Life is truly strange. One can be blissfully walking the dog when, out of the light blue of morning, a question flashes before you like a comet piercing the sky. It is this: how to decide between a lump of coal and six days.
Granted it is not a comparison of like with like. One is 3D and the other four. The genesis of this poser was easy to pinpoint. I blame Scott Morrison.
The new Prime Minister seems able to reconcile each with the other. The six days is all the Lord’s work in creating life, the universe and everything. The coal is testament to the indifference of evolutionary forces. They exist, despite being at odds to each other’s existence.
Who can let these concepts, no sorry these incontrovertible facts, reside in the same house? Scott Morrison, and those of similar faith. Here is the man who can take a lump of coal into the chambers of Parliament and sit it down next to his beliefs as a member of the Pentecostal brethren.
Morrison is a member of the Australian Christian Churches. He goes to the Horizon Church in his electorate on Sundays. He told The Herald-Sun that the church “are a wonderful group of people who love God and love each other and love other people and just want to be a positive influence in the country. It’s just like the Baptists and things like that — we just have better music.”
He isn’t, of course, the first PM to be a churchgoer – both Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, for instance, sat among the pews.
In his first speech to Parliament in 2008, Morrison said that from his faith he derived “the values of loving kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way”.
The PM is a testament to the view that there is none so true to their faith as those who cannot see beyond it.
Up to a point. He wasn’t at the time the Immigration Minister. Some uncharitable souls might suggest the only “unjust obstacle” in the way of a fair go for asylum seekers was the Right Honourable Member for Cook.
The PM is a testament to the view that there is none so true to their faith as those who cannot see beyond it. Which makes Morrison truly remarkable. Enter the lump of coal.
Coal is the result of a very, very old process of nature. Old doesn’t quite do it justice. There were massive formations in the Carboniferous period (about 300 million years ago) and the Mesozoic Era (250 million to 65 million years ago) for instance. This puts them, to put it mildly, and it is hard to argue otherwise, much earlier than when the authors of the Bible lived.
Yet it is a pillar of the Pentecostal movement that the Bible is to be taken literally. They say: “We believe that the Bible is God’s Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our everyday lives.”
And this: “We believe in one eternal God who is the Creator of all things. He exists in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. He is totally loving and completely holy.”
There is no equivocation here. Of course, the Pentecostal flock are no different from the followers of other religions: there must be a framework – unchanging and unbending – that holds together the universe and every particle of that universe, including your good self and soul. And thus give it meaning.
We have Scott Morrison’s assurances that his “personal faith” is not a “political agenda”. This is good.
Forget the evidentiary research, in this dark and secular world, faith needs a strong and guiding light. This is especially true as religious following declines. To that end, “We believe that our eternal destination of either Heaven or hell is determined by our response to the Lord Jesus Christ.
“We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back again as He promised.”
It is not surprising then that Morrison is determined to defend “religious freedom”. He is going to take “a proactive approach when it comes to ensuring that people’s religious freedoms are protected”.
He told Fairfax that “at the end of the day, if you’re not free to believe in your own faith, well, you’re not free.”
Given the doctrinal basis of his Pentecostal faith, helpfully posted on their website, enshrining the freedom to believe in what they believe is imperative. To read it is as if one is lifting a veil onto another world. It is akin to the Rapture episode in The Simpsons meeting a beatific-eyed choir of angels on high.
▪ We believe in the verbal, plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, namely the Old and New Testaments in their original writings. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is infallible.
▪ We believe in the personality of the devil, who, by his influence, brought about the downfall of man, and now seeks to destroy the faith of every believer in the Lord Jesus.
▪ We believe that man was created by God by specific immediate act and in his image and likeness, morally upright and perfect, but fell by voluntary transgression.
Consequently, all men are separated from original righteousness, being depraved and without spiritual life.
▪ We believe that salvation is received through repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
▪ We believe in the everlasting punishment of the wicked (in the sense of eternal torment) who wilfully reject and despise the love of God manifested in the great sacrifice of his only Son on the cross for their salvation. We believe that the devil and his angels and whoever is not found written in the book of life shall be consigned to everlasting punishment in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
▪ We believe that the heavens and earth and all original life forms, including humanity, were made by the specific immediate creative acts of God as described in the account of origins presented in Genesis, and that all biological changes which have occurred since creation are limited to variation within each species.
We are, on the basis of this creed, back to the land of shadows and superstition. Fire and brimstone. Really? The devil and his angels. Really? Cecil B. DeMille would love it. When a rite of observance can be speaking in tongues you know you’re back in the time of reading prophesy from the entrails of goats. There’s not much science here. Some might argue, it’s creationism.
Of course, to give the benefit of some semblance of sense, not every follower would follow every single pronouncement. Free will and all that liberating philosophy. You might expect some natural selection, some keeping of the bits that help and jettisoning those that don’t. (Something like leadership aspirations, perhaps.)
We have Scott Morrison’s assurances that his “personal faith” is not a “political agenda”. This is good. We can take his word then that in matters of public and national interest, there will be no pleas to God (sorry, too late, but let’s give him a break he’s new to the job).
It is also reassuring that Horizon Church senior pastor Brad Bonhomme felt the need to play down the church’s role. “There will be some that assume whatever policy direction the Liberal Party might choose to take, some would assume I or our church will be involved in that. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
This week in his first question time as Prime Minister, Morrison said his government believed “in a fair go for those who have a go”.
There’s no doubt he loves this country. Indeed, love is all around when he speaks just at present.
In his maiden speech, Morrison quoted from the Old Testament’s Book of Joel: “Your old men will dream dreams; your young men will see visions.’’
This is God’s word after a swarm of locusts has descended upon a ravaged land and brought catastrophe upon the people.
Let us pray.
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