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Mar 23, 2022·edited Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Back in the 80-90's Hillsong was hugely influential in the New Zealand Pentecostal scene - they even had their own branded church in Auckland (which later became independent and re-branded as LIFE). However, the concert-style light-rock singing, the elimination of "pentecostal" manifestations, and un-preachy preaching was widely accepted - and is still pretty much the default setting now. Image was very important (mind you, the Pentecostals really did need a modern look). However, the importance of image meant image-control (or damage control, as the case may be), and things like transparency and accountability were often sacrificed as a consequence. It was during and soon after this period that the New Zealand Pentecostal churches had their own spate of sex scandals involving the senior pastors of large churches. I remember being called on to help a church in such a situation; and it was then that I learned that these churches and movements had very few protocols for seriously dealing with professional sexual abuse (which is what most of these cases are). And there appeared to be zero knowledge or best-practice in working with the victims of the abuse. Professional sexual abuse is, of course, found in many professions - not just religion - but I discovered that the medical, legal, psychiatric, educational and other professional organisations were decades ahead of the Pentecostals in having proper processes for achieving best possible outcomes for victims and appropriate disciplinary procedures for the errant professional. In reading the "news" release from Hillsong this week, and your transcript of their staff meeting, it is obvious (and tragic) that very little appears to have changed - image wins.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Your point about proper processes is apposite. Churches in the past were supposedly non-profit organizations - (I'm excluding Catholicism here, which is something else). Where Hillsong and other big churches now differ is in their vast ability to make a lot of money. What they have failed to do, as big money-making concerns, is to realize that while their followers may be naive, emotionally-dependent on being within the church and therefore not asking pointed questions, the churches have a big hole when it comes to problems like this. They are not transparent - they do not want their followers knowing what goes on behind the scenes, for obvious reasons. They would also not like their followers considering what authorities like the police, or the tax department, might have to say about the organization.

It really is all about the money for the top echelon in the church. The ones underneath have been just as much in the dark, but have had a flash of light with Houston's resignation, and they are stunned mullets. All they can do is, I suggest, repeat something that was probably part of the common text of gratitude to the founders, and the bible gobbledegook that makes them feel OK.

Avoiding peering into the can of worms is akin to fingers in ears going lalalala, and that was what was happening in that meeting.

They're not going to admit anything. End of. They can't.

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Thanks Jacqueline. The thing about the money is two-fold, and both are hugely narcissistic (which is also a root cause of sexual abuse). They believe the incomes of their "executives" should be akin to top corporate incomes in the commercial world - they stopped comparing themselves with the first century church and now compare themselves with the corporate sector. Secondly, bragging rights (nationally and internationally) concerning congregation size, buildings, brand-spread to other cities are very much in play. This is described and believed, of course, as evidence of the blessing of God and their success in their mission to spread the gospel. However, the other product of this narcissism - sexual abuse - can make all this implode. That's the great fear over in Sydney right now, hence the image/damage control.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I can answer how they view this, it's a little thing called 'prosperity doctrine'. They believe that prosperity comes from God and therefore the more prosperous you are the more God-like you are in a sense. Financial well-being is God’s reward/sign of approval for Christians and sufficient faith and monetary donations to churches will garner the approval of God, and thus serve to increase one’s wealth. The more one gives, the more one may expect to be reciprocally blessed financially by God even further. I've seen this really play out also in a pacific island church I visited once where the minister read from a list and actually named the families and how much they had given each week from the pulpit. So no matter how poor you are you are going to feel compelled to 'give' to the church in these circumstances to avoid shame. The Tamakis are another obvious example but we see this doctrine or belief playing out in many different types of churches.

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author

In case you missed it, David Collins wrote this for Webworm - scroll down a bit: https://www.webworm.co/p/weirdterrors?s=w

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I've been to a church like that. My father took us to one in Tonga and taught us a lesson I never forgot. The church had ties to our family and to my grandfather who was a well-respected minister so they invited my father and us. Dad didn't have enough money to spare in tithe, so he gave what he could afford, which was 0.50c.

The amazing awkwardness that happened in the church when the prick of a pastor got to reading out my father's name and his tithe amount was so palpable. He stumbled, stuttered, paused and then read it out. I remember Dad sitting straight and tall and eye-balling him.

Later, Dad told us that his list of priorities went like this; God, Mum, us kids, and then the church. I never forgot it. I try to hold onto that myself.

Later when watching Destiny and other churches preying upon my pasifika people - warping the generosity and honouring culture - to enrich themselves. It's just another form of indulgences...

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author

Amen.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

It's a heavy potential consequence indeed when people truly believe they are 'robbing God' by not giving/tithing

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True, Karen, it's an important part of the narrative to keep people giving.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Not that there's anything wrong with giving...it's more the spirit behind the giver and the recipient that is the issue isn't it? There are also churches, and other organisations, where this giving is done in a positive way.

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Yep, it's good to give. And yes, there are plenty of organisations that operate without the manipulation.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

This is so interesting. I guess why would they develop systems and protocols around this stuff if they believe themselves and their leaders to be truly good.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

This 👆🏻

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

After reading this excellent piece, it’s crystal clear to me that these people at aren’t Christians at all. As you said, David, they’re grifters with zero self-reflection. I’m an atheist, but I don’t hate Christianity and Christians. I know there are those who identify as Christians and live their values, instead of just claiming they do. My next door neighbors of 18+ years are a prime examples. I have my own deep-seated skepticism regarding organized religion in general, but Hillsong goes beyond that. Way beyond.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

This isn't Christian, but frustratingly appears to be a reoccurring issue for people calling themselves Christian. There is really clear provision and instruction in the Bible for confession, for apologizing, for making amends, for calling out false prophets etc etc etc. Good journalism man... it was horrible to read. I got angry reading it, I imagine it was pretty infuriating viewing it.

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author

Hard agree. Nothing Christian about it. They just happen to talk about Jesus.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

This! Well said Tim.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

They talk about God like they're trying to reach the word count in an essay

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Amen to that 🙏🏻

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

This reminds me of the Prince Andrew interview. No concern for the victims. Not sorry for what what done. Only sorry their reputation is in a ‘crisis’. As an ex-Christian sadly none of the waffle at this meeting surprised me.

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Good analogy. Possibly even the same PR companies involved.

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Mar 23, 2022·edited Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

The underlying problem is that in many churches you are not encouraged to think for yourself. You're encouraged to follow the leadership and bible. Questioning outside that doctrine is not permitted or, at least, frowned upon. Everything is black and white - no grey. You are going to heaven or you're going to hell. It can therefore attract people who don't want to think for themselves for some reason. It can be largely based on fear unfortunately - hard to talk about the possibility of going to hell for it not to be. I know because I have come out of the church (a variety of them - formal, evangelical etc) and it can be like coming out of a cult depending on the church. Of course you don't realise this until you leave - until that point you're completely oblivious. As it's your belief system you don't realise how many parts of your life it permeates. So to leave then you may have to change your entire way of thinking, which is incredibly challenging and terrifying for most people. So why would those at Hillsong think for themselves now? They are having the very thing they have based their ENTIRE lives around challenged. They will have to change their belief system, which may lead them to decide that Hillsong is not what they thought it was, or find some way to correlate it with what has happened and justify it, which is I suspect what they are doing now. The fact they can't even address the problem directly and name it and instead seem to be praising the very people that have harmed so many is kind of an indication they are struggling to process or looking for a way to make it make sense and fit their belief system. I hasten to add not all churches or attendees necessarily fall into this category, but Hillsong obviously does.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I'm with you Karen - I think that the idea of "faithfulness", and that in order to be a good christian you must have faith and not question, is a big part of how they maintain control.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

'Control' is the key word unfortunately....even if it's unconscious that's the underlying premise

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I’ve been there too. Completely agree.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Maybe “I choose coffee” is code for “I choose to ignore the victims of my sex pest father”? Someone consult the glossary.

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author

I think... you are accurate.

I yelped when I read that.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

The language is interesting. It’s the same as the language used by new age of alternative health grifters. It’s spiritual bypassing. I’m beginning to loathe ‘gratitude’. Gratitude is morally neutral. Choose coffee, indeed

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author

You're right - it's so far removed from what Jesus stood for, it could be any cult. It could be scientology. Vague, awful nonsense used to justify their existence.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

The fallout from The Prosperity Gospel will never be contained. When religion is this intertwined with business, everything Christ ever preached goes right out the window.

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author

You are so, so correct. Succinctly put.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

They are grifters. Agreed.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Having been involved in this church in the early 90s, I believe it is fair to say that these individuals are in crisis. They have built their belief system, their friendships, their lives around this group. They will as humans, be very confused and alarmed to have the bottom fall out of it. Some will scramble to reset it all in their minds in a way that is makes sense so that they don’t have to overturn their whole life and give up their livelihood . Some may leave. Some may be stuck and leave later when they find a path. Leaving a cult is not easy. As to these guys ‘not being Christian’ , I don’t see much difference in this church to anyone other belief system. Not so different to the millions of Catholics in denial about child abuse. We all scramble to protect ideas we have built our lives on. It was a painful and scarey process for me to move on from this group. I hope this is a catalyst for some to get out of this damaging belief system.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Tautoko. Unpicking the material that we think of as "ourselves" is painful and scary.

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Mar 24, 2022·edited Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I was also curious how this type of thing plays out with, for example, Lotus Heart restaurant in Christchurch. It's was run by people under the banner of Sri Chimoy (their leader, now deceased, has numerous sexual abuse allegations hanging over him as well) but Sri Chimoy disowned the owner recently as she is refusing to run her restaurant according to the vaccine mandates and passports saying it's individual choice. She has $44,000 of fines waiting to be paid and has continued on regardless ignoring regulations (I stopped going there long ago as I didn't fancy unvaccinated staff serving me). I wondered how her staff - obviously Sri Chimoy converts - now feel and what they feel they gain by working there when Sri Chimoy has disowned the owner and her establishment? Must call into question their faith and what it's based on surely. Now they are essentially just working for probably low wages in a general vegetarian restaurant.

https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/health/coronavirus/127624037/lotusheart-is-no-longer-affiliated-with-our-organisation-restaurants-membership-revoked-following-covid19-breaches

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I used to love that restaurant too, and would go there every time I was in chch… Now they seem to have joined the zombie brigade *sigh*

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Bloody delicious food served with a side of crazy :) Must admit I was already considering if I wanted my money supporting a cult with a leader who had allegations of sexual abuse...

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author

Thanks for this - news to me.

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I didn’t know about the sexual abuse stuff. I used to go there for Death Cafe.

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Thanks so much David - grifters is the best description I've heard for this lot, as are the Destiny Church lot and all their similar ilk. The Christian religion (as are most religions) is predominantly male lead and male dominated - hence anyone who is considered to be fodder by the kinds of males that like to 'use' people for their own ends will be fair game. It stands to reason that this type of religion - any type of male dominated religion - is going to attract the type of abusers who are often found in positions of power. It isn't anything to do with God per se - it is just male dominated organisations, corporations, societies generally. So it would seem that those very insightful words Let Us Prey is the catchphrase of the patriarchy. Because sadly, that is what they tend do. Victims aren't mentioned because, well, they were not important before they were abused, which is why they were abused, and they are not important afterwards. All that matters is the bloke, and the blokey God. Makes me sick to my damn stomach. No wonder I am an Atheist.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Fukn A. The bloke and the blokey god.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Who "honours" their boss that much even when they do good things?? Weird. These are overpaid apologists for bad human beings. Never mind the Bible quotes.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

And if any people who suffered at the hands of Hillsong church are reading this, I'm sorry. What happened was real, it was terrible, and you deserve better.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I don't think I could have watched that till the end.

Using prayer as deflection and distraction. What a shitshow. I really hope the church leaderships reaction to these events gets some people thinking and they choose truth, and honesty and action. And then they choose to leave. No good can come of being exposed to this kind of manipulative control. Choose better.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Again thanks David, and especially for sitting through this nonsense. With this piece I think you've helped me better understand my rage. There is a little kid inside me that really did believe in, and love, the teachings of Jesus. And although I have now grown up and evolved to not believe in the sky fairies who can "see my thoughts", I have retained many of the teachings in my work and broader life as a core values. Care for others, kindness, truth, empathy, character & community are important. To watch people claim the title of "christian" and yet be so self-serving and wilfully ignore telling the truth in order to engage in self-protection and denial feels, as you said, just maddening. Over and over again they face no consequences, while simultaneously claiming the moral high ground. Just yuck.

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This is a really nice thing to hear, because I think sitting through this and then reflecting a little - listening again while transcribing - and thinking some more - it was a way to process the rage I felt.

And it was rage. I wanted to be in that room with them, and I wanted to scream in their faces.

Such smug faces.

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Mar 23, 2022Liked by David Farrier

I just can't stomach the "obey/obedience" at all costs mantra. We went to a JW wedding a few years ago for my step brother in law who is firmly entrenched in that. While I'm so happy he has found a very sweet wife I couldn't help but feel sick at how many times they bring up "you will obey your husband then God above all" throughout the ceremony. Yuck.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

The trouble is this then becomes a perfect breeding ground for sexual abusers as they have a ready supply of victims who are unlikely to call them out due to their need to 'obey'. So while it seems the church has a lot of these people it's probably more that these types are attracted to the church as it is an easy cover for their abusive tendencies, which then in turn puts the church in general into disrepute.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

It was God's will all along they get raped/abused...

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author

Or they deserved it, at the very least. Or that is their role. AWFUL. Burn it all to the ground.

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Mar 24, 2022Liked by David Farrier

Doesn't help that the old testament has plenty of examples of rape and abuse. Really does make me wonder how people cherry pick what they take from that book...

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author

That line is SO HORRIBLE. Fuck that.

Sorry, that stuff winds me up a lot.

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