By Tracie Aylmer
When one thinks about Hillsong, one usually thinks of mega churches along the lines of those in America: bright lights and a few celebrities dancing and singing along to rock star bands that get the hymn groove on.
I guess it’s all about the buzz, with the added bonus of being ‘included’ in something. It’s the way all churches have existed in the past, only without the rock sound.
What one doesn’t notice – particularly at first – is that Hillsong is claimed to be nothing but a cult that strips funding away from each individual without giving much of anything in return. It also has tax exempt status, and uses politics to reach its own end.
One woman, Tanya Levin, wrote a book about her experiences with Hillsong. While I haven’t as yet read it, her experiences after the book was published made me more interested in trying to get my hands on it. She was arrested for being in a public place. She received a move on notice, for which she complied with, and then shortly after was asked by a police officer to walk to him, for which she was arrested for unknowingly walking to an area that was part of the move on notice. Hillsong had then decided to pursue her case for two solid years, with her only recently being found innocent of the charges.
A number of politicians have attended the ‘church’. Among those has been Peter Dutton. Scott Morrison used to be a member, although now it appears he attends another ‘show-biz’ type ‘church’. Both have a very distasteful philosophy when it comes to refugees, perhaps bonding over a superiority complex.
I have attended one of these rock style type churches; more than 10 years ago on the Gold Coast. I remember it not doing much for me. I never saw the point in meshing rock and roll to church. It had very little substance.
Although some aspects of Hillsong such as finances are kept under the radar, one thing is now very well known – money is now God. These mega churches rely on making sure that people are bled dry. To be rich and successful means, to them, that one will see the kingdom of heaven. To be poor means that the person is unclean, and will go to hell. There are no greys in this black and white world.
Even the community service work is about how to increase membership. I have heard stories from a number of different sources where, if Hillsong entities help a person through any kind of dilemma, there is an expectation of giving back. A former business partner’s wife had claimed that blood wasn’t enough. Hillsong exacts literally everything.
There’s even talk of tithing from people’s income. Tithing has been around for centuries, although a successful church that passes the plate around on a Sunday shouldn’t be expecting to also receive 10% of the person’s income. Is this exactly what Hillsong expects from people? This is what ensures their expansion. Considering how much is made, the community service work (along with demands from volunteers) appears to be very little. Hillsong, in my opinion, are receiving much more than they are giving back.
From a former Pastor, the atmosphere is meant to be created in a certain manner to ‘please others’ instead of bringing spirituality to the masses. It has a component of mind control in it, which is meant to bring more and more people into the fold, and not let them leave quite as easily. It’s meant to show only the positives of happy happy joy joy, without the complexities of everyday life. It’s meant to ‘uplift’ with no other feelings or emotions. It’s as plastic as the chairs people sit in.
Leaving the church ensures isolation and ridicule. Tanya Levin has shown exactly how isolating it can get. Others have had similar stories where they were left in the dark by members. Friendships are cut automatically. The ex-member has to start their life all over again, but without the supports they used to be comfortable with. This can leave the ex-member with confusion.
None of their methods show real life or real spirituality. It appears to be all about the money. Anything less than the money is shown the door. It’s a cult. It’s a business. It seems to prey on the disadvantaged like a sponge soaks up water.
It must be taxed.