I nearly spit my coffee earlier this week when I read Destiny Church leader Bishop Brian Tamaki was launching a political party.
It comes just days after National MP Alfred Ngaro said he was considering forming his own Christian values party. Just what we need - new political groups coalesced around religion.
But wait - Tamaki's wife, Hannah, will lead the new party. She told reporters Thursday the Coalition Party would not be Christian or part of Destiny Church, but would stand on "Christian values".
I was raised Christian in America - Episcopalian, or Anglican in the rest of the world. I've attended Anglican services around the globe, comforted by their ritual uniformity.
But Christianity is not a monolith. Take the Bible. Your literal translation of 'an eye for an eye' may be my metaphorical interpretation of 'holy cow, we don't do that in the 21st century'.
Christianity is the de facto religion in the States. The US has never had an openly atheist president. Its constitution guarantees freedom of worship and separation of church and state. But Americans have spun spiritual doctrine and political power into an inextricable melange.
The Christian right dominates politics in the South and much of the country's middle, where Republicans have drawn political boundaries resembling knotted snakes to corral like-minded people into their districts. They direct entire congregations to vote. Meanwhile, many non-evangelicals sit on their hands, too disorganised, distracted or apathetic to tick ballot boxes.
New Zealand has been ranked one of the world's least religious places. While most Kiwis believed in some form of Christianity 100 years ago, today almost half of New Zealanders say they're not religious.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who was raised Mormon, left the church in 2005. She calls herself agnostic. Imagine an agnostic running America. Yeah, right.
Aotearoa has had its share of sectarian political groups such as the Christian Heritage Party, which opposed abortion and same-sex marriage. It disbanded in 2006. Also defunct: the Christian Coalition, Christian Democrats and United Future.
Tamaki led a Destiny Church-based party from 2003-2007. It was Christian.
So, too, are people who volunteer at home and abroad, providing food, water, medicine, education and housing to society's must vulnerable people. Christians have blessed humanity with their labour and cursed it with their politics.
The most religious states in the US at one time fought for slavery; data shows those states are more likely to employ the death penalty; have the highest teen pregnancy rates; and are likelier than more secular states to be plagued by crime, poverty, under-funded schools, obesity, gun violence and unemployment. But who needs statistics when God's on your side?
Trial all the religious and values parties you like: Jewish, Muslim, Wicca, Hindu, Family, Buddhist, Nation of Yahweh, Scientology … but please, don't conflate religious practice with governance.
Otherwise, we can live in the Christian version of a caliphate. Like Alabama. This is where 25 white, Republican men have just voted to outlaw abortion, even in cases of rape and incest. The measure's on hold and supporters hope it'll reach the Supreme Court, where the conservative majority could overturn Roe vs Wade, the 1973 decision protecting a woman's liberty to choose - or not choose - abortion.
The Almighty apparently told Alabama Republicans to pass America's strictest abortion law. Governor Kay Ivey, who signed the bill earlier this month, invoked God in her remarks, saying, "This legislation stands as a powerful testament to Alabamians' deeply held belief that every life is precious and that every life is a sacred gift from God."
My god would never force a 12-year-old rape victim to bear a child. The problem with my creator or family values versus yours versus my neighbour's is they're all different.
Some American Christian politicians have invoked religion to justify forcing a girl or woman to birth a rapist's baby. One Republican candidate suggested if rape was inevitable, women should "relax and enjoy it". Former US Senator Rick Santorum said, "Rape victims should make the best of a bad situation." He said victims who got pregnant should, "accept what God has given to you".
Former US Representative Todd Akin said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to shut that thing down." Meaning a rape victim can't get pregnant. Wrong.
Politician Richard Mourdock said, "Even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that is something that God intended to happen."
Maybe his personal god. Not mine. Probably not yours, either.
When our leaders do something in the name of their god, we no longer get democracy. We get theocracy. Tyranny of the minority.
So before you get excited about a party promoting Christian or family values, ask yourself whose Christianity? Whose family values?
Whether a politician attends church, synagogue, a mosque or the movies shouldn't matter. I don't give a possum's fart whether my MP is a scholar of the Bible, Torah, Quran, The Vedas or Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. I do care if they study and understand New Zealand's laws.
How we choose to worship (or not) is private. A fair society needs public servants committed to the rule of law, not politicians reliant on religious fervour and funding to get elected so they can impose their dogma on the rest of us.
Some people dream of living in a church-state where their god's word abides. But you can't reside in Vatican City unless you're clergy or a Swiss guard.
There's always Alabama.
- Dawn Picken also writes for the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend and tutors at Toi Ohomai. She's a former marketing director and TV journalist who lives in Papamoa with her family.