Monday, May 11, 2009

Brian Houston, Hillsong, Garden City Christian Church, and survival of the fittest in the world of fundies

(Above: Hillsong Chapel).

By golly, these fundie Christians play a tough form of rugby league.

None of that touch footy stuff for them. No, it's chicken wing tackles and coat hangers, and the occasional bit of biff.

Forget all that blather by that socialist Jesus Christ about turning the other cheek and throwing the money lenders out of the temple.

Take our favorite fundie loons at Hillsong as a great example. It seems that the Sydney church - hunkered down in huge bunkers at Waterloo and Baulkham Hills - is going to expand into Queensland, with Brian and Bobbie Houston upping anchor to lead the charge.

It's a dog eat dog world in the fundie world, and the first bit of meat eating has come with Hillsong taking over Garden City Christian Church on Brisbane's south side, thereby adding another 3,000 to the 21,000 in the Sydney flock.

When poor old Garden City senior pastor for the past eight years Bruce Hills returned after eight weeks of leave, following a nervous breakdown, the Christian Church elders reached out in the manner of Christ, and told him to bugger off.

According to Cosima Marriner's story, Hillsong on a mission to spread the word north, the Church's elders told him that the church wasn't growing enough: We'd rather have more of a CEO leader than you. We'd like you to resign.

Funny, I've always thought of Christ as many things, but never as a CEO. But I guess when you're working for the head dude, even if it's a family business, and dad is the boss, you'd better pull your finger out and increase your numbers and meet your sales targets, or by golly, the holy ghost might just get promoted ahead of you and take over the firm. There's a message in there for any family members circling News Corp as Rupert reaches an age.

The Thinking Theologian (link restored here, blog is back working) takes a dim view of the Houstons' expansionist plans:

For the likes of Brian Houston, Christianity is little more than a market-place; and Christians nothing but impressionable consumers. Hillsong is a business venture. It takes the gospel message, waters it down with materialism, and sells it cheap.

And there’s a huge market for their product.

The problem is that Hillsong have gone beyond merely offering a post-modern alternative: they have monopolized Christianity. They are to Pentecostalism what McDonalds is to the hamburger industry: with a branch on every corner, why go anywhere else?

By setting itself up as the “model church”, Hillsong has redefined what it means to be a Christian. And it’s in stark contrast to what Jesus Himself preached. Rather than the self-sacrificing, suffering servant, the Hillsong Christian is told they must be a successful leader, prosperous in health and wealth; someone that others would covet.

But how is this obvious discrepancy dealt with? All too easily, with the introduction of a different Jesus. Hillsong’s replacement Jesus didn’t die for our sin so much as he died for our empowerment to “live a blessed life”. It is this Jesus who is preached from Hillsong’s platforms, and who attracts the masses of “believers” each weekend.

There's hurt feelings in Brisbane - Bruce Hills is apparently feeling a little battered, as are members of the congregation - but fair's fair. They've been exporting cane toads all over Australia, so no complaining if we ship the Houstons up there. 

Luckily for Sydney, back in 2008, locals managed to force Hillsong Church to drop its plans for a $78 million office block and 2700 seat church in Rosebery. Well I guess there's no reason to expect followers of Christ to worry about environmental and planning issues, seeing as how the rapture is just around the corner.

Ah, it reminds me a little of the last fuss, when former Hillsong member Tanya Levin tipped the bucket on the pop song chanting happy campers - you can catch David Marr's story about her here under the header Hillsong - the church with no answers.

My favorite quote in what is a long article?

... Levin has a fair idea what they're thinking out in the Hills. "Bobbie Houston announced at the Colour Your World conference in 2005 that there the only three types of media about Hillsong. They are the positive, the neutral and the anti-Christ."

In his article, Marr revisits the matter of charismatic preacher Frank Houston, who was about sixty when he undertook to cure 23 year old Peter Laughton's homosexuality, with the cure somehow involving naked beatings, bum caresses and masturbating into bottles (Marr also references talk of pedophilia and Houston stripping his old man of his license to preach).

Per Marr, when he buried his father in 2004, Pastor Houston declared his dad a man who made mistakes, but as a preacher was in a class of his own. By golly, each time I get to hearing this kind of talk, I'm torn between watching Elmer Gantry and There Will Be Blood. (I've always had a fondness for Daniel Day Lewis and ten pin bowling ever since that show).

So I guess you can put this blog in the anti-Christ camp.

If you want more, Tanya Levin published a book People in Glass Houses, and there's also an extensive Wikipedia entry on the church (here) which amongst other things will remind you that Peter Costello went off to a singalong in 2004 and 2005 while to his eternal shame Bob Carr also fronted the 2004 conference (mad as hell Mark Latham had the grace to decline an invite).

If there's one thing worse than hookers for Jesus, it's politicians leaving no rocks unturned in their search for votes.

Update: The Thinking Theologian, risen again, is back and taking an even dimmer view of Hillsong. While we take a different view of the world - he is an active member of a pentecostal group, and to state the obvious I am not, I do tip the hat to anyone who speaks their mind. And I'm continually reminded of the interest in this issue by the number of people who continue to access this now old post.

(Below: the Rosebery Hillsong megalith that stalled, with Sydney's loss Queensland's gain. Or should that be Sydney's gain is Queensland's loss?)


Anonymous said...

The Thinking Theologian is back:

dorothy parker said...

Welcome back thinking theologian. Lordy if you only knew the number of people interested in you and Brian Houston.