OPINION: Is anyone to blame for the Mt Roskill Church mini cluster? Or is it just bad luck?

Peter Williams 10/09/2020

This is an op-ed written by Magic Talk mornings host Peter Williams

OPINION: As you know - well maybe you had forgotten or just don’t care all that much - the next review of our alert level situation will be made this coming Monday, September 14 and any decision about changing the number would come into force effectively a week from today, next Thursday. And in most of the country I reckon there’ll be considerable annoyance if we are not returned to level 1 - especially in the South Island. But things became quite complicated yesterday with, what was it, a sub cluster of a mini cluster at this Evangelical church in Mt Roskill. So if cases keep on being identified as emerging from this church is that going to be an excuse to keep Auckland operating under these rules whereby you can’t have any more than 10 people together in one group at any one time. If you’re in Auckland, you should hope that the daily case numbers through until Monday remain very, very low, and that the numbers from the Mt Roskill Church especially stay low. 

But that got me thinking. How many of us go to church these days? If you do go, why do you go? And if you do go, do you let people outside your immediate circle of family and friends know about it? How much are people forced to go or expected to go because it’s what the family does? And then we get a situation like at the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship where now 22 cases are linked to it, is that just bad luck that’s a church that gets a Covid cluster? Could it just as easily have been a bridge club or a macrame and crochet circle, or a bowls club or a golf club? Or is religion, especially the evangelical type of religious gathering which is pretty staunch in its beliefs on matters such the strength of the nuclear family and abortion, getting a bad rap after its Covid outbreak? How would you feel if this outbreak around the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship was the reason why Auckland has to stay in this level 2.5 situation, and the rest of the country can still not go to the rugby on a Saturday and have more than hundred people in any one gathering? 

According to the last census, we are becoming a more and more heathen country. More than half of us say we still have a religion, but only just. The number is 51.8 percent who claim to have a religion, but that is a quite massive drop from 58.1 percent the census before in 2013. And of the 51.8 percent who reported having religion, there were 157 religious affiliation categories, including those who worship the Jedi with over 20,000 followers and those attracted to the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and there are over 4000 of them. But the trend is pretty obvious. We are becoming less and less a nation that cares about religion. We can’t do much about it, but is it a good thing? Are we tolerant enough of people who do go to church and who profess themselves to be followers of a religion or a denomination or a church? Why is it that any political party which says it is founded on religious values, especially Christian values, gets little traction and little coverage?

So are you religious? If you are, why are you? And if you’re one of those people - the 6 percent approximately - who stopped being religious between 20-13 and 2018, why did you change your mind? What happened to take you off the path? Or was that just a case of the religious senior citizens dying off and not being replaced by a younger generation? And after the revelations yesterday about the wealth of the Mt Roskill Evangelical Fellowship, with its 14 million in the bank and 2 million in annual income, mainly collecting off its members many of whom possibly can’t really afford it, should churches pay tax? After all, they’re operating as a business. And many of them are big businesses. The Seventh Day Adventists own the company that makes Weetbix, and Sanitarium doesn’t pay company tax because the profits go to the church. Who knows how much the likes of Brian Tamaki’s church collects each year?

This is an op-ed written by Magic Talk mornings host Peter Williams