If anyone can show me, and prove to me, that I am wrong in thought or deed, I will gladly change. I seek the truth, which never yet hurt anybody. It is only persistence in self-delusion and ignorance which does harm.
Brian Tamaki isn’t content with being a self-appointed bishop of his own church (Destiny Church), now he is the “spiritual father” and 700 of his male followers are his “spiritual sons”.
What does being a “spiritual son” entail? It seems a complete surrender of the critical faculty to the leader – something common among cults. Despite this association, Tamaki’s spin doctors are feverishly fending of such criticism, calling him a great man of God. What is astounding about the media coverage is that arguably the most conservative writer in New Zealand, Garth George, warns that Destiny is straying into cult territory.
You see, the faithful spiritual sons were required to sign a covenant entitled and “Requirements Between Spiritual Father and His Spiritual Sons”. A church document calls this covenant “a solemn oath of commitment that is binding, enduring and unbreakable. You are bound to covenant … Covenant is an irrevocable, undissolvable oath of commitment”.
“To you Bishop we pledge our allegiance, our faithfulness and loyalty. We pledge to serve the cause that is in your heart and to finish that work. Success to you and success to those who help you – for God is with you.”
- Under “Conduct Towards Bishop”, the “sons” are told that “Bishop is the tangible expression of God”, so they need to understand how to properly approach their man of God “to protect the anointing and not transgress this special relationship”.
- The “sons” must never openly disagree with Mr Tamaki in front of others.
- “You will hear all sorts of statements and opinions but you must be prepared to ignore them and consistently hold him in the same high regard no matter what you hear.”
- “A loyal man is supposed to ‘cushion’ the effect of a mistake on Bishop and to protect him. NEVER intentionally expose his weakness.”
Here is what the document really says:
Give me your mind, I am in control now, you should revere me because God speaks through me. I am off limits from criticsm, those who criticse me are demeaning God… sign here, and forever be my minion.
The fact he is discouraging his “flock” from thinking critically is not unusual, although the extent to which he is enforcing this is worrying. The notion that somehow he should not be held accountable for his actions is also troubling. Does that not mean he could do anything and he has his nearest and dearest men at his side as supporters? Is this not what Osama bin Laden has encouraged in his entourage of uncritical mindless drones?
But there is a deeper issue here. Effectively he is saying, don’t criticise me, I am the mouth piece of the almighty. Tamaki has elevated himself well beyond human status; his followers already permitting worship of a fellow mammal. Egos of the Brian Tamaki nature have risen to power on many ocassions, many of which have abused that power and committed terrible crimes against humanity. Whether Tamaki would go down that sort of track is not known, but the possibility is now more wide open given the unquestioning support he is seeking and that his flock are already uncritically giving him. Where is the accountability? Surely that is the first and most important aspect of any respectful organisation.
The seeds of totalitarianism
Power is seductive, unquestionable, absolute power is even more appealing to the powerful. For what purpose could Tamaki, or anyone else for that matter, possibly want to discourage their followers from questioning and thinking critically? If his intentions are good then what does he have to hide?
The way I see it, the only reason to denounce criticism and insist on absolute deference to authority is to ensure you can get away with something terrible. The US has an abundant supply of preachers, revereneds and pastors that have claimed to men of God – moral men – only to be found to be hippocrates and liars (among other things). As Christopher Hitchens points out rather forcefully, as soon as someone can be called “reverend” they are not required to meet the same standards of accountability we expect of others.
The point here is this, when someone says “believe what I say and don’t question me” you ought be very careful. No one has the right to take away your power to think for yourself. When someone says “believe what I say because it is the word of God, and don’t criticise” you ought to run in the other direction FAST.
Faith — the engine of self-deception
Faith, in the way it is used in all closed belief systems is the process of believing without evidence. The mechanism of faith necesseraily requires the adherent to abandon reason and contort logic to suit the belief system. Many true believers – whether religious, new age or otherwise – are proud that they can never be swayed from their beliefs. No argument can penetrate this fortress of faith.
This is willful ignorance, yet it is seen as a virtue by the believer. Is it really virtuous to turn one’s mind away from reality? To disconnect the reasoning mind from reality? Is this the path to truth – the one thing the true believer says they value? Turning one’s mind off from reality is the opposite path one should be taking, if the truth is really what they care about. Brian tamaki believes he has the truth, so why is he afraid of critical analysis of him and what he says? why the insecurity? Anyone who takes advantage of the servile impulses of others and asks that people surrender their critical faculties is, in my book, acting unethically.
In fact, this ability to think for oneself was deemed such an important basic right by the founding fathers of the United States that they made “free speech” the 1st, and therefore most important amendment to the constitution. No information is off limits from rational inquiry, the moment we do take it off the table of discussion then we are at the mercy of those who would use that silence to further their own agendas.
What we certainly ought not do, and history is full of such examples, is to elevate a human being above others and above responsibilty for their actions. To do so is to invite the worst kind of behaviour and to grant it the permission to flourish.
Whatever happened to that oft repeated saying of Greek playwright Euripides “Judge a tree by its fruit, not its leaves”?