Kenyan crash coverup 'selfish hypocrisy'

The group from Tauranga's Bethlehem College who travelled to Kenya. Caitlin Dickson (front, centre) and Dr Brian and Grace Johnston (back row, centre) were killed in a minivan crash.
The group from Tauranga's Bethlehem College who travelled to Kenya. Caitlin Dickson (front, centre) and Dr Brian and Grace Johnston (back row, centre) were killed in a minivan crash.

Something about this tragic car accident in Kenya has really managed to get my ire up.

The thing that has angered me about this incident and the events unfolding before us is the apparent hypocrisy from some evangelical Christians.

Like the majority of New Zealanders, I am pretty comfortable with the traditional Christian churches and the Eastern religions that have been practised here for the past couple of centuries. In many instances they have evolved to be a unique New Zealand chapter of a much broader religion with dedicated Maori branches and extra effort to ensure they reflect local values.

There is a reasonably compelling argument that there was a fourth article of the Treaty of Waitangi that was proposed, and agreed to, during the deliberations leading up the signing. This article guaranteed religious freedom and was put to the gathering by Bishop Pompallier. The actual words, in Maori, state that the Government will protect equally the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, the Methodist Church and Maori beliefs. In a modern context, it is generally considered as a principle that has been extended to all faiths and beliefs.

I totally support the right of all to have, and practise, their own religion, so long as it isn't abusive or illegal and in the past, for example, I have vehemently defended the right for Destiny Church to exist. But that doesn't mean they make me feel comfortable, or that I agree with their values. To be honest, I often violently disagree with what they represent and I think that is why I feel so decidedly uncomfortable with the Bethlehem College incident.

There is no denying the grief and shock the group must have experienced on learning the outcome of the accident and that would have been quickly followed by gut-gripping panic about the potential consequences for one of their number. These factors have apparently driven the group to act deceitfully and dishonestly in a manner seemingly contrary to their stated values.

But is it really?

On the surface, it is as if these missions are driven by a genuine compassion for their fellow man but my cynical self seeks to consider this a little more. The Bethlehem College website states that service is about God doing incredible things to the lives of the students and staff. In fact, it mentions very little about the people that they are evangelising in foreign countries.

It states that "Characters can be formed and shaped when students are placed in situations where they have to completely and trustingly put themselves in God's hands. Learning to serve God and others changes lives and is something desperately needed in our 'me first' world. The call of Christ is to serve others."

So this service is not a selfless act in its own right. It does display sacrifice and compassion but these are the means by which you guarantee a place in the Kingdom of God as it further endears you to Him and proves you are following His plan for you. Despite the criticism of a "me first" world, accumulating deeds to seek God's favour is no less "me first" than accumulating personal riches in this world.

So when I heard that the official statement about the driver who caused the crash that killed four people was a deliberate lie, I was incensed at the selfish hypocrisy. Some may think that making such a statement as this is a victimless crime and that the most important thing to do was to put a blanket of protection around the young driver as if he himself was the victim. But this is remarkably naive and astoundingly, culturally arrogant.

Leaving the family of Chris Mmata believing that their dead son, husband or uncle was the driver just seems despicable. Perhaps the level of collusion was much more complex than that and the Kenyan family was in on it, which still leaves me disturbed.

I am yet to see any signs of remorse from anyone - only grief at their loss.

The Press