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'Getting a go', Pentecostal Prime Minister-style

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Prime Minister Morrison sings and claps enthusiastically at a Pentecostal mass, Horizon Church, Sydney (Screenshot via YouTube)

If you are not of Morrison’s faith, your Prime Minister believes you will endure eternal damnation in a lake of fire and brimstone. This is a literal belief — it is not a metaphor, writes Dr Jennifer Wilson

PRIME MINISTER Scott Morrison made two noteworthy acknowledgements of his religious faith during the recent election campaign.

The first was when he invited the media to film him and his wife at prayer in their Horizon Pentecostal Church in South Sydney.

The second was his moment of triumph on election night when he claimed his victory was a “miracle”.

Morrison jubilantly testified before the assembled Liberal crowd, “I have always believed in miracles", while his wife, Jenny, could be seen behind him affirming his sentiment.

The word “miracle” could be explained as a metaphor commonly used to describe an entirely unexpected and highly beneficial event, however, for a Pentecostal Christian, a miracle is not metaphorical but literal. Pentecostals believe God works miracles in the present. It is a tenet of the faith that God will show himself to the faithful in concrete ways, in the here and now.

The Prime Minister was undoubtedly using the term literally and in the context of his faith. His victory was framed as sacred, one that had nothing to do with a profane and profoundly dishonest campaign. Neither, in the narrative of miracles, was his win assisted by the morally corrupt tactics of Clive Palmer and the support of the racist Pauline Hanson. It was God’s miracle, bestowed upon the PM as a reward for his faith and his financial donations to his church.

The Pentecostals exhort:

“Speak your faith and start seeing miracles.”

Or as one of the founders of the Prosperity Theology favoured by Morrison’s church, Charles Fillmore, expressed it in 1936, rewriting the 23rd Psalm to better suit his purpose:

"The Lord is my banker/my credit is good.”

In a piece titled 'Was religion a sleeper issue that contributed to a Labor Party loss', the ABC’s Religion and Ethics Report details the following data:

In three marginal Queensland seats retained by the Government – Forde, Leichhardt, and Bonner – the number of Pentecostal Christians – and remember Scott Morrison’s a Pentecostal – is between 50 and 80 per cent higher than the state average. These are not seats affected by the proposed Adani coal mine. In the bell-weather New South Wales seat of Lindsay, the number of Pentecostals is more than 50 per cent higher than the State average.

While it’s not yet feasible to suggest religion was a major player overall in the election outcome, it should certainly be acknowledged as a growing influence in our politics. Morrison’s victory will be seen by Pentecostals globally, as well as locally, as a victory for their faith and a validation of their beliefs. It’s also reasonable to assume it will encourage a membership surge in Pentecostal churches. His victory can certainly be taken as proof of his much-mocked slogan, “If you have a go, you get a go”.  

One of the more alarming tenets of the Prime Minister’s faith is that God has chosen some of us to be saved, and some of us to be consigned to hell. Only the born again can aspire to salvation. You can only be "saved" by Jesus. The rewards for seeking and receiving salvation are, in Pentecostal theology, materially expressed, thus material success is a signifier of God’s favour. Those not blessed with material success are held to be responsible for their own plight. Perceived failures of the individual are held to cause poverty — and structural inequality is not considered to play any part.

Belief in the Pentecostal God leads to financial success, however, while there are many wealthy people who do not share the Pentecostal faith, their wealth will do them no good in the after-life because they lack belief. This apparent contradiction in Pentecostal theology is a mystery to this writer. How the non-believing wealthy attain their wealth remains unexplained.

None of this religiosity augurs well for poor and disadvantaged Australians, asylum seekers and refugees. When your Prime Minister believes you are disadvantaged because God has given up on you, he’s hardly likely to go out of his way to ensure you’re taken care of. Indeed, your Prime Minister needs the poor and disadvantaged as symbols of the godlessness against which he and his fellow believers may measure their success.

It makes sense to such a man to give more to the deserving rich and he will take from the undeserving poor in order to be able to do that.

As Michael West suggests:

'The elation in the big business community over the election result comes down to the expectation that they can now more easily exert their influence over policy; keeping wages and corporate taxes lower.'

In the tortuous Pentecostal prosperity theology, God is not love, God is financial success. If you aren’t prosperous, it’s because you’ve failed to adequately affirm yourself as prosperous. “Speak it into being,” the Church exhorts — because positive affirmation is your duty, required of you by God.  

The toxic masculinity of neoliberalism meets the toxic masculinity of evangelical religion. Scott Morrison is the poster boy for both. Indeed, he is a new global Messiah of prosperity theology. This dark marriage of religion and capitalism is founded on exclusivity, exceptionalism and entitlement, quite contrary, one might argue, to every exhortation expressed by Jesus in his mission to spread love and equality. It’s a marriage that holds great appeal for those among us who vote for their individual benefit while ignoring the inconvenient reality that we live in a society.

That spiritual blessings are only legitimate when materially expressed is something of an inversion of the traditional Christian message. It is, however, Scott Morrison’s message — and it’s a message that should cause us deep concern.

But wait, there’s more. Not only is Morrison compelled by his faith (and personal neoliberal predilection) to regard the disadvantaged as undeserving and responsible for their own misfortune, he is also obliged to believe they will be consigned to everlasting punishment for their wickedness. Everlasting punishment in this instance consists of eternal torment, in a lake that burns with fire and brimstone.

As Morrison’s Horizon Church group, Australian Christian Churches states on its website:

We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation (Matthew 25:46; 13:49-50; Luke 12:47-48; Romans 6:23; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9; Revelation 20:11-15).
 

We believe that the devil and his angels and whoever is not found written in the book of life shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (Revelation 19:20; 20:10-15).

Such beliefs sound grotesquely fantastical and it is difficult to believe any adult of sound mind can embrace them. This leads us to the serious consideration of whether or not Morrison is capable of properly carrying out his obligations as leader of this country.

A prime minister must lead his government in a style of governance that benefits all Australians. Morrison’s core beliefs are the antithesis of liberal democracy. If you are not of Morrison’s faith, your Prime Minister believes you will endure eternal damnation in a lake of fire and brimstone. This is a literal belief — it is not a metaphor. Morrison is governing for Pentecostals. He is not and cannot govern for those who do not share his faith, and remain true to that faith.

If you look at what Morrison is required by his religion to believe it is starkly clear that he is unfit to lead this country. He is obviously prepared to compromise his religious beliefs enough to present himself as an “ordinary man” — if we assume “ordinary men” do not believe their fellow humans are condemned to an afterlife of torment in a lake of fire and brimstone. His church is willing to permit these compromises, no doubt for their perceived greater good.

Morrison is the first Pentecostal world leader, and there can be no doubt of the significance of this for the global cult. However, Morrison cannot, given the rules of his cult, serve two masters — and he has been elected to serve Australians.

You can follow Dr Jennifer Wilson on her blog No Place for Sheep or on Twitter @NoPlaceForSheep.

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