Brian Edwards Media

The Speaker’s Prayer – Time to get rid of this archaic and offensive mumbo jumbo.


Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace and tranquillity of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

It seems to me that there are numerous reasons to get rid of this piece of archaic and offensive mumbo jumbo, the Speaker’s prayer that is read at the beginning of each sitting day in the New Zealand Parliament.

Our Parliament is an institution which must, by its very nature, recognise and be inclusive of the culture, customs and beliefs of all law-abiding New Zealand citizens.

But the Speaker’s prayer does precisely the opposite. It excludes not only every New Zealander who does not believe in a god, but through its reference to ‘Jesus Christ our Lord’, every New Zealander who does not subscribe to Christian dogma.  

In the 2006 Census, roughly 1.3 million Kiwis stated that they had no religion. A further 200,000,  including Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Spiritualists and New Age religionists, subscribed to non-Christian religions.  Another 300,000 failed to state whether they had a religion and a quarter of a million more objected to being asked the question at all.

The grand total of all of that came to 2,075,298. The total number of people describing themselves as ‘Christian’ was 2,027,418.

Let’s not quibble about the figures. Let’s just say that in 2006 the number of Christians in New Zealand more or less equalled the number of non-Christians. So the Speaker’s prayer that opens every sitting day of the New Zealand Parliament has no relevance to, excludes and may well be an affront to at least two million of the country’s citizens, including several MPs.

Next, the sentiments expressed in the prayer remind one of nothing so much as the cloying humility and obsequiousness of Uriah Heep. We must ‘humbly acknowledge’ our need for guidance, we must ‘beseech’ a creature half of us don’t believe in to come to our aid, we must ‘glorify’ His holy name and declare Jesus ‘our Lord’.

And what role should the New Zealand Parliament have in ‘the maintenance of true religion’, whatever ‘true religion’ means? The answer surely has to be ‘none’. And, while many of us may admire Her Majesty, none of us should be required to ‘honour’ her, her children, grandchildren or their future heirs. The suggestion is preposterous.

But the most compelling argument against keeping the Speaker’s prayer is less what it says than what immediately follows it – the uncivilised bedlam of ‘questions for oral answer’ and of parliamentary debate in general. One can only conclude that God does not exist or is deaf to the Speaker’s entreaties. His (or her) prayer is patently never answered.

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  1. Too right Brian, I cringe every time I hear it.

  2. Not a chance under this Government. Unfortunately, when asked if he would agree to do away with it, Mr Cunliffe said that he’s more than happy for it to stay.

  3. God of nations at Thy feet. In the bonds of love we meet, hear our voices we entreat, God defend New Zealand… Our national anthem is a prayer and possibly the only national anthem that is a prayer. It is a very good thing to pray humbly to God.

    • The notion that God should defend New Zealand in preference, one assumes, to any other country, strikes me as the ultimate arrogance. The answering of prayer is, in any event, at odds with Christian doctrine of free will. Free will becomes a nonsense if a supernatural being can interfere in or dictate future events.

      • Most Christian theologians have been content to allow divine sovereignty and free will to remain in dichotomy with one another. Even Christ in the Lord’s prayer acknowledges both, e.g., “Give us today our daily bread…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

        I realise this is your particular stumbling block to theistic belief, Brian. Fair enough. However, kindly don’t presume to speak for others (which is partly what your post is about)…

      • …and to clarify,

        I don’t have a problem if you want to call the Christian belief in BOTH divine sovereignty and human free will as “nonsense”.

        I do object, however, to you implying that it “nonsense” within the perspective of Christian framework of belief that both can and do co-exist. For us (or at least most Christians – and Jews, and Moslems for that matter) they do, both as matters of intellectual assent and profession, and at times in actual expectation and practice.

        I’d suggest it’s similar to the canard, “atheists have no morals”.

  4. Also time to get rid of religious instruction in New Zealand schools. At best, it should not be in schools; a least, it should be opt-in and not opt-out,

    • Agreed. Though I have no objection to kids learning about the basic tenets of different religions. They should then be free to make up their own minds.

      • BE – you mean RE. No problem with RE. The problem is with RI. RE is learning about religion, its basic tenets, its impact (good & bad) on history. RI is teaching religion as if its claims were fact, well teaching one specific religion anyway. Technically illegal in state schools, but a number exploit a legal loophole by pretending to be closed during the day.

        • …which is a good example of the law of unintended consequences in trying to legislate “secular” education in the 1870s.

          Mind you, “secular” at the time meant primarily “non-sectarian” i.e., favouring neither Roman Catholic, nor Protestant.

          Id suggest those who want secularism in all public institutions today mean something different – the absence of all formal religious/spiritual practice.

      • I guess you could use this argument for getting rid of milk in schools – or indeed, the free Weetbix. Show the 7 year old the nutritional facts and let him choose.

        This trendy attitude to ‘let the kid make up its own mind’ is a senseless abdication of parental duty: kids shouldn’t be allowed to select their religion any more than they should be allowed to decide upon their own bedtime, or if they want to clean their teeth or not. Life’s full of stuff nobody likes but we still have to accept them to a large degree. I don’t agree with the 100kph speed limit but I still stick to it.

  5. Arguably Parliament opens with drivel as it means to continue. Hard to take much of it seriously.

  6. Agree with you wholeheartedly. The dropping of magic spells and animal sacrifice from governmental proceedings is well overdue.

    • I can think of a few unused candidates for the sacrifice, so let’s not be too hasty on that, if you don’t mind…

  7. Parliament’s Standing Orders Committee is currently conducting its triennial review of Standing Orders. If you want to make a submission on the Prayer (SO-60 mentions it) or any other relevant matter, the details are below. Submissions close on 10 October.

  8. I always wonder why atheists so object to others who believe something different. It’s a bit like someone not enjoying the boat races and trying desperately to get TV not to show them. You can turn it off.

    • That’s a poor analogy, and the MPs in the house can’t just turn off the Speaker. (He’s not that kind of speaker.)

    • We don’t. We just object to their assumption we believe what they do.

    • I’m not sure where you see me objecting to what other people believe. My objection is to the beliefs of one group being presented as acceptable to all of us, in this case in Parliament. You could close your eyes to religion, but not to the harm, as well as the good it does.

    • Do you also object to hindus and muslims who feel marginalised by having to pray to a different religion? You reference choice and that’s the whole point. In this instance, there is none.

      • Hmmm.

        Whatever else New Zealand is, its historical roots lie in the spirituality of the original Polynesian inhabitants, and the “Christianising” that came with 19th century British/Irish colonial settlement. That affect on our culture and public institutions is inescapable.

        Those who come from other countries and faiths know that history. They also know we are a religiously tolerant nation, where you are free to practice that faith, as long as you cause no harm to others.

        So, no, I don’t think Hindus or Moslems have a valid case to argue they are “marginalised”. I also note they seldom do – instead it is presumptuous neo-colonial white people with a secularist axe to grind who use them as rhetorical props who drag them into the argument.

        Don’t believe me that Moslems and Hindus are unable to tolerate religious ambiguity in public life? India is a secular nation, which has the largest population of Muslims of any country in the world. Yet they have the Hindu wheel of incarnation on their national flag.

        Similarly, Turkey is a secular Muslim country, which has people of other faiths within her border, but they have the crescent on their flag – as does Malaysia, where four sets of religious holidays (Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian) are recognised and practised.

    • In my experience, religious zealots are the ones who don’t like people that believe “something different”. They want us to share their misguided faith.

      • Doesn’t that apply to zealots of all persuasions, religious, quasi-religious, or otherwise?

        Come to think of it, that is what makes them zealots?

    • Rosie, anyone can believe whatever they want, inside their own head. When that belief manifests in the real world and affects me, then I take an interest in it. If parliament beseeched any other supernatural entity, whether it be Vishnu, Maui, or your average garden pixie, we’d call them on it. Beseeching the Christian’s god is no different.

  9. I never knew the Speaker made that prayer. I am comforted that this prayer is invoked and thus many politicians will burn in hell.

  10. Get rid of the incompetent coot with the scowl in the photo I say.

  11. I agree, the prayer is junk! Just like the bilingual singing of the NZ anthem; tediously long as it is pandering.

  12. I agree completely that the prayer is inappropriate. However, its aspirations, other than the true religion part and putting aside the cringing, are rather admirable. I don’t feel that the current Govt is meeting them. I wonder how a more meaningful vow to serving the people in the honourable traditions of democracy could be framed, so that solemn acceptance of it might carry some weight with those entering the House?,

    • Suggestion:

      The Speaker intones: “I call upon all members to consider, in a moment of silence, as we commence proceedings for the day, the importance of the proceedings of this Parliament for our fair land.

      May we conduct the business for the service, commonweal, and uplifting of our nation. Let us determine to steadfastly persevere with charity and wisdom so that our nation may abide in harmony, and be a source of goodness and peace for the world about us”.

      Or something to that effect. No deities invoked, but the possibility that members may avail themselves of the moment to reflect before exercising their power and responsibility…or maybe not.

      • That is a very good idea Kimbo and I hope you will make a submission to that effect to the Standing Orders review mentioned earlier in this thread.

      • 12.1.2

        “Our fair land” and all that sounds way too pompous and Victorian to me. We want to drag the whole affair into the 21st century.

  13. “In the 2006 Census, roughly 1.3 million Kiwis stated that they had no religion. A further 200,000, including Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews, Spiritualists and New Age religionists, subscribed to non-Christian religions. Another 300,000 failed to state whether they had a religion and a quarter of a million more objected to being asked the question at all”.

    To represent the various groups named above (including at least 2 million Christians), what are you suggesting as a suitable replacement Brian? Should the house alternatively just go straight into business of the day?

    In the event that the prayer is replaced, is that also an example of proportional representation? Because if so, how do you make the change without then disadvantaging a potential 2.5 million people?

    I agree with your final paragraph, and with the part about honouring the Queen, but not the rest.

    Your post does however draw attention to the origins of the prayer, and leads to consideration of who the author was.
    I don’t know, but their verse appears to stem from a time when NZ had a greater proportion of Christians who valued these words (ie, there have been, and still are, a significant proportion of New Zealanders who value these words, and those of the National Anthem). It is a matter of heritage, despite increased numbers of other groups.

    The author believes in God, and Jesus Christ, as do (and have done) a significant majority of New Zealanders. The fact that Parliamentarians choose to pay lip service to the words is not the fault of the prayer, or the author.

  14. We are now part of a more secular thinking which embraces good practices while not causing offence to the more obsessed of our religious fellow travellers. After witnessing the excesses of fanatics the sooner we dispense with their vitriolic offerings the better. Don’t hold your breath for politicians to initiate this though, as a vote is still a vote, principles aside.

  15. Arguably, the main function of this prayer nowdays is to mark, respectfully, the beginning of proceedings in the House. It’s a way for the Speaker to indicate to members and those listening/watching that the work of parliament is about to begin. While I have no objection to getting rid of the current prayer, I don’t think we should abandon it without coming up with some sort of short ritualistic beginning. Perhaps a haka from the oppositions benches?

  16. Brian, I think, as many people do, that you misunderstand the nature of Question Time and what it is designed to do. In the days when I worked for a Minister and MP we often received letters along the lines of: “Why don’t youse jokers stop squabbling like kids and get on with running the country like adults”. In fact, the latter is what parliament usually does. Much of the work – well over ninety per cent – is done in Select Committees which are largely bi partisan and deal with laws which would have to be reviewed or passed whoever is in government. Question Time is, in contrast, specifically designed to highlight differences and to dramatise the issues of the day. As such it is inherently conflict ridden and the issues are reduced to their simplest terms. It’s essentially theatre. Unfortunately it can also be an open invitation to mindless point scoring but that’s something we have to suffer to achieve its object. Regrettably too while co-operation in Select Committees is boring from a media point of view the conflict inherent in Question Time is exciting and dramatic i.e. it makes news, and so all most people know about parliament is what they glean from the media i.e. the conflicts of Question Time. Coupled with the fact that New Zealand is one of the few countries in the OECD without a civics strand to its education system this means most New Zealanders haven’t got a clue about how their government works, and we end up with large numbers of people critical of what they know not

    • Tony – my point that the wishes expressed in the prayer are at odds with the conduct of members in debates remains true. And when did Members of Parliament last “lay aside all private and personal interests”? it’s a joke!

      • I should have made it clear that I agree with you entirely Brian about the prayer which I find insulting to me as an atheist in what is supposed to be a secular society and a complete anachronism. Would someone please take up the suggestion that this be one of the matters put to the group currently reviewing the Standing Orders

  17. Hmmm.

    Despite my Christian faith, I don’t have a problem as such with the abolition of the prayer in Parliament for the reason of national religious and spiritual plurality (and the absence of any theism for many – although I’m not sure if Alan Wilkinson rates “socialism” as a religious dogma).

    However, if that is the case, and you really want to get all puritanically fussy about stuff that doesn’t really matter, you will also, as the Puritans tried in the 1650s, need to abolish:

    Christmas and Easter Holidays

    Find a new Head of State, whom, even while she is not head of any New Zealand state church, is nonetheless, by statute, disqualified from adopting the Roman Catholic faith. However, most Kiwis are happy to retain the monarchy.

    The New Zealand flag (crosses of St George, Andrew and Patrick).

    Personally, I don’t think the practice of the Christian faith in New Zealand is affected by ANY of those things, and I could live without them.

    However, other than the secular-religious puritan zealots, could the majority of the NON-RELIGIOUS?

    In an essentially tolerant and pragmatic country like New Zealand, at the present time, and for the foreseeable future (other than monarchy and flag), I”d suggest, “no”.

    Also, btw – has anyone noticed Nelson Mandela is still alive?

    • Christmas and easter both have pagan roots, both pre-date Christianity by a few thousand years. Christianity at least renamed christmas, while easter kept its original name. Easter is an interesting one, as in a southern hemisphere country it is six months early/late. Easter is the norse celebration of spring that dates back around 5000 years or so. Rather than get rid of it, we should perhaps move it to our spring! Similarly with christmas and winter; perhaps we should reinstate its original pre-christianity Roman length of 12 days too…

      • Indeed, Christmas is also a problem, as it is a winter feast. Roast turkey and pudding in summer?!

        But the point being that they are both inherently religious, in both their original pagan forms, and also when they were ‘taken over/reformed’ in the early stages of Christendom from the 4th century onwards.

        Both are presumably objectionable for those who want to rid us of all traces of public religion that do not reflect the “breadth of national belief”. Have a look at Andre’s post below – “Religions that rely on ideas that made sense two or four thousand years ago but no longer do today will be at the front of the queue, along with their controlling structures.”. He may not directly advocate it, but you can be very sure there are secular zealots wanting to purge us of Easter and Christmas, just as there were religious Calvinist zealots who wanted the same in the 17th century.

        In principle the idea that public practices reflect public diversity has merit. However, I note that no one has really considered the aspect that institutions draw strength, direction, and purpose by remaining in some continuity with the past. I would argue that the Elizabethan English of the prayer in Parliament is, on balance, a reflection of an institution that has roots stretching back 1000 years to the Anglo-Saxon Witan, and started to take on its modern form in the 17th century. There are many elements that you could argue are “archaic” and “non-inclusive”, e.g. standing for the sovereign’s representative the Speaker, the mace, the government sitting to the right of the speaker, the speaker being “dragged” to the chair and wearing a wig, MPs swearing allegiance to QEII (“God bless you ma’am, and all who sail in her!”).

        Nevertheless, I think those things are interesting, and, if people are willing, can be useful resources for understanding Parliament, and conducting business within it…

      • Christmas and Easter only make sense in cold climate societies with a subsistence agricultural base. Both have become commercialised traversties of their original purpose. It’s high time we did away with them and emphasised our own festivals suitable to our own cultures. Making a start with Matariki (which originally marked the kumera growing season) was a good idea. Do people have other suggestions?

    • I rate environmentalism as a religion and socialism as a disease curable by exposure to its consequences.

      You have to distinguish between religious practices which explicitly or implicitly demand non-believers participate and those for which no such assumption pertains.

      The former are obnoxious and the latter innocuous.

      • Common sense tells me you are right, and there is a difference between the nation’s Parliament presuming, by means of its opening prayer, that

        1. there is a national religion, and
        2. it is Christianity

        compared to taking a day off work on December 25 – because that is when everyone else does, irrespective of religious faith.

        However, since when has “common sense” ever guided zealots? Christmas Day is a “Public Holiday” which implies “national observance”, which “implicitly demand(s) non-believers participate”.

  18. …oh yes, and you will also need to reform some of the practices in the armed forces – which may damage morale, as they tend to be institutions that derive esprit-de-corp from established practice, including religious chaplaincy and group prayer.

    And we will also have to impose an abolition of karakia where it interfaces with wider public life. Good luck with that one.

    Just saying…

  19. Plus we will need to change the names of the months of the year (Roman gods), and the days of the week (Norse deities).

    Or maybe the secular Taliban can tolerate some ambiguity in their life.

    Just saying again…

    • Are you perhaps confusing the desire to separate religion from law-making and the desire to remove all traces of religion. You seem to be making fighting a ridiculous straw-man argument that no-one is proposing.

      • Perhaps.

        But then I’m not the one arguing, “(our institutions)…must, by (their)very nature, recognise and be inclusive of the culture, customs and beliefs of all law-abiding New Zealand citizens”.

        And I’d suggest that when you see the level of secular fundamentalist zealotry that some adhere to, no, I don’t think I’m exaggerating, or proposing straw men.

        Some of what have suggested WAS adopted by the first Western secular government after the 1789 revolution in France.

        • Secular means “neutral with regard to religion.” That allows an all inclusive approach. Nothing zealous about that. France in 1789 was not really secular, it was anti-theist – quite a different thing.

          • Yes, and I’m glad you made that point. Or at least neutrality is how I understand New Zealand law interprets “secular” since the 1870s.

            However, I’d suggest many posting here interpret secular to mean the “absence of religion and quasi-religion”. Which is what secularism now primarily means.

            Which is why the post is arguing the complete REMOVAL of the parliamentary prayer, rather than REFORMING if by deleting the sectarian reference to Jesus Christ.

            Christopher Hitchens was certainly an anti-theist in creed, although his humanist values, meant he defended the right of the religious to privately practice their faith. Which is different to how the French humanists worked out their revolution.

            The real issue is the presence of religion in the public space…


              The real issue is the presence of religion in the public space…

              Exactly the point. Why does there need to be in a multicultural secular society?
              Surely people can be free to practise their religion in church,mosque, synagogue or whatever in a community of shared belief, but not in the public domain where there are many conflicting religious beliefs, or none at all?
              Why should one particular religion be privileged, or even theism in general?
              Whether you like it or not, times have changed, and we no longer live in a Christian society. Social practice should reflect that reality,so why pretend we live in a world which no longer exists?

  20. …and a seven-day week

  21. Watch parliament in action on Sky I see no evidence whatsoever that the ideals invoked by that particular prayer have had any impact at all. Its a bear pit, full of sound and fury, huge egos, petty fights and long boring bits.

    I agree ditch the prayer just in terms of its efficacy – or lack thereof.

    I agree with Jeanette we still need something to start the parliamentary day with , something that still attempts to lift the tone of the place.

    • If you ditch the prayer something will have to fill the void, and I’m picking we’ll end up with another bloody haka! One pagan ritual for another: 5th in the 3rd heat for the Olympic 200m Backstroke, every AB’s game, and now, parliament…..dear o’dear…..

  22. Instead of the Speaker reciting a prayer, why don’t all the members rise to sing a rousing “For he’s a jolly good fellow”? It might take the sullen expression off the Speaker’s dial and set the tone for a happy day.

  23. As the elderly die, today’s youth will get rid of many of the institutions that no longer make any sense due to scientific and technological advances. Religions that rely on ideas that made sense two or four thousand years ago but no longer do today will be at the front of the queue, along with their controlling structures.
    I’m really looking forward to seeing the new census figures, due out on October 15th. I predict that most kiwis no longer follow a religious faith.
    The fact that this prayer is uttered in parliament every day makes me sick. They need to get rid of it.

    • It’s a common mistake to assume that older/earlier generations of Kiwis were deeply religious and regular church-goers. They weren’t. Regular Church-going has always been a minority sport in NZ (only 40% at its apex in the late 1890s, down to 25% by the 1930s). And I’d suggest most pre-Boomers were somewhere in that vague religious universe between nominally-christian and agnostic. Not positively atheist, more just disinterested. Christianity was largely an irrelevance to them. That’s particularly true of working-class men and city-dwellers throughout the 20C.

      The Boomer mythology that wonderfully liberal Boomers re-made a deeply-conservative, church-going society after Year Zero (1968), is, in many senses, bollocks.

      • Well said.
        Actually, I have read that even in medieval Europe, supposedly the acme of church attendance and religious piety, large numbers of people didn’t bother to attend church, and even when they did , it was more out of habit and something to do on a quiet Sunday.Many churches were practically deserted, even back then, and those who few who did attend were just going through the motions.
        Of course, there have always ben a minority of sincere, devout believers who were regular church-goers, but somehow we have come to accept the myth that nearly everyone was like them back ‘in the good old days’.
        I don’t quite know what the psychology is that projects a level of virtue and piety onto past generations, when in all probability they were just like us, no better and quite possibly even worse in terms of moral development.

  24. “So the Speaker’s prayer that opens every sitting day of the New Zealand Parliament has no relevance to, excludes and may well be an affront to at least two million of the country’s citizens, including several MPs.”

    Why do you think that, BE? As I read it, the prayer appeals to an unspecified deity which could just as well be Allah, or the object of veneration of any other religious faith. It’s only the reference to Christ in the closing words which is identifiably Christian.

  25. The fact that the wish of the prayer is unanswered is not a good reason for scrapping it. By all means remove the references to a deity and Jesus Christ to make it inclusive of all New Zealanders but I’m sure I’m not the only Kiwi who wishes that the standard of behaviour (and altruistic behaviour at that) would improve. Divine intervention has failed, let’s bring on people power!

  26. “Tony – my point that the wishes expressed in the prayer are at odds with the conduct of members in debates remains true. And when did Members of Parliament last “lay aside all private and personal interests”? it’s a joke!”

    Granted, but why is that an argument for doing away with the prayer? Surely it’s an argument for improving the behaviour of parliamentarians?

  27. I have little time for rote ceremonial supplication. Vicars can prayerfully declare the fete open and beseech the rain to hold off all they they want.

    You may seize upon the non-existence of God or his deafness towards the Speaker’s prayer as evidenced by the ‘Questions for Oral Answer’. The effect is of howler monkeys screeching and flinging dung around their cage. But it’s merely evidence of the fallen nature of his creation. I’m reminded of a quote by the Polish rabbi being herded towards the concentration camp when a fellow Jew asked him how he could still believe in God. He replied ‘How can you still believe in man?’

    I wish the Speaker would pray sincerely and longer.

    • Trouble with this is your comment posits the existence of a ‘creator’. And then that we, his creatures, in some way failed or disappointed him. But this is surely at odds with the traditional concept of god as omniscient.

      In any event, I’ve never found any empirical evidence of the existence of this ‘creator’. It is certainly at odds with current cosmology, though I concede that that could change of course.

      One interesting question for me is, if there is a god, why is he/she so coy. Why not just come out and say, “Look, here I am, all you silly unbelievers.” I think I prefer Rowan Atkinson’s ‘Devil’.

  28. Second time lucky

  29. “And then that we, his creatures, in some way failed or disappointed him. But this is surely at odds with the traditional concept of god as omniscient.”

    No. Why can’t a sovereign God create beings endowed with free choice, a capacity to exercise it, and experience the consequences of that choice? The interaction of the two, including the ability to give exhaustive explanations, may transcend cold logic. However, I don’t see where it contradicts. Put it this way: If there was a sovereign omniscient God, and he did decide to create beings with free choice, what would it look like?

    Theistic faith, just like other philosophies and belief systems holds in tension the paradoxes that reflect the nuances and ambiguities of life, nature, reason, and existence.

    Pretty much like you did when, on the one hand you judged that engaging in prayer (in Parliament) as, “the cloying humility and obsequiousness of Uriah Heep”, but also (in the form of the national anthem) as, “the ultimate arrogance”.

    Kindly make up your mind, man! :)

    Seriously, I can understand why you have empirical objections to God’s existence. However, while I have some sympathy with your rational objections, again, unless you are dwelling within the prism of theistic belief you have little business taking pot-shots at peripheral targets from the outside.

    Not unless you are prepared to (temporarily) suspend your objections, values, and belief system, and then consider the systematic framework within its entirety. That doesn’t necessarily mean exercising faith, that seeks understanding, although to the prayer to “‘humbly acknowledge’ our need for guidance” may assist – or not! :).

    • Blimey! (from ‘May god blind me!’) Too many big words for me.

      But I’ll make this objection. According to you, there’s nothing wrong with ‘god’ creating us and endowing us with free will. OK. But this omniscient being is apparently not only surprised when we go off the tracks by doing things he/she doesn’t like, he/she is bloody cross. “For I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and the fourth generation of them that hate me. And showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”(Deuteronomy 5:9-10) Pretty restricted sort of ‘free will’ there. And,as someone as erudite as you is no doubt aware, the Bible is full of warnings like that.

      And, oh yes, there’s ‘original sin’. Not too much ‘free will’ in that.

      “Pretty much like you did when, on the one hand you judged that engaging in prayer (in Parliament) as, “the cloying humility and obsequiousness of Uriah Heep”, but also (in the form of the national anthem) as, “the ultimate arrogance”.

      Kindly make up your mind, man.”

      I’ve no idea what you’re on about here. I made no reference to the National Anthem in this post.

      • You didn’t refer to the National Anthem (which I’m sure you area aware, on closer reflection, is in the form of a prayer) in your original post, but in your subsequent post at September 19th, 2013 at 22:06.

        On the other matter, I’ll attempt to answer (as mentioned before) from “within the prism of understanding” – a challenge which I note that, yet again, you’ve chosen (!) to ignore:

        Free will prior to the fall/original sin doesn’t mean every choice was valid – which remains so today (You voting for John Key in 2014?). Genesis 2:16-17, “And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge (i.e., experience) of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

        And no, just in case you were wondering, and moving beyond the red-herring of understanding every detail in an Ancient Near Eastern pleasure garden scene literally, the Genesis chapter 2 and 3 narrative suggests that “death” is a description of the consequences for disobedience/wrong choice/independence from God, rather than a prescriptive retribution on the part of the omniscient creator.

        However, once God sets to work in fixing the mess by the creation of a unique covenant nation with special privileges and responsibility (who were given the passage from the decalogue which you have quoted) through whom all nations will be blessed, then yes, if you weren’t part of the solution, and you were standing in the way of it, then you were most certainly the problem. Hence the retribution which applied for that time only, because the stakes for all humanity were so high. Plus even God (and his redactors) engages in exaggerated rhetotic at times to make his point :)

        And yes, subsequent to the fall, free will, or more accurately, the free ability to choose good and act in accordance with the corporate responsibility of being “created in the image of God” is marred. Not utterly removed, nor beyond efforts of human improvement, but marred to the point where earthly resources can ever return it to its original perfection or intended purpose. Hence the need to humble oneself, and avail oneself of the ultimate source of goodness and grace. Hence the words of the Parliamentary prayer. Which you don’t believe, and I’m in agreement should possibly be removed or reformed because it is as much as YOUR parliament as it is mine, as it was also our god-fearing (nor not) mutual forebears…

        Sorry to use lots of words – however, as you are no doubt aware, I’m trying to distill down into a bite-size chunks complex doctrine that biblical and systematic theologians have debated for centuries.

        Which I suspect you knew when you threw it out there, you disobedient and willful Irish cove :)

      • “But this omniscient being is apparently not only surprised when we go off the tracks by doing things he/she doesn’t like…”

        Brian, I find it difficult to believe that someone with a PhD in literature can make such a facile judgement of the highly anthropomorphic language of Genesis chapter 2 and 3 (which I presume your statement refers to).

        If it isn’t deliberate then I humbly suggest you avail yourself of some of the literary tools to understand the intended rhetorical effect the narrative seeks to evoke – rather than just ‘throwing it out there’ as a punchline. You don’t have to believe the Scriptures, but kindly don’t misrepresent them.

        • I don’t have enough years left to continue this esoteric debate, Kimbo. I prefer to withdraw. Without prejudice (in the legal sense).

          • Fair enough.

            You are a strange fellow, though. Introducing topics that, of their very nature, are complex and nuanced, (e.g, the efficacy of prayer), and then slipping out just when it starts to get interesting (for me, anyway – but then I’m no doubt in an esoteric majority of one).

            Good debate though, and if you need a seconder for your remit to abolish the parliamentary prayer, I’d be happy to sign.

            • Kimbo, I don’t know if it is BE who is the strange fellow. Sometimes you, say, well, a little too much. Look through the thread, too many long Kimbo contributions.

              It’s really pretty simple. Christianity is slowly fading away, people are increasingly recognising it for what it is (just another man made religion). The prayer is an anachronism. Be gone with it.

              • Actually, I am feeling guilty about my hurtful comment. I take it back, please ignore.


                  No offense taken.

                  And I think your comments were fair and valid (although we differ on “man-made religion”)

                  The fact that I’m attempting to explain doctrines and practices that once held sway in the public domain, but are now what other, ordinary New Zealanders consider “long” and “esoteric”, and an “anachronism” means that it is probably time to dispense with more of the vestiges of Christendom that litter public life.

                  Christianity, which initially developed as a minority religion with the state hostile to it, and can function equally well (arguably better) without state patronage, remains unaffected.



  30. The prayer is the best thing that happens in Parliament. Everything else is too depressing.

    Anyway it is very much part of my pakeha cultural heritage – though I wouldn’t mind it being said in Maori, Samoan or other languages.

    • Well if it’s part of your cultural heritage, that’s OK then. Bugger just about half the population whose cultural heritages it isn’t part of.

      • Coming from an Irishman, that’s rich. But on a personal level I would acknowledge not all people believe.

        I subjected myself to the notion of an ogre christian god for years and became bitter and twisted. When I was won solely on the new testament writings I realised that God was for me and not against. That was when life changed. But it was still my free will to look at the evidence and choose. I’ve let him down but never the reverse. God’s been dealing with calumny for years. No amount of media training deflection will change the fact that he loves you.

  31. “the maintenance of true religion…”

    Ditch the prayer, it’s offensive to put Christian’s self-interest above that of other New Zealanders. We (should) all be equal in the lawmaker’s eyes. Given the huge tax-breaks to religious organisations like Sanitarium, the slap in the face to us all of tax-payer funding of religious schools, A daily reminder of Christian privilege is at best dodgy, at worst corrupt.

    • Jeff, how do you presume the prayer puts Christian’s self-interest above that of other New Zealanders? It refers to “the maintenance of true religion” without claiming Christianity to be that religion at all. The sign-off refers to Christ, but that’s it. The rest of the prayer is addressed to God.

      Allah is also God. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is also God. Some posters here ought to get over themselves: they’re trying to find a fight where there isn’t one to be had. You don’t have to get precious about someone praying to a God you know doesn’t exist, or the God you think is someone else’s or the God you wish you never had. The Parliamentary prayer is an all-embracing plea for guidance, as far as I can tell.

      I’m no God botherer, but I’d be pretty impressed if a bunch of Bhuddists were to pray to their God for help in ruling my country.

  32. Rather than starting the day off with a useless prayer — wasted on a bunch of shiftless heathens — why not replace it with all MPs reciting the Parliamentary Hypocritical Oath.
    They all got there by way of extravagant undertakings, broken promises and lies.

  33. Brian Edwards obviously having a bad day. New Zealand founded on Greco-Ijudean values including a legal system based on Christian values.

    To whom and what do we take an oath? The old electric puha, Tane Mahuta, maybe the 50 million dollar gorilla?

    • Our legal system (out of which parliamentary government in its turn grew) is not based in Christian values. It is based on the common law tradition which in its turn derives from Saxon and Scandinavian legal values. It has nothing much to do with Christian values

  34. I agree, the prayer needs to go as does the anthem. Dire lyrics, sentiment and tune. It demands a vocal range few people can actually manage to sing well if they wish to. Oh, do something about that flag at the same time.

  35. I don’t think removal of the prayer should be the priority.Lie detector tests and punishment for dishonest answers would be a good start.Nick Smiths latest issue would provide a great starting point.Possibly not for Nick Smith though.

  36. “Christianity, which initially developed as a minority religion with the state hostile to it, and can function equally well (arguably better) without state patronage, remains unaffected.”

    Kimbo, I entirely agree with you on this point.
    One of the arguments as to why Christianity is so much more vibrant and widespread in the U.S. then in more secular Europe is because churches in America compete in the marketplace i.e. there is no state established church, which leads to general apathy and inertia.
    No, i don’t think Christianity, or any other major religion, is going to die out anytime soon, but I have simply lost interest in it, as have millions of other people.
    Why? Mostly because its cosmology and metaphysics no longer offer a satisfactory explanation for the universe, compared with modern science.
    However, if people wish to continue to believe in traditional religion, then I have no problem with that, provided they keep these views to themselves.

    • …although just kicking the idea around a bit more: –

      I find it intriguing that various atheists, agnostics, pagans, and others who make up the fine and varied constituency of the city of Christchurch feel that in some sense the Anglican cathedral “belongs” to them, and they have a right to have their opinions carried re the re-build.

      If Christianity no longer has public relevance, why do (some) non-Christians act otherwise?

    • We don’t have a state established church in New Zealand and never have. According to William Colenso the Roman Catholic Bishop Pompallier attended the Treaty discussions in 1840 at Waitangi specifically to ask that question and Hobson confirmed that there would be no established church here (as was and is the case in England). Churches here have always been free to compete in the ‘market place’ (whatever that means). It’s an historical accident that our incoming immigrants for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were Christian Protestants. I find the continuation of what are outmoded and my view superstitious beliefs in official ceremonies into the present highly offensive. I have always found it similarly offensive that it has become customary in some circles to begin and end formal occasions with invocations in the Maori language which are essentially Christian prayers (not that most people know that because they don’t speak Maori and are just parroting what someone has taught them by rote). If people want to use this device to acknowledge the bi-cultural culture of this country then good on them. They have my support. But they should choose texts which keep God right out of it

      • “They have my support. But they should choose texts which keep God right out of it”.

        At which point you are imposing 21st century Pakeha/Enlightenment values on Maori, whose (Christianised) culture implicitly acknowledges the presence of spirituality in nearly every aspect of life.

        Who would no doubt find your neo-colonialism “highly offensive”.

        • Bingo! How did I know that my remarks would get me that sort of immediate knee jerk response. Maori Christian sentiments good: pakeha Christian sentiments bad. How very Orwellian. But I have bad news for you Kimbo. I am not a wishy washy white liberal conditioned to feel guilty every time someone shouts “boo” at me by way of the word “Maori”. I have in fact used such an invocation myself (in a speech to an ILO conference plenary session in Geneva where it was received with thunderous applause) but I made sure what I said didn’t have God in it. If Maori wish to make speeches in their own language invoking a deity then that’s their privilege but don’t expect me to congratulate them for it. Superstition is superstition in whatever language.

          • “I am not a wishy washy white liberal conditioned to feel guilty every time someone shouts “boo” at me by way of the word “Maori”.”

            Fair enough, Tony. You had me fooled for a while there when you were parading the morally and intellectually bankrupt emotional black-mail phrases such as “I find (it)…highly offensive. I have always found it similarly offensive…”. Frankly, and while it gives me no pleasure to see anyone offended, so what?

            Also, you overlook the point. Any invocation in Maori is likely to be permeated with spiritual beliefs (tapu, mauri, rohe, etc.), whether it directly refers to God/atua, or not. But at least you say, “that’s their privilege”. Good to see you can moderate that “I’m offended” reaction at times in the face of superstition.

            • I am puzzled by your response. What is “intellectually bankrupt” about being offended? That seems to me to be a total non sequiter


                Being offended is not intellectually bankrupt. Using it as a reason why your point-of-view should be accepted is.

                ““It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.” ” Stephen Fry

                • What gave you the idea that I expect people to accept my point of view? I have not had any such expectation for many years. But anyway – this is way off the original topic so we should give it a rest perhaps.

  37. I think religion is a personal thing, and should be kept out of politics and the education system. Religious dogma is the cause of most of the fighting and misery in the world today, and has been down through the ages. People can believe whatever they want, but have no right to force it upon other people against their will.

    • Well said, Terry. If people want to talk to their invisible friend they should do it without the coerced participation of others.