It has often been said that we should not be afraid of a politician’s religious belief; that it is their private business and it should concern nobody else; after all, most Australian Prime Ministers have been adherents of one or other sect. However, never in my experience, have I seen anyone so dominated by their religious belief (Pentecostalism) as Scott Morrison.
Pentecostalism is not a church in itself, but a protestant movement that includes many different churches. Pentecostal churches base their theology on the text of the Bible which they believe to be the word of God and totally without error (!). Most Pentecostals think that their movement is returning to a pure and simple form of christianity that has much in common with the very early church. The Pentecostal movement’s foundation is usually taken to be the American Azusa Street revival in the first decade of the 20th century. However, its roots go back to the 18th century with such movements as the Wesleyan ‘Holiness’ tradition which was a reaction against the formality and ritualism of the traditional christian churches of the time1.
Pentecostalism believes in miracles, that their god can actively intervene in everyday life, transgressing the laws of physics to answer the prayers of a believer. Scott Morrison seemed to think that this was the reason for his re-election2, rather than the lies told and the nefarious activities undertaken by the Liberal Party during the election campaign as well as the lies in the Murdoch media3,4.
Pentecostalism believes in divine providence. According to that, all of history and all of the future is in the control of God. There are two types of providence, general providence, in which god keeps the universe ticking over, and special providence in which god intervenes in people’s lives2,5.
Pentecostalism believes in the actual existence of the devil (yes, seriously!)2. Morrison’s belief in the existence of the devil was clear when he referred to the ‘evil one’ in a speech he gave to the religious: “That’s why people start writing stupid things on Facebook and the internet, being disrespectful to one another and we all know how that is corroding and desensitising our country and our society, not just here but all around the world. I think it’s an evil thing. I think it’s a very evil thing and we’ve got to pray about it, we’ve got to call it out and we’ve got to raise our spiritual weapons against this because it’s going to take our young people. It’s going to take their [inaudible]. It’s going to take their hope. It’s going to steal their hope. We’ve got to pray about that, we’ve got to pray against that because it is such a corrosive thing that we’re seeing take place. Yeah, sure, if, social media has its virtues and its values and enables us to connect with people in ways we’ve never had before, terrific, terrific. But those weapons can also be used by the evil one and we need to call it out.”6
Pentecostalism is also exclusivist. An immediate personal connection with god is the exclusive property of those who are saved. This leads to a binary view of the world. There are the saved and the damned. Only those who have been saved (generally those who have been ‘born again’) have any hope of going to heaven. Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists, and non-born-again types are doomed to spend an eternity being tormented in hell2.
Pentecostalism believes the second coming of Jesus is imminent, something numerous religious people and groups have believed for well over a thousand years. As Morrison’s Horizon church says in their blurb: “We await the pre-tribulation rapture of the church, and we believe that the second coming of Christ with His saints to rule on the earth will be personal, pre-millennial, and visible.”7 They believe that their god has a divine plan for the end of everything. Premillennialism is a doctrine that is often mocked as the belief that “the end of the world is nigh”. Premillennialism says that things are getting steadily worse on earth and will go on deteriorating until their god has had enough and takes action in a way that will be catastrophic for humanity. Premillennialists believe the second coming of Jesus will begin the start of his 1000 year reign. However, they believe that before the second coming there will be the tribulation, a period of war, destruction and disaster, until god beats the ‘evil one’ in the Battle of Armageddon.8
The Rapture, another Pentecostal belief, is the event in which Jesus carries the faithful believers off to heaven before the Tribulation. The word, rapture refers to a “taking up” of christians, both alive and dead, at the return of Jesus. During the Millennium the ‘saved’ will remain in heaven, while god ‘works’ on earth.8
While such a series of beliefs would be entertaining when spouted by a bloke down the pub or on a street corner, Morrison is the Prime Minister and these beliefs colour every aspect of his performance in that role. His belief in the second coming and the tribulation are disturbing in the extreme. Premillennial beliefs affect the way believers behave. They believe that the important thing to do, is to prepare themselves for the end-time and to convert as many people as possible into righteous believers ready for the rapture. They don’t see much point in trying to improve the world, since their god is about to clean up the world by destroying it and then remaking it.8 This is why action to reduce carbon emissions to attempt to mitigate the environmental damage wrought by climate change may engender little interest with Morrison. If the end of the world comes through climate change and is part of the tribulation, there is precious little that we need to do about it, because god will fix it.2. What if Morrison actually believes this?
There has been much talk about an impending war with China, with people such as Coalition ministers, former ministers and departmental secretaries seemingly believing that it is inevitable9,10. What if Morrison believes a war presages the end-times and the second coming and is unconcerned if it should happen?
Given that Morrison clearly believes in miracles and the existence of the devil, what if he believes in all the other drivel of his church, and is just waiting for the end with open, welcoming arms?