An underground spiritual phenomenon

Whilst largely ignored by mainstream media, Easter remains New Zealand’s most celebrated spiritual event. Church attendance statistics tell us that this week well over half a million people across this nation will gather to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Any other cultural or spiritual celebration inspiring this magnitude of involvement would be big news. There would be plenty of preview feature articles and programmes followed by live-stream reporting from smiling and earnest reporters on the scene. Councils in towns and cities around the country would also chip in ratepayers funds and fireworks displays to ensure the diversity of the community was highlighted and celebrated.

However Christianity is not fashionable among the media and other cultural gate-keepers who monopolise the narrative about what is important in our land. Hence Easter in New Zealand is now almost an underground phenomenon.

Yet it remains a remarkable phenomenon. Not only in the sheer numbers of New Zealanders involved, but in the way it builds unity and kotahitanga across all the peoples of this land. The Church is now the most diverse institution in this nation.

Every Sunday kiwis young and old gather together to celebrate an enduring faith that has crossed the centuries and the oceans to uttermost ends of the earth. Singing together are people who vote all over the political spectrum. Sharing the cup are not only Maori and Pakeha, but now individuals and families from all over the globe – Indian, African, Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, and of course our Pacific cousins. Having coffee together are professionals and tradespeople, business people and teachers, single parents and couples married for 40 years.

The Church in New Zealand brings together peoples who in the ordinary course of life would often have little or no interaction. It is vibrant, diverse and rich. It is a living miracle that imparts unity and life that sustains our nation in ways unseen.

This week it will gather again around the One on whom it is founded – and the miracle He established as the centre-piece of history.

Ewen McQueen
March 2015

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PM’s wrath well deserved

Prime Minister KeyJohn Key’s anger in Parliament yesterday seems to have taken the Opposition by surprise. Perhaps they mistook his long consideration of the Iraq deployment as an indication that he didn’t really have his heart in it. How wrong they were. Key had conviction in bucket-loads and it was utterly refreshing to see it.

Every other party leader in Parliament (including his own coalition partners) trotted out lame reasons as to why New Zealand should avoid playing its part as a responsible member of the international community. Their limp political posturing was worthy of Prime Ministerial wrath.

Feeding off and encouraging New Zealanders inherent apathy is something the Opposition should be ashamed of. They know too well that as a nation we are difficult to rouse about any political issue – especially those beyond our borders. Sometimes that part of our national personality can be a strength. However in the face of the barbarity and global security threat posed by ISIS it is something we need to get over. Having some of our politicians massage it along for their own political purposes is pathetic.

And this is really what led to Key’s anger. He could not stomach that Parliaments all over the world had united across party lines to stand against ISIS – and yet in New Zealand he couldn’t even rouse his own coalition partners to do the right thing.

The Prime Minster’s anger was well deserved. It was a redeeming feature on a day that our Parliament would otherwise have sullied our international reputation. It also helped remind New Zealanders that there are some things other than sport which are worth getting passionate about.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

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ISIS must be defeated

If we won’t fight ISIS we won’t fight anyone. The Prime Minister is correct – doing nothing is not an option. Some commentators have said the barbarity of ISIS is nothing new in the history of human conflict. They are of course right. But their assertion that this means we should do nothing is wrong.

History is of course littered with violent, brutal and cruel conflict. However there are two types of conflict. Most involve parties who with some help from the international community may be able to work out a compromise. Negotiation can find a path through. The current conflict in Ukraine is perhaps a prime example.

Other conflicts however involve parties whose worldview and ideology allows no compromise. The Nazi ideology of the Third Reich was one. The Islamic State ideology is another. Like the Nazis, ISIS cherishes a deluded dream of world domination and a distorted sense of destiny. As far as they are concerned their vision will be achieved even if it means unspeakable barbarity and the suffering and death of thousands. Such movements leave no alternative. They must be engaged and defeated. Negotiation and “addressing the root causes of extremism” (whatever that cliché means) will no more work with ISIS than it did with Hitler.

ISIS and the Nazis are of the same spirit. However what the Third Reich did in secret behind the gates of concentration camps, ISIS does in full public view. They glory in the cruelty and death they inflict. In doing so they leave us in no doubt – if they ever got their hands on chemical, biological or nuclear weapons they would not hesitate to use them.

Peter Dunne thinks that New Zealand should not get involved because we are thousands of kilometers away. He has his head firmly in the sand. A single terrorist detonated nuclear device in a major western city would see a global economic and financial meltdown that would crash over us like everyone else.

ISIS needs to be engaged not because it is particularly brutal – but because its twisted ideology presents a real and present danger to world security. It will not be appeased. It must be defeated.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

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A “level of self-governance” is not sovereignty

Labour leader Andrew Little’s comments at Waitangi today will simply add to the confusion about the foundational constitutional reality established by the Treaty – the sovereignty of the Crown in New Zealand.

Little is correct in suggesting that the Treaty incorporates an “historical commitment to some level of self-governance” for Maori. The Article 2 guarantee of rangatiratanga (Chieftainship) is just that. However he then muddies the waters with his comments that we need to investigate what sovereignty might mean for Maori.

Let’s be clear – a level of self governance is absolutely not the same thing as sovereignty. To mix them up in the same sound-bite is ill-considered and unhelpful in framing the constitutional conversation that lies ahead. Yes the Treaty guarantees Chieftainship. However it also makes it abundantly clear that this Chieftainship was to be expressed within the context of the overarching sovereignty of the Crown.

It is entirely consistent with what was actually agreed at Waitangi 175 years ago that we investigate new ways in which Chieftainship or rangatiratanga might be expressed in a modern context. This may well include a level of devolvement of central government resources (eg Whanau Ora) or a delegation of Crown authorities in particular spheres. It may also involve arrangements for Maori representation such as the Maori seats.

However any such measures must be clearly understood to fall within the auspices of Crown sovereignty. They must not be seen as some form of co-governance or dual sovereignty based on the revisionist modern partnership paradigm. And they must certainly not be expressions of a limp Crown retreat from its rightful Treaty responsibilities on the flawed grounds that Maori “never ceded sovereignty”.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

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Morgan and Brash both missing the point

Marsden Cross at Rangihoua

Marsden Cross at Rangihoua

Both Gareth Morgan and Don Brash are missing the point about what will build national unity in New Zealand. Both look to the Treaty in different ways. Brash for its historical guarantee of equal citizenship. Morgan for a revisionist and trendy concept of a “Treaty based relationship”.

However neither recognise that the Treaty on its own cannot bear the weight of race relations in New Zealand. Honouring the Treaty is a prerequisite for true national unity or kotahitanga to be built in our land. However something even more important is needed – a renewal of the faith that led both peoples to the Treaty in the first place (refer Otago Daily Times last year).

Put simply, the Treaty without the Judeao-Christian ethical and spiritual dynamic upon which it was founded will never achieve harmony and unity in New Zealand. At best it will merely become an empty shell with its life sucked out of it. At worst it will be twisted and subverted to serve those who value their own agendas ahead of unity, and their own opinions ahead of truth.

This is certainly not what was envisaged by those who signed it “…at Waitangi on the 6th of February in the year of our Lord 1840.”

It was the influence of Christianity from both sides that brought Maori and Pakeha together to forge the Waitangi covenant. It will be a renewal of that faith among us that will see the Treaty fully honoured and true unity established in the land. We need to return to a cross based relationship. For it was at the cross of Jesus Christ that justice and reconciliation were released to do their work to the uttermost ends of the earth.

Ewen McQueen
February 2015

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Gareth Morgan has been studying fashion – not facts

Whatever Gareth Morgan has been studying for the last five years it certainly wasn’t history. There is no historical basis whatsoever for his claim at Ratana Pa today that the Treaty is about “co-governance”. The Maori version of the Treaty itself is clear. As translated by Sir Hugh Kawharu, Article 1 of the Treaty states:

“The Chiefs of the Confederation and all the Chiefs who have not joined that Confederation give absolutely to the Queen of England for ever the complete government over their land.”

Not much room for co-governance there. It is true that Article 2 guaranteed continued rangatiratanga (chieftainship). However both the Treaty text and the historical records of the debate at Waitangi make it clear that chieftainship was to be exercised in the context of the overarching sovereignty of the Crown. The mana of the Queen was supreme. (refer One Sun in the Sky)

Unfortunately Morgan seems to have little concern for history. In his recent series of Herald articles he argued that regardless of what was actually agreed in 1840, we could now reinterpret the Treaty in whatever way we liked or found useful. Such pragmatic thinking may strike a chord in the kiwi psyche which inherently dislikes controversy and prefers to get on with things. However it is flawed.

The Crown hasn’t spent years negotiating and settling historic Treaty grievances because it was convenient. It has done so because it has wanted in good faith to honour what was actually agreed at Waitangi. To now say that doesn’t matter seems to completely contradict all the good work that has been done and which Morgan himself says he supports.

If Morgan wanted to really see the way ahead for race relations in New Zealand he would have done better to study the teachings and life of the founder of Ratana Pa. True kotahitanga (unity) in our land will not come from woolly thinking about the Treaty. It will come from clear commitment from both Pakeha and Maori to honour what was actually agreed, and a renewal of the Christian faith that led both peoples to the Treaty in the first place.

Ewen McQueen
January 2015

Posted in Cultural Renewal, Economic Transformation, Spiritual Renewal, Treaty of Waitangi | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Rore Kahu – Soaring Eagle of the Spirit

Rore Kahu

Rore Kahu

This week on Christmas Day we come to the 200 year anniversary of the proclamation of Te Harinui in New Zealand.  A beautiful structure named Rore Kahu – soaring eagle – has been established on the hill top at Rangihoua overlooking the bay where Rev Samuel Marsden came ashore and preached glad tidings of great joy. It is aptly named, for from that beginning the Spirit took flight in our land.

No doubt the reporting this week will focus on the social and cultural significance of this event. In particular it will be celebrated as the beginning of Maori and European relationship, and the start of the journey to the Treaty. And of course it was. But the prime significance of this historic event was neither social or cultural. It was spiritual.

Christmas Day 1814 was the moment when the transforming and redemptive power of Te Rongopai – the good news of Jesus Christ – found its way to these islands at the uttermost ends of the earth. Much social, cultural and even political change followed. But the underlying dynamism driving it all was essentially spiritual.

Our secular historians struggle with this. However they cannot deny the huge move of Christianity across New Zealand. The historical records speak for themselves. Within twenty years of Marsden’s first visit, tens of thousands of Maori were in regular attendance at church services from Paihia to Kapiti to the East Cape. Even Michael King in his Penguin history of New Zealand had to acknowledge that by the 1830s “Te Atua, the God of the Bible was on the move”.

And this was no mere pragmatic adaptation of European cultural form. Christianity found authentic indigenous expression in places all over New Zealand before missionaries had even been there. Slaves liberated in the Bay of Islands had taken the message back to their own tribes and faith sprang up wherever they went. And it was genuine faith. The evidence for this abounds in the stories that have come down to us.

There was Far North chief Nopera Panakareao who sent a gold sovereign to Paihia for his personal copy of the the newly printed Maori New Testament. There was Tamihana Te Rauparaha who with his cousin Matene and friends retreated to Kapiti Island to study, memorise and pray over the mere fragments of Bible they had obtained. There was Wiremu Tamihana, the Maori kingmaker, who set up the Christian village of Peria near Matamata and who lived and died with his Bible in his hands.

These Maori leaders and many others like them, bear witness to the foundational spiritual reality that was established at Rangihoua on Christmas Day 1814. Like so many before them across the centuries, this was a people responding to the love of God. Te Harinui was real. It still is. The One born in Bethlehem is still changing the world, one heart at a time.

May His Spirit soar again in our nation.

Ewen McQueen
20 December 2014

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