Our new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is quite open about being a long-standing member of Horizon Church, a Pentecostal Christian faith affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God denomination. As outlined in an article in Saturday’s Canberra Times, he stated his faith in his maiden speech in 2008, thanking Hillsong pastor Brian Houston for his ‘great assistance’. Hillsong is also affiliated with Australian Christian Churches, the Australian branch of the Assemblies of God denomination.
No one can dispute that Mr Morrison has every right to profess whatever faith he pleases. And according to his pastor Brad Bonhomme, as reported in the Canberra Times, there is no connection between Mr Morrison’s faith and his role as Prime Minister:
Unfortunately there will be some that assume whatever policy direction the Liberal Party might choose to take, some would assume I or our church will be involved in that. Nothing could be further from the truth … As far as the Liberal Party is concerned, we have no involvement in their policy and their decision making.
Well we hardly expected Brad to have a seat in the Cabinet room.
What’s more important, though, is what Mr Morrison believes as part of his religious faith. I have no personal knowledge of this, and can only go by what senior members of Hillsong – and presumably Horizon Church – have to say. Mr Morrison has been involved with this Church for many years, so presumably agrees with them. If he doesn’t, perhaps he can tell us so – but then what’s the point of being part of a Church if you don’t believe what they preach?
And what the Hillsong Church believes in is known as ‘prosperity Christianity’. According to Wikipedia, this is:
a religious belief among some Christians, who hold that financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them, and that faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.
In other words, if you’re rich and healthy, that’s God’s will. And if you’re poor or sick, then that’s God’s will too. It’s your own fault for not believing in the right things. Or giving enough money to the Church.
On the other hand, Wikipedia states that:
Prosperity theology has been criticized by leaders from various Christian denominations, including within the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, who maintain that it is irresponsible, promotes idolatry, and is contrary to scripture. Secular observers have also criticized prosperity theology as exploitative of the poor.
So maybe Hillsong doesn’t believe in it? Well, a strong hint that they do comes from the title of a book written by the very same pastor Brian Houston whose ‘great assistance’ Morrison acknowledged. It’s called You Need More Money: Discovering God’s Amazing Financial Plan for Your Life. Houston of course denies preaching prosperity theology. But even his denial is equivocal:
I do believe God blesses people but I also believe in purpose. When God blesses a business person it’s for God’s own purposes. It’s a huge mistake if people teach others to be blessed but don’t help them to understand there’s purpose behind it and it’s not about them but what’s God called them to do.
So being rich is fulfilling God’s purpose for you. Nice to know.
What this means is that the former Treasurer and now Prime Minister couldn’t care less about poor people because it’s their own fault. The rich are blessed. The poor are not. It doesn’t matter if Pastor Bonhomme is sitting beside him or not; we know what Morrison believes because it is what he practices. And what he practices is a defence of wealth and an attack on the poor. Company tax cuts, robo-debt, small government, deregulation, a shrinking tax base – an enthusiastic embrace of the whole panoply of trickle-down economics – have been the hall mark of his time as Treasurer and will without a doubt be carried over to his Prime Ministership. What better argument for rising inequality is there than it’s God’s will?
But you know, even if he denies any religious influence of this sort on his politics – forget any other sort, like kindness or compassion – it doesn’t really matter. Because Scott Morrison is a neoliberal as well as a Hillsong adherent. The only difference is that most neoliberals rely on the God of the Market to justify their faith – and the inequality it promotes – whereas Scott has two strings to his bow. Prosperity Christianity and neoliberalism are truly a match made in Heaven for him.