Explain to your conservative friends that we are very accepting of their religion as long as it doesn’t impose its rules on the rest of us. Fostering religious intolerance is untenable in a secular society; America shows us the harms.
The Essendon Football Club chaotic appointment of a new CEO has stimulated a tantrum over martyrdom on the Right. As the Australian Financial Review’s Joe Aston pointed out, President Dave Barham’s attempt at due diligence over Andrew Thorburn’s appointment was appalling. Not only is Thorburn a “disgraced former ASX 10 company CEO” (his italics), but a man who appears to have used his management of the club CEO selection process to advantage his own candidacy.
The “rotten culture” that “flowed from the top” at the NAB is surely not the culture that Essendon wishes to import after its own scandals. Barham is, perhaps, the man who more urgently needs to leave the club.
As for Thorburn’s “fire and brimstone side hustle,” it is a matter of great frustration. The “conservative” punditry do not need any excuse to work themselves into a frothing frenzy. Given Essendon’s mission statement about its own inclusive nature as an organisation, it is surprising that the club would contemplate appointing anyone reflecting a conservative religious outlook to the position. The fact that they were willing to continue the contract with Thorburn as a member of the controversial church, just not as its chairman, suggests a greater openness to faith commitments than the enflamed commentators would like to admit.
Accepting Pentecostal figures (even ones under the umbrella of the Anglican Church) in leadership positions in our nation is something we need to understand. These tend not to be regular churchgoers who practise a private faith. Pentecostal churches have a mission not compatible with secular society, and their agenda is the control (and purification) of all branches (or mountains) of the secular world.
Pentecostal churches have mostly embraced the Millennial ideology. This belief states that Christ is due to return to rule for a millennium’s rule. The only obstruction is the sinfulness of the world. Every choice nonbelievers make must be constrained to suit their stringent interpretation of Christian morals. Every climate catastrophe is merely proof that End Times are here and they need to impose their morality upon us even more urgently.
According to Pentecostal beliefs women ought to be in the home, breeding. Control of our own bodies or failure to be submissive to men, is abhorrent. There is no scope for LGBTQI people in this world. Any action or speech in support of equal existence for Queer people is sinful, even demonic.
In America, more politicians (or aspirants) are seeking to impose total bans on abortion, and even on contraception. More preachers are expressing the idea that LGBTQI people should not just be erased from public life but killed. The Supreme Court is working to assist these worldviews, and Republican politicians campaign on them.
If we are describing Thorburn’s decision to step down as being “cancelled,” it is much less obnoxious than the cancelling of women’s and LGBTQI equality. Furthermore, Pentecostalism is totally intolerant of the validity of other faiths. Only their own (often unhinged) beliefs are valid and moral. It is also, in its Western versions, entwined with White Supremacy. There is no tolerance in Pentecostal teachings for other cultures, with First Nations’ cultures taught to be demonic.
This is not to say that Andrew Thorburn himself holds to any of these views. Anglican Pentecostalism may be somewhat more moderate. The point stands, however, that Pentecostal leaders in the civic space are a new phenomenon in Australia and we need to understand what we take on when we accept their cry that we may not be “intolerant” of their beliefs.
We need to read Australian journalist Elle Hardy’s investigation into the Pentecostal movement, Beyond Belief. She illustrates the scope of the international threat posed by the fashion: not only are 25 to 30% of Christians around the world now Pentecostal, but it is growing fast. They are businesses – or grifts – as much as religious movements, promoting oppressive social beliefs and allied with many of the authoritarian regimes ascendant.
Pentecostalism is metastasising, and as with Thorburn’s church, is invading the traditional churches. Rural Catholics are being brought to Hillsong’s covert Alpha groups by their parish priest. In Nigeria, even some Mosques are adopting Pentecostal strategies. This lively, energetic form of worship is far more attractive than the pew-snoozing religion with which many Australians were raised.
The speed of the Pentecostal movement’s growth means we need to be informed. Scott Morrison’s intrusions of religion into parliament have raised the discussion, despite traditional journalists lagging behind the urgent need. We can no longer say that “a man’s faith is his own business” when that faith demands the imposition of intolerant rules on the secular majority.
While the Right bemoans that the majority is cancelling their Christianity, we must counter that argument. It is not a faith that gives you spiritual comfort and guidance that the majority questions. It is a faith that denies the rest of us our well-being that we cannot accept.
America is showing us that a liberal democracy can move quickly towards becoming an authoritarian theocracy when outlier ideas come to dominate “conservative” politics. The USA has granted Australia the time to see what the movement does to civil society, and to decide whether irritating the Right by being “intolerant” of intolerance is necessary.
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