Tuesday, June 13, 2023

After the demise of Hillsong, is there a place for the church in modern Australia?

There is always great condemnation when prominent Christian leaders and preachers "go off the rails". But that is inevitable. The standards Christians try to live up to are impossibly high, inhumanly high. Take Christ's teachings as recorded in Matthew 5. Excerpt:

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain"

No normal human being could live up to that but insofar as people try we would live in a much kinder and more peaceful world. Let us be thankful for the high standards Christians set for themselves and find no cause for condemnation when their normal human instincts reassert themselves in various ways

Only a few years ago, Hillsong – a Pentecostal church planted in the north-western suburbs of Sydney in the 80s – was one of Australia's biggest and most successful exports.

"It should go iron ore, the Hemsworth Brothers, then Hillsong – it's massive," Marc Fennell told the ABC's The Drum.

His latest documentary for SBS, The Kingdom, charts the rise – and fall – of the megachurch that he was once a member of.

Mr Fennell isn't the only one interested in the subject matter. Earlier this year, American television network FX released a four-part documentary, The Secrets of Hillsong, and the Herald Sun launched its investigative podcast about the church, Faith on Trial.

Yet amid the scandals plaguing Hillsong, the Pentecostal church movement in Australia has survived.

The fall of Hillsong is not a unique story in Christianity
At its height, Hillsong was hosting prime ministers at their church services and conferences, winning multiple Grammys, and counting celebrities like Justin Bieber and Vanessa Hudgens among its members.

In recent years, allegations of trauma, abuse, fraud, cover-ups and exploitation have come to the fore, culminating in the resignation of Hillsong founder Brian Houston earlier this year.

But scandal is not a unique experience for the Christian church – Pentecostal, or otherwise. Director of the Centre for Public Christianity Simon Smart says churches of all denominations have "good moments" and "regrettable ones" as they've evolved, adapted and reformed alongside social and cultural changes.

"Pentecostalism isn't alone in having its imperfections," he told the ABC's The Drum. "On a grand scale, you have the 16th-century Protestant Reformation that was responding to serious corruption within the church," Mr Smart explains.

"In recent times, churches have responded to deep systemic flaws when it came to responding to and taking preventative measures against sexual abuse within its walls.

"What was a terrible chapter in church history led to serious self-assessment and changes to internal practices such that church communities are now much safer places for children than they once were."

Mr Smart also noted that celebrity culture has had a negative influence on the church. "I don't think [celebrity] has any place there," he said on The Drum. "The founder of Christianity, Jesus Christ, was everything other than that – he was all about humility, compassion and love, and not about the grand gestures."

Tania Harris is an ordained Pentecostal minister who works in churches across all denominations in Australia and abroad.

"Wherever you find humanity, you'll find flawed humanity," Rev Harris says, "and where there is great success, those flaws can become apparent."

She believes that the rapid growth and success of Australian Pentecostalism contributed to its downfall.

"I've watched churches grapple with this since the pandemic and since the scandals have been exposed," Rev Harris says.


Give us a fair go! Work, mass migration, housing, and the red tape disaster

The recently announced plan of the federal government to preference a new round of mass migration over those Australian pensioners, veterans, and students who wish to work strikes at the very heart of the notion of the Australian fair go.

And Australians are concerned. A recent survey by the Institute of Public Affairs found that 60 per cent of Australians want migration paused until adequate infrastructure is built. This was backed up by The Guardian, which found that 59 per cent want a cap on immigration until there is sufficient housing built.

For those of us outside the Canberra bubble, the combined pressures of a worker shortage crisis, housing shortages, and inflation are all contributing to a declining standard of living for Australians. Yet, the Albanese government is failing to act with the urgency these issues demand.

There are currently more than 438,000 job vacancies across the country, which is double the pre-Covid level, with almost a quarter of businesses unable to find the workers they need. This is costing Australians $32 billion in foregone wages, and the federal government $7 billion in income tax.

The high level of job vacancies is largely attributable to the tax and red tape barriers facing those pensioners, students, and veterans who would otherwise return to work. These three groups face an effective marginal tax rate of 69 per cent if they choose to work. This is because once pensioners, for example, earn more than just $226 a week they lose 50 cents on the dollar in pension payments.

Today, only three per cent of pensioners in Australia work, compared with approximately 25 per cent in New Zealand. But a recent survey by National Seniors found that 20 per cent of Australia’s pensioners would work if tax and red tape barriers were removed.

Yet, instead of implementing a policy that enables willing and able Australians to work, the federal government has proposed increasing immigration by 715,000 over the next two years at a minimum. We are told this will cure our worker shortage crisis.

Throughout our history, Australia has proven itself to be one of the world’s most welcoming and tolerant communities. Sustainable immigration has been the bedrock of our country’s social and economic success, but what the government is now proposing is not only unsustainable, it will exacerbate the very problems facing everyday Australians.

Any sudden acceleration in unplanned, mass migration is reckless in the extreme, considering Australia’s acute housing shortage. Analysis by the IPA found that the proposed increase in migration will exacerbate the nation’s housing shortfall, leading to a shortage of at least 212,800 homes between 2023 and 2028.

To be fair, not all in the Canberra bubble are unaware of the problems facing mainstream Australia. Shadow Immigration Minister Dan Tehan has been on the front foot on this issue, stating:

‘When people are stuck in deadlocked traffic or can’t find somewhere to live, they should ask themselves why is Labor running a Big Australia.’

The IPA also found that seven in ten Australians want pensioners, veterans, and students to receive first preference for local jobs. Rather than taking the short-sighted, lazy approach of more migration to spur economic growth, governments must act urgently to get Australian pensioners, veterans, and students into the workforce.

To his credit, Peter Dutton has called for Australians to have priority when filling vacancies in the labour market. It is clear that concerns in the community about unplanned, mass migration are starting to hit home in the corridors of power.

Removing all red tape and tax barriers facing Australians who wish to enter the workforce is a simple and effective policy measure that is good for them and good for our nation.

Allowing more Australians into the workforce will improve productivity, incentivise private investment in the economy, and increase tax revenue for the federal government. It’s a win-win-win policy with broad community support, and our leaders in Canberra must back it in.


Tony Abbott and John Howard join Jordan Peterson-led group looking at ‘meaning of life’

The former prime ministers Tony Abbott and John Howard are among six Australians who have joined a global group fronted by Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson and backed by a pro-Brexit hedge fund billionaire and a Dubai-based investment group.

The group – The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (Arc) – has been gathering high-profile figures from politics, industry, academia and thinktanks for an inaugural three-day conference in London in late October.

Peterson has said the conference would look at “issues metaphysical, cultural and practical” and “issues pertaining to the meaning of life” but also to “become practical with regard to the realisation of policy”.

Sign up for Guardian Australia’s free morning and afternoon email newsletters for your daily news roundup
The Danish political scientist Bjørn Lomborg and the American commentator Michael Shellenberger, who have both questioned the urgency of the climate crisis compared with other global problems, are on the group’s advisory committee.

Also on the committee are Australia’s shadow defence minister, Andrew Hastie, and a former deputy prime minister, John Anderson.

Company records in the UK show Arc has two shareholders – the Dubai-based investment management group Legatum Ventures and the British investor and Brexiter Sir Paul Marshall.

According to The Times Rich List, in 2020 Marshall was worth about $1.1bn and is co-founder of Marshall Wace, reported to be one of the world’s biggest hedge funds.

Legatum and Marshall are major investors in GB News, the rightwing and partisan alternative news outlet launched in 2021.

One of Legatum’s four founders, the billionaire Christopher Chandler, told the Guardian in 2018 he made “hundreds of millions” from investments in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union and at one point owned 4% of the gas giant Gazprom with his brother Richard Chandler. The businessman was already rich when he invested in Russia soon after the end of the USSR.

A “statement of vision and interpretation” for Arc includes six “fundamental questions” around energy, environmental stewardship, families and societies.

Discussing the questions, Peterson has said there are “no excuses for putting forward energy policies that punish those who are absolutely poor”.

“We have no right to deny the developing world the opportunity to pursue the opportunities that we have been blessed to pursue.”

The vision document says: “We at ARC do not believe that humanity is necessarily and inevitably teetering on the brink of apocalyptic disaster.

“We posit, instead, that men and women of faith and decisiveness, made in the image of God, can arrange their affairs with care and attention so that abundance and opportunity could be available for all.”

The document asks how it might “effectively conceptualise, value and reward the sacrificial, long-term, peaceful, child-centred intimate relationships upon which psychological integrity and social stability most fundamentally depend.”

Peterson has said a model for this was “something approximating the nuclear family” with “long-term, committed, stable heterosexual marriages sanctified by the community”.


Qld budget’s power play: ’Free’ electricity, huge infrastructure spend

Electricity will be nearly “free” for Queensland’s most vulnerable and all households are in line for a $550 power bill reprieve in a Palaszczuk government state budget cost of living cash splash unapologetically funded by slugging mining companies.

And while families tighten their purse strings the government will move to spend $89bn on its infrastructure “Big Build” out to mid-2027, vowing to back its signature energy, health and Olympic projects despite rising construction costs.

The whopping $15.3bn coal royalties windfall — three times what the government had expected — has also delivered the state government a one-year only “record-breaking” surplus which immediately dips into the red in 2023/24.

And while net debt will be $5.8bn this financial year rather than an expected $19.7bn, the government’s need to borrow for its Big Build means the net debt over time will be larger than initially expected.

Treasurer Cameron Dick, emboldened by the heft of the coal royalties riches, confirmed the state government will not budge on mining tax changes it made last year and vowed to “keep fighting” the coal lobby.

The centrepiece of the 2023/24 Palaszczuk government budget is immediate and temporary cost of living relief delivered through a $1.5bn electricity rebate package which builds on power bill relief announced by the federal government.

Small business will receive no added government help, with a $650 energy rebate announced in the federal budget unchanged.

Queensland’s 2.2m households will receive at least $550 off their power bills in the 2023/24 financial year.

Eligible vulnerable Queenslanders including pensioners — already in line for a $500 rebate — will receive a double-punch top up worth a combined $522 to bring their total bill help to $1072.

Mr Dick said this meant many “low-income Queensland households, such as pensioners, may pay nothing for electricity next financial year”.

It’s understood about 64,000 customers of major energy retailer Ergon won’t pay a power bill due to the size of the relief for vulnerable Queenslanders.

The average household power bill in southeast Queensland is expected to be $1969 in the upcoming financial year, while those in the regions will be slugged $1926.

The power rebate builds on other cost of living relief measures in the budget including a $645m package across four years to make kindergarten free for all Queensland children from January 1.

Mr Dick unapologetically said coal royalties, including changes made to the regime last year which added an extra tier to take advantage of sky high prices, had made a “very significant contribution” to the budget.

“I don’t step back from that fight at all,” he said.

“I’ll fight them (the Queensland Resources Council) every day because Queenslanders see very clear in this budget what we’re delivering back them.”

Coal royalties raked in a phenomenal $15.3bn for the state in the 2022/23 financial year, $10.5bn of it from the new tier — far higher than the $5.4bn in total coal royalties expected, with $765m meant to come from the change.

Overall the coal royalties changes will rake in $7.2bn for the state over four years, up from the $1.2bn Treasury had initially forecast in last year’s budget.

Rivers of coal gold have led to the Palaszczuk government delivering what it touts as the biggest budget surplus delivered by any state government anywhere in the nation — at $12.3bn — in the 2022/23 financial year.

But the government will go directly back into a $2.2bn deficit in 2023/24, projecting thin surpluses between $105m and $377m in the years after.

Net debt was set to be $19.7bn this financial year, but has been brought down to $5.8bn.

The figure will increase substantially in future years — though lower than initially expected — climbing to $47bn in 2026/27.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)

http://jonjayray.com/blogall.html More blogs


1 comment:

Norse said...

I think some of the instincts that are considered normal for humans can lead to accepting excessive survival instincts as daily drivers. Christian standards (freely accepted or declined) may appear oppressive and judgmental towards those gazing at them from a position below them, unless their purpose of promoting personal stretching and growth is realised.

I used to see an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth as way of maintaining balance. Now I see it a major pattern to perpetuate conflict. But there is a great dilemma here for Christians. Being weak is not a virtue. I think strength should be cultivated to the extent that it is able to support goodness. What happens when it is not, or cultivated to go beyond supporting goodness? From what I can tell the normal is cultivating strength for various nefarious purposes. I do not like that, especially when Christians do it.