Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Dispatches from the frontline in the diversity war

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.


Anonymous said...

Brian Rudman is brilliant on this in today's NZ Herald.


HERE IS A SIGN OF DANGER in the article..

"But the extremists obviously objected and, in the search for inclusiveness, the well-meaning drafters have come up with a meaningless substitute: "Schools should teach an understanding of the diversity of religious and spiritual traditions in a manner that reflects the community of which the school is a part."

This leaves it wide open for a clique of religionists to take over a school board and impose whatever religious tradition they deem reflects their community."

The above change would defeat the whole purpose of the legislation. Could someone tell these drafters - communities do not hold common religious beliefs, individuals sometimes believe individual beliefs.

This is a timely warning with Board of Trustees elections coming up in March, and the usual Think Tanks out priming the pumps. Take care out there.


Anonymous said...

Another excellent post Paul.

Uroskin said...

Why aren't atheists, pagans, witches and satanists not at that religious diversity shindig? They are a substantial minority in the census, and would make for interesting debate. The eventual "statement" would be worth reading, I'm sure

Anonymous said...

Simple reason Uroskin, we are not organised as an identifiable group!

I suppose NZARH was a group intended to do some of this advocacy .. Paul, I don't want to start you off again on NZARH. Consult archive if interested Uro.

The bottom line is this. It is really hard to form a group that is passionate about its non-belief in something. I mean, do you want to go to a suitable building every Sunday morning to celebrate the non-existence of God. Or to establish some ritual to celebrate the ongoing progress of evolution. That is what most of us have been escaping!

Too much time and energy can be wasted on atheism, just as it is wasted on religion.

The difficulty we face is that the certain right wing think tanks have ways of assembling those like them into "community groups" which they love. These groups get over psyched on the power of groups generally.

Something needs to be done. The Fundy Post is one vehicle - are there any others?

NZ Party Babe

Uroskin said...

Hey NZ Party Babe, I'm sure the witches could have conjured up a coven, hired a broomstick and have swooped in. Hell, some at the conference there think those witches run New Zealand!
And as for the Satanists, don't they have church services? After all they're a version of an Abrahamic church.

What I'm especially enjoying at the moment is how we, Dame Edna's curved cousins, are destroying the Anglican Church without having to fight hard in this particular culture war. Just existing is enough for those African church members to start frothing at the mouth.

I'm writing occasionally about this, grouped under the label "Coalition of the Circumcised" (http://uroskin.blogspot.com/search/label/Coalition%20of%20the%20Circumcised)

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Anglicans ..

Did you know that after years of merger/takeover talks with Catholics they have jointly come up with this:


Yes, seem to have come up with a common view of Mary!

I don't know how many pages agreement on Jesus will run to.

I find it humorous. Basically where the Roman Catholics have built up legacy of beliefs that have nothing to do with anything today, the Anglicans can say that although they don't have the belief in their own denomination they are prepared to go along with it if it invalidates nothing of their own.

How many years will it be, at this rate, before they are merged?

Will priests need to be celibate?

Next episode following in 5 years time.