In the public arena

The previous article ended on what the Church can do to positively engage in the public arena in a culture that is ‘church-less’. The following, written in 2004 for Challenge Weekly, is, however, a critique of a church-backed rally, deemed by many, as a negative display by the church in the public arena in New Zealand, in 2004. It was the way it was done that got quite a few upset. It was a protest march that stood for family values while decrying the erosion of moral values in public policy, but that might have been intimidating for onlookers. Let’s have a look.

At odds with Kingdom values

By Peter Veugelaers

A church minister has suggested that what the Enough is Enough march demonstrated was somewhat at variance with kingdom values.

Dean of Studies and Senior Lecturer in Church and Society at the School of Ministry, Knox College, and associate lecturer in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at Otago University, Rev Dr Kevin Ward said the early church existed in a plural society where they did not call for the imposition of a Christian morality on all others.

“What the church is called to do is live by an alternative morality that demonstrates to the world the values of the kingdom, rather than tries and imposes those on others,” Dr Ward said.

He said the march will enforce the views and fears that large numbers of people have and make the task of not only the conservative church but the whole church more difficult.

“For many it is seen as what religion leads to so better to stay clear.”

Rev Dr Kevin Ward raises concerns over the Enough is Enough rally in 2004

Before the Enough is Enough (EIE) rally at Parliament on Monday August 23, The Dominion Post writer David McLoughlin reported that gay groups that opposed the march and participated in the counter rally were concerned for their physical safety which they believed the Destiny church-run event posed.

The rallies were well behaved but student groups from Victoria University and Wellington High School said they were upset at the presence of local Destiny church members in their facilities. The Dominion Post reported that 600 Wellington High students signed a petition for Destiny to stop hiring the school hall out for Sunday services because it “promoted hate and discrimination”.

Meanwhile, the morning after the Enough is Enough rally, talk back radio was jam packed with discussion about the Destiny church and its senior pastor Brian Tamaki, and the appearance of black shirted men raising their fists chanting “enough is enough” leading women and children through Wellington’s streets, described by some onlookers as like the Nuremberg rally and the resurgence of Nazism.

Christians at the rally replied to these criticisms by saying they were there to stand for family values and the institution of marriage, protesting against the erosion of morally-sound legislation at Government level, such as the introduction of the Civil Union Bill regarded as a cover for gay marriage.

The Enough is Enough rally was taking a stand for family, said church leaders. Photo by Helena Lopes on Pexels.com

Dr Ward said that the Destiny leaders and Christians who have defended the black shirted march through Wellington by saying it is only a black shirt or that sportspeople in New Zealand often wear that colour is naïve.

“The style of men in dark uniforms, whether black or not, with raised arms shouting slogans raises the spectre of militarism, strong men leadership, control and enforcement.

“Militarism is by and large an offence in our culture now. Many thinking people know about the damage done for Christianity by the church militant in history and so the association is very close to the surface,” Dr Ward said.

He believes the message of Enough Is Enough is also naïve because to say that all of New Zealand’s social problems stem from the decline of the family unit is simplistic.

There is a multiplicity of factors, he says, which lead to different social problems today. A major factor has been the loss of local community as urbanisation has increased. Population mobility has lead to loss of supportive social networks.

“We also need to realise that what conservatives define as family is really only one definition of family, and that through western history and Christian history, let alone other cultures, much broader patterns of family existed and were accepted.

“What we may be seeing is a return to more ‘normal’ varied patterns of family after what was an abnormal focus in the twentieth century especially in the period immediately after World War II.”

In a multi-cultural society the only way we can live together is by tolerance, he said.

“It is completely unjust to think that any group can impose its morality or lifestyle on all other groups in society.”

Dr Ward does not find justification from the New Testament for this.

[Published 2004, Challenge Weekly]

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