The God Factor in the "anti-mandate" protests
"There are so many fundamentalist Christians who have been conditioned into supporting this"
The big question I want to answer today is if the Heaven’s Gate cult has suddenly spawned a chapter in Porirua, New Zealand:
More on that soon — but first, I wanted to examine an element of the Wellington “anti-mandate protest” that’s been overlooked. This comes as no surprise, as the influence of Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in society often is.
Last week I wrote about the involvement of various fringe conspiracy theorists and alt-right types in the protest, some of whom were calling for me and other members of the media to be put on trial:
Things at the protest continued to become more unhinged, as various mad ideas faced off against each other — like this woman who put a very kiwi spin on things by introducing a lamb into her storytelling. A Hollywood script writer would struggle to keep up with this narrative:
But there are thousands involved in this idiotic movement in person and online — and many of them are being sent to the protest by their church leaders.
Yes — one aspect of this “anti-mandate protest” that’s getting overlooked is the heavy involvement of Pentecostal Christianity. I was reminded of this by a reader, who e-mailed me this:
“There are so many fundamentalist Christians who have been conditioned into supporting this. It’s really upsetting. The majority are Evangelical and Pentecostal.”
With that in mind, I’ve been watching the social media of a variety of Pentecostal and Evangelical church leaders — and they’re fully entrenched. Case and point — Peter Mortlock, who I’ve written about on Webworm many times before:
He’s been broadcasting from the “protests” a lot — it’s most of his Instagram feed at the moment.
It wasn’t a huge surprise to see Mortlock there. As the pandemic has raged on, he’s gotten increasingly unhinged and conspiratorial-minded, regularly spreading misinformation to his flock.
But don’t take my word for it. I’ve been talking to David Collins, a New Zealand pastor who retired in 2017. He spent 45 years doing his thing in the church — so it’s fair to say he’s fairly plugged in.
He isn’t joining in at the protests. Rather, he’s been dismayed watching some New Zealand church leaders go down the rabbit hole — taking their flock along with them.
I’m going to hand things over to him.
Churches and the Protest
by David Collins
Several media stories show that journalists in New Zealand are still trying to get their heads around how the Wellington protest grew so quickly. In all of their articles about this they miss what’s obvious to me — Pentecostal Christians following the lead given by some of their pastors.
I read almost every day of yet another Pentecostal on their way to Wellington to join the protest. It won’t be the sole source of growth, but an important source, I suggest. These believers have been “primed” for years to despise the left of politics.
They have participated in electioneering for parties and candidates on the right as far back as I can remember. They have been captured by the Pro-Life lobby in the abortion debate — notwithstanding that abortion rates usually fall quicker under governments that are pro-choice (an inconvenient truth).
Many of them are fixated on the supposed rise of an evil totalitarian dictatorship before the end of the world (The Beast and the New World Order etc) and they have been taught that they are living in the last days of planet Earth. Therefore, they’re on high alert for anything that even slightly smells of government control.
Besides this, many of them embrace what is known as “Dominion Theology” (also known as Seven Mountains Teaching) in which they believe that they are destined to rule the world — therefore they seek to have influence in every sector of society (they name seven). Trump’s Pentecostal backers held to this theology as well.
It means that sitting just under the anger at mandates is a bigger belief in how the world should and will be.
Alarmingly, this places these particular Pentecostals in a similar head-space to the truly sinister alt-right elements who are also digging in at the protest, and concern for the further radicalisation of these sheep among wolves is real.
The Pandemic and the need for protective measures during a genuine public health emergency played right into the narrative that many Pentecostal Christians have been feeding on for decades.
As you have already written about, we have the more visible among them: Brian Tamaki (Destiny Church) and Peter Mortlock (City Impact Church), holding meetings, churning out videos and vaccine disinformation and claiming government tyranny — all of which has accelerated the angst of their already charged followers.
Vaccine mandates have been a ‘gift’ for their anti-government, evil tyranny message. During the “special meeting” at City Impact Church in August last year, along with undermining our Kiwi immunology and microbiology fraternity, Peter Mortlock alluded to the “Mark of the Beast” — an obscure reference in the Bible to Caesar Nero who terrorised the early Christian movement. Many modern day Pentecostals reject the obvious historical interpretation and are looking for this “Beast” in their time.
I wanted to see if other Pentecostal Churches were spreading anti-government rhetoric like that of Destiny and City Impact — especially using Covid disinformation. A little Google and Facebook searching was all I needed to do. I landed on posts, videos and sermons from churches or their pastors in Northland, Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki, Wellington and Canterbury.
My search was nowhere near exhaustive — more an exercise of curiosity — but the ones I spotted, together with City Impact and Destiny, account for more than 10,000 church members.
They will likely have members who have lost their jobs because of both public and private sector mandates (partially, at least, because of the political narrative in the church). You can bet that a steady stream of people from these churches, and churches like them, have ended up camped in Parliament grounds.
However, my quick internet search also showed me that by far the majority of Pentecostal churches and pastors respect the government’s role at such a time, and are supportive of it. Like the rest of us they dislike the mandates, but understand the science and data that supports them.
Without the Pentecostal Christians, four small political parties who contested the 2020 election would not have reached the 80,000 odd votes they shared between them. It was less than 3% of the total vote. The New Conservative, Advance NZ, ONE Party and Vision NZ all ran with Covid disinformation and fear of totalitarianism a part of their message.
Although a very small minority, their support has undoubtedly given life to this protest and will continue doing so.
David, that’s what I’m seeing from my place in the world — and it’s a cause for real concern on many levels. I value my Christian experience and have many great friends in the Pentecostal sector of the Church.
However, I’m sad that too many have left their “good news” to meddle with conspiracy and now — quite possibly — anarchy.
Other David here again. I can’t imagine that was easy for him to write. David is a Christian, he’ll know a lot of these people, and New Zealand is small. He’ll get pushback.
I’m grateful he wrote to me, and let me publish his insight.
Now — a deviation: 20 minutes north from the protest, to a place called Porirua.
Heaven’s Gate: Porirua Edition
While we’re on the subject of Pentecostal churches — my friend Eddy shared this photo from a Facebook group he’s a part of. It was taken in Porirua — a town of about 60,000 people, and a 20-minute drive from the Wellington protests.
It appears to show a sign for… “HeavensGate” church:
I was immediately curious, because Heaven’s Gate is the very well known American cult founded in 1974. It fused the teachings of Christianity with the New Age movement, and — more importantly — aliens.
It all turned into a complete shitshow in 1997, with a mass suicide of 39 adherents in San Diego. They were attempting to escape their bodies so they could drift off to a giant alien ship hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet.
To get there, they dressed in identical clothing and Nikes (leading that particular shoe — Decades — becoming much sought after item for collectors) before drinking a cocktail of apple sauce, vodka and phenobarbital (a very strong substance, sometimes used to treat seizures).
They also wore funky armbands which read “Heaven’s Gate Away Team” because they were huge fans of Star Trek.
And they really did love Nike, adopting the slogan “Just do it” amongst themselves. I guess it’s fair to say they just did end up “doing it” — just not as Nike intended.
I was very curious if the the church in Porirua had anything to do with the UFO cult, so I sent them an email:
While I waited for a reply, I visited their website to see if there was any information about comets, aliens or Nike footwear. What I was presented with was a 90s-esque website, complete with stars.
Things were not looking good.
Reading on, the website presented a rather intriguing backstory about the founders of the church, Peter and Sandra Perreaux. I think it’s fair to say their backstory is utterly thrilling.
It starts at full volume, and it never relents:
Peter and Sandra Perreaux have learnt a great deal about the cost of involvement in the occult. Peter was a self confessed workaholic who in 1983 turned to psychology and new age techniques for peace.
This led Peter into deeper involvement searching into occult spiritual things for answers eventually bringing Peter into an encounter with the darkest area of the occult.
During this time Peter also lost his export manufacturing business and two marriages and suffered two episodes of burnout one of which resulted in complete emotional breakdown and collapse.
Still searching Peter thought he had found the answer when through hypnosis he came under the power of a man who turned out to be a satanic high priest.
Desperate and tormented he experienced many weird terrors. In 1989 after an encounter with the dragon = satan, Peter had a gripping vision and experience of the fire, stench, terror and torment of hell.
Nearly going insane from the overwhelming terror, this experience sent Peter running to a Christian friend for help. He cried out to GOD for help and was saved. This thrust Peter into a battle with the powers of darkness who intensely fought his efforts to get free.
My highlights? “Through hypnosis he came under the power of a man who turned out to be a satanic high priest” and “Nearly going insane from the overwhelming terror”.
And that’s just the start of it.
There was also a giant red flag relating back to the cult of Heaven’s Gate, in that founder Peter had “turned to psychology and new age techniques for peace.” Between that and all the starry imagery on the website, this felt very cult-like.
Then they emailed me back:
“No we are a Pentecostal, bible believing, Jesus Christ exalting church.”
“No” they’d said in regards to being part of the cult. Still suspicious, I wrote back:
Mr Perreaux didn’t take my advice on board:
I was glad to hear that Peter Perreaux wasn’t running a death cult in Porirua.
In saying this, I still wasn’t entirely sure I trusted his backstory — but it does make for a fucking great read:
“During this time the Lord brought Peter face to face with a Satanist who it turned out had been assigned against him, this contact revealed that the Satanist had been on assignment against Peter for 10 years dating back to Peter's first involvement in the occult.”
It’s an origin story worthy of a Marvel film — or at the very least 2000’s Keanu Reeves-vehicle Constantine.
That’s it from me for today.
Here’s to another week of — in the words of Peter Perreaux — weird terrors.
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