From the moment Scott Morrison entered Federal Parliament, he nailed his religious colours to the political mast. Indeed, he devoted more than 750 words – about a quarter of the entire speech - to his deep devotion to his special brand of evangelical Christianity, known as Pentecostalism.
‘I made a commitment to my faith at an early age,’ he said. Indeed, it was within the faith that he met his wife Jenny, ‘and after fourteen years of bitter disappointments,’ he said, ‘God remembered her faithfulness and blessed us with our miracle child, Abbey Rose, on the seventh of the seventh of the seventh.’ (7 July, 2007).
However, he was quick to scotch any suggestion that his ‘personal faith in Jesus Christ’ was a political agenda. Instead, he quoted the American President Abraham Lincoln that ‘our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly that we are on His.’ Of course, Abe Lincoln was no Pentecostal. Goodness knows what he would have made of the southern revivalists who invented it in the early 1900s, much less the Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggert televangelists who made their fortunes from it.
Morrison went further: ‘Australia is not a secular country,’ he told the Parliament. ‘This is a country where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.’ Whether in these days of dangerous Islamic extremists he would stand by that assertion is rather doubtful. And rightly so. Yet there are plenty who suggest that Pentecostalists are themselves on the extreme side of the religious divide. And my research rather supports it.
They not only believe in a literal heaven and hell, the latter awaiting ‘all those who have rejected God’s gift of salvation in Jesus Christ’, but have a curious way of demonstrating their belief. They ‘talk in tongues’.
According to Pentecostal theology this spontaneous gibberish ‘may be an unlearned human language which the Bible claims happened on the Day of Pentecost or it might be of heavenly (angelic) origin.’ Either way it is seen as an ‘Act of Grace’ and referred to as a ‘prayer language’ which only God Himself can translate.
Not all Pentecostals do it. A recent survey showed that only about half the congregations in the US and South Africa vocalise gibberish; while there are no figures given for Australia. No one yet seems to have asked Prime Minister Morrison whether he has been so blessed. And really, it probably doesn’t affect his running of the country all that much.
However, what is concerning is the literal belief in the very confused messages to be found in the bible, particularly those that so blatantly contradict the scientific method which has been responsible for all human progress out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition.
The Genesis story, for example, is not only nonsensical, even as a myth it casts women as second rate citizens and sees snakes (which some US Pentecostals handle in church as part of the ‘holiness movement’) as the embodiment of Satan.
By contrast, the acceptance of evolution by natural selection is the foundation of the whole science of biology. But these days, it is said, they don’t reject evolution directly. Instead, they teach the biblical version as an alternative. This usually goes under the name of ‘creationism’ or ‘intelligent design’. And if it was by ‘design’ that ScoMo was elevated to The Lodge last week, who are we naughty secularists to say him nay?