I wasn’t there but according to reports it sounded so wonderful. In front of thousands of his adoring fans and flanked by a couple of well-known queer people, the self-titled Bishop Brian Tamaki apologised for all the hurt he’s caused gay, lesbian, trans, bisexual, and intersex people.
There were tears, and applause. So moving, so emotional.
It seems Mr Tamaki has had an epiphany. It’s reminiscent of Saul’s conversion on the road to Damascus – he’s heard a voice calling out to him:
“Brian, Brian, why do you persecute us?”
Today the sun is shining, and all is well in the world. But has Brian really seen the light?
I seriously doubt it, and we just need to take a look at his track record to understand why I’m skeptical.
According to past utterances by Tamaki, LGBTQI people are responsible for earthquakes. He’s actively campaigned against Marriage Equality. He showed support for Israel Folau’s public comments on homosexuality, and referred to us as ‘cry babies’ when we called the rugby player out about his homophobia.
Given that, his apology seems disingenuous. But, he did manage to get transsexual Jacquie Grant and gay man James Laverty to give speeches at the event.
I have to say, I don’t know why they chose to go.
Perhaps they felt it was an opportunity to tell their own stories in the hope of showing Destiny Church members the harmful effects of prejudice. That’s an understandable desire, but I wonder if attending wasn’t naive and misguided.
My view is that this was a carefully staged political rally. Hannah Tamaki has just launched a political party, and both her husband and their church are intrinsically linked to it.
Whatever their motives, Grant and Laverty seem to have legitimised Brian Tamaki’s apology and tacitly approved the foray into politics by Hannah Tamaki.
On the surface the apology, endorsed by two well known members of our Rainbow Community, spells out a very clever political narrative.
It suggests that old enemies are now friends and all is forgiven. What better way of gaining publicity and diverting attention than a flashy yet shallow embrace of diversity and an emotional reconciliation with the marginalised?
But there is a problem with the narrative and that is down to the Tamaki’s propensity to shoot their mouths off and misread the public mood.
I’ve already mentioned Brian Tamaki’s ridiculous linking of earthquakes and homosexuality. When lives have been devastated by a natural disaster, his bizarre rants show sheer stupidity and lack of concern for the feelings of not just queer people but everyone affected by the event.
Just over two months ago, Tamaki and his followers once again, showed the kind of foolish and callous behaviour that I think will undermine this latest launch into the political arena.
After the horrific terrorist attack on the mosque in Christchurch, Tamaki and his Destiny Church had a chance to show New Zealand that his brand of Christianity was a compassionate one. Instead, members of his church cynically chose to use that moment to protest in front of the mosque.
Tamaki went on radio and stated: “you don’t think about how it offends us, and hurts us, you just roll in another outside religion that would never give us tolerance.”
Fifty-one of our fellow citizens had just been murdered. At a moment of intense grief for our country in general, and our muslim communities in particular, Tamaki and his church chose to engage in a petty act of self-aggrandisement and displayed a deplorable lack of empathy.
So no, I’m not buying this ‘apology.’
For one thing, it was in his own realm, surrounded by his followers. If he had actually wanted to show true contrition, perhaps he could have asked to attend a Rainbow Community event where he would be in the minority. Where we could have told him what we feel about his despicable condemnation of us and how much that hurts.
Someone who is truly sorry for the harm they have done takes definitive action to make up for the damage. Will he stand against conversion therapy, bullying, transphobia? I doubt it.
My concern is that he has deliberately tried to manipulate the Rainbow Community and wider New Zealand with this staged apology and he has managed to entice two of our leaders to go along with the ruse.
However, I take comfort in this – I’m fairly sure his latest attempt at public manipulation will fail miserably and that when his new political party falls apart, he will return to type and we will once again see the real Brian Tamaki.
Editor’s Note: Here is a link to the text of Jacquie Grant’s speech at the Destiny event. It sheds light on her attendance.