I must be in a serious mood this weekend. Lots of thoughts flowing between the ears (Amazing since there isnt much else in there). One of the commenters on this blog is a cleric. He’s a Minister in the
I am not religious. I was raised an Anglican, the Church of England variety and completed all the usual sacraments. I taught Sunday School in my teens and enjoyed the social side of church life, particularly in
My mother was a Welsh Evangalist, quite religious but searching for a Church that suited her so we were dragged through the Baptist, Methodist, Wesley and numerous other breakaways in the hope of finding an ‘appropriate’ venue for my mother to Worship. None really worked for her and our churchgoing life was suspended. My father was Church of England and highly principled yet the Priest who attended him during his dying days was the son of a beloved friend and a Catholic, he always considered himself a non-denominational Christian. I married a Catholic and whilst I didn’t convert, I became accustomed to attending Mass and raised both children through the Catholic Education System as promised. I studied Judaism at University and attended the Great Synagogue on several occasions and dabbled as one does in Buddhism many years ago. So, I’ve had some pretty wide exposure to organised religion. Whilst I don’t believe in God in the traditional sense, and I have great scepticism about the e Church at large, I have deep respect for organisations such as the Salvation Army, St Vincent DePaul, Anglicare and similar philanthropics that do great work for the marginalised, underprivileged and the needy. So, why am I so down on the God Squad? Well I'm not. It's just this particular branch of pentacostal ratbags for whom I have no respect.
About 500metres from my leafy little enclave of acreage, suburbia is encroaching. At the end of our road is a large shopping centre, an ice skating rink, a light industrial park (offices and the like) a Convention Centre and the “Till on the Hill”. This is the Australian Headquarters of the Christian Life Centre – Hillsong. Inspired originally by an ex-pat Kiwi, it is an evangelical and pentacostal religious organisation.
They attract their parishioners very cleverly by offering an alternative to the conventional, a new age bible, rock and roll services, merchandising, counselling, medical centres, youth and women’s conventions and a focus on becoming wealthy through knowing God. It’s a safe place for younglings who have not yet forayed into the sinful world of sex, drugs and Saturday night binge drinking. It’s somewhere kids can go before they terrorise the streets on their P plates and it obviously fills a void that conventional Churches have been so far unable to do.
So what’s the harm? They believe in a benevolent and forgiving God. Hillsong's A-Z service delivery is immense, offering something for everyone from medical practices and psychiatric counselling to coffee shops. They encourage moral behaviour, no sex before marriage, respect for God and each other. They’re normal law abiding citizens, bringing religion into the modern age and believe that living your life blessed is better than living your life rich – or do they?
It is all about money and control. They preach that the more successful and wealthy you are, the better equipped you are to support the fiscal needs of the church and their work. They have commercialised religion beyond its biblical simplicity and now have a tangible, strong, influential and fully emerged business and political influence. Ironic that their medical and psychiatric practices have the pseudonym “Emerge”. The atmosphere during services is unrestrained, friendly and emotional, the responses loud and heartfelt. Hillsong promotes that God wants people to live "healthy and prosperous lives in order to help others more effectively". It is a message of "personal effectiveness" so people can make a bigger difference to the world. They are more like an Anthony Robbins motivational conference than a Church gathering.
At last count there were 1100 Assemblies of God churches in
“Our commitment is that we will give the greater of either 10 per cent or the first $500,000 of the Miracle Offering.
10% well that was big of them - taking the term tithe literally I note. What about the other 90%! They raised $7.2 million! Oh and they can pay via cash, cheque or credit card. I am not averse to fundraising for charitable causes all Churches do it . . . but little is said about the charitable causes and in this case, so little is actually contributed . . . most is sunk into the purchase of valuable land and the building of megalithic facilities and the establishment of new businesses, not to mention lining the pockets of its initiators, Brian and Bobbie Houston.
"If you believe in Jesus," says Hillsong’s leader Brian Houston, "He will reward you here on earth as well as in Heaven”. It is this prosperity gospel teaching that puts him at odds with conventional religious leaders.
And don’t even get me started on Bobbie Houston’s philosophy on women. Young Hillsong women go to high schools to teach female students about make-up and skin care. Fat is out. Do some exercise. Bobbie Houston (the wifey poo) "If I carry weight I feel like a retard.” (I was unaware that being intellectually challenged was linked to weight gain) ... And then there’s this – “How are you going to do anything to surprise your man when you need a hydraulic crane just to turn over in bed?" She also recommends having plastic surgery, if it makes you feel better and it is for the right reasons, and "girls, pelvic floor exercises - can you believe I am saying this? - you know, I have heard that orgasm is not as strong if you are really sloppy in that area". and on her CD She Loves and Values Her Sexuality. Which is all about ‘catching a man’. If you don't look great, you won't get a decent looking husband and, if you already have one, to quote Bobbie, “he'll leave you!”
Tomorrow I will post something funny . . . promise!