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Politics from the Pulpit

Scott Morrison is Australia’s first Pentecostal prime minister. He is a member of the Horizon Church in Sutherland, which is part of the Australian Christian Churches network. He attends regularly. No one, including the author of this piece, would deny him the right to choose his religious affiliation or to apply his Christian beliefs in his workplace.

What were disquieting though were the reactions and the proclamations of Pentecostal leaders about his ascension to the prime ministership. Gareth Hutchens wrote about this comprehensively in The Guardian, from which I quote extensively. Do play the video at the head of this article.

Last Sunday, pastor Adam F Thompson from the Voice of Fire Ministries and Adrian Beale from Everrest Ministries told a congregation at Hope City Church that “Morrison’s elevation to power was divinely inspired”, and warned that “darkness” will spread across Australia and Christians will be persecuted if Morrison does not win the next election.

Thompson, who claims that supernatural signs accompany his ministry and that he can interpret dreams, proclaimed that he’d received a message from God that Morrison and the Coalition must win the election. “The Lord woke me up at 4.30 am this morning.”

Thompson continued: “Scott Morrison, he’s a born-again Christian, he’s probably one of the first ever born-again prime ministers, but it’s not time to celebrate at the moment. This is a crucial time right now … In the next six months, it’s time for the body of Christ to put its differences aside … and come together and agree that Jesus is the Messiah and start praying together for our prime minister, and for our government. I really see that the body of Christ is going to have influence in the political arena of this nation. (my emphasis).

Thompson was adamant: “…if the prime minister doesn’t get elected in this next election there’s going to be darkness coming. And I’m not being negative. The laws are going to change where darkness is going to come and there will be persecution on the church.”

He asked his congregation if they truly wanted a Pentecostal revival and reformation in Australia, and went on: “If it doesn’t happen in the next year…the laws are going to come in, where they’re going to change and darkness will come. The Lord is saying he wants us to rise up and pray, rather than come into persecution where we’ll have no choice.”

Beale from Everrest Ministries leads his congregation in prayer for Morrison, calling on God to help Australians grasp the value of his intervention in the leadership spill. “Just as Scott has come to the fore, unexpected Lord, you’ve kept him hidden for a time such as this…Lord, we pray that the whole of the body of Christ in Australia would grasp the value of what you’ve done, Lord, and get behind our new leader … and that the next election would be won so that godly principles would be put into place, rather than the enemy having his way.”

Another pastor, Warwick Marsh from the Australian Christian Values Institute claimed three days of prayer and fasting had been answered with two miracles. “Firstly the Senate voted down the euthanasia in the territories proposal. This was an absolute miracle. Secondly, the Liberal Party voted in a new prime minister, Scott Morrison, after a week of political turmoil… Many people here in Australia of faith believe this was a miracle of God. It would seem that this is a direct answer to our prayers, as we prayed against the erosion of our Christian freedoms under the forthcoming Ruddock report.”

Other Pentecostal leaders too declared that Morrison’s rise to power was a “miracle of God” that answered three days of prayer and fasting, and that God had intervened to ensure he defeated Peter Dutton in the leadership contest.

Morrison’s office says he has never met Thompson, Beale or Marsh.

Is that enough to alarm you? For the first time in decades, we see pastors of a church, in this case the Pentecostal Church, telling their congregations that the election of our new prime minister by the Liberal Party room was a ‘miracle’ of God, brought about by prayer, and that if he is not re-elected, darkness will descend on our nation and the church. The clear message to their parishioners is: ‘Vote Morrison in again, or else!’

Those of you who are as old as I am will remember the political influence wielded by another cleric, Daniel Mannix, who was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1917 to 1963. He was notorious for his blatant attempts to inveigle his parishioners to vote the way he indicated. Mannix’s best-known protégé in his later years was B. A. Santamaria, Tony Abbott’s idol. Mannix authorised Santamaria to form the Catholic Social Studies Movement, known as ‘The Movement’, to organise within the unions and defeat the Communists. The Movement was so successful in its efforts that by 1949 it had taken control of the Victorian branch of the Labor Party.

Mannix’s involvement in politics continued for many years. Eventually, it was opposed by Cardinal Gilroy, Archbishop of Sydney, and also by the Vatican which, in 1957, ruled that the Movement should not interfere in politics.

We’ve experienced before the downside of religious figures exerting political influence. It’s been a long while since the Mannix era, but it looks as if we may be in for a reprise, this time from the Pentecostal Churches.

Is that what we want? If not, we had better speak up!

This article by Ad Astra was originally published on The Political Sword.

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24 comments

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  1. Tony Harris

    Australia is supposed to be a secular state. Church and State are separate in accordance with the Constitution.

  2. Darrell

    I think Dog has better things to do than meddle in Aussie politics… more likely to be
    Rupert.

  3. Kaye Lee

    In Morrison’s first speech, he spoke of how he had “been greatly assisted by the pastoral work of many dedicated church leaders”, mentioning Brian Houston in particular.

    Brian Houston, the founder of the Hillsong Church, failed to alert the police about allegations his father had sexually assaulted children, and had a conflict of interest when he assumed responsibility for dealing with the accusations, a royal commission has found.

    In October 2014 the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse examined the responses of the Assemblies of God in Australia (now Australian Christian Churches) to allegations against three men, including Frank Houston, a preacher who helped build the Pentecostal movement in Australia and who died in 2004.

    Frank Houston had abused up to nine boys in Australia and New Zealand, and in its final report on the case, the commission found multiple failings within the church executive – at the time led by Frank Houston’s son Brian – in responding.

    Even though his father confessed his guilt, Brian Houston defended his failure to go to the police, despite having no doubt it was criminal conduct, and told the royal commission in October 2014 the revelations about his father had hit him in “waves”.

    “I was like, ‘homosexual?’ getting my head around that, then thinking, ‘A minor? Hold on, we’re not just talking about homosexual, we’re talking about paedophilia’,” he said.

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2015/nov/23/hillsongs-brian-houston-failed-to-report-abuse-and-had-conflict-of-interest-royal-commission

    Great mentor you’ve got there Scott.

  4. Alan Nosworthy

    The A.o.G churches have form in this area. I remember as a teenager pressured by my parents to continue attending services the claim from the pulpit that it was GODs will that as the Israelites were led by moses, we should be led by that great christian man Joh Bjielke Petersen rather than “godless communists”. This was totally unacceptable to my father, who is a strong believer in the social gospels and a 25 year plus E.T.U. member. Let us hope this present circus ends in as satisfying a manner as did Joh Bjielkes reign of terror.

  5. Peter F

    Based on the experience of Mannix’s demolition of the ALP, I think god has a plan for the Liberals. They just haven’t woken up yet, but something like forty years in the wilderness might bring some reality into focus.

  6. New England Cocky

    Oh dear ….. the God Squad are out again spreading their mystical fairy tales and asserting that Murdoch intervention in Australia politics is “Divine Providence”.

    Geez, … they must have all gone to private church schools where state funding is “stolen” from the secular state to establish a community of self–absorbed “entitled” citizens who must be better than the egalitarian “rabble” because they are considered charity cases, pay no property taxes fail to expose kiddie fiddling.

    Moderation is excluded from their lexicon, so having a couple of CIA parishioners will make everybody feel safe when the next community security furphy is plastered all over the Murdoch broadsheets.

    @PeterF: The poison of Mannix lives on In too many regional communities where the sectarian wars ignited by Mannix remain the guiding principles for social organisation and stifled economic development.

  7. wam

    my facebook has many ex-students and what they share shows how poor I was in teaching critical thinking.

    Their disgust at the suggestion that all three have the god of abraham is vehemently denied along the lines of jesus son of god is god himself so the jew god had to kill him and the muslim god is satan.

    The depth of belief is unbelievable and these middle aged women and men are as impervious to thought as our current PM, the rabbott or any other lumps of granite

    The latest was a massive attack on harper
    ‘soldiers died for our freedom the least we can do is stand for the anthem.’
    To point out that the school policy shows christian and muslim objectors do not have to sing or stand or even in america it is not compulsory is useless.
    Here is one answer:
    Well my 15 year old daughter said this, “mum is probably wasn’t feeling well on the day to stand, n her parents took it in their hands to raise the alarm, because they wanted to cause a drama about past hurts, plus mum ignore her, she probably was based up by sum Aboriginals n need feel she wants to be wanted”! Sure Muslims don’t stand, then why does the government let them come?

    I noticed you did not comment on the christians not standing are they accepted? No answer.

    george christenson’s ‘paedos in safe schools’ is a regular repeat post as is pauline’s no immigration.

  8. SteveFitz

    I think we need to look at the bigger picture. Down through the ages the church has had one driving motivation and that’s control, power and accumulation of wealth. Influencing a political party ensures the best outcome for the church. As we are seeing right now with Morrisons $4.4 billion allocation to private and religious education.

    I’ve also noticed that when a conservative political party hits the wall they invariably turn to religion to boost failing numbers at the poles. Corporates, the Liberal Party and MSM walk hand in hand. When the shit hits the fan they invariably pull in religion as a back-up. Its history repeating itself and a desperate move. What we are seeing right now is a political party saving religion and religion saving a political party. God help us!

    These types of conservative movements are the meteors of our political atmosphere. Awesome and unpredictable, they streak across our skies in a blaze of right-wing frenzy, only to fall to earth cold and exhausted, consumed by their own passionate heat. This at least is the established view. The insurmountable damage along the way is the problem we face.

    What we are seeing here is a repeat of what has been called the rise of the Christian conservative, what scholars call the “New Christian Right”. It’s scary shit when we allow the church to become involved in politics and visa versa. Every bunch of religious fanatics jump on board. It becomes extreme and passionate, uncompromising, totally committed and at time apocalyptic.

    Critics have responded with alarm, their warnings betraying not only concern but fright, with such charges as “single-issue zealots,” fascism masquerading as Christianity,” Christian Stalinist.” Even traditional conservatives have a right to be afraid. Before American political insanity takes hold in Australia, this needs to be shut down and, the sooner the better.

  9. Ad Astra

    Folks
    I thank you all for your contribution to this discussion, and your reminder Kaye of the record of the founder of the Hillsong Church, Brian Houston, who built up the Pentecostal movement in Australia. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that he failed to alert the police to allegations that his father, Frank Houston, had sexually assaulted children. Morrison’s Horizon Church is a Hillsong Church.

    I see that some of you still remember the pernicious influence Melbourne Archbishop Daniel Mannix had on politics in the forties and fifties. We would certainly not want to see that again. Yet the Pentecostal churches themselves now see an opportunity for such influence: “I really see that the body of Christ is going to have influence in the political arena of this nation.” Beware!

  10. Babyjewels

    I hope you’re right Peter F. But I have my doubts. God botherers are prominent in Australia and in most instances, live contrary to the many worthwhile teachings in the Bible. Quite the opposite in fact. Australia seems to have its own version of Christianity and it’s closely tied to greed and corruption.

  11. helvityni

    SteveFitz, methinks it has already happened… (Before American political insanity takes hold in Australia )

  12. jimhaz

    [Even traditional conservatives have a right to be afraid. Before American political insanity takes hold in Australia, this needs to be shut down and, the sooner the better]

    I’m sure I read an article a few years ago wherein the US evangelicals offer training in political manipulation. Perhaps that is where the likes of Cory Bernardi and Kevin Andrews have gone for their “study tours”.

    Maybe it was one of these articles:

    http://time.com/3919862/american-renewal-project-pastors/
    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/12/david-lane-american-renewal-project-founder-recrui/

  13. David Stakes

    Are we not so called fighting the Muslim scourge, that threatens our society. To replace it with a Pentecostal version of religion. Sort of replace like with like. Rabbit hole and looking glass in collision.

  14. Jane Boswell

    I feel really sick reading this article, I believe now that the Royal Commission has done great work, but they are only dealing with the tip of the iceberg. Those of us who have lived with the result of abuse (not necessarily from clergy) have swum in the murk for the rest of our lives – money doesn’t cure this, being believed is the start to healing no matter where it comes from

  15. Matters Not

    Yes the funding wars are back on and the instigator was Bill Shorten.

    Gonski recognised that political special deals (for decades) led to a funding mess. One of his crucial recommendations (to a Labor Government that commissioned the Report) was that the allocation of school funding be the responsibility of an independent commission. Under Labor that never happened. Instead Shorten raced around the country and did 27 special deals – which never came to fruition because Labor lost the election.

    An independent body was established under Turnbull but its work was undermined during the Victoria election followed by the Longman by-election because of further special deals with the Catholics engineered by Shorten.

    It’s as though Gonski never happened. A bloody disgrace that we are back on the same treadmill with these special deals (now by the LNP) that will work against public schools (as they always do.)

    It seems we can’t learn from experience. And I blame Labor! Shot themselves in the foot again.

  16. SteveFitz

    Politics in Australia is a revolving door – Liberal, Labour, Liberal, Labour. Both parties are susceptible to influence from the rich and powerful, from corporates and the church. We need to protect our elected representatives and a federal corruption watchdog, denied by Malcolm Turnbull but promised by Bill Shorten, goes some way towards achieving that.

    Corporates are one issue, they offer election funds. The church is another, they offer votes. So, you can understand how easy it is to become stuck between a rock and a hard place when it comes to political survival. Shortens attempt to rally support from the religious right failed. It appears they want cold hard cash, not promises, before the congregation are told that God is on your side.

  17. Ad Astra

    Folks
    Once again I thank you all for your contributions to what has been an informative debate.

    The additional comments on school funding illustrate just how complex this issue is, and point to the continuing battle that will be fought in this arena.

    Morrison thought he had ‘wiped clean the school funding plate’ with his sanitary funding package, but instead he has left it soiled with leftovers, the odour of stale arguments, and an array of greedy vermin waiting to devour the scraps.

    No one politician seems to understand the issues clearly, nor the complexities that surround it, nor the greedy players in there for their chop. Selfishness will dominate the debate, as it always has. Check in another two years, and you’ll find nothing has changed. What’s more, we ought not to be surprised.

  18. Kyran

    It’s funny, isn’t it? Politics from a pulpit, I mean. One of the ‘meme’ thingy’s that went around this week went as follows (or close enough).
    “Two people you should never trust. A religious leader who tells you how to vote, and a politician who tells you how to pray.”
    Of course, Mannix was one of the first, and best, manic’s that ever attempted the feat. You left out the bit about his residence, Raheen. A splendid property worth kajillions, which he shared with a few other beneficiaries of god’s largesse. Naturally, neither they nor their god owned the property. Their church did, so that made it all better. But it was a wonderful demonstration of the duplicity, prevalent then and rampant now. These shepherds ask their flock to pray, and then prey on their flock. It comes as no surprise that sheep are so easily fleeced.
    “He was notorious for his blatant attempts to inveigle his parishioners to vote the way he indicated. Mannix’s best-known protégé in his later years was B. A. Santamaria, Tony Abbott’s idol.
    Yea, though he walked through the valley of darkness, he feared no evil. His flock never noticed he was the evil they should fear. Santamaria learned this. Regrettably, Abbott would never understand the scriptures, his intelligence having been so often challenged by the difficulty of repeating a three word slogan that any deeper learning or understanding would require an intervention of the divine, although NewsCorpe’s Devine often sufficed.
    “Is that enough to alarm you? For the first time in decades, we see pastors of a church, in this case the Pentecostal Church, telling their congregations that the election of our new prime minister by the Liberal Party room was a ‘miracle’ of God, brought about by prayer, and that if he is not re-elected, darkness will descend on our nation and the church.”
    It’s funny that. Have you ever wondered, or marveled, at the similarities between churches and football fans? Like the various devotees of the various scriptures, all following blindly the scriptures of their particular god, they must acknowledge that, by adhering to one scripture, they had to acknowledge the validity of the other scriptures. Similarly, if you believe your team is better than all the others, you must at least acknowledge the other team’s entitlement to exist.
    This is hardly a new thought. It’s one I pinched from the afr, which had a headline which screamed ‘Scott Morrison; Faith, Family and his beloved Cronulla’. If NewsCorpse can conflate the issues, why can’t I? Mind you, repeating a headline is as much acknowledgement as that band of miscreants warrant.
    Alas, our current PM’s team didn’t weather the darkness of last night’s Storm, such was the tempest. The Shark’s were circling, only to find it was the vortex of an inescapable drain hole. Mind you, our current PM believes football players have divine capacities. Remember when he extolled the virtues of the fallacious Folau?

    https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/apr/18/scott-morrison-praises-israel-folaus-strong-character-after-anti-gay-remarks

    Admittedly, that was to defend the indefensible, the entrenchment of inequality. A feat he will try again when he releases the cadaver’s report on religious intolerance and when it can be tolerated.
    The ‘anti gay’ rant of a football player, who has conceivably had a few knocks too many to a delicate, if not diminutive, cranial capacity, was also defended by the player himself.

    “That afternoon I put up the following Instagram post, referring to James 1: 2-4:
    “Consider it all joy when you encounter various trials, because the testing of your faith produces endurance … so that you may be lacking in nothing.”
    In the comments section of that post, I was asked a question by somebody about what God’s plan is for gay people.
    My response to the question is what I believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings, specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10:
    “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
    I do not know the person who asked the question, but that didn’t matter. I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.
    I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?”

    Israel Folau on Homosexuality & God – PlayersVoice

    Putting aside that homosexuality was merely one of several demeanours – or misdemeanours, if your name is Joyce, whose unadulterated misdemeanour will one day achieve adult-ery – this champion of the intellectually challenged suggests a physical risk is equivalent to a right to choice. Any logical extension would suggest that pointing out the risk of physical harm to, say, a rugby player should grant the purveyor of such wisdom the right to ban the sport.
    Given the pell pall is yet to be dispelled, one wonders when these pulpit politicians will leave us in peace, rather than pieces.
    Grateful, as always, Ad Astra and commenters. May your god go with you. Take care

  19. SteveFitz

    @Kyran “These shepherds ask their flock to pray, and then prey on their flock”. These corporates manipulate and corrupt to feed off society. These conservatives believe in “all for me and nothing for you” unless there’s something in it for them. There’s a theme running through this abomination.

    The dark ages were a result of religious domination of society. If they didn’t like your thinking or you had something they wanted it was the crusades, boiled you in oil, burn you at the stake or crucifixion, in the name of God, to justify their wealth creation and expand their power base.

    As a mechanism for ripping people off, the church is the perfect cover and, they have had centuries to perfect their despicable soul destroying trade. They don’t actually want God, that would ruin their plans. The church is a harbour for the scum of the earth where paedophiles have money and power and live in the biggest houses. Power corrupts, and total power corrupts totally – It’s part of the human condition if you’re inhuman.

    Nothing’s changed, it’s lies and deceit to feed off society and the innocent. The church does it, corporates do it and conservatives revel in it. That’s what good people face in society, but we are not lost. With social media and an aging population, we are becoming more engaged and more aware and, that groundswell appears to be growing. It’s exciting times – Can’t wait for the next elections.

  20. SteveFitz

    Have faith in yourself – Better to be screwed over by those heartless bastards than be like them. If God represents fairness and justice and everything good in the world, there will always be a place for God in our hearts.

    A church based on lies, deceit and hypocrisy. A church run by men with no morality. A church that sells absolute moral values as a camouflage has no place in the hearts of good men and women. The right wing conservative Liberals can have it.

  21. Graeme F

    If god answered their prayers then obviously god will make sure he is elected. Typical religious nut jobs are happy to claim god does the good things for them but blames everything else when the not so good things happen. A pretty useless sky fairy if he doesn’t go the full distance.

    The treatment of asylum seekers, the poor, the sick, the unemployed and for that matter the planet are the opposite of ‘Christian’ teachings.

  22. MöbiusEcko

    https://www.msn.com/en-au/news/other/school-chaplains-agency-faces-tax-challenge-over-2433m-in-donations/ar-AAAuxwK

    Well isn’t this a turn-up. The biggest provider for the chaplaincy program is being pursued because it has been given donations on the proviso of teaching religion in government schools and it claims tax free status as a religious organisation. The argument is it can’t claim tax-free status whilst providing public funded chaplaincy on a non-religious basis and get donations on teaching religion.

    Just another thing in a long line of them this Liberal government has screwed up.

  23. SteveFitz

    I love the bigger picture and here I go again…

    Religion – If nothing else, it says something about who we are.

    The real logic of religion is to question our own humanity and all too human nature. That is, we have all too real drivers. Sexual drive, aggressive drivers and drives to dominate. Religion says these drives are an affront and, we need to push them down.

    What that is saying is, we need to push ourselves down. Religion is teaching us a self-dislike and that is the critique of the church. The further down we are the easier we are to control and the easier to sell us a saviour.

    Fundamental religious moral values of humility, poverty and meekness enable us to lie those weakness into strength. To keep us down and underfoot. When these values triumph and become everyone’s values they inevitably make for mediocrity.

    It’s not that we should step on these values, but we should not be obsessed by them. There’s nothing wrong with compassion. It’s there in the hardest of human hearts. It’s a preoccupation with contentment that may diminish us. What may be called “herd happiness” and we are worthy of so much more.

    Gearing everything towards contentment of the masses makes them easier to control and manipulate but, you diminish the possibility of the “great individual.” We are often extremely egotistical, we would say selfish. Something required to make your achievements. Because, it’s achievements that really drive civilisation and culture to its highest peak.

    There is a heart-warming place for religious morality but, it needs to balance with personal motivation, ambition and achievement. We need to look out for others but also affirm ourselves and we deon’t need the church to do that.

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