Destiny Church's proposal for a city of God at Wiri, South Auckland is but the latest sign that as the Cults.co.nz website the church is becoming a "worsening" cult.
On Wednesday night, TV3's Campbell Live showed undercover footage of the service where their "21 Blessings" were revealed. Essentially, this was a call for already probably hard up cult devotees (which is sadly what Destiny's parishioners are) to give more money so that this new city could be built. Bishop Brian Tamaki is now in the process of telling his flock to uplift themselves from their communities to join him and his wife Hannah at this new city.
As the vast majority of New Zealanders (including many practising Christians) realise, Destiny is going through the same phase that other religious and non-religious cults go through. We have seen examples of this evolution towards communal living amongst cults occur both here and overseas. Jim Jones and the Jonestown commune in Guyana back in the 1970s. Neville Cooper and the Cooperites on the West Coast of New Zealand (a community which still exists). The late Bert Potter and his Centrepoint commune back in the 1970s. David Koresh and his Branch Davidian splinter group in Waco back in the 1990s. All of the above groups (amongst others) have featured in the media due to tragedies (Jonestown and Waco) or sexual or physical abuse allegations made against their leaders.
In all of the above cases, cult devotees have either lost their lives or had them screwed up through moving to cult compounds. Communal living is often the last stop for a cult which has tried everything to extend its influence within the wider community. Destiny, for one, has tried to do so through setting up its own failed political party (Destiny New Zealand) and infiltrating the Maori Women's Welfare League (from which Hannah Tamaki was ejected just this week). Now given that Brian Tamaki is essentially telling his flock that they are being persecuted by the non-converted and that all other Christian churches are inferior, he's saying that it's time to retreat to a city where everything will be provided for and that his chosen people need not step outside its confines.
But, as history has shown, sometimes cults begin to disintegrate when their members begin living in one space. The Centrepoint commune (where Bert Potter proclaimed himself to be Jesus) gradually disintegrated due to Potter and some of his church members being found to have engaged in sexual abuse of both child and adult members. However, the personal control that Potter exerted was also increasingly challenged and that is what ultimately destroyed Centrepoint as members began to see the reality of what living within a cult was like. Potter was a cult leader who was driven by sexual motives more than anything else.
By contrast, Tamaki as New Zealand's latest cult leader seems to be driven (as reports indicate) by the lure of making more money - and at the expense of his flock. I expect that when Destiny members start living at the new compound, some will increasingly begin to see the reality that has been exposed in revelations that have come from former church members who have left - that Tamaki is to be blindly obeyed at all costs and that money, more than spirtual fulfilment, means everything to him and his whanau. I believe that Tamaki and his wife will be able to exert even greater control over their flock within Destiny's proposed community (as other cult leaders have done). At the same time, as more control is exerted, the natural tendency for people to revolt against excessive authority will see more members exit. Over time, I strongly believe this could become a flood and further media tales will erode Destiny's standing even amongst its existing membership. Divisions within the church will start festering. Destiny will face its own Armageddon.
I also criticise some of the right wing Auckland city councillors (such as Dick Quax) who have endorsed Destiny's new shining city. All I believe they are doing is effectively endorsing a cult which is seeking to control the physical, spiritual, emotional and material lives of its members. If Auckland City Council gives the green light to this proposal, then they will simply be party to the potential screwing up of more lives, pure and simple.
But, on the other hand, if Destiny does succeed in establishing its new city, it might be a blessing in disguise for those New Zealanders who think it's a cult worthy of being destroyed. Sadly, however, any possible demise of Destiny will not mean that we have seen the last great cult in Aotearoa/New Zealand. As history shows, other cults will emerge to take their place. And the cycle will go on.
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