Pentecostal PM


It’s been an eventful week in Australian politics, with the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull being overthrown by a fringe, extreme element of his own party.

It wasn’t surprising. He has been a target of that group since he took the leadership from his predecessor, Tony Abbott, in a similar coup.

The main difference between the two leadership changes was that the first time the nation seemed to issue a huge sigh of relief, and Turnbull started his tenure as PM with very high approval ratings – a complete turnaround from Abbott’s then rapidly reducing approval among the electorate.

This time the electorate aren’t so happy about the change, and things didn’t go the way expected by the plotters against Turnbull. Their favoured candidate (the very unpopular Peter Dutton) failed in his bid to take over the leadership, and instead Scott Morrison won through as the “accidental Prime Minister”.

The result is perhaps one that many Australian evangelicals are seeing as a miracle. Morrison is a member of a Pentecostal,  evangelical church – the first Pentecostal Prime Minster in Australian history.

Watching him on TV, being sworn in last Friday night, it was easy to feel slightly optimistic…
…until, the political interviews began and his fellow Government members cut through that optimism with a slew of political obfuscation; basically regurgitating the same old rhetorical nonsense they’d been spouting for years.

Despite the alleged Pentecostal/ evangelical connections of the new Prime Minister, the message and the program of his party remains the same.

A telling part of the TV coverage on Friday night came when the studio reporters introduced a guest who had written a book about the religious beliefs of Australian Prime Minsters. Presumably they’d invited him to comment on the new PM’s religious faith, however, when the author started to address that very topic, pointing out that Morrison didn’t take a biblical direction with his social policy, he was cut off mid-sentence so they could take the audience to a reporter on location.
It seemed that something urgent needed to be reported, but that wasn’t the case. I suspect the mid-sentence switch was just an excuse to dismiss their guest when his commentary didn’t fit the kind of message they were wanting to  broadcast.

There seems to be a clear reluctance to broadcast anything purporting to be a biblical point of view, even by a guest invited to present a ‘religious’ viewpoint. And to be acceptable, any expressed religious view is expected to fit the pre-determined stereotypical expectations of the barely tolerant unbeliever.

 

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Some interesting reading related to Australia’s new “Christian” Prime Minister.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/31/australia-needs-a-moral-revolution

 

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25 thoughts on “Pentecostal PM

  1. … barely tolerant of what? Of bible believing? Of people who aren’t christian or Australian?

  2. While the new PM claims to be a believer (and the author was going to say otherwise)?

  3. The author was a believer and he was pointing out that the new PMs social beliefs deviate from biblical teaching.
    The believing author was cut off mid-sentence.

  4. I saw that the author got cut off (and tries to convey a comparison between bible views and views of prime ministers). I’m kinda frustrated that it’s a favorite tactic here in my country among religious people to poo-poo using the word “social.” Social biblical views? Why should we say that instead of just bible tennets (they say)? Social justice? How silly; only justice. But your new prime minister… so what is the difference between what he said that was hopeful and what the author says (or wanted to say) are the PMs actual views?

  5. Marleen, it was the fact that the author got cut off mid-sentence that was the main issue I was addressing in that part of my post.
    Someone who described himself as an evangelical Christian started to offer information regarding the bible was abruptly stopped from doing that – despite being invited on the show to speak about the PM’s religious views.

    As for references to “social” – I have been trying to put into words the content and context of a brief interrupted statement made by the guest without having access to a record of that statement. I’ve therefore had to rely on memory of something I wasn’t even aware at the time that I’d need to remember. The use of the word “social” could very well be mine and not a direct quote from that guest.
    The point of what that guest was saying was that a large chunk of the PMs philosophy regarding the treatment of the less fortunate in society was contrary to biblical standards regarding the way the less fortunate should be looked after.

    The new PM’s philosophy and the resulting policy outlook places the responsibility for the difficulties people experience entirely upon those people themselves.
    Basically if you’re struggling in life because of unemployment, get a job. If you’re employed and still struggling, get a better job.

    He speaks about wanting Australians to keep more of their earnings in their own pockets – without considering the vast inequity between the rates of pay people receive, where some earn less than $20 per hour while others can be paid hundreds and even thousands of dollars an hour – and he thinks it right that those on the lower end of the income scale pay the same proportion of their income in tax as those on the higher end.

    While some people work multiple jobs and can’t make ends meet, others are paid more in an hour than some receive for a whole week or month.
    The latter are seen as being more worthy, giving others something to aspire towards, and if that aspiration isn’t achieved…?

    Today I saw an interesting article that addresses the PMs religious beliefs. It written by someone I would have considered to be antagonistic towards religion, but in that article she is reasonably restrained, and she makes valid points about the PM’s prosperity gospel background (see link to article below).
    The comments afterwards by readers tend to be the usual ignorant, mocking, anti-Christian comments I’ve come to expect on that particular site.

    (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/29/the-prosperity-doctrine-and-neoliberal-jesusing-scott-morrison-style )

  6. I really did understand that the main issue is the author got cut off. I was curious to get at more details anyway. I then didn’t mean to seem and say that the author necessarily used the word social at some point on the television himself, but now — with your illustrations of what the PM stands for — those are an aspect of the kinds of things the people I was referring to here mean by the word. It often seems to me sort of a gimmick on their part (likely some realizing consciously and some not quite realizing)… that they want to play games with the word in order to have a way to escape facing what people are concerned about. They would say taxing people with less money at a lower rate would be giving them extra favors rather than fairness or anything like an equality chance. (And they don’t particularly like the words fair or equal either.)

  7. That was a really good Guardian article. (I’ve not read any of the comments yet.)
    Really well done all the way through, maybe the best I’ve seen. [I didn’t understand
    why some wording about stab wounds was at the end, too extreme as metaphor.]

  8. The stab wounds were a reference to the previous PM being “stabbed in the back” by his party, particularly those who had only a day or two before pledged their support of him.

    Also I suppose a potential reference to Julius Caesar and his demise. In the press here there were a few Et Tu Brute references made when reporting the events.

  9. I guess I ought to take on how shocking the whole situation has been to you guys. I feel like our western style (for want of a better term) civilizations are on the verge of having had enough of lucrative “jesusing” as a supposed faith or, alternatively, as anything practical like thinking wishes into being. We’ve been putting up with it for a long while here, so it can seem like we’re stuck with it. And maybe we don’t respond so much with shock as with annoyance (a significant but insufficient reaction to the wrong). Yeah, and you had this extra dimension of trickery foisted upon you. The man sounds truly horrible… in this latest dishonesty and in other matters.

  10. I said: We’ve been putting up with it for a long while here… maybe we don’t respond … And by these things I was referring to my country. Do you think it is the case that it (neoliberalism/proseperity-jesusing) has been in the U.S. longer?

    I saw an interview yesterday with a young woman running for mayor of San Francisco. And she said our budget used to have more for HUD (housing and urban development) than for war (that’s not the word she used, but I don’t remember what word of phrase she used, you understand what I mean). She referred to our hey-day as 1940-1980. With Reagan, Bush, AND Bill Clinton, that changed drastically, with HUD being cut and the homeless population growing alarmingly. People who vote Republican are perpetually incensed, and they don’t put these facts together. They blame “the left” for people wandering the streets with no homes.

    They, further, equate Democrat and “progressive” — which is not (starting especially with the Clintons), I repeat not, the same.

  11. The man sounds truly horrible…

    The new PM is perhaps the “better” option* that was on offer when the old PM chose not to recontest his position. The man who instigated the challenge failed in his attempt to take over. The man who won the party room ballot was the old PMs favoured candidate who had remained faithful to the old PM until he stood down.

    The initial challenger is currently under scrutiny for some of the decisions he made as Immigration Minster, as well as there being questions about his family business receiving millions of dollars from the Government.

    * Or as some have expressed it, “the least worst option”.

  12. Neoliberalism seems to have gained a broad foothold around the same time, in the US through Regan, in the UK through Thatcher, and got a toehold in Australia with the Labor Govt of the time. Later Australian Govts increased that influence. As for the religious component of that, the US more or less has a monopoly on religious views swaying the direction of Govts.

    In Australia as a whole, if a major politician pushed a religious agenda it would probably be his/her downfall.
    The new PM is known to belong to a Pentecostal church, but apart from his maiden speech in Parliament he hasn’t made an issue of it. The majority of people who seem to make a big issue of his religion are those who try to use it to mock him, with derogatory references to “happy clapping” and speaking in tongues. I think those people not only oppose his politics but are also hostile to Christianity.

  13. I remember Thatcher, of course. I haven’t been very familiar with Australian politics. (Except I knew you guys have been our allies.) I’ve learned a little bit from what you share. And I agree with this additional author that heartless policies call into question where a nation is going. Right now, we have children in cages too, and our government has created orphans (as there are no plan by those actually responsible to resolve the situation when they had actually hoped no one would see all this as a problem). And our president (along with his fans) demonstrate no heart for victims of hurricanes in Puerto Rico (as compared to when disaster happens in Texas or Florida, although the island is part of our nation. Religious people either ignore this or are somehow (I would say due to their religious leaders) not getting the news of don’t care. I have to wonder. If happy clapping isn’t good for anything, what is it good for?

  14. (slightly revised final paragraphs)

    This probably goes to Marleen’s frustration with terms like “social” gospel: as if the gospel can somehow be divorced from the idea that it is for PEOPLE. And so we get a Christianity (and Christians, and “Christian nations”) that believes being HUMANE is no part of Jesus’ teachings.

    The Manus Island internee’s comments in the Guardian seem spot-on. And it may be particularly telling that a (presumably) non-Christian points out the basic hypocrisy of anti-humanitarian government, and those whom that government supposedly represents.

    The US is more blameworthy on that score, since (many of) our politicians more loudly and insistently proclaim this a “Christian nation” than Australian politicians would ever dare. But isn’t it an inherent principle of any “western-style” or democratic system that government should do GOOD for people; that government’s basic purpose is “humanitarian” ?

    The hypocrisy is all the greater for professedly Christian politicians or nations, since God mandates that human authorities be His “ministers” in doing good to people (Romans 13:4). But the attack on that principle has been widespread throughout “western” society since Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural characterization of government as evil (“government is the PROBLEM !”…which also turns the basic idea of “democracy”…that “the people” are the government…on its head).

    The Manus Island writer also makes a telling point that Australia (government and people)’s stance toward its “least of these” impacts them: that “Manus Prison is having a destructive effect on Australia’s political culture.” In those moral terms, the saying in the US during slavery days was that “the chains of slavery are heavy on both ends.” The US is proof that a nation’s inhumanity can still weigh on it a century and a half later.

    BLESSING to all here !

  15. Hi Steve,
    Your quote from Reagan has echoes in a similar statement from Margaret Thatcher, about the being “no such thing as society” – basically removing Government from any responsibility for those not able to take care of all of their personal and family needs.
    Their philosophy is based on the idea that everyone has equal opportunity to prosper, and if someone doesn’t it’s their own fault. There’s an insistance that taking away aid forces the needy to step up and start the path to personal prosperity.

    My use of the word “social policy” was in regard to political ideals contray to that Reaganist/Thatcherite ideolgy. I can’t see how any Christian politician can subscribe to such anti-Government, society denying philosophy.

    I see there is a strong explanation for that kind of ideology and it comes down to which side of the Matt 6:24 equation a person chooses.

    No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

    I believe the Reagan/Thatcher/Neoliberal philosophy clearly falls on the “money side”.

    When the word “social” is added as a prefix to “gospel” – you are right in what I think you suggest, that it creates an impression that being humane is at best some kind of optional extra to the Christian’s life – as if there’s another kind of gospel in which concern for and aid to those in need isn’t necessary.

  16. My experience in people rejecting the terminologies social gospel and social justice is that people who reject that wording also reject government being humane or concerned, other than [possibly with a smile] on some distant level where the good (so goes the thinking) in lazy (or, slightly more “charitably” [not in the usual sense of charity but in the sense of not being quite so harsh], they might be called something else by such people) “takers” or the needy is spurred in the way you’ve described.

    Aside from that experince, I’m beginning to pick up that the terminology of liberation theology (or gospel) travels with those who are more concerned about others — largely because there was gospel in this country while there was also slavery and the accompanying worship of mamon. Since that was called gospel, there had to be a differentiation. Perhaps social justice or social gospel developed as meaningful wording after slavery was abolished but there still wasn’t freedom and fairness.

    But there was, just as now, a cohort of people against fairness who called themselves by the Lord’s name. Thus, the need to clarify what sort of good news… what sort, indeed, of gospel ought really to be proclaimed. Do we want the kind that says there is no society? Do we want the kind that says it was an unfortunate let’s say blip that there was wanton misuse of human neighbors and household members but that the philosophy of rabid accumulation at others’ expense is sound?

  17. Must admit, I’d never heard that quote from Mrs. Thatcher. Reading her full comment, and other context, it’s probably somewhat less shocking than it seemed originally: but still in essence “anti-social,” and deeply revealing about the kind of politics embraced by Mrs. Thatcher and Mr. Reagan.

    Had occasion even yesterday in Sunday School to quote God’s contrary characterization of human government (which, from The King of all things, is absolutely definitive) in Romans 13:3-4: “…rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority ? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is A MINISTER OF GOD TO YOU FOR GOOD. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is A MINISTER OF GOD, an avenger WHO BRINGS WRATH ON THE ONE WHO PRACTICES EVIL.” (my emphasis)

    God’s mandate to human government is that it execute His moral law, and act in HIS CHARACTER: doing good, and punishing evil. It seems a basic tenet of “conservativism,” wherever found, that God is wrong in His first mandate to government.

  18. Overall, I disagree with him (or as he indicated, them — as I take it he speaks for a them)… on both general doctrine or perspective on faith or bible and his portrayal of social justice. I’d venture to say this is how conservatives want anything referred to as social justice seen (they want to own the English wording and reject it). Ironic, by the way.

  19. Personally I have reservations about anything he says, McArthur is an extreme Calvinist and as a devoted cessationisy is a debunker of the gifts of the Spirit.

  20. Steve said:

    And it may be particularly telling that a (presumably) non-Christian points out the basic hypocrisy of anti-humanitarian government, and those whom that government supposedly represents.

    The US is more blameworthy on that score, since (many of) our politicians more loudly and insistently proclaim this a “Christian nation” than Australian politicians would ever dare. But isn’t it an inherent principle of any “western-style” or democratic system that government should do GOOD for people; that government’s basic purpose is “humanitarian” ?

    The hypocrisy is all the greater for professedly Christian politicians or nations, since God mandates that human authorities be His “ministers” in doing good to people (Romans 13:4). But the attack on that principle … turns the basic idea of “democracy”…that “the people” are the government…on its head

    That IS where we are! Many who seem less Christian according to our habits and many people who don’t claim Christian and may even eschew it, have every right to tell all. The “new testament” is quite intense, and we are in such a state of prophetic warning.

    Onesimus, Steve also said: … widespread throughout “western” society since Ronald Reagan’s first Inaugural characterization of government as evil …

    Compare, you said: As for the religious component of that, the US more or less has a monopoly on religious views swaying the direction of Govts.

    In Australia as a whole, if a major politician pushed a religious agenda it would probably be his/her downfall.
    The new PM is known to belong to a Pentecostal church, but apart from his maiden speech in Parliament he hasn’t made an issue of it.

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