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We can’t ignore politicians’ Christianity any longer

It has been traditional for journalists and public figures to respect the individual political candidate’s religion as private. America shows us the danger of creeping Christian Nationalism erupting into prominence, and we can’t wave that away as a distant threat. Voters need to know what our candidates’ Christianity means for our future.

We need to give ourselves permission to talk about political candidates’ religious beliefs. Above all, we need to do so regarding Christian politicians.

When Nicole Werner was selected as the Liberal candidate for Warrandyte, some Labor figures tried to raise the point that she had been a pastor for the Planetshakers Pentecostal church. The Australian (19/6) condemned this as a “smear campaign.”

It may well be that Werner’s politics are driven primarily by a loathing forwoke crap.” She may well have left any dedication to the Pentecostal movement’s strangest tenets in the past. She may be worshipping as a much more mainstream Christian now. This is not, however, a question that ought to be hidden from voters any longer.

The media and public figures have tended to respect the religious beliefs of political candidates as private and out of bounds for discussion. While the majority of Christian parliamentarians belonged to mainstream denominational churches, this did not pose as much of a problem.

It has tended to slow change in society because the Christians’ belief in their right to mandate public morality has been imposed upon the rest of us. We have struggled to redefine marriage, a good death, women’s rights outside the Christian majority’s religious rules. That, however, is the negotiation between worldviews inherent in a democratic system.

The American-style Christianity becoming apparent in Australia’s federal, state and local politics is another matter. This Christianity does not negotiate.

The risk for anyone writing about the beliefs and behaviour of the Pentecostal movement is that the writer, rather than the faith, sounds hysterical. Every Australian should read Elle Hardy’s expert and thoughtful account of Pentecostalism’s surging influence around the globe to see that these wild accounts are indeed accurate. Beyond Belief is a gripping read.

While the fact that Pentecostal churches are nondenominational means that not all beliefs are represented in all groups, there are some ideas that are common.

One is that no Christian outside the Pentecostal faith is truly a Christian until they’ve embraced the spirit in Pentecostalism. Catholicism is as likely to be seen as the “whore of Babylon.” Society is their mission field: we are all intended to be saved.

There is a tolerance for Jewish people but only if they are in Israel, ready to die to announce the beginning of End Times.

End Times and the return of Christ to rule adds an urgency to their evangelising. Christ cannot return until every single one of you lives purely, as defined by their rules. There is to be no sexual activity outside the sanctity of marriage. No pre- or extra-marital sex, no LGBTQIA+ identity or activity, no reproductive healthcare beyond the ushering of many more Pentecostal Christian babies into the world.

This is all Spiritual Warfare. There is a literal belief in the demonic forces at work in Catholicism, Queerness, Media, Science, Academia, democratic governments. Scott Morrison spoke of social media as the work of “the devil.” How he meant it we cannot be sure, but within Pentecostalism broadly this is meant as a genuine description.

The certainty that End Times are upon is is made more urgent by the fact of floods, fires and plagues. Every iteration of a natural disaster intensified by the climate crisis throws fuel onto the Pentecostal bonfire of certainty that the rest of us must be made pure immediately.

Americans are now seeing the impact of the utter determination of this small minority. This radicalised religion has taken over the Republican Party. Half the country has become deeply dangerous for women of reproductive age, and LGBTQIA+ people. The white supremacy inherent to the movement is evident in the brutal attacks on the demythologised teaching of American history.

The American majority has supported some abortion access and the equality of Queer people by at least 70% and yet the minority is imposing draconian restrictions upon half the country. The Christian Nationalists are now targeting access to contraception and women’s ability to initiate divorce. This is the path to dominion.

The mission to reverse the progressive gains made since the New Deal and the Civil Rights era in America has taken decades but it has been unswerving. The project gives itself permission, however, to mask the theocratic goals for the good of the project, because no honesty is owed to the sinner.

Scott Morrison described himself to a Pentecostal congregation in 2021 as secretly performing a “laying on of hands,” nonconsensually, when he hugged survivors of disasters.

Morrison is understood to belong to the powerful Prosperity Theology strain of Pentecostalism. This involves the belief that wealth signifies God’s blessing. Poverty, in turn, signifies God’s punishment. It is a moral failing in the poor that makes them poor; it is hubris in the politician to intervene in God’s punishment. Those that have a go, get a go, according to Morrison. Apparently the poor never tried.

Prosperity Theology in its utter contradiction of Christ’s message ought to signal to more traditional Christians that the Pentecostal movement is something unfamiliar and discordant.

Eastern European Christianity, resurgent after the Cold War, has intertwined itself with this American Christianity’s beliefs and goals. Australian politicians channelling Orban’s cultural Christian/Western chauvinism share the same enemies: anyone to be labelled “woke.” (“Woke” has become the catch-all word for anyone representing modernity, secularism, pluralism, liberal openness and social justice goals. Sometimes it just means a person displaying manners or compassion.) Muslims are a particular target of this European aspect of the movement, which characterises progressives as “Islamogauche” – the Muslim-embracing Left. This fostering of existential hatred is on display in Koran burnings in Europe.

The Machiavellian nature of the movement is manifest in the readiness to work with anyone. Pentecostalism loathes feminists, for example, but will embrace anti-trans “feminists” to begin the project of forcing LGBTQIA+ existence out of sight.

While Pentecostals may loathe the boorish sexuality of the internet “manosphere,” the latter’s dedication to complementarianism makes them easy colleagues. In this reading of “natural” society, sex is binary and opposite: the man is dominant in world and the home. Woman, only welcome in the home, must only be passive and obedient.

The only female exception is granted the extremist Christian woman fighting against the “woke” evil, such as Moms for Liberty. We have seen that trend emerge in Australia with the Women’s Forum Australia attack on Big W for stocking a parent’s guide to discussing sex with their children in the parenting section. Moms for Liberty are tactically embracing conservative members of the (despised) Muslim faith to broaden their appeal in America. We saw a similar effort underway in the Victorian Liberal insurgency event in Caroline Springs.

Pentecostalism became intertwined with QAnon over the worst of the pandemic, and its messaging has pervaded much of the “freedom” movement that gathered pace over the era. The religious movement’s demand that people believe wild tenets and disdain empirical knowledge makes it an easy vehicle for conspiracy.

The Liberal Party is dependent upon this anti-woke coalition to regain power. Victoria’s John Pesutto baulked when Moira Deeming revealed the extremity to which the anti-“woke” coalition could take the party. It was not accidental that the Conservative Political Action Conference – aka MAGA Australia – part-funded the anti-trans-existence tour in which she took a role. Neither was it accidental that Neo Nazis arrived to provide “security” for the Melbourne event.

John Pesutto campaigned with Nicole Werner in Warrandyte despite his efforts to face down the anti-“woke” insurgency in his Victorian opposition coalition. Winning – even without a Labor candidate standing – was more important for his goals than defeating the insurgency.

The Pentecostal movement that has become the moral weight of the anti-“woke” coalition is not just a belief system aiming to improve our societal ethics. It is a theocratic cult.

Australians need to know which kind of Christianity our candidates represent: a private morality or the authoritarian enforcement of their own bizarre interpretation of Christ’s dominion.


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  1. Max Gross

    It ain’t “Christianity.” It’s Christo-Fascism. Imported direct from the US of A.

  2. Lucy Hamilton

    I agree, Max. This one is pitched for broadest digestion. You know I could drum up much more heated and subversive take!

  3. Pete Petrass

    In the past those believers of the “imaginary sky fairies” used war and conflict to push their agendas. Now they are even more dangerous by using political infestation. Just have a good look at ‘Murica. We should all be worried, very worried.

  4. JulianP

    Thanks Lucy, I greatly appreciate your extensive research.

    While I agree that “We need to give ourselves permission to talk about political candidates’ religious beliefs.”, I do wonder just how far we can take this – especially pre-election. I think that most politicians quickly learn about the art of obfuscation and prevarication to disguise intent and motive. A certain recent PM comes to mind here.

    As for “Christians”, it’s pretty much a brand name these days and has little to do with Jesus Christ or his teachings.

    I suspect that most of those on the “Christian” right would have trouble reciting the text of the Sermon on the Mount, let alone explaining its significance.

    You are quite right Lucy to question the “Prosperity Gospel” – it really is something else.

    One of the best short summaries I have seen was that by retired Anglican bishop George Browning, writing in The Melbourne Anglican on September 3 2018, wherein he referred to a number of matters and concluded there was a “glaring gap” between [PM Morrison’s] actions and words – particularly in relation to the poor and needy. Bishop Browning concluded thus:

    “Is it that deep down he is a devotee of the “prosperity gospel”? It appears so. This gospel assumes that health and prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing and sickness or poverty a sign of divine disapproval – even punishment. The social and political implication of this gospel is that those who are poor only have themselves to blame: turn to God and your fortunes will turn around. This gospel does not give space for generosity to the poor, for this only encourages their laziness, or lack of personal responsibility. It is important to keep pressure on the poor and unemployed in order that they will sort out the problem which is essentially theirs….

    …The prosperity gospel also seeks to remove any impediment to personal gain and prosperity. The goal of government is therefore not to regulate for the common good, but for the prosperity of the individual, even to the detriment of common good. The attitude of the conservatives in the present government on environmental issues is evidence enough of this stance.”

  5. Andrew Smith

    Informative as always, difficult to parse through ‘wheels with wheels’. One would add that the ‘dominionism’ goes all the way back to Calvin and seems to underpin the US right wing or GOP Christianity, inc. evangelical etc., to support supposed ‘libertarian’ socio-economics; in fact deep seated corrupt white nationalist Christian authoritarianism.

    Further, all roads do not lead to Rome nor Catholicism whereby Pope Francis complained in Euronews that ‘Pope says ‘backward’ US conservatives have replaced faith with ideology’; can also play on nostalgia when so many above median age voters no longer have a stake in the working age related economy, but can be led on by sociocultural ‘wedge’ issues with dollops of faux ‘pensioner populism’ and deep seated ‘collective narcissism’.

    A line in the sand, not to be ignored, is how Paul Weyrich, who founded the Heritage Foundation which is now Koch Network’s flagship, co-opted Jerry Falwell, evangelicals etc. and created the ‘moral majority’─ to create a broader GOP voter coalition around issues like abortion (which never bothered them before…).

    Finally the symbiotic relationship between right wing nativist Christian authoritarians and identitarians in the ‘west’ inc. the Anglosphere, are in a symbiotic relationship with Putin’s Russia, from pre Putin; WCC World Council of Churches, WCF World Congress of Families, ADF Alliance Defending Families, now Freedom (of which a former LNP PM is linked) and the US Koch linked CNP Council for National Policy.

    Two great contemporary sources are Katherine Stewart’s ‘The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism’ and Anne Nelson’s ‘Shadow Network: Media, Money, and the Secret Hub of the Radical Right’; both can be found via YouTube giving presentations with Q&A.

  6. Katie

    The insane, twisted mixture of uncompromising, far-right politics and strict misogynistic “Christianity” is medieval and incredibly dangerous to the basic rights of women, the egalitarian future of our children and, indeed, to our democracy! The fact that the corrupt, autocratic, callously inhumane bible-thumping hypocrite, Scott Morrison, was a signed-up member of the paedophile-protecting CULT of Hillsong, is not surprising! Such is the insufferable arrogance of Morrison – who ticks every box as a born-to-rule megalomaniacal narcissist – he thought it was OK to try to surreptitiously take over at least FIVE political portfolios in order to rule over us like some pathetic third-world dictator!

    Like most of the nauseating “psuedo” Christians that hold fort in the LNP, Abbott and Morrison proved to be terrifying examples of just how bad things can get when religious fanaticism, combined with a twisted level of judgemental hypocrisy, is combined with political power in order to subvert the rights of others and target anyone who doesn’t fit into their insular view of the world. The level of racism, homophobia and misogyny, so inherent in these extreme right-wing zealots and white supremacists who currently hide in every corner of the LNP, is patriarchal and dangerously undemocratic in a nation as secular and multicultural as Australia! Fortunately, the large majority of Australians justifiably find this type of medieval religious mania, entrenched at the helm of politics, thoroughly distasteful, dictatorial, un-Australian and extremely undesirable. Needless to say, this is WHY Abbott and Morrison were so soundly defeated!

    It is absolutely essential that we keep religious extremism OUT of politics because history has proven that the perverted mix of religion and politics NEVER ends well!

  7. sally

    The Let Women Speak rallies were not ‘anti-trans’. They were no more anti-trans than they were anti-men. If you believe womens rights to sacred safe single sex spaces, which the overwhelming majority of women support, are ‘anti-trans’ then you must admit that being pro-trans means anti-women. How can it be anti-trans, when we support trans men (women) in our spaces, but not trans women (men)? Are we 50% anti-trans? Since trans men are welcome but not trans women. Or is it perhaps that the issue is MEN. Biological men. One of the organisers of the Melbourne rally was a Jewish lesbian woman; the trifecta that Nazis are against. If you are suggesting for a moment Nazis showed up to give her support, that’s delusional. The women were set up. The nazis were invited by the trans activists, to silence women and shut them down. It was a dirty tactic. And they succeeded.

  8. wam

    A great read, Lucy,
    I love the ‘exception’ for women doing something outside of the xstian roles and the need for us to ask questions of belief.
    I disagree with you and Max that it ‘ain’t christianity’.
    Take spain we have two spanish friends one group agrees with my rabbottians and believe that her exhuberance encouraged the kiss and, like rubiales’ mother, believe it is an unfair media beat up, whilst the other agrees with me it is an innappropiate sexist response and an invasion of privacy.
    This christianity is rock solid that god constructed women from man to serve men.
    He deliberately included a fault that made it impossible for women to be equal. The rabbott has this belief but has modified it to include exceptions. One of these exceptions now has a great public service $400k job.
    one of the handclapping mob believe that god, on their 12th birthday, gives boys the power to advise women who must defer to any male 12 and above. Surely it is time to accept that freedom of religion does not mean secrecy and freedom from questions

  9. New England Cocky

    Scummo has certainly prospered from his stint in politics despite what many would reasonably conclude were unChristian strategies to get nominated then elected. When will Biblical revenge come, during the Albanese LABOR government, or will it all be swept under the media carpet because Scummo was such a good bloke who attempted to establish the first democratically elected LIARBRAL dictatorship with his seven secret ministries strategy that was given royal assent by gg david hurley.

  10. SkuzeMe

    Thanks for the heads-up Lucy on something that has been noticeably and sorely missing from the mainstreams, and whilst I am still trying to get my head around Lyle Sheltons outrageous hypocricy of “parallels between Germany 1933 and Australia 1923” in your recent article, I was completely gobsmacked the other day when I heard John Pesutto on Radio LNP, sorry, radio 3aw state to the fawning jock host that “Well Neil, the voters of Warrandyte when they put a ‘one’ in the LNP section of the ballot were sending a clear message that they had had enough of Labor”. A normally safe LNP seat where the ALP didn’t even field a candidate, and the normally rude-to-anyone-of-the-left host didn’t even utter a word.

  11. Lucy Hamilton

    Sally, that’s an appalling set of misinformation.

    Firstly, the Nazis described their own welcome by the Terfs. Posie has several recorded priors.

    There is no way in hell that trans people would invite Nazis.

    They know that Terfs would “just” force trans people back into their birth gender (at hideous cost) but that Nazis want bloody elimination. This assertion is ludicrous.

    Some Terfs may indeed welcome toilet separation according to your description, but not many will accept a muscly trans man in a woman’s toilet. That will lead to bashings and haranguing. Trans women will get raped and bashed in a men’s toilet. Your solution is that trans people can’t leave the house.

    Many (most?) Terfs are trans eliminationists: they don’t believe that trans identity exists except as a manifestation of a diseased mind. The fact that terfs are unsupported by science, anthropology or history in their “knowledge” that gender is binary shows how much of a rank bigotry terfism actually is.

    Most women didn’t care about trans women in their loos until Fox News and rotten Brit grifter “feminists” started making it into an issue. You have jumped on a neo fascist-supported bandwagon that attempts to draw “nice” women into the incel/white supremacist coalition.
    Slow clap, lady.

  12. Clakka

    Thanks Lucy, excellent and timely story. Thank goodness for Elle Hardy, an objective and down to earth Oz journo. I listened to one of the three podcasts on the website of her Beyond Belief publisher Hurst. I doubt I’ll read her book or come back for the other 2 podcasts, as a dyed in the wool adherent of the secular process and project, and the epistemology of science, I am well repulsed by the Morrison- LNP insurgence and the disgraceful beguilement covering the pernicious, usurious corruption that is Hillsong. And for that matter any so-called religious organisation pumping evangelistic fundamentalism.

    Although it may involve some tricky complexities, eg. the tenets of common morality, for me being non-sectarian, except for specific reference particular to the subject, I would have all written, spoken or implied biases of genderization, sexuality, ethnicity and religiosity removed from all constitutional, parliamentary and governmental documents and processes. And to that end pre-election research and interrogation of motives and intent of all putative office-bearers – sad but apparently more and more needed in this rapidly evolving divisive fragmented world. Freedom of faith is one thing, but manipulative interference is another thing altogether.

    Given the comment, Werner’s politics are driven primarily by a loathing for “woke crap.”, and a similar statement by Amanda Vanstone on her ABC RN podcast yesterday, it seems such hateful divisive word mash-mash is the latest LNP differentiation of desperation. Needless to say, it’s imported from American RW culture war politics.

    As for Pentecostalism and its variants, that This radicalised religion has taken over the Republican Party, with Trump et al and their droogs hanging in the wings, the potential realities of the AUKUS alliance is more than enough to send a chill down Oz spines.

    One wonders if there’s an out clause for Oz if GOP Pentecostal madness takes control at the next American elections, or thereafter. C’mon Albo, what’s the score?

  13. GL

    The separation of state and church is, and will always be, a pipe dream.

  14. Niamh

    Thank you for this concise summary of the threat these movements pose, Lucy. It is appreciated for what is a complex issue.

    I’ve spent the majority of my life now peacefully beyond and probably well-predating the obsessive gaze of Sally and her ilk. I nonetheless still recognise the threat their faux-feminism poses to ALL women. Their members tend to be either unwitting tools, or worse yet are complicit in the machinations of the “Christian” far-right. The latter are masters of deflection even in the face of photographic evidence of them cheerfully posing in front of federally-known neo-Nazi figures. Give my regards to Stassja if you’re who I think you are, Sally. Long time viewer, first time caller. Love the collaboration with everything my grandparent’s generation stood against. <3

    Even the unwitting tools, often sadly manipulated former abuse victims of men themselves, are starting to wake up to their most vocal and affluent leadership. Abortion rights and the rights of same-sex parents are cast into the bonfire as they are assured that these actual losses to women are unimportant in the short term as they focus on their monomaniacal elimination goal. Those that wake up to the true nature of this astroturf movement are either aggressively snapped back into line or are forced to slink away quietly, finding themselves abused, alone and having burned bridges on all sides. These are the ones I truly feel sad for, even those that got caught up in the worst and most venomous frenzies of lies and harassment.

    Beyond them though, my worry is of the threat to democracy itself posed by the fake Christians actually funding them.
    Unlike the US and UK, compulsory preferential voting and the increasing irrelevance of MSM has allowed Australia to remain relatively safe from their influence so far. Unfortunately their latest tactic seems to involve branch stacking established major parties instead. It’s already been seen in recent news with the internal takeover of the SA Liberal party, with Victorian Liberals a work in progress as John Pesutto’s leadership continues to be chipped away. A disgruntled and exiled Victorian member has already been in dialogue with the SA faction. Now their controversial UK friend is making curiously well-funded defamation threats against the entire Victorian Liberal leadership.

    It might be darkest before dawn, but I worry we’re not at the darkest hour yet.

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