Dark Christianity
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May 2008
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Hillsong in the UK

LJ-SEC: (ORIGINALLY POSTED BY [info]catvincent)

The Guardian had a feature on the Hillsong juggernaut coming to London:

' The star turn came from Ron Luce, a American evangelist in a blinding white shirt embroidered with four black crosses. In 1986 Luce and his wife, Katie, founded Teen Mania Ministries, an evangelical Christian mission organisation based in Texas. Luce's anti-porn, anti-advertising, pro-abstinence preachings have been causing a stir in Canada and the US for years, but Tuesday was his first professional visit to London.

Luce's latest big project is BattleCry, a campaign which aims to stop the secularisation - and in Luce's mind, sexualisation - of the youth of America and the western world. To aid this mission, Luce has set up battlecry.com, a social networking site which describes itself as an alternative to MySpace, "a Bible-based community where teens can encourage, grow, and hold each other accountable to the teachings of Christ".

Luce's argument is based on a rather shaky statistic: that within the next five years, only 4% of American adults will have "core biblical beliefs". This, he says, compares to 65% of the second world war generation, 35% of the baby boomers and 15% of those born between 1965 and 1983.

"What does a nation with 4% evangelical Christians look like?" he asked at the BattleCry leadership summit last year, before going on to paint a geographically specific picture: "Nudity in newspapers in England, Scotland's consenting age is 14 years old."

Leaving aside the fact that Scotland's age of consent is 16, it is interesting that Luce chose to bring his battle to our heathen isle. Perhaps wisely, he didn't repeat any of his above observations at Earls Court, concentrating instead on the universal evils of "click-and-point pornography", the "promotion" of gay marriage and the advertising industry, which he compared to al-Qaida. '

Also notable is this production at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe this year...

' Cash in Christ, a sing-along play satirising the modern capitalist "mega- church", is arguably one of the most controversial productions in a Fringe with the largest satirical content in living memory.

Other offerings this year include Jihad: The Musical, Tony Blair – The Musical, and others centred on the porn film Debbie Does Dallas, orgasms, Asbos and thoughts of BNP members.

Cash in Christ is so controversial it had to be passed by three lawyers before it could be performed at a festival in Australia.

The 50-minute show, written by Van Badham and Jonny Berliner, which premieres this weekend, comprises sermons from Christian literature, television programmes and church services. The authors conducted extensive research in America, Australia and online, and also spent three months attending services at London churches, including the Hillsong Church and Holy Trinity Brompton.

The show – pitched as "putting the fun into fundamentalism" – features fundraising evangelical preacher Fanny Comfort and her husband Bob singing songs such as "Christian Rock (Is Cool)" with lines about "guitars exploding like a bomb".

The writers said that, while there is public discussion about the dangers of radical Islamic groups, the influence of the Christian far right is underestimated. "I've been very sensitive to extremists in other religions, particularly Islam, being demonised," said Badham. "I find the Christian right groups that are enormously powerful in our own culture a larger numerical threat than extreme Islam. They are somehow removed from public criticism, and that is one of the reasons we did the show.

"Bush is from the religious right and he has the bomb; that terrifies me far more than the potential of other extremists to get their hands on nuclear weapons. In the religious right it is the self-appointed moral majority that sets its own rules, and anybody opposing them is labelled unpatriotic and shouted down." '

In regard to Hillsong, it's also worth a look at this piece:

' So Tanya Levin is a problem. She asks questions. She wants explanations. She challenges the vision of Hillsong’s leadership. In short, she’s trouble.

Two years into writing People in Glass Houses, her insider’s account of
The church wasn’t answering her emails about the book. Houston had ignored her calls. She defied orders not to turn up at the Castle Hill “campus”, until the night came when two security guards carried her from the church and “a very tall, handsome Maori man of about 24″ called Dion walked her to her car.

“I cried at Dion,” she writes. “I told him about my dad, and faithfulness and loyalty … whatever kind of Hollywood angel he was dressed as that night, there would come a time when he would outlive the usefulness to the Firm. And then he would lose that simple genuine look he stared at me with. I told him to go home and read his Bible and go ask the preachers why it doesn’t match what they say. He listened like one does to the ravings of a lunatic and I made him listen because that’s his job.”

It was the end of a long affair that began when Levin was 14, the daughter of a banker and his Jewish wife who were brought to God by Billy Graham back in South Africa. The family turned up in the early days of what was to become the behemoth of Hillsong.

“My impressions in September of 1985 were of a bunch of nice people,” Levin writes. They waved their hands and spoke in tongues. Houston preached. “Even today,” she confesses, “when I hear Brian Houston’s voice I feel better.”

People in Glass Houses is a naked account of the joys of religious infatuation and the messy business of re-entering the real world as an adult five years down the track.

Levin fitted the Hillsong pattern perfectly: “There is a 50 per cent turnover every five years. Hillsong is renowned for having a very big back door.” The churning of people through the church is not something they talk about. “Or they say people don’t have the faith to hang on; they’re unable to take it through the tough times. It’s always the fault of the person. It’s never the fault of Hillsong.”

But the ties were deep. University and then a child took her away from the Hills for a decade. She returned as a single mother with a job as a social worker in a Salvation Army women’s refuge and something more than curiosity about the fate of her old church and the friends she still had there. “I’d go sporadically just to have a look.”

Rumours of scandal sharpened her interest. After one hugely popular pastor was expelled in 2001, Levin began asking questions about Brian Houston’s father, Frank - a preacher so powerful he was thought to be able to raise the dead - who was being accused on the internet of pedophilia. But Hillsong was in the dark.

Brian and Bobbie won a standing ovation from the congregation when they finally broke the news that old Frank had an unwavering love of God and deeply repented his moral failings. His crimes were not named that day. Levin was furious: “I had a near-irresistible urge to yell out like the boys used to do in the old days, ‘What did he DO, Brian?’ ”

Levin was asking questions again, this time to write this book. Frank was not her target. She set herself the task of explaining the inner workings of the most successful religious operation in Australia: the joy and despair of faith; the mass hypnosis of worship; the Jesus-centric remedies offered in Hillsong’s outreach programs for drug addiction, domestic violence, unemployment and homosexuality; the ideological submission of women; and the bleeding of money from the faithful.
Hillsong, she was finally - and literally - shown the door. “There is no debate within Hillsong,” she says. “That’s fundamentalism. It’s not open to free thought and question, not at all.” '

Worth remembering that the aim of the Dominion is precisely what the name implies... dominion over the whole world and everyone on it. Never think it's just America.

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