaki should not be underestimated. Bad economic times and strong Maori/Pacific affiliations make their hybrid brand of prosperity christianity very attractive.
    Demonising Destiny only makes them stronger.

    No doubt about it, Bishop Brian is a bible thumping bigot and that is a polular part of his brand. Don’t expect him to ride into town on a donkey. This man loves power and money.

    Worst of all, his hair style is a crime and abomination from which there is no salvation.