Corinna Elaine, who spent nearly 40 years ensconced in the Pentecostal Christian faith, questions whether Scott Morrison will be able to lead Australia forward when his church believes the end of the world is nearly here.
TALKING IN TONGUES, hand-clapping and arm-waving are common sights on a Sunday morning at a Pentecostal Church and there’s no harm in that.
By now, most Australians have heard that our brand-new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is a Pentecostal Christian but, as to what that actually means it remains a bit unclear.
I’m not a Pentecostal research academic. I was, for close to 40 years, a Pentecostal. Born into it in the early 1970s, stayed in it during the '80s and '90s (my teens and university years), married in it (a Pentecostal wedding service to my Pentecostal husband) and had my children in the early 2000s.
A common perception of Pentecostals is that they are a friendly, accepting lot, with smiles and the love of Jesus for everyone. The footage of the Pastor from Horizon Church in Sydney (where the Morrisons attend) shows a man who completely lives up to the charismatic stereotype. Even his name, Brad Bonhomme, confirms he’s all that and more.
I can tell you, from my insider stand-point, all is not what it seems.
I’m not, for even one minute, saying that any Pentecostal from any denomination (there are a few varieties to try out) is not a loving, kind person but, this must be said, what you see – the hand-raising, funny talking, funky music – is all bit of a benign distraction. It’s the "white noise" effect.
May I be clear here, too, this article relates to Pentecostal churches (of which Horizon is one) that make up the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) — and there’s a swag of them – close to 1,000 churches – that come under the banner.
Members of the ACC are hardcore adherents of Pentecostal doctrine — a doctrine that differs from that of many other "mainstream" Christian churches (denominations like the Anglicans or Catholics, even the Baptists are seen as mainstream) and it goes a little something like this.
They believe in the literal interpretation of the Bible/scriptures including:
- an actual devil — it's in the Bible, so it’s true, as is Adam and Eve, the great flood, homosexuality being an abomination and sex before marriage being a sin, to name just a few;
- the divinity of Jesus and his ability to take them to Heaven;
- that to be a (genuine) Christian one must accept him into their life/heart as their "personal saviour";
- that they have to then die to all their own earthly desires, at which stage they become … "born-again";
- a Pentecostal Christian is an evangelical, evangelistic, born-again follower of Christ (Jesus);
- everyone who doesn’t accept Christ will go to Hell – forever, eternity, no exceptions, you can’t just not exist — its either Heaven or Hell; and
- anyone can talk to God and he can talk back (via ideas, or the Bible, through other people).
Pentecostals are really into the Holy Spirit (the third person in the mystical trinity), who came to Earth and manifested himself at Pentecost, right after Jesus’ death, resurrection and return to Heaven. In the gospels, it's recorded that he filled the believers (with himself), that tongues of fire appeared on their heads and he gave out "gifts". Pentecostals believe He is still here, still doing this.
"Prophecy" is when God speaks to a person/s via someone else. There are pretty strict rules about how this is to be done and it cannot contradict any scripture, but it's not too hard to imagine someone approaching the PM with a “word from the Lord” (yes, this sort of thing does happen) telling him that God thinks he’s a top bloke and that he should carry on with what he’s doing. Or, perhaps, that the end is nigh and he had better fulfil his Christian obligations. This really could happen.
A strong unwavering belief in "end times" doctrine. Pentecostals believe that Jesus died to forgive all your sins, then rose again (thereby defeating death and the devil) and is going to return and take all the Christians to heaven with him, leaving everyone else on Earth to be punished. This is referred to as the "rapture" and when I was taught about it, it nearly scared the "hell" out of me.
As an example (one that was shared with me when I was pretty young), this is a scenario of what could potentially happen. A non-Christian (or "wicked" person as the Bible describes them) might be driving along one day, just minding their own business and then blam! a really loud trumpet will sound and then bam! they’ll probably get run into by a driverless car, which, only seconds before had a driver but that driver has been "raptured" and Jesus (with no regard for the safety of other road-users) has taken this faithful Christian to heaven and left all the non-Christians behind.
After 1,000 years, Jesus returns to Earth, with all the good Christians. They get to be rulers over anyone’s offspring, who have somehow managed to survive after 1,000 years of excruciating punishment from the devil. But hear this, when they all return, Jesus creates a "new" Earth. This could go part-way into why a Pentecostal may not be too concerned with say, global warming, or even exploiting the Earth’s resources. What does it matter?
Many, many Pentecostal Christians believe that we are all living in the "end times" now. That Jesus’ return is imminent. If that’s the case, then why concern themselves with petty issues like non-coal-fired power options, protection of the Great Barrier Reef from on-going destruction, or even about a few hundred people incarcerated in inhumane conditions on an island somewhere?
This may be the most important question to be answered by our self-professed Pentecostal Prime Minister: Mr Morrison if you are a genuine believer, where does that leave the rest of us?
Corinna Elaine is a journalist and a former Pentecostal Christian.
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