With 18 000 weekend worshippers in Sydney, 35 million viewers around the world, and an annual turnover of 100 million, the Hillsong Church must be doing something right and we should listen when they say Hallelujah. The same goes for our leaders when they go there: who is so cynical as to say their pilgrimages to Baulkham Hills are made in search of votes, not grace?
It is because they believe that Christ came into the world to bear witness to the truth that Peter Costello and his colleagues are joining in the chorus of Psalm 20 and ‘Our God is an Awesome God’.
Okay, if that doesn’t seem plausible it could be that they have been moved by the words of one of the Hillsong pastors: ‘Let’s have an attitude of being appreciative of where we are because we know where we have come from, and let’s never fall into the trap of being satisfied with where we are at and stop growing.’ That’s one of the things they’ve done out at Hillsong: they’ve put religion into the language of the people.
Thanks to Hive
The founding pastor of Hillsong told the ABC the other night that he’d come to realise that it was okay for Christians to have material wealth. While there’s always been plenty of evidence in the world for this, you still have to look hard in the gospels for places where Christ says it.
Most of the time he seems to be saying that you should give it all away to the poor, that a camel has more hope of an afterlife than a rich man, and so on. And there was that episode when he was out of sorts with the temple management.
But if the Treasurer can call himself a Christian and still find a way to work in a government that has borne more false witness than any government since Federation, and made itself the tremulous handmaiden of the venal, lying Washington cabal, then the rest of us can surely see our Saviour’s hand in a healthy share portfolio and a 32 inch LCD TV.
The Treasurer reckons the Ten Commandments are the foundations of our civilisation. How he matches his job as Chief Executive of a free market economy to those Old Testament rules about not coveting anything which is thy neighbour’s and not worshipping graven images might puzzle the sort of people who as yet can’t be persuaded to join in the singing. How he reconciles it with the New Testament rules about the meek inheriting the earth and loving thy neighbour as thyself is also a challenge to people of little or uncertain faith. Plainly there are neighbours and there are neighbours and it takes a good Christian like the Treasurer to recognise them – to separate the wheat from the chaff, to use the sort of Old Testament metaphor he’d understand. The four gentlemen who took 80 million dollars in salaries from Macquarie Bank are neighbours and should be loved as if they were just like you or me.
The same goes for the NAB that stole roughly the same amount in fees from customers. You should love the NAB. Steve Vizard, however, is not a neighbour. Perhaps he is not meek enough.
It’s just possible that he’s taking Pascal’s wager, but more likely the Treasurer is doing nothing more complicated than signing up to the ageless hypocrisy that begins with recognising that for one reason or another God is necessary, and then finding evidence to suit the idea that he is also good.
In its mission statement Hillsong describes itself as a ‘Bible-based church, changing mindsets and empowering people to lead and impact in every sphere of life.’ Hillsong’s founders ‘believe that the Bible is God’s Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to everyday lives.’ Awesome. So when you join up to Hillsong you declare your belief in the literal truth of the Old Testament which – half a dozen passages excluded “ is a book of the darkest malevolence, brutality and nonsense. You also sign up to belief in heaven and hell: ‘We believe our eternal destination of either Heaven or hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ.’ Atheists and agnostics, get ready for eternal damnation. Likewise Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians and Muslims.
You might ask why our political leaders are so keen to be fundamentalists when fundamentalism is what we are said to be fighting. Muslims might see it as consistent with the ‘crusade’ that President Bush said we were on. They might imagine it gives substance to their belief that they are indeed at war with Christians and Jews. And believing they’re at war is almost certainly the essential precondition of recruiting young troops, including suicide bombers, to the struggle – and keeping their minds shut and imagining they can smell the perfume of heaven.
It’s a pity they caught our politicians unprepared and still firing the old belligerent salvos, but at last the American administration has realised that declaring a ‘war on terror’ was pure counter-productive folly. It is now a ‘global struggle against violent extremism’. Global SAVE. And hallelujah to that: but expect them to take a little longer to get the fundamentalist rhetoric and the egregious hypocrisy out of the system, especially when their most faithful ally is just getting the swing of it.
Peter Costello says it’s all about strength. He told Hillsong that nations needed to be strong and a nation gets strength from ‘the heart and commitment and the faith of its people.’ But – faith in what? Some of us remember young men in the sixties who went with faith in democracy and the domino theory to Vietnam; and others with faith in the class war and Mao Tse Tung. Like the soldiers in Iraq and the bombers from west Yorkshire they had enough faith to kill and be killed.
Hillsong mission statement: Click here
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