It isn't news that Hillsong was founded by a pervert.
That story has long done the rounds, occasionally picked up, more often dropped, by the mainstream media, though the Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse is now generating headlines of the Hillsong founder 'told man his father sexually abused it was victim's fault' kind.
What's generally fascinated the mainstream media has been the megachurch trappings, the pop music and the prosperity cult.
But even amidst the euphoria, the occasional negative note has turned up, as in this NY Times report on the LA invasion in Megachurch With a Beat Lures a Young Flock, published early in September:
Hillsong has critics who monitor speakers at its conferences, and utterances by its leaders, for deviations from Christian orthodoxy (of concern to the right) or evidence of social conservatism (of concern to the left).
Its finances have been scrutinized by the Australian news media; its preaching is tracked by a critical blog. This year, Mr. Houston issued a clarification after being criticized by other evangelicals for suggesting that Christians and Muslims serve the same God. Hillsong, founded by Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie, has been anti-abortion and has described gay sex as sinful.
But recently, church leaders have moderated their tone; the pastor of Hillsong New York, Carl Lentz, passed up two opportunities this year to express a view on same-sex marriage, in interviews with Katie Couric and The Huffington Post.
In the United States, Hillsong is nondenominational; in Australia, it is associated with the Australian Christian Churches, which is an affiliate of the Assemblies of God. For a time, Mr. Houston was the head of the denomination, and in 2000, he fired his father, Frank Houston, who was serving at another church, after the elder Mr. Houston acknowledged having abused a boy decades earlier.
That link to the sins of the father and his firing also noted the tasty tax-free nature of the enterprise:
In 2010, Houston disclosed a salary of $300,000 ($285,000 U.S.) from Hillsong and its related global outreach ministry, and he said his wife’s salary is “significantly less than mine.” A church spokeswoman did not respond to a request to view financial details of the larger Hillsong organization.
What was wonderful about that routine was the way that 300k was presented as a most modest reward for a most humble bike-riding servant of the lord:
The nominated salary for both Bobbie and I from the Hillsong Church Board is significantly more than what we choose to accept, though we made the choice to forego much of our nominated salary for many years. The existence of LMI also increases the opportunity for finance to go towards the Church and other related causes that we are so passionate about.
Uh huh. Houston used the same ever so humble routine about the sins of the father but what's most interesting in the recycled transcript of the interview with the ABC here is the way he was inspired to think of religion as a Holden dealership and how he's a theological flip flopper, lest he alienate any potential john or sucker who might wander through the door.
Creation. Sure thing:
I believe in creation. The Bible starts in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. If I waver on the first 10 words of the Bible I think I’m going to have problems properly representing the rest of the Bible. However, timeframes, over what period of time that was, whether there was room for any evolving in some areas of life as well, I’m more than open to that. I’m happy to leave that to the experts.
The gay thing?
I think that the homosexual question and sexuality generally is one of the most challenging questions there is for the church in the 21st century. And it’s one where I feel conflict myself, as a believer in the Bible and specifically the New Testament, I think that marriage is God’s idea, and I think it’s for a man and a woman. But I also represent a God that’s merciful and gracious and kind, and having to connect those two things I think is one of the great challenges for me as a church leader.
The pro life thing?
In the church we can point the finger so easily. On the subject of abortion, I’m pro-life. But in a way I’m pro-choice as well, because I believe in the sanctity of life and I believe that life begins at conception. But I also believe that ultimately human beings have to make their own choices, and I ultimately can’t tell you what you should do. I can only give you the parameters that I believe.
You couldn't wrap jelly around that theological blubber.
And that helps explain why the story provides a link to the parade of politicians who have lined up with Houston over the years, because a Holden dealership of singing souls provides a mighty attractive round-up of young voters.
Guess who featured in Politicians make a joyful noise, too?
Yep, Bob was amongst the quislings, facilitators and fellow travellers, though there were plenty of others, as reported in Costello soaks up Hillsong's praise:
Well if was good enough for Hillsong, it was also good enough for the Exclusive Brethren, as you can remember in a stroll down memory lane courtesy Sect gave Howard a few tips.
The Age has obtained four letters in which unidentified sect leaders congratulated Mr Howard on the Iraq war and gave political advice about Medicare. The group also recommended massive water projects funded by the sale of Telstra.
The letters show Mr Howard met two Brethren leaders in his Sydney office on the day New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark referred sect members to police because they hired private detectives to tail her and her husband, and spread rumours that her husband was gay.
After that September 2006 meeting, Mr Howard wrote to the Brethren — whose members do not vote — to say he "enjoyed our recent discussion" and to commiserate with them about the "campaign against you by Senator (Bob) Brown and others".
Uh huh. Now you don't have to be an investigative reporter to realise that the EB were and are a cult, with a reprehensible attitude to women. You can just do a Greg Hunt:
According to the book, wives are deemed second-class citizens within the organisation, and cannot hold positions higher than administrative jobs at companies owned by the group. The book describes the story of the treatment of Alison Alderton, an 85-year-old woman who was excommunicated from the organisation. For twenty years, Alderton did not see four of her six children after she had been excommunicated by the organisation. During the 1980s, Alderton and her husband Bob had served within the organisation as senior figures at the group's location in Bathurst, New South Wales. The author quotes former Family Court chief justice Alastair Nicholson, who had said that methods used by the organisation to excommunicate family members were "abusive ... psychologically it's very damaging to the child" ... (here for the footnotes the academically inclined Greg Hunts love).
Now it might seem strange to link two diverse cults, like Hillsong and the EB, but to the pond, if it waddles, quacks and sings like a cult, chances are it is a cult, and politicians will clamber on board because it's the sort of cult they're familiar with and understand, and never mind the reprehensible attitude to truth or women or feminism.
Which is why Janet Albrechtsen really irritates the heck out of the pond.
Where was Dame Slap when Howard was doing the dance with the EB?
Where's Dame Slap getting agitated about the Christian cultists paying for school chaplains and refusing to allow the money to be used for secular appointments?
Where's Dame Slap getting agitated about the Catholic church, a male dominated cult of massive proportions, with a reprehensible and on occasions medieval attitude to women ...
Uh huh, you guessed it.
Dame Cult's off flying, circling and wheeling, with all the other starlings of like bee hive mind:
Oh dear. What a fuckwit she is, this dweller on Planet Janet, and what a dangerous one, given her hand in the most recent ABC appointment, the initial step in plans to degut the ABC, as aided and abetted by Malcolm Turnbull, fellow traveller and quisling.
You could of course splash with any of a dozen other lines. You know:
That millions of Catholic women are forced to endure forms of medieval contraception is beyond the wit of Dame Slap but well within the ken of many Western feminists...
And so on.
What particularly irritates the pond is the way Western feminists are routinely berated - as if they're somehow a solid phalanx in lock step - for the sins of Islamic fundies, and yet the same members of the commentariat routinely fall silent when confronted by the sins of the much closer to home fathers on their door steps.
It's entirely beyond the wit of Albrechtsen to note that the Catholic church has medieval form as a vehicle for the oppression of women, or that other fundamentalist and conservative Christian and Jewish churches are just as bad as fundamentalist Islamics ...
Instead we get this 'pick and stick' routine where some fundies are bad, and some are good, and somehow the focus always ends up on head coverings and quaint dress:
Yep, that was an illustration accompanying a story run by the reptiles themselves, in Brethren schools to get $70m in funding.
Was there any further irony in that story?
Well yes, you see it was the Ruddster, not the rodent, what done it:
The Rudd Government is handing more than $70 million to schools run by the Exclusive Brethren, a religious sect Kevin Rudd described as an "extremist cult" that breaks up families.
The sect's schools have secured more than $8.4m under the Government's school building stimulus package and they will share in $62m in recurrent taxpayer funding.
Documents show a Brethren-run school at Swan Hill in northern Victoria was granted $1.2m for a library and $800,000 for a hall when its most recent annual report shows it had just 16 pupils and already had a library.
Now as for the irony let's have it again:
Australian Education Union federal president Angelo Gavrielatos said these sums were outrageous and the funding system had to be urgently replaced.
"How can the Government justify handing tens of millions of dollars to an organisation it believes is a cult while public schools which educate the vast majority of our children are struggling for funds?" Mr Gavrielatos said.
How could it?
Well it's as easy as Dame Slap railing at Islamic fundies while the Liberal party dog whistles its heart out to a cult founded by a pervert. Or the Labor party provides cash for cults like EB and L. Ron Hubbard's personal favourite ...
For years now, both sides of the aisle in the federal government have been busy splashing the taxpayer cash to cults they freely acknowledged were cults, because indeed they are cults.
Both sides of the aisle have done it, and continue to do it, and yet in the simple minded world of Dame Slap, the crime belongs to the feminists and the secularists for failing to speak out about Islamic fundies ...
Well it's not the pond's business to redeem all feminists - let Naomi Wolf speak up for Naomi Wolf, or at least the Wolf on view in The insane conspiracy theories of Naomi Wolf ...
On the other hand, the pond is ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with Dame Slap in removing Australian taxpayer funding from all schools run by religious institutions, be they fundamentalist Christian, Muslim or Jew, Scientological or EB, Catholic or angry Anglican, and to have all religious institutions taxed as businesses, especially ones like Hillsong who think they're a Holden dealership for souls ...
Oh dear, was that the lonely sound of a cricket in the night?
You have to be bent to find humour in all this, but thank the long absent lord there is a Pope dedicated to knavery.
From this ...
... yes, the Currish Snail has been dining out for days on the story, like the gutter Murdoch tabloid it is ...
... you get this:
It's way too nuanced for Dame Slap, who is, when all is said and done as thick as a brick ... and confused, to boot ... but the concept of sisterhood and feminism doesn't mean that the original Dorothy Parker would have found the slightest aspect of Dame Slap appealing, and at least you can find more Pope here ...