I’m trying to avoid thinking about National as much as possible at the moment, but this grabbed my attention on twitter last night from the discussion about
National parachuting in their FJK replacement Christopher Luxon joining the National Party and becoming the candidate for Botany.
Russell Brown’s twitter thread,
I had a look at The Upper Room, the Newmarket evangelical church that Christopher Luxon attends. I like the church’s focus on community and much of its mission work is creditable. But this recent sermon by founder Craig Heilman is … a bit weird.
The Upper Room https://upperroom.org.nz/sermons/from-darkness-to-light/
It tries (I think) to make a case that it is our experience of “the darkness” that ultimately brings us close to God, referencing Psalm 88 and Greta Thunberg. But it’s studded with tropes from far-right conspiracies: Soros, Saul Alinsky, et al.
Heilmann tells his congregation that Thunberg has an “eco-coach” funded by Soros. This is a straight-up conspiracy theory originally aired on the website Europe Reloaded, which rails against “globalists” and the climate change “hoax”. Fact-checkers have found this theory wanting.
Heilmann tries to be even-handed (there’s nothing wrong with protest, etc), but the fact he’s quoting this kind of thing seems notable. It’s an interesting environment for a prospective Prime Minister to emerge from.
Update: just browsed Heilmann’s twitter. He thinks Brexit and MAGA are “really good”, that Trump is the victim of a conspiracy by “the administrative state” and climate change isn’t real. Frets about “globalist” Clinton-Soros plans for a “one world order”. Etc, etc. Crikey.
He also retweets some pretty scary accounts, including True Pundit, source of some really ghastly fabricated news stories, including the claim that NYPD seized Hilary’s emails as part of child sex trafficking investigation. Loves Tulsi Gabbard.
Various people were also commenting on the removal of Heilmann’s twitter account, and pages from his church’s website, including the one Brown linked to.
Holy shit. Luxon's church's priest has nuked his Twitter.— David Cormack (@David_Cormack) November 5, 2019
Here's one where he's obviously talked about globalist wars. In case you didn't know globalist is code for JEW. pic.twitter.com/TQ28AaYr3S— David Cormack (@David_Cormack) November 5, 2019
It would appear someones been doing the luxing. https://t.co/82QBaIzJlT— Bill (@wiremusix) November 5, 2019
There’s an issue here about whether a politician (or political party leader) can be closely tied to the beliefs of the pastor of the church they attend. Which is fair enough in a reasonable world and New Zealand is fortunate in being largely immune to the influence of churches in politics. We also tend to be live and let live when it comes to people’s religion. My problem here is twofold.
One is that if there are no direct political connections between Luxon and his church or pastor, what do we make of the removal of Pastor Heilmann’s twitter account and the Upper Room website content on the same day that Luxon’s candidacy for Botany is announced? We could get really speculative and wonder how close the timing of the removal was to say Brown’s tweets, or why the National Party’s office was so slack that they didn’t think to organise this months ago.
The other problem is that who the fuck trusts National to have any ethics here? It’s not like the party is full of fundamentalist Christians, but I have zero doubts that the power-holders in National will make use of Luxon as they need to. Whether this is just another smart parachuting move that includes enough vote catching nods to the religious conservatives, or whether National already intend to go the whole Trumpian, climate-denying, trash-the-country-for-power path, who knows. Given the last decade, the latter seems just as likely as the former, so best we are prepared.
Maybe Brown highlighting the community and ministry aspects of Luxon’s church and congregation is right, and the points about not holding this against him remain true. Or maybe this is how it happens in New Zealand, the tainting of NZ politics with fundamentalist religion for political gain is manufactured with a smile and a wave.
All of which is to say that I know bugger all about Luxon, and in a vacuum I won’t be the only one tempted to judge him by the company he keeps (maybe the Pastor, but definitely National). In which case,
This is why I like the honesty of Israel Folau (even as I disagree strongly with it): at least you know what you're getting.— Lew (@LewSOS) November 5, 2019
Maybe that will be true of Luxon; after all, his preacher isn't standing for office, But it ain't yet, and we deserve to know what he believes in.
In the interests of transparency, here are some of the archived pages from The Upper Room’s website. Grab them while you can.
The sermon that Russel Brown’s thread is about.