Politics, religion the annual Rātana ritual and babies

I thought that state and religion were supposed to be kept separate (is this true in New Zealand?), but there has long been a close link in New Zealand between religion and politics. This is still the case to an extent, with each political year now kicking off in force with a ritual visit to the Rātana church.

Some history from Te Ara: Religion and politics

The churches played significant, often controversial, roles in politics.

Between the mid-1830s and early 1860s Anglican missionaries, clergy and laymen led the humanitarian campaign to uphold Māori rights and welfare. An even larger number of Māori Christians, also often Anglican, defended their land and political rights.

Between the 1870s and the 1930s Scottish Presbyterians joined forces with other dissenters – Methodists, Baptists, Brethren, Congregationalists, the Church of Christ and the Salvation Army – to form a powerful evangelical coalition.

In the 1880s, as political parties emerged, outsiders – dissenters, Catholics and secularists – often supported the centre-left parties in New Zealand’s relatively narrow political spectrum. The Liberal government (1889–1912) of John Ballance, a moderate freethinker, and Richard ‘King Dick’ Seddon, an Anglican populist, attracted significant support from all three groups.

From 1912 members of the Protestant-dominated Reform party of ‘Farmer Bill’ Massey, a Presbyterian from an Ulster background.

Political success eluded Labour until 1935, when leaders such as Michael Joseph Savage (who returned to his Catholic roots) and Walter Nash, an Anglican socialist, moved the party closer to the ideological centre. A dozen ministers or ex-ministers of religion stood for Parliament in the 1935 election. Labour won a landslide victory by presenting itself as the party of practical Christian compassion, which it contrasted with the heartless and anti-family depression-era coalition government. Savage famously described Labour’s Social Security Act 1938, intended to provide security for all from cradle to grave, as ‘applied Christianity’.

One of the law’s chief architects was Arnold Nordmeyer, a Christian socialist who served as a Presbyterian minister at Kurow before entering politics.

Labour also forged an alliance with the Rātana Church, which lasted into the 1990s. Much subsequent expansion of the welfare state occurred under National governments, testifying to the enduring significance of ‘applied Christianity’ in the middle ground of politics.

Since then I think religion has been less prominent in New Zealand politics, althoughthere have been a number of Christian parties over the last couple of decades –  Christian Heritage, the Christian Democrats, the Christian Coalition and Destiny New Zealand – but all failed to make Parliament on their own.

The Christian Democrats purged Christian references from their policies, changed name to “Future New Zealand” and then merged with Peter Dunne’s United Party but dragged the resulting United Future Party down in acrimony and split.

Minister of Finance and then Prime Minister Bill English has strong Catholic links and follows some of their conservative lines on issues like abortion. National MP Simon O’Connor trained to become a Catholic priest but was not ordained. He recently spoke strongly against the End of Life Choice (euthanasia) Bill in Parliament.

There has been talk from Labour that they are returning to focus on more compassionate social policies, and Jacinda Ardern is often presented as a compassionate person, but although she had a religios upbrining she now says she is agnostic. From Wikipedia:

Ardern was raised a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but left the church in 2005 because, she said, it conflicted with her personal views (in particular her support for gay rights). In January 2017 Ardern identified as “agnostic”.

Minister of Health David Clark is an ordained Presbyterian minister.

Despite these connections religion is not prominent in politics for most of the year, except for the January Ratana ritual.

RNZ: Political year gears up at Rātana

The pilgrimage of politicians to Rātana Pā traditionally marks the start of the political calendar and has special significance this year as the centennial event.

This will be Jacinda Ardern’s first visit to Rātana as Prime Minister and Labour leader. Along with MPs from Labour, New Zealand First and the Green Party, she is expected to arrive about 11am.

Ms Ardern said she was looking forward to the event, and acknowledged the church may have certain expectations now Labour was in power.

“I welcome that. Expectations are what keep driving you harder.”

National leader Bill English and his team would be welcomed in the early afternoon. He said he expected the reception to be “respectful and warm” as usual.

NZH (video): Highlights from Ratana

Stuff: Rātana offers support, special speaking rights, and a name for Jacinda Ardern’s baby

Even the Rātana ritual has been plastered with baby stuff.

It looks like babies in politics will be far more prominent than religion in politics, despite it being an anniversary year for the Rātana church.

It is significant that Ardern is pregnant, but the importance of that looks likely to be trashed by truckloads of trivia.

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30 Comments

  1. David

     /  January 25, 2018

    It mystifies me the Ratana hoopla given as they dont seem a particularly special kind of a church or relevant in comparison the coverage given to Tamaki,s church which by all accounts does some quite impressive things or the coverage of the Exclusive Bretheren etc.
    Ratana is a virtue signalling photo op for all MPs and something for the media to cover in good light.

    • Blazer

       /  January 25, 2018

      Tamaki has a good ,profitable business.Does he still have ..charitable..status?

    • Gezza

       /  January 25, 2018

      It mystifies me the Ratana hoopla given as they dont seem a particularly special kind of a church

      Well they are special. That’s why the hoopla. The Rātana movement is a church and pan-iwi political movement.
      https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/R%C4%81tana

      Destiny’s political movement crashed because of the Bish & his Mrs being like they are.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  January 25, 2018

        Bishop be buggered, he’s no more one than you are. Bishops are appointed by their peers, not by themselves (even if it was in theory done by his sychophantic yes-men.

        They don’t even know the correct way to talk about a bishop-they are never referred to as Bishop as if it was their name. The Bishop or Bishop Smith, not Bishop, Ignoramuses.

        I remember a prophecy-God told another ‘bishop’ that by 2013, Destiny would be ‘ruling and reigning’ over NZ-the first thing mentioned was that they would be ‘ruling and reigning over all the wealth and finance’ (social order was lower down) Er…what year is this ? For some reason, this is no longer on the Destiny website.

        Does anyone remember when the Tamakis put their house on the market and the site crashed with all the nosey parkers wanting to have a squiz ? I was one of the lucky ones-it was what one should have expected, all done for show, nothing that said what kind of people lived there (unlike my house :D)

  2. Corky

     /  January 25, 2018

    Te Waru o Noema, please come to the front of the class and present your speech.

    https://www.tvnz.co.nz/one-news/new-zealand/watch-delightful-moment-ratana-gifts-jacinda-ardern-middle-name-baby-gift-us

    Christianity has been the defining religion and progenitor of our social conventions during the rise of New Zealand as a nation. When dealing with Islam we should never ever forget that regardless of what bs atheists and Muslims try to spin.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 25, 2018

      It’s a bit intrusive to give someone else’s child a name, really.

      • Corky

         /  January 25, 2018

        I try warning people Maori are problematic. No one wants to listen. But that’s OK…I enjoy being proven right, right, right and right as the latest fiascoes unfold.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  January 25, 2018

          Problematic means doubtful or dubious.

          • Corky

             /  January 25, 2018

            ”Problematic is term used to indicate that something is troubling, bothersome or questionable. Online, the word is often associated with identity politics and social justice blogging as a catch-all label for anything deemed bigoted or offensive.”

            http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/problematic

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 25, 2018

              That is not the dictionary definition. ‘Questionable, uncertain, dubious, doubtful.’

            • Corky

               /  January 25, 2018

              This is a blog.

          • Gezza

             /  January 25, 2018

            Let it go Kitty. I like it when he learns a new word & shows us he knows how to use it in a sentence.

            • Kitty Catkin

               /  January 25, 2018

              Well, he doesn’t mind using in a way that is completely wrong, so why should I mind if he does ?

            • Gezza

               /  January 25, 2018

              I find understanding that response problematic.

            • Corky

               /  January 25, 2018

              Take the advice, Kitty. Withdraw and desist. Take your lumps like a woman.

              Desist- a new word.to clout you with.

  3. Gezza

     /  January 25, 2018

    Old Maori man, to Sir Donald McLean, Land Purchase Commissioner for the New Zealand Government.

    “You first brought us guns and powder, and set about to make these things. When you had completed making them, you made swords,—you gave these things to us to destroy each other with.

    Then you sent us Missionaries, and we became religious.

    You told us to look up to heaven, and we turned our eyes upwards towards the heaven. While we were engaged in that way—in looking up to heaven—you looked down to the earth with a covetous eye to grasp the land. You made us despise the land, and give it away for that (pointing to his finger-nail).”

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 25, 2018

      More fools they if they did that. What an insult to his people.What arrant nonsense.

  4. Corky

     /  January 25, 2018

    The two treaty settlement meetings I have attended saw similar sentiments expressed as those Gezza writes of. I have heard similar in private conversations and in Maori publications.
    The defunct Black Power newspaper comes to mind.

    There’s also a great ditty about the different skin colours ‘whitey’ goes through from birth to death. The punch line is ” and they have a cheek to call us coloured.”

    Be careful of people who present our history as black and white.

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  January 25, 2018

      I know the ‘ditty’-old and tired and not that funny.

  5. Gezza

     /  January 25, 2018

    Be careful of people who present our history as black and white.

    Very true.

    And be careful of people who present their own experiences as meaning every group or person behaves in the same way and fits into the limited number of boxes their mind can conceive of.

  6. Blazer

     /  January 25, 2018

    the greatest…

  7. robertguyton

     /  January 25, 2018

    Pete George says:
    “Jacinda Ardern is often presented as a compassionate person, but…”
    But what? She isn’t compassionate??
    What do you mean, Pete?

    • But…try this for starters. Signalling to smugglers to start the boats up that resulted in 1270 plus drownings and the incarceration ofhundreds of illegally trafficked illegal migrants is compassionate how?

      Decidedly cruel in my books.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  January 25, 2018

        Dishing out money to parents who are probably going to spend it on themselves isn’t compassionate, it’s stupid, as is taking money and giving it to university students who don’t need it and taking it from people who do. Hospitals could use that money better than the children of people on high incomes.

        Single people have needs as well, but they are being ignored.

        • Kitty Catkin

           /  January 25, 2018

          Thoughtless ‘kindness’ is worse than useless.

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