I expect you are wondering what the Exclusive Brethren have been up to recently. It's funny you should ask; you see, they are feeling persecuted so we had better be careful with what we say. Apparently the government has made over 330 demeaning comments about them in Parliament.
Of course, the Brethren would know this because, as any visitor to Parliament will tell you, they are always there, sitting in the public gallery. A friend of the lovely Maria von Trapp once observed that the Brethren go to Parliament to look after their investment. Someone else suggested that a trip to Parliament is an outing for Brethren women: a relief from the drudgery of housework and Christian marriage. Whatever the reasons, it is obvious that they have been paying attention.
Of course, nobody will believe their claims to be persecuted, except the folks at Sir Humphrey's and those at TBR and most of the rest of the rightosphere. The Herald also reports that support for the Brethren has come from an unlikely quarter: the Buddhists. One Joan Buchanan (fine old Tibetan name, that one) told them: "when you are disenfranchised and marginalised and the media is misrepresenting your views, I'd like to welcome you to our world. Kia ora." Oh gawd; like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down. Since when have the Buddhists been disenfranchised or marginalised? Misrepresented I can believe, since nobody can understand a word of what they say; but persecuted, I think not. It is years since they last had a pogrom in Grey Lynn and I am quite sure that arts administrators are no longer required to submit to religious tests. Of course the urge to smack your Buddhist up is often strong, particularly when they make that beatific smile as they tell you about the sound of one hand clapping. Even more so when they demand not tolerance, but respect. But we restrain ourselves because we celebrate diversity and at least they are not Hare Krishnas. Bloody hippies.
Anyway, back to the plot: the Brethren's wailing and gnashing of teeth occurred at an inter-faith forum in Hamilton, organised by the Human Rights Commission in aid of its statement on religious diversity. The Brethren, true to form, distributed leaflets. Then they claimed that those other leaflets they had distributed, all $1.2 million of them, were paid for personally by the members who had organised them. Funny that, because these were identical leaflets to those that a member in Australia paid personally for; funnier still, similar acts of charity took place in the USofA and Sweden, of all places. Perhaps this synchronicity is testament to the power of prayer. Whatever the cause, it worked in Australia, as The Age attests.
Of course, this is what happens whenever religious groups are gathered together in the name of inter-faith dialogue; they wail and gnash about persecution. Then they fall out amongst themselves. This time, the falling out happened early when Glyn Carpenter of the Vision Network declared that he did not agree with the diversity statement, although he is on the panel that came up with it. Apparently it is us Atheists and Humanists who are imposing our "belief systems" when we ask for religious instruction to be kept out of state schools, although we are probably unaware of what we are doing.
Joris de Bres, the Race Relations Commissioner, then did his best to pour water on troubled oil by saying that we have no state religion. This has provoked the ire of none other than Bishop Brian Tamaki, who has been quiet of late. He brings his fine legal mind to the issue and accuses us of treason, while insisting that HMQ chooses to be an Anglican.
Also spluttering about the diversity statement is international man of pomposity 'Professor' Bill Cooke, who disturbed my enjoyment of Morning Report by talking a load of tosh about New Zealand always being a secular state. You can hear it here (under the title 'New Zealand culture') for a limited period, if you must. No doubt 'Professor' Cooke has an explanation for why we sing God Defend New Zealand.
At least the warring factions can agree on one matter: they don't like the diversity statement or, for that matter, diversity. Further public debate will ensue.
Meanwhile, the rest of us can get on with our lives and worship any god or none.