There have been calls for people to stop listening to the hate-filled sermonising of Apostle Bishop Brian Tamaki. The reasoning is that because he has so few followers he's not worth worrying about and we should withhold the blessing of our acknowledgement.
But it's worth remembering that in Shanghai back in 1921 the first session of the National Congress of the Communist Party was attended by only 13 people, one of them being Mao Zedong. Fast forward a few years and he was running China and killing millions. And while I suspect Tamaki lacks Mao's steely genocidal resolve, it can't hurt to err on the side of caution.
The latest kerfuffle was prompted by an unusually well-spelt and punctuated, Muslim-bashing ad on Facebook with dire predictions of violence, loss of our national identity, the introduction of Sharia law and the outright destruction of Western civilisation if we continue to accept "the proliferation of Islam in our country".
Clearly, the Apostle Bishop finds Islam about as appealing as an empty collection plate. Some called the post hate speech. Please. He's a bishop. It's not hate speech. It's theology.
Tamaki also said he "may not be as PC as Mike Hosking" in expressing his views. Amen to that.
The offending words need to be seen in context. This was a post that had hung around on the Apostle Bishop's own page for quite some time without anyone paying it much attention.
Then, with the courage of his convictions, it was turned into a paid ad. So he was putting his parishioners' money where his mouth is.
But this meant non-followers saw it and complained, prompting Facebook to remove the ad. Although Facebook doesn't much care how hatey you are on your own page, they come over all sensitive when money is involved.
But we know how these things play out in the Destiny Church strategy. One minute the targeted group is being blamed for tsunamis and earthquakes. The next, carefully curated representatives are being welcomed along to Sunday services to enjoy cuddles and koha.
Both the Apostle Bishop and his wife, Hannah, seem to be struggling to find a role for themselves. He with his leathers and boy band 'do. She with her smart bob and genius for accessorising. Really, they are just like any other young couple launching a religion. Or a political party. Or a criminal reform movement. Or a shopping network. It's actually hard to tell.
Their efforts are becoming increasingly desperate. I suspect they aren't thinking everything through. They launched a political party called Coalition New Zealand, apparently wanting to skip the bit where people vote for your party and then you think about forming a coalition. This might be a good time to stop for a cup of tea and probably have a rebrand so people don't abbreviate you to the unfortunate acronym CONZ.
The ignore brigade complain that Tamaki makes his outlandish statements to get attention. Of course he does. The new religion market is a crowded one and you struggle for cut-through. Jesus appears to have had things pretty much to himself, but he had four evangelists working around the clock.*
Rather than being ignored, Brian and Hannah Tamaki's deplorable views should be given the widest possible exposure. As we have seen, when potentially dangerous ideas are forced underground, they don't perish. They flourish and can erupt with terrible force. Contrary to popular wisdom, if you ignore it, it won't go away.
*This is actually debatable. Some historians maintain there were plenty of itinerant would be messiahs around at the time of Christ. But which one do we remember? The one who used decent writers.