By John Stapleton
Central to the Prime Ministership of Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, his style, substance, policies and behaviour, has been his religiosity.
Now the issue has come front and centre after remarkable footage emerged of him addressing a Christian conference on the Gold Coast.
Michael Bradley at leading news site Crikey put the conundrum bluntly:
“If Scott Morrison, like all previous prime ministers, kept his religious faith to himself and strictly separated from his public role, then there’d be no good cause to say anything about it.
“It wasn’t Morrison who released the video of his speech to the Australian Christian Churches conference on the Gold Coast last week. However, he flew there and back on a government plane at taxpayers’ expense and was explicit that he was speaking as prime minister, not a private citizen. The content of what he said left that unarguable anyway. It is a matter of legitimate public interest to appreciate the full meaning of his words.”
Michelle Plini at Independent Australia was equally blunt:
“Scott Morrison chose to attend a Pentecostal convention (incorrectly described as a “church gathering” by some media) as is his personal right. However – and let’s be perfectly clear – he chartered a VIP RAAF flight to take him there in style and he did so at our expense, despite this being a personal jaunt. We know it was personal because it was not listed in his official schedule or displayed on his website or social media channels — as the PM is prone to do with any and all official appearances, complete with suitable photo ops. Nor was a transcript of his speech made available.
“The Prime Minister’s attendance at this event later became known through unofficial channels, which indicates that he actively concealed it.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the appearance was not out of the ordinary and that: “The Prime Minister was invited to address Tuesday night’s event the same as he attends many other stakeholder events, including for other religious groups such as the Copts, Maronites, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim.”
“Really? Do prime ministers routinely charter RAAF jets to attend all stakeholder events, including unofficial ones? And who are the “stakeholders” here? This event was a religious convention of the Pentecostal variety — that’s the one to which the PM belongs. It’s also where his big supporters/donors are and where, we can presume, Morrison would be counting on monetary support for his political campaign. Hardly your garden variety prime ministerial event attendance.”
The full video of Scott Morrison’s address is readily available on YouTube through the Rationalists’ Australia channel.
The full transcript is also readily available through Eternity News under the headline:
Much of it is revelatory, certainly when it comes to the beliefs of the nation’s Prime Minister, the world’s only Pentecostal leader.
Below are extracts.
I did want to share something with you tonight. A few things that are on my heart. I need your help. I need your help.
You can’t replace the family. You can’t replace marriage. You can’t replace the things that are so personal and ingrained, and come out of us as individuals, with systems of power or systems of capital. These are important things. But they can’t replace community.
You cancel out one human being and you cancel community, because community is just human beings that God loves and that is intended to connect us, one to another. Morality is about focusing not on you, but on the person next to you. It’s about focusing, for me, on you … That is the essence of community. You can’t pass a law for it. You can’t create a building for it. It is essentially what springs from each and every one of us. Community.
It’s born of what he likes to call a covenant.
There is relationship in covenant, which is what God sought with Israel. In covenant. Deep relationship. It’s personal. It goes beyond. There’s the giving of oneself, the respect, the dignity, the caring together. The sharing of interests. The sharing of lives. The pledging, the faithfulness, and achieving together what cannot be achieved alone. A covenant. More than a transaction. Family and marriage God has created in the same way. To reflect that covenant that we can have.
It’s so important that we continue to reach out and let each and every Australian know that they are important. That they are significant as we believe they are created in the image of God. That in understanding that, they can go on a journey that I’m very confident you can take them on, and I’m relying on you to do that, because that’s not my job. That’s yours.
There are some threats to this that I want to share with you. There is a fashion, these days, to not think of Australians as individuals, particularly, I think, amongst our young people, and I worry about this. People think of themselves. It’s called identity politics.
These are important things. One’s ancestry. One’s gender. Where one’s from.
But there is a tendency for people not to see themselves and value themselves, in their own right, as individuals. To see themselves only defined by some group, and to get lost in that group. You know when you do that you lose your humanity, and you lose your connection, I think, one to each other. You’re defined by your group, not by, I believe, who God has created you to be, and to understand that. That’s a big thing going on in our community and our society. It’s corrosive. It’s absolutely corrosive.
If you look at each other not as individuals, but as boring tribes, it’s easy to start disrespecting each other. It’s easy to start not understanding the person who’s across from you, and this is important in politics for us, too. There is a beating heart over there. There is a unique individual with a unique set of issues and challenges and opportunities and possibilities, and all these sorts of things. When you stop seeing that and just see someone as, “Well, they’re of that view, and that group.” That’s why people start writing stupid things on Facebook, and the internet, and being disrespectful of one another, and we know how that is corroding and desensitizing 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. We’ve got to raise up the spiritual weapons against this, because it is going to take our young people. It’s going to take their courage. It’s going to take their hope. It’s going to steal them. We’ve got to pray about it. We’ve got to pray against that because it is a such a corrosive thing that we’re seeing take place. Yeah, sure, social media has it’s virtues and it’s values and enables to connect with people in ways we’ve never had before. Terrific. But those weapons can also be used by the evil one, and we need to call it out.
This is the help I need from you. I need your help. Keep doing what you’re doing. I need your help to remind Australians how precious they are, how unique they are.
Can I finish with four verses I just wanted to share with you? Can I do that, Brad? Have I got time to do that?
It’s not a political thing. Faith is very much an ingrained part of my life. I seek his wisdom in the same way you do, each and every day. It’s important that we do that.
I like this one. Psalm 23:5. Where he talks about preparing a banquet for you in the presence of your enemies. We’ve got to sit down at that banquet. I sit down at that banquet every single day. But that’s where we’re called. He didn’t prepare a banquet for us in the presence of our greatest admirers and friends who would tell us wonderful and lovely things, as nice as that is. He said, “I have prepared this banquet for you in the presence of your enemies, and I will be with you at that table.” That is a wonderful reminder to me, each and every day.
I was up in [the Pilbara] the other night, and Jenny, many, many years ago, got me this lovely little verse, and she put it in a frame, so I’d see it each morning, about being strong and courageous. “Do not be discouraged. Joshua 1:9.” There was a young fellow, he worked at the mines. He just came up to me, because there were people saying g’day, we were talking. He just came up and said, “Joshua 1:9.”
I said, “I’ve got that one.” I’ve got that one. When you read, as we all do, the thing that keeps coming back to me over and over and over again, any of us in leadership understand that, is yes, he’s prepared that banquet, and yes, we inquire of the Lord, but you must be strong. You must be courageous. You must not be discouraged.
What I like about that verse is he knows that we get discouraged. He knows that those who will seek to hold us back would have us be discouraged. He knows it’s going to happen. It’s no surprise to him that we may feel like that. So he simply said, “Don’t be. Be strong. Be courageous. Do not be discouraged.” This came home to me, importantly, during the last election campaign.
“It is a privilege. It is an absolute privilege. I’ve been in evacuation centres where people thought I was just giving someone a hug and I was praying and putting my hands on people, in various places, laying hands on them in praying in various situations.
“It’s been quite a time, and God has, I believe, been using us in those moments to be able to provide some relief and comfort and just some reassurance. We’ll keep doing this for as long as that season is. That’s how we see it. We are called, all of us for a time and for a season. God would have us use it wisely. For each day, I get up and I move ahead, there is just one little thing that is in my head, and that is, ‘Well, such a time as this.’ Such a time as this. Thank you very much.”