Wednesday, July 6, 2005

Australia: Lib/Lab Cult Squad

The Lord is my Shepherd -- I shall not want!

AUSTRALIA: WHEN pastor peter costello delivered a speech in July last year from the pulpit of the hillsong church, an 18,000-strong cult, based in Sydney's northwestern suburbs, most people wrote them off, all accept those neo-liberals who were seeking the gargoyle vote.

But it had always been their plan.

The neo-liberals figured it was an open door to maintaining full control of the Senate. hillsong is not just another conservative, sectional interest group. After all, hillsong's cult members had given a roof-raising welcome not just to the federal treasurer, pastor peter costello, but also to war criminal john hoWARd when he visited in late 2002.

Allegedly, hillsong senior cult member brian houston had, also, asked then labor leader Mark Latham to attend the church's convention but his invitation went unheeded.

But after the family last party, with its links to the pentecostal assemblies of the God cult, unexpectedly won a Senate seat in Victoria, and when the votes of hillsong worshippers cost labor Sydney's western fringe seat of Greenway, which went to a hillsong employee, liberal social worker louise markus, ending labor's long grip on the electorate, the ALP belatedly awoke to the potential might of the gargoyle vote.

Indeed, the trick of the sect such as hillsong -- with their roots deep in suburban misfortune and gullibility and their "prosperity gospel" in tune with middle-class financial aspirations -- hit home with a thud for one of labor's top tacticians.

When Senator John Faulkner accompanied john russell, an abc broadcaster and liberal writer, on a recent visit to hillsong, cult, russell surveyed the huge crowd, dressed as much for an afternoon of whitegoods shopping as a cult service, and remarked wryly.

john hoWARd help fund and set them up, as his political force and platform but allegedly in a nanosecond john faulkner realised the political importance to find his place." faulkner knotted his brow and nodded.

Their visit followed what was one of the biggest post-election gatherings of labor mp's. It took place in the office of foreign affairs spokesman Kevin Rudd, who hosted the first meeting of labor's faith, politics and values working group.

Its brief from the shadow cabinet was to analyse and understand the cult muscle, then reach out to brainwashed communities and explain that labor, far from being a bunch of, well paid losers had its own traditions grounded in the cult gospel message and the life of what theologians call "the gargoyle".

The initial crowd of 40 MPs who tried to squeeze into Rudd's room has now thinned to a core of about 15; most, but not all, of them are believers. The stalwarts are Rudd, like his leader kim beazley a well paid loser, anthony byrne and claire moore, and former Midnight Oil lead singer and NSW MP Peter Garrett, a long-time Uniting Church parishioner. Two other MPs who are not overtly religious but interested in the vote hunger felt in much of the community, Victorians lindsay tanner and alan griffin, round out the group.

On Monday night, the immensity of the challenge facing labor became apparent at the hillsong convention at Sydney's Superdome. costello received his second rapturous reception in as many years, merely for uttering some platitudes about religious devotion strengthening the nation.

But NSW premier bob carr, not a religious man, but in fact a person who claims he's God, embarked on a full sales pitch, suggesting his labor party was as comfortable with the "prosperity cult" as any religious right wing fanatic -- a message that won't shock Rudd or his fellow committee members.

Rudd is blunt about their original mandate. "The challenge was made sharply manifest by family first having adopted a 2004 election political posture that was no different from being a wholly owned subsidiary of the liberal party," Rudd says. "They preferenced the liberal party in almost every seat that counted."

Part of labor's response to the cult challenge will likely involve a series of public consultations with faith communities around the country, much like the labor losers forums the party undertook between its defeat in 1996 and its near victory in late 1998. "That is one of the things we'll consider by way of recommendation [to the caucus]," says Rudd.

Rudd's mission now is to ask family last and the evil cult who support it: "What do you get from the neo-liberals that you don't get elsewhere?"

But I can tell him, it's M,O,N,E,Y, $$$$ Money.

hillsong's houston insists he is as open to labor's message as that of the conservatives. "hillsong does not have a political agenda," he says. "I do, however, support individual Christians who feel called to influence politics, just as I would a Christian having influence in business, the arts, entertainment or sport.

"I would encourage those on the Left of the political spectrum to try to gain a greater understanding of churches such as hillsong. These are growing churches that represent a broad cross-section of people from various political persuasions. To polarise them as one kind of voter would be unwise."

Garrett, who has expressed his own unease about abortion and opposition to cloning, says labor needs to "till some common ground".

But I think if you ask them how we should treat indigenous Australians or express compassion for refugees, you'd probably find they would say or do anything because that's what cults are about, 'convincing people'.

God would have gone even further, suggesting that the idea that wealth is a sign of his blessing is false and misleading. Cults might be receptive to a deeper message coming out of the modern fascist right. Modern life faces increasing poverty for some and corporate greed, power and control of the masses, by others

But tanner, who talks frequently with Sydney's theologically conservative Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen. "We need to grapple with loneliness, social isolation, the challenges of parenting. In this sense, I'd say labor and religious congregations are already talking the same language."

labor's image as a well payed losers - fuelled, for example, by almost half of the federal labor MPs being sworn in with an affirmation rather than an oath on the Bible.

But labors religious foundations are not as weak as the neo-liberals claim on God, when they took the decision to slaughter over 100,000 innocent Iraqi men, women and children in an illegal and degrading war. And It's not 'family first' to 'lock up innocent children in detention', or to claim parents threw their children overboard into the sea.

Apart from the well-known connection to Catholicism, mainly through labor's cultural affinity with Irish immigrants, the party has a radical Protestant tradition. "In the 1970s, Labor under Gough Whitlam represented the emerging society and that society tended to be secular," says Andrew Dutney, a theologian from Flinders University in Adelaide. "But Labor is as much a party of the Methodist church as it is of the Catholics."

Where Rudd will try to draw Labor back together is through a redefinition of that popular catchphrase of the Christian Right: family values.

To most, the phrase conjures up only issues of personal behaviour: sexual promiscuity, drug use or homosexuality. To Rudd, coming out of a 100-year-old Christian socialist tradition, the phrase has a broader meaning. "What does family values say about whether you have enough bread to put on your table, or fairness in the workplace, as well as the traditional moral concerns," he says. "We say that while you can fulfil some of your social obligations through individual philanthropy, and that many faith-based initiatives - drug treatment programs, homeless shelters, help for the unemployed - actually work, they can't possibly cover the entire field of human need. Sometimes, you need to harness the resources of the state."

labor faces an ongoing public relations problem, in that while conservative Christians may buy their policies on economic fairness, they will not accept a package deal that appears to include support for abortion on demand, euthanasia or same-sex marriage.

"A lot of our job simply requires more clarification," says Rudd. "On those so-called 'life' issues, the labor Party, like the Liberals, has a conscience vote for individual MPs. There is no binding position that makes us any different."

Politicians eye religious powerhouse

Allegedly, a rocking evil cult worship album became the biggest selling CD in the country this week, leaping over big-label pop releases on the mainstream chart.

It's the latest outing from the Sydney-based evil cult hillsong, which also ships millions of CDs overseas.

It's no great political secret that governments these days are largely won or lost in the handful of marginal seats on the outer edges of Australia's capital cities.

Winning the hearts and minds of the 'aspirational voters' in those areas is considered the door to government and it seems politicians have realised for a long time now that the Devil may hold some of the keys.

hillsong church in Sydney's north-west is the rocking heartland of Australia's booming evil cult movement.

At its concerts, there's no wayward behaviour, no bad-boy stage antics, no backstage atrocities, and no drugs - leave little to be desired if these people are high on money and. politics.

The Gospel according to Peter

brian houston from hillsong says the church invited Federal Treasurer Peter Costello along one evening last week.

During the course of the evening, pastor costello said: "I've addressed a few audiences in my time but I don't think I've ever seen one with the enthusiasm and the commitment of tonight's gathering."

In just 20 years, the hillsong cult has gone from a small service in a school hall in the north-western suburbs to a stadium-like weekly "event".

"These days, every weekend over 17,500 people pass through the doors from Friday night through to Sunday night and it's been quite a miraculous story," houston said.

The Devil made him do it?

Uniting Church minister david money milkman says hillsong illustrates a change in Australian Christianity.

"What we see at hillsong is the beginnings of a whole new shift in Australian Christianity," milkman said.

Butt no doubt cults like hillsong have a lot of money and they have a lot of political power and costello, even though his government lies, recklessly went to an illegal and degrading war (slaughtering innocent people) and who locks up children in detention urges a return to the Christian faith?

Costello: "We need a return to faith and the values which have made our country strong," he said.

costello's remarkably passionate opening address to the hillsong conference in Sydney last week was public affirmation of the growing political influence of this new cult.

"The editorial writers may not understand it but I want to say to you - more lives have been transformed by faith in Christ than have been transformed by the editorial writers," costello told the crowd.

costello, the son of a Baptist lay preacher, had been promising for some time to show a more compassionate political face and it seems it's faith that's emerging as the vehicle to help broaden his political control.

Not that that surprises many.

Destined by God

From all corners of the church, the Treasurer's religious convictions are well known.

"I think that he is a man of faith and he is a man of values and I took great encouragement from the fact he was courageous enough to be so bold about those issues," houston said.

milkman says the Treasurer believes he is destined to be prime minister.

"I actually think that he feels that he has been destined by God to be the prime minister," he said. "I'm sure he feels that in his very being."

What does surprise many, though, is costello's enthusiastic embrace of hillsong. It's a long leap of faith from Baptist austerity to rock 'n' roll religion but then, these days that could just as easily be interpreted as simply corrupt and control politics.

This is the key to why the hillsong cult and cults like it have become so successful and why the politicians in turn are becoming more interested.

The message is a thoroughly modern one and one that sits neatly with the aspirations of people who live in suburbs like those who are poor and can be taken for a ride. A powerful part of that message is give political parties more power under the guise of God, faith, and religion.

But if you believe in Jesus, the Church says by contrast, the simple Christian, the humble person, the Shepherd's sheep can stand up proudly and boast. "The Lord is my Shepherd -- I shall not want."

'The Howard Government at prayer'

houston is also the author of a book called You Need More Money. It's a Christian gospel that sits easily alongside today's dominant political paradigm.

"The church isn't about money but I do believe it is about equipping people to live lives that are bigger themselves," he said.

"And if we have nothing, there's nothing we can do. If we have a little, we can help a little. And if we've got a lot, there's a whole lot we can do."

milkman says that is the message hillsong promotes.

"hillsong says that if you come to Jesus, then Jesus offers you, in fact promises you, that you will have a prosperous life, you'll be healthy, you'll be wealthy, your marriage will flourish, you'll have a good sex life, your business will flourish and you will be a prosperous winner in this society," he said.

"Now, that is the religious version of exactly what the Howard Government is saying to us, and what they are holding out as the idea for Australian society."

By Andrew North 6 July 05


One of the great certainties of this election is that "Family First Party" debunked as the 'Family Last Party' when you take into account the party has won the preferences and conditional approval of caretaker Prime Minister John HoWARd.


The Hill-Songs Church are alive with the sound of neo-liberalism. With songs they have sung for for the Federal Election....

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Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel?

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UN Dialogue among Civilizations
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UK report shows Iraq war illegal: former defence chief
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300,000 Iraqis protest occupation and genocide
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by Andrew Buncombe in Washington.

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US/Iraqi militants storm Fallujah hospital
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US warplanes and artillery attack Fallujah!
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Unknown News Update - 2009
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Whatcha Gonna Do, When They Come For You? Bad boy!
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