Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Would You Buy Salvation From These People?

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Blessed Be, Brian and Bobbie.

I tuned into Australian Story last night and there they were, the Houstons of Hillsong.

In true AS style the documentary remained impartial, allowing Brian, Bobbie and other senior HS pastors and gospel singers to tell their own story in their own time. The back story showed the young lovers from when they first met in the late 70s (in some circles, say, the particularly pious ones, a 20y.o man chasing after a girl who had not yet turned 17 might not be considered entirely kosher) when he was the big-eyed crusader on a mission.

Talk about mission accomplished. Hillsong has a flock of 18,000 lost lambs and Brian's preaching is broadcast in, if you believe him, over 160 countries (although if you want to believe Jana Wendt, it's more like 120. Still, pretty impressive either way). Total HS income for 2004 was "around 40 million". Hillsong's Baulkham Hills centre looks less like a church than a sports stadium and its 2004 conference at Sydney's SuperDome attracted grovelling pollies from both sides, marvelling at the 20,000+ shiny, happy, tasty, fertile young voters - er, Christians.

And Hillsong, indeed Australian pentecostalism, is clearly a growing market, so it's sensible politics to be a friend to the JC pop stars. As well as sneaking through one of its shepherds to the Senate on the totally non-religiously-affiliated,-religion?-never-heard-of-it political party, Family First, it also got a lower house rep in with one of its counsellors, Louise Markus, winning the western Sydney seat of Greenway from the ALP.

Quote Brian: I don't see my role as being political. I think people get very hysterical about Christians when it comes to politics. I see it as being hypocritical actually, because if someone comes to me, Louise Marcus came to me, I've known Louise 20 years, and she said she wanted to stand for pre-selection in Greenway here in the western suburbs of Sydney. I encouraged her and supported her, but I would give her the same support regardless of party politics, because I believe in her. It's about the person. But it's a funny thing, Christians going into politics, it's like, the church in politics. If a gay person went into politics, or a Muslim goes into politics, I imagine there'd be a huge uproar if someone said that, but the moment a Christian goes into politics, it's like they're the only people who can't have any input into the future direction of the country. And I refuse to accept that.

Well actually, the Labor candidate Markus defeated was in fact Muslim, and I think you'll find there's no constitutional separation of Gay and State as there is with the church, so if it's hysterical to wish to defend one of the cornerstones of Australian democracy then away I will shriek and squeal.

And what's the Hillsong - sorry, Family First take on homos? Tricky one to determine solely on their available policies, although there's a clue with their conclusion that "Family grows out of heterosexual relationships between men and women". So apologies to all you poofs and dykes out there raising children through turkey basters or IVF, obviously those kids are shadowy figments of your imagination. Oh, and remember that election last year (if you're like me, you drink to forget)? Well FF gave its preferences in that election to all but two Coalitionists - one being Warren Entsch, the member for Leichhardt who, somewhat surprisingly for a Queensland rural Liberal, spoke against his party's "offensive" gay marriage ban; the other being Ingrid Tall, the openly lesbian candidate for Brisbane whom one FF spokesperson said on radio was not conducive to family values. Clearly, however, Ross "cheat on my wife while she's pregnant with my child" Cameron was, that's why he got their preferences while Tall did not. Arguably a moot point as neither, thankfully, won their seats - indeed, FF only received a fairly pissy less than 2% of the primary vote in that election but thanks to our good mates at the ALP, got a senator across on their preferences.

I digress from Brian and Bobbie, who of course have nothing to do with FF.

Ignoring this threat to freedom in the hope it will go away is not the way to go. The Houstons are undeniably charismatic and marketable, Hillsong is growing in numbers, politically popular and its growing army is young, with many years of voting ahead of them.

What we can hope, dare I say, pray for, is that Brian and Co will go the way of the American evangelists of the 1980s/90s and be exposed for the frauds they are. In her own inimitable style, Aunty winked at us after AS with this little tidbit moments before the rolling credits:

Brian and Bobbie Houston's earnings from all sources, including Hillsong Church, are paid into the not-for-profit Leadership Ministries Incorporated (LMI), which funds ministry and charitable work.

Brian Houston says LMI is his only source of income.

The NSW Office of Fair Trading said tonight it has never received an annual statement from LMI and "will be in contact with them to determine their status and request lodgement of the outstanding statements".

Houston is a calculating, diabolical genius, however, and has had years to master effective hiding of his assets and additional revenue. When you're generating millions in revenue selling so many books and CDs - 60% of which, Houston assures us, "goes towards helping people directly through our programs and our ministries and so on, 28% of that has gone into buildings and facilities, which ultimately also are about the people, because you have to house all those people somewhere. And then the other 12% goes towards general administration and the running of the ministry" - you're probably quite adept at creative accountancy, even if you work so hard to come across as the "aww shucks, l'il old me?" humble servant of God image Houston promotes.

But that's Hillsong in a nutshell - image triumphing over reality. As one of his own children (who, sadly, was a bit of a cutey when not espousing brainwashed propaganda) assured us last night, his father is not the fire-and-brimstone type. Of course, it's not true, and no amount of singing, dancing and arm-raising to the heavens can gloss over the fact that Hillsong is the sweet new face of hate. Like Miranda Devine or Kate from Big Brother, sometimes the prettiest are the most dangerous, precisely because their aesthetically-pleasing veneer can be so seductive and hypnotic, concealing their true evil agenda.

Hillsong: Watch this space.


At 2/8/05 1:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best post ever - I'd only question the idea of Brian as marketable. He looks like an ugly Nicolas Cage and what's with his strangled voice? My favourite bit of AS was watching him and the little lady sing and dance in an incredibly daggy way, as well as the so-called rock bit where all of the dorky teenagers were jumping up and down at the same time. That's what passes for "cool christianity", I guess, thousands of geeks reaffirming each other's existances.

At 2/8/05 3:05 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hillsong church was embarrassed a few weeks ago by a link to the Firepower ministries in the US. This is an extreme group (aren't they all) that believes in the power of prophecy, wants to outlaw same sex marriage, abortion, stem cell research and euthanasia. Hillsong wishes to present a softer pentacostal face to its believers. I gather the program was recorded before this news item was published which was a shame. I'd like to know how close this link really is. JT.

At 3/8/05 1:34 am, Blogger mikey said...

Damn! I missed this and I really wanted to see it. Stupid Big Brother.

Anybody who thinks they are going to become wealthy and "saved" (from what? being well-adjusted?) by donating large sums of money to HS is asking to be ripped off.

HS and dodginess go hand in glove. I will be surprised if there ISN'T some scandal involving the Houstons ripping off people in the near future.

At 3/8/05 12:34 pm, Anonymous Bazza (Crows are No.2) said...

The good news is the Tax guys are investigating the Hillsong love children

At 8/8/05 1:14 am, Anonymous outofctrl said...

I think that people should be free to practice a religion of their own choosing. However it's sheer arrogance for someone to assume that society would be better off if his/her religious beliefs were written into legislation and imposed on the entire nation.

Keep religion out of politics, I say.

At 13/2/08 11:15 am, Blogger Sheriya T said...

Mercy ministries, drug rehabilitation centres, counselling...yet it doesnt really matter how much good people are doing..

At 12/3/08 8:07 am, Anonymous Shonda Cluff said...

Well, well . I thought i would put my 2 cents in also. I am a straight Christian, oops sorry this may be a bad word for you. But God LOVES ALL HOMOSEXUALS AND LESBIANs. Just as much as he loves ALL STRAIGHT people. Amazing hunh. Yet, the reality is God HATES SIN!!!. Though I may not always agree with all christian affiliates I do believe and support the Bible. So yes Salvation is for all! And Hell is real and so are demons.Alot of things are not looked on spiritually but there totally is a religious undercurrent with all sins, alcoholism,lust, and lust covers alot. Everyone states a seperation of church and state but people this country was started under God and under religious convictions or we would all be one big ENGLAND and all catholic DUH!!!!!

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