Paul Little: Hey Bri: They're good works, not God works

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The Dalai Lama dispensing wisdom. Photo /  Getty Images
The Dalai Lama dispensing wisdom. Photo / Getty Images

Brian Tamaki performed some sort of miracle when he dragged four Maori MPs into Destiny Church last weekend.

Each was required to sing Bishop Brian's praises, causing the event to look more like a Stalinist public-humiliation ritual than any recognisable form of religious worship.

Tamaki may not have specifically said his church received no money for its social programmes, but he did say to a Government MP: "Hey Tau, I need some money." Not "more money", but "some money". And he did allow the impression to grow in the next few days that his struggling sect doesn't receive government funding.

It all got so bad that Social Welfare Minister Paula Bennett had to interrupt another busy day of beneficiary-bashing to put the record straight and report that Destiny has had $860,000 of taxpayers' money.

By all accounts, some Destiny programmes aimed at people addicted to alcohol and other drugs are effective. If so, it is because they are well-planned and executed programmes that could be carried out by anyone with the right training, not because they are the work of a divine being operating through his agents on earth.

But Brian Tamaki has drawn attention to the fact that there is unequal distribution of funding to religious groups for good works. This could be fixed by stopping all financial support to social services administered by religious organisations.

The money could then be redirected to secular services in the same dollar amount with no loss of social benefits and no risk of one belief system being privileged at the expense of another.

In other spiritual news this week, the Dalai Lama stopped over in Christchurch. This is a man who believes himself to be the 14th incarnation of one Gedrun Drub, who lived from 1391 to 1474. He was identified as such when, while still a toddler, he gravitated towards some items that had belonged to the 13th incarnation.

If Tibetans want to choose their leaders - spiritual or earthly - based on what toys they claim at the age of 3, that is their privilege.

But when that person presumes to dispense advice to the whole world, we are entitled to an opinion.

In Christchurch he encouraged the population to "look forward and build [a] new town, new city, new home". This ranks with previous pearls of wisdom such as "the purpose of life is to be happy" and "much depends on having peace of mind".

The cost of his visit, in money and manpower, would have been better spent building that new city. And the world would be better off if it stopped paying attention to a man whose quality of thought would rule him out for a job writing greeting cards.

The protesting prisoners of Hawke's Bay Regional Prison may live to rue the day they climbed on the roof of their jail.

They could well have given Corrections Minister Judith Collins an idea for the ultimate in low-cost, low-maintenance cells.

- Herald on Sunday

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