Morrison is our most religious prime minister where non-belief is growing faith
As church attendance in Australia declines, its prime minister, who bothers God, declares that he is there to do God’s work.
There has never been a prime minister more religious than Scott Morrison. We have known for a long time that he is a pious Pentecostal, a devotee of Horizon Church (née ShireLive) in Sutherland, and we met his wife Jenny at a Christian camp when they were teenagers.
But yesterday we had a surprisingly clear insight in Morrison’s religiosity after a video of his impromptu speech at the Australian Christian Churches conference was posted online. He says there that he was called to do “the work of God” in Australia. He speaks out against the evils of social media and identity politics, and describes literally getting a hold of people and praying for them – seemingly without their knowledge.
To the audience of loyal Pentecostals gathered at the Gold Coast conference last week, the speech was a thief of spectacle. But in a secular Australia, where church attendance is declining and where we generally expect our leaders to maintain their religiosity toned down, Morrison’s speech struck a chord.
What he believes
From Morrison invited the media to his church during the 2019 election campaign, and later called his shock victory a “miracle”, he kept his religious and political lives relatively separate.
But those worlds collided in his speech last week.
In a rambling and often heated address, he praised the “growing group of Canberra believers” for providing “encouragement and fellowship” to one another, described social media as the work of the “evil one” and denounced the “Absolutely corrosive”. The impact of identity politics, which he said divided society into warring tribes.
“They [people] see themselves as the things they can describe and bring them together with others, ”he said. “Her ancestry, her gender, where you come from. If you’re from the Shire, well that’s great, you start before everyone else.
“But people tend not to see and value themselves.”
He then described engaging in the Pentecostal practice of “laying on of hands” by praying for people in disaster centers by touching them.
“I’ve been in evacuation centers where people thought I was just hugging someone, and I prayed, and I put my hands on people… laying my hands on them and praying in various situations,” he said.
Things got even more bizarre when he described having had some sort of epiphany while viewing a photo of an eagle at the Ken Duncan Gallery on the Central Coast during the 2019 campaign.
“The message I got that day was, ‘Scott you have to Classes in order not to get tired, you must market in order not to faint, you must spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle.
What does all this mean?
Pentecostals are one of the fastest growing religious denominations in the world, but church attendance is still declining in Australia. In the 2016 census, just over half of the countries identified themselves as Christians, up from 88% 50 years earlier. About 30% identified without religion.
And we are, legally speaking, a secular country. Section 116 of the constitution prevents the Commonwealth from legislating to establish a religion or prohibit the free exercise of a religion.
But Morrison’s speech was not aimed at atheists or unbelievers. Nor was it an attempt to impose his religious will on the country. It was a message targeted with laser-like precision on the narrow band of Pentecostals who constitute a small but influential fringe of the evangelical movement.
Clinical social worker and former evangelical initiate Josie McSkimming said the talk was absolutely ‘crowd-pleasing’. Many of Morrison’s claims, seemingly strange to outsiders, had more deeply coded meanings familiar to those in the Pentecostal world. His warnings on social media and identity politics, for example, remind believers of the primacy of Jesus.
“It’s about saying that people are valued in Jesus and in the church community rather than in the LGBT community or whatever identity you might have,” McSkimming said.
“Social media can be used to undermine the core message of the gospel, and that message is your value is in Christ.”
Morrison’s references to the laying on of hands, a strange border crossing for foreigners, is common practice among Pentecostals who believe believers can use the gift of the Holy Ghost.
“He sees himself as being able to be used by God in this way,” McSkimming said.
And for those outside the church, the talk gives us a kind of guide to Morrison’s true worldview, the beliefs he has deeply about life, morality, and faith when he’s not playing. not in front of the cameras.
“He said, unless you are a Christian and have faith in Christ, you are used by the evil one. It’s his view of the world, ”said McSkimming.
“This worldview is this: We are going to Heaven, and you are not.”
Does Morrison’s faith put him at odds with the rest of the country? Write to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say section.