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The Hillsong Church
March 18, 2008 4:57 PM   Subscribe

The Hillsong Church has been a controversial church in Australia for quite some time (13mb mp3 link). From questions over its political influence to claims that they were stacking the votes in Australian Idol to concerns about the way it uses its donations, Hillsong continues to inspire much debate over whether it is a force for good or whether it is corrupt. In the latest controversy to surround the church, they are now claiming that they can cure homosexuality. Hardly a first for a Christian church except that Hillsong, which has a strict doctrine that teaches homosexuality is an affliction that can be cured, is so obsessed with ensuring that there are no homosexuals under their roof that it is running the program for its own disciples... even those who aren't gay. Allegedly, they are going so far as to issue "separation contracts" to young women who simply make friends with each other and which prevents any form of physical contact between residents.

Ex-residents claim that to help in Hillsong's endeavour to rid themselves of homosexuals, Hillsong has gone so far as to enlist the services of Sy Rogers, an American 'ex-gay' (now reformed) married Christian who spoke at their MegaChurch last year. Hillsong uses Roger's Youtube show Turnaround, in which he claims "Happily, homosexuality can be turned around. Homosexuality is out of tune with religion; it is not what God planned for human sexuality."

Mercy Ministries, who own Hillsong, have denied running such a program and, according to the Brisbane Times article, Hillsong has not answered questions regarding their views on homosexuality. Brian Houston, the senior pastor at the church has been described by some as a great man. Is he? Or is he simply the head of a church with no answers?
posted by Effigy2000 (94 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Yuck.
Etcetera.
posted by Dizzy at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2008


Ugh. This reminds me of my grade school / junior high, which although not affiliated was heavily Baptist. Anybody who touched anyone else in friendship risked an accusation of "gaywad." It wasn't until eighth grade that we got some kids from New Jersey who taught us the way of the group hug, and came to realize that touching friends was okay.
posted by Countess Elena at 5:15 PM on March 18, 2008


I just burnt a copy of Guy Sebastian's 'The Memphis Album', the one where he does reedy covers of all that big chill shit that everyone covers.

Apart from a nasty "plasticky" smell in the kitchen and a bit in the living room, the whole package went up nicely.
posted by mattoxic at 5:24 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think Mercy Ministries own Hillsong, or v/v. They're just fellow-travellers AFAIK.
From the Brisbane Times article:
Another former resident, who did not wish to be identified, said: "Girls were asked on the application form, as well as in a telephone interview, if they have ever had lesbian or bisexual relationships. They asked if I had been involved in drug abuse, witchcraft, or lesbianism. They bunched them in together like that."
As you do.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:26 PM on March 18, 2008


so obsessed with ensuring that there are no homosexuals under their roof that it is running the program for its own disciples... even those who aren't gay

Analysts report that full homosexual exorcisms are costing the Church over $20 billion per year, in addition to countless personal suffering. If you are between the ages of 10 and 30, don't forget to schedule your preventative care "lite" homo-exorcism once a year, and once every two years after 30. Together, we can beat the gay!
posted by Krrrlson at 5:34 PM on March 18, 2008


You usual LOLXIAN commenters will be with you in a moment. Meanwhile, I found this curious:

A couple of years ago, Brian Houston boasted on ABC television that Hillsong's income for the financial year 2004-2005 was (A)$50 million. It's tax-free, of course. Accounts are never published.

Doesn't Australia require financial reporting by churches and non-profits? What the hey, Aussies?
posted by dw at 5:37 PM on March 18, 2008


More interesting stuff about Hillsong and government funding of their programs here; they were paid nearly a million bucks to administer $250k in grant funds, and they spent $315,000 of government money on a microcredit program that employed seven people, but ended up making only six loans of $2856 each.

I've noticed a number of new charitable organisations springing up that seem to have Hillsong backgrounds (as in, governed entirely by Hillsong people), although sometimes you have to dig for it. A number of charities and schools run "self-esteem" programs for young people that are designed by Hillsong, and apply for donations to run them. There's no assessment or evaluation being provided to indicate they're successful, there's never much information about the actual program design, and the budgets are usually pretty vague and very large. Those are all good reasons not to support them, and the whole Evol Gayz thing is an even better reason.
posted by andraste at 5:43 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


dw: No, Australia doesn't require public financial reporting by churches and non-profits. Our whole charitable sector and the associated structures are complicated and confusing. There have been many calls to change that (PDF link) from within the sector and without, but it would be a mammoth task.
posted by andraste at 5:47 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Sy Rogers looks like a serial killer."
Oh the joy of YouTube comments...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:54 PM on March 18, 2008


Oh and 'Turnaround' just made me think of this... perhaps Sy can cover it.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 5:57 PM on March 18, 2008


Hillsong's endeavour to rid themselves of homosexuals

Basically everything I've already written about the kind of Christians who try to get rid of any type of people applies here. In spades.

Sometimes I wish this website wasn't so narrowly focused on the fringe crazies of the Christian faith.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:08 PM on March 18, 2008


And then again, on the other hand, I'm kind of glad there's at least some forum pointing out the atrocities.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:09 PM on March 18, 2008


"Sometimes I wish this website wasn't so narrowly focused on the fringe crazies of the Christian faith."
posted by allkindsoftime at 12:08 PM on March 19

In principle I agree with you, allkindsoftime. Not all Christians are whackos. I can count amongst my friends at least four people who are of the Christian faith whom I care for dearly.

But with respect, Hillsong is not a "fringe crazy" Christian group. They are a mainstream crazy Christian group. The Hillsong conference in 2006 had over 30,000 delegates alone. The former Prime Minister of Australia and the former Treasurer both appeared to speak at Hillsong conferences because they knew there were votes in it.

So yeah, they're hardly what you would call fringe.
posted by Effigy2000 at 6:21 PM on March 18, 2008


Yeah, but they are Australian. So there.
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:29 PM on March 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


sorry couldn't resist
posted by allkindsoftime at 6:30 PM on March 18, 2008


Christ, hearing this crap makes me want to turn gay for a little while, just to freak'em out.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:32 PM on March 18, 2008


This is a good thing.

As more and more so-called "Christians" demonstrate that they don't give a damn about the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus's anger at the money-changers, or his command to "judge not, that ye be not judged, preferring to limit their Bible to Deuteronomy and the Gospel according to Santorum (in which Jesus sayeth, "Hey dudes, let's drag a fag behind my Ford F-150!"), more and more real Christians will have to either disown this evil perversion of their Savior's intent, or resign themsleves to having their religion wither away.
posted by orthogonality at 6:55 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


'Turnaround' is an unfortunate name for such a programme
posted by mattoxic at 7:00 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of the better terms I've heard to describe mega-churches:

"Six Flags Over Jesus"

Mega-churches are anti-Christian.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:02 PM on March 18, 2008


allkindsoftime writes "Sometimes I wish this website wasn't so narrowly focused on the fringe crazies of the Christian faith."

Sometimes I wish the public face of Christianity wasn't so focused on demonizing gay people and complaining about sexual "immorality".

But then, I'm not a Christian. Maybe some Christians could get up on their soapboxes and talk about, I dunno, the stuff Jesus actually said instead of the stuff Jesus barely made mention of.

Actually, I'll give Mike Huckabee some credit for doing this; not that the right-wing Christians with money seemed to appreciate it.
posted by orthogonality at 7:02 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think Mercy Ministries own Hillsong, or v/v. They're just fellow-travellers AFAIK.

Bit more than just fellow travellers. Hillsong helped MM get established in Australia and referred women to them.


From SMH
"Mostly funded by Gloria Jean's Coffee - which said last night it did not plan to change its sponsorship arrangements - and supported by the Hillsong Foundation, Mercy Ministries says it has a 90 per cent success rate, but when asked to provide evidence of the program's outcomes, Ms Watson said that research was under way and not yet available."
posted by spongeboy at 7:08 PM on March 18, 2008


When the Herald asked Mercy Ministries representatives whether they told young women that the symptoms of their mental illness or eating disorders were due to demonic activity and that residents were forced into exorcisms, they offered no denial [...] Mostly funded by Gloria Jean's Coffee (etc)

Well, that's just another reason to avoid Gloria Jean's, quite aside from the fact that their coffee tastes like dishwater.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:22 PM on March 18, 2008


See! It's not just the United States that has fundies! AUSTRALIA. See!
posted by elmwood at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2008


They also apparently run a boot camp/tough love program to "cure" mental illness-- just like the lovely ones I've exposed here in the US.

Same delightful outcomes of broken families and lives... when will people learn that hurting and humiliating people does not change behavior in a positive way?
posted by Maias at 7:41 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is a good thing.

As more and more so-called "Christians" demonstrate that they don't give a damn about the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus's anger at the money-changers, or his command to "judge not, that ye be not judged, preferring to limit their Bible to Deuteronomy and the Gospel according to Santorum (in which Jesus sayeth, "Hey dudes, let's drag a fag behind my Ford F-150!"), more and more real Christians will have to either disown this evil perversion of their Savior's intent, or resign themsleves to having their religion wither away.

Unfortunately, the kinds of Christians who try their darnedest to follow their Savior's intent happen to *not* be attention whores who go out of their way to put the spotlight on their own good works.
posted by Doohickie at 7:59 PM on March 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


elmwood: Hillsong is a US import.

Thanks USA, we were short of religious nutjobs!!
posted by pompomtom at 8:00 PM on March 18, 2008


"Six Flags Over Jesus"

Megachurches? Whatever. The original Six Flags Over Jesus is brighter, tackier, and gaudier than any of those uglyass warehouse churches.
posted by dw at 8:01 PM on March 18, 2008


elmwood: Hillsong is a US import.

Wikipedia sez:

Brian and Bobbie Houston moved from New Zealand in 1978 and joined Sydney Christian Life Centre at Darlinghurst, pastored by Brian's father Frank Houston, who was later revealed to be a serial paedophile. They started Hillsong Church, which was then known as "Hills Christian Life Centre", in August 1983....

So, no, Hillsong is as American as Outback Steakhouse is Australian.
posted by dw at 8:07 PM on March 18, 2008


But then, I'm not a Christian. Maybe some Christians could get up on their soapboxes and talk about, I dunno, the stuff Jesus actually said instead of the stuff Jesus barely made mention of.

Maybe you could read about the Episcopal Church (Christians!) and the coming schism that flows from their acceptance of gays into their community?
posted by mlis at 8:23 PM on March 18, 2008


Brian Houston is the one who was asked by a Sydney Morning Herald reporter about the immense wealth and property holdings of his church and blandly replied that, after all, it says in the bible that "in my house are many mansions". I got the impression that the reporter was stunned at the stupidity of the response. I wish I could find the quote now.

It's that kind of glibness and intellectual dishonesty that makes me hate churches like this. I've actually watched Pastor Brian preach on Sunday mornings (I'm an early riser) and I can only assume that people are listening like dogs, to the tone of voice, not to what he's actually saying.

Is there an Anti-Hillsong organisation/website/blog/campaign/protest group that I can join? Anyone want to start one? Let me know.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:29 PM on March 18, 2008


The other side of the coin is referred to in this interview with Tanya Levin, a former member of the congregation; what happens when someone important in the church is the one committing sexual offences?

Pastor Brian's father was found to have sexually assaulted a number of teenage boys, and this is how he dealt with it from the pulpit:
TANYA LEVIN: He proceeded to talk about his father having, you know, having to have confronted his father over a serious, what he called a “serious moral failure”. These were allegations of sexual offences against teenage boys, which was never actually named on the day. So this was a “serious moral failure”. He’d had to confront his father about it, his father had confessed, the National Executive had then taken away his credentials, investigated, and taken away Houston Senior’s credentials. And that Brian Houston himself was crushed. And he asked for the congregation to pray for his family, for his wife and his children, and the congregation did. They stood up and they applauded him, and that was the end of that speech.
ANDREW DENTON: There was no reference to the people that had been abused or whose lives may have been damaged.
TANYA LEVIN: Absolutely no reference to the victims. There was no stance taken on child sexual assault, or child abuse of any form or care for children, ah there was no standing up and saying “Look, we will not tolerate this in our congregation”. And in fact what it made me wonder was, if this is how they treat these kinds of issues on the most public level that they’ve got, how are they treating them on smaller more, you know, in more private arenas?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:37 PM on March 18, 2008


dw: Ta for the correction. I'd had it in mind that there was an association between Hillsong and the excrable Life Christian Academy... but prehaps I was making it up.
posted by pompomtom at 8:54 PM on March 18, 2008


It is about a personality cult. The personality of the preacher is what keeps people interested - these churches go off like rock concerts. Lame, contrived, pathetic versions of rock concerts, but that's still the effect they're aiming for. There's very little mention of Jesus' teachings in the sermon. There's almost no Christian symbolism within the church. Almost no discussion of theology, or God. Just lots of very wishy-washy, feel good bullshit. And the songs they put out, their "Christian Music", consists entirely of pathetic love songs that could be about anyone anywhere, except because you're a "Christian" and you know you're listening to "Christian Music", you're supposed to accept that the songs are about Jesus and you're going to go to heaven for listening to them.

I found out the other day that Adelaide's equivalent to Hillsong, the Paradise Community Church, is putting on an Easter concert this weekend, featuring Ronald McDonald, Dorothy the Dinosaur and Spongebob Squarepants! What the fuck? The most solemn and sacred observance in the Christian calendar, and rather than distancing themselves from the commercialism, a church actually puts on a concert featuring Ronald Fucking McDonald! And charges parents and children to get in? The mind fucking boggles.
posted by Jimbob at 9:01 PM on March 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


(though having said that... pentacostalism is still a US import...)
posted by pompomtom at 9:04 PM on March 18, 2008


The Hillsong Church has spread pretty broad tentancles out through it's music program and annual conference; back when I attended a fairly moderate Uniting Church/Anglican dominated high school, a true-believing subset of the students were all excited each year about their trip to Hillsong, and returned with a whole bunch of new songs we had to drone through in weekly chapel, blathering on about how it was the most moving experience of their life, they really felt Jesus at Hillsong, they can't wait for next year! Hillsong is like the Big Day Out for a certain tragic set of kids.
posted by Jimbob at 9:07 PM on March 18, 2008


Jimbob mentions their music which is why I know of Hillsong...here's a Youtube of possibly their most wellknown song.
posted by konolia at 9:15 PM on March 18, 2008


Oh man, konolia, you just brought back memories. I think I actually played guitar on that song in chapel at school once...
posted by Jimbob at 9:22 PM on March 18, 2008


A guy from Hillsong actually came to our school once to testify. Gave an hour-long speech about his life, how dreadful it was (he was involved in satanism or rock music or beer or something...) until he found Jesus. At the end he declared "Stand up, everyone who wants to give their life to Jesus!". The whole assembly hall of 300 students stayed still. "Come on, stand up, now!". No-one moved. He tried this for at least ten minutes, actually getting gradually and gradually more pissed off at us for not converting on the spot at his command. Told people that any previous commitments people had made to Christianity were worth nothing unless they stood up right now. Eventually his time was up and he mumbled something angrily under his breath as we all left for our next class.
posted by Jimbob at 9:27 PM on March 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


warehouse churches

Another excellent and appropriate term. Prepackaged bulk verisimilitude, sold in case lots to greedy herds of consumers, who happily shell out the bucks because, hey!, quantity is eversomuch better than quality!

The most stunning thing to me is that so much of the red-letter Jesus advocates against this form of religion. How the hell do these people think they're practicing Christianity if it's not what Christ promoted?

I was promoting this site heavily in a MeTa thread the other week, but I'm gonna be crass and suggest it once again: a critical analysis of Left Behind, arguably the worst novels ever written, let alone the worst psuedo-Christian novels. Blogged by an evangelist who is both educated and erudite, with some very insightful gems in the resultant discussion threads. Some of the best web reading I've encountered in ages.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:20 PM on March 18, 2008 [4 favorites]


Maybe some Christians could get up on their soapboxes and talk about, I dunno, the stuff Jesus actually said instead of the stuff Jesus barely made mention of.

Uh, I did you one better dude. I got up on my soap box and talked about stuff Jesus actually did. Read my link next time before you start in on me.
posted by allkindsoftime at 10:25 PM on March 18, 2008


these churches go off like rock concerts. Lame, contrived, pathetic versions of rock concerts, but that's still the effect they're aiming for. There's very little mention of Jesus' teachings in the sermon. There's almost no Christian symbolism within the church. Almost no discussion of theology, or God. Just lots of very wishy-washy, feel good bullshit. And the songs they put out, their "Christian Music", consists entirely of pathetic love songs that could be about anyone anywhere, except because you're a "Christian" and you know you're listening to "Christian Music", you're supposed to accept that the songs are about Jesus and you're going to go to heaven for listening to them.

Well, that's exactly the point.

Ecstatic music & dance (not to mention common usage of intoxicants) have been integral parts of human worship for aeons. It's only in relatively recent times that religious ceremonies have been largely turned into stoic, sombre, 'respectful' & solemn affairs.

It's a very powerful thing for a mass of people to all be singing and dancing together in common purpose, and mystical traditions from Tibetan Buddhism to Islamic Sufism have always known this & never dropped the ball.

What Hillsong & all those sing-songy American churches have done is to reintroduce that ecstatic, mystical element; so people really can get carried away & have 'transcendental' experiences, letting themselves go & fly on the safe group feel, the trance-inducing nature of the music, the endorphins from the dancing, and I'd bet a whole bunch of pheromones floating around the place.

It's very easy to see why they are so popular, especially in the absence of any really strong preachiness or requirement for people to do much other than have fun, and try to carry the good lovin' vibe out from the church into their general everyday lives.

Indeed, the idea that "Hillsong is like the Big Day Out for a certain tragic set of kids" is possibly truer than you might think, because a lot of music-based subcultures - ravers, goths & metalheads stand out in particular - operate on almost exactly the same principle, only with differing or reversed symbolism & ideology.

At the base level of creating a shared community through common music, 'sacred' events, dance, imagery & symbolism, and - dare I say - sexual energy, I don't think these churches are really any different to many secular musical subcultures.
posted by UbuRoivas at 10:37 PM on March 18, 2008 [9 favorites]


I don't think these churches are really any different to many secular musical subcultures.


Neither do I. Like I said, that's what it's all about, that's why they get thousands of people turning up and throwing their money around. However, what one would imagine to be the actual role of a Christian church is very poorly addressed, in terms of teaching, morality, charity. So you get all these people going on about how great Hillsong makes them feel, and they assume it's Jesus making them feel that way, and because they've been rewarded with that ecstatic feeling, their job as a Christian is done.
posted by Jimbob at 10:43 PM on March 18, 2008


MLIS writes "Maybe you could read about the Episcopal Church (Christians!) and the coming schism that flows from their acceptance of gays into their community?"

I was baptized into the Episcopalian Church, and a close relative is a major player in the Church and much involved (on the establishment side) in the Church's debate over homosexuality and the resultant strife in the Church.
posted by orthogonality at 11:18 PM on March 18, 2008


Like someone said above, the wacky folk get more press. Especially the narcissistic ones.

"They asked if I had been involved in drug abuse, witchcraft, or lesbianism. They bunched them in together like that."

I can only imagine how confused kids growing up in that kind of atmosphere must be - can you imagine the logic that somehow makes all those similar???

The government funding without having accountability of public documentation of the finances would definitely set off warning bells for me. This church would seem a great example to use if I were a public citizan trying to get some of that accountability.

Oh and for every attention monger in front of the camera telling you how American denomination X is working hard to not allow gay members equal rights/ability to be pastors - there are plenty of quiet members working just as hard behind the scenes in favor of that, and not letting the loudmouths bully them. In the past there were similar internal struggles over racism (many splits during Civil War) and allowing women to preach.
posted by batgrlHG at 11:20 PM on March 18, 2008


At the base level of creating a shared community through common music, 'sacred' events, dance, imagery & symbolism, and - dare I say - sexual energy...

One wonders if they're slipping E into the sacramental wine.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:28 PM on March 18, 2008


OK all sarcasm aside. I went to a very interesting forum put on by the NSW Fabian Society a year or two ago where Pastor Brian Houston and David Marr (author of the SMH/Brissie Times article) debated each other on Christianity and secular society. Marr was the usual squeaky model of assertive journalism but Houston was eye-opening. Charismatic, compelling, yeah, but when I actually listened to the message I couldn't get over the level of actual religious ignorance.
Houston explained the parable of the Good Samaritan in terms of economic potential/effectiveness; the argument was that if someone with a bit of money could help a bit, someone with a lot of money could help a lot, and that it therefore was the responsibility of Christians to become wealthy philanthropic individuals.
That's a level of wrong I hadn't thought it was possible to achieve.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:30 PM on March 18, 2008


They asked if I had been involved in drug abuse, witchcraft, or lesbianism.

Not only is this endlessly amusing, but it points out an interesting facet of their mindset: of course witchcraft is real: after all, it is not so very different from the craft of changing water into wine, wine into blood, the exorcism of demons, the rising of the dead, or the intervention of prayer.

These are people who live in a very scary, very magical world.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:34 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure which I find more frightening. The Hillsboro baptist church or The Hillsong church.

While hillsboro disgusts me to no end, any sane person sees them, internally vomits, and moves on understanding that they are intolerant whack jobs.

The Hillsong church seems to preach a similar message but in a more believable way to those who want to believe.

In fact, now that I've typed this I've resolved my own dispute.


Churches can be such a poison.
posted by Inversehelix at 11:46 PM on March 18, 2008


I have been to the sing-and-dance church services.

It scared the living hell out of me - these people were willingly abrogating sense of self - participating in a mob hysteria that was occasionally directed against the enemies of the faith.

I, as a Catholic, who happens to be very liberal in her views, and is very much of the view that it is not my business to judge anyone, and thinks that what goes on between consenting adults is their business and no-one else's in this life - I was honestly frightened for my life. The people around me were reacting totally blindly - screaming and carrying on, and going on about having the fire of God and being soldiers of Christ.

To add to this - in some ways, Catholics are less acceptable than gays in all the fundamental/pentacostal/evangelical groups I've visited. Being gay is wrong, but being heretic is apparently pure evil.

Oh well. I can live with that.
posted by ysabet at 12:17 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


>Houston explained the parable of the Good Samaritan in terms of economic potential/effectiveness; the argument was that if someone with a bit of money could help a bit, someone with a lot of money could help a lot, and that it therefore was the responsibility of Christians to become wealthy philanthropic individuals.

There it is, that's exactly the kind of thing that I was talking about before.

"God wants you to be rich, because rich people can do more good than poor people" is a position. It's an argument. There's nothing worse about it than any other social/political/cultural ideology.

But to claim with a straight face that that's what the parable of the Good Samaritan means?

The horror, the horror.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:11 AM on March 19, 2008


Yeah, given that as I understand it, Samaritans were "not real Jews", (Mormons compared to "real" Christians, if you like) for me the parable of the Good Samaritan suggests that God favours people from other religions who do good deeds more than true believers who don't.

Needless to say, when I've suggested this interpretation to Christians, they look at me blankly.
posted by Jimbob at 4:23 AM on March 19, 2008


It's interesting ortho mentions the "moneychangers". Here's what Hillsong's "CEO" has to say on the matter in Effo's fifth link.
So, you couldn't see Jesus running into Hillsong and overturning the cash registers, as he famously did with the money changers in the temple? "Absolutely not," he says. "Absolutely not. Because the spirit of those people was ... the house of God wasn't even about God any more. It was about, you know, it had become a marketplace inside the temple - it wasn't about Christian resources, resources that are helping people.
I seem to recall being taught that it was the sellers of animals for sacrifice that Jesus objected to. This was supposedly a reflection of a similar objection by, I think, Jeremiah. Anyway, the point is that Jesus & Jeremiah were both pissed off because folks were selling "Judaic resources"; not because they were providing financial services. Though, as the linked story also points out, Hillsong provides EFTPOS (debit / electronic banking) facilities, so they're damned any way you look at it.
posted by GeckoDundee at 4:55 AM on March 19, 2008


That's not quite right, Jimbob. Jesus wants to replace a legalistic view of the law (which, put that way, sounds like a stupid move, perhaps say "lawyerly" instead if that doesn't offend) with a relational one. Instead of plowing through the law (which it seems he himself was set to do at one point before meeting John the Baptist and going all "alternative") looking for clever interpretations that will guide our actions, we should look for the right kinds of relationships to shape our lives. These need only be two: a loving relationship with God and also with "our neighbour". The parable of the good Samaritan is supposed to show us who might count as our neighbour. I used to think that this somehow meant we should only care about those people who care about us, or those who bandage our wounds and pay our hotel bills, or something. But I think it's just meant to mean we should behave that way to everyone. Or, if you like, that we should love everyone. And it's more like Israeli / Palestinian than Christian / Mormon, not that it matters.

I'm not a Christian though, so I may have it all wrong.
posted by GeckoDundee at 5:14 AM on March 19, 2008


Hillsong is a far cry from the joyful rustic kermesses of the ancien Levant.
posted by breezeway at 7:46 AM on March 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


"Absolutely not. Because the spirit of those people was ... the house of God wasn't even about God any more. It was about, you know, it had become a marketplace inside the temple - it wasn't about Christian resources, resources that are helping people.

There are American mega-churches that have various food courts, gift shops, etcetera within them.

I stand firm in my conviction that these are not Christian churches. They are run by Wormwood and under the guidance of Screwtape. They are the anti-Christ among us.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:53 AM on March 19, 2008


Not only is this endlessly amusing, but it points out an interesting facet of their mindset: of course witchcraft is real: after all, it is not so very different from the craft of changing water into wine, wine into blood, the exorcism of demons, the rising of the dead, or the intervention of prayer.

These are people who live in a very scary, very magical world.


FFF, one of my friends grew up in a very abusive, self-proclaimed satanic worshiping household. They did lots of rituals, lots of stuff to her specifically and/or in her viewing that would make every one of you cry. She stated that the reason they did it is there was Real Power to be obtained.

I understand if you don't believe in supernatural power of any sort-but I have been the beneficiary of it with the source being God, and she has unfortunately been a victim of it and an eyewitness to it on the other side. Western mindsets find that hard to swallow but there are lots of cultures worldwide that have a much deeper understanding of such things.

Look, I go to one of these larger churches. There are indeed aspects that do trouble me-but then again no church is perfect-and I would not go so far to accuse them of being run by Wormwood. These groups are run by imperfect people in an imperfect world. Lately my prayer has been, "Lord, just make me a solution and not part of the problem...."
posted by konolia at 8:06 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Good prayer.
posted by agregoli at 11:04 AM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hate that "Shout to the Lord" song with every fiber of my being, and know I know why. Give me Ralph Vaughn Williams any day.

Stories about these kinds of churches make me ever so glad to be a part of a small, struggling Episcopal parish. We may not have wealth, or thousands of congregants dancing in the aisles or a coffee shop in the foyer, but we have an immense amount of love, love that we're happy to share with whoever. Taking communion with my fellow parishioners means much more to me than participating in some crazed "Christian" festival ever could.

And these are exactly the folks Jesus would throw out of the temple.
posted by Biblio at 12:44 PM on March 19, 2008


I thought about the moneychangers thing when I recently visited Lincoln Cathedral in that you have to now pay an entrance fee to get it, there's a gift shop etc... I suppose they do have a let out in that it's free if you are attending a service and there's also side-chapel you can go in that's free as well. Though it did strike me as odd to see a till, with credit-card swiper inside the main body of a cathedral... then beyond that numerous displays essentially begging for money - 'Adopt a carving!'
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 12:51 PM on March 19, 2008


konolia, do you believe there are witches in America?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:50 PM on March 19, 2008


Lately my prayer has been, "Lord, just make me a solution and not part of the problem...."

You know, there's really no better than the Prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

Amen.

posted by UbuRoivas at 5:24 PM on March 19, 2008 [3 favorites]


konolia, do you believe there are witches in America?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:50 PM on March 19 [+] [!]


Believe?

I went with another friend to her parents' house, both of whom were selfprofessed witches. They gave me iced tea and some homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers.

They looked real to me.
posted by konolia at 5:37 PM on March 19, 2008


Sometimes I wish this website wasn't so narrowly focused on the fringe crazies of human sexuality.
posted by quonsar at 6:01 PM on March 19, 2008


konolia: the tomatoes & cucumbers might have looked real enough at the time, but did you stay up & watch what happened to them at midnight?
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:10 PM on March 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


in all the fundamental/pentacostal/evangelical groups I've visited

they bunch them in together like that.
posted by quonsar at 6:12 PM on March 19, 2008


konolia, could you please answer the question as asked? People self-profess to be any number of things, but that doesn't make them that thing.

Are witches real, konolia?
posted by five fresh fish at 7:21 PM on March 19, 2008


FFF, if you are asking do I believe in the supernatural, I say yes.

If you are asking if I believe there are people who do rituals and sacrifices, etc to conjure up spirits and/or to obtain power to do certain supernatural things, I have to say yes-or at the very least I know people who claim to do and experience these things and/or associate or did associate with people who do.

FFF, people do these things for a reason. I had to watch my friend have a meltdown yesterday because she had a flashback to one of those rituals...she will tell you herself why the folks who are into that sort of thing do it. Not because they are sadists, although I am sure they probably are, not just because they are evil-which anyone who would do what these people have done are unquestionably evil-but they do what they do because they get results by doing it.

Meanwhile, there are those of us out here who try to minister to and comfort the victims of these things. It certainly isn't something that would be brought up over a coffee at Starbucks, you know?
posted by konolia at 7:41 PM on March 19, 2008


People make all sorts of outrageous claims about themselves and about the world. The Cottingley Fairies is an excellent example. Just because someone claims something is real does not make it so, regardless how much they might believe it.

Exodus 22:17 is where I'm headed, of course. So my next question is "Should witches be put to death?"

And with your answer, I shall drop this line of inquiry. Thanks for your patience.
posted by five fresh fish at 8:10 PM on March 19, 2008


I had to watch my friend have a meltdown yesterday because she had a flashback to one of those rituals...she will tell you herself why the folks who are into that sort of thing do it. Not because they are sadists, although I am sure they probably are, not just because they are evil-which anyone who would do what these people have done are unquestionably evil-but they do what they do because they get results by doing it.

Wait, who are you talking about here?

People who perform wiccan rituals because they think they get results by doing them? Or the people who perform rituals to 'cure' others of things like mental illness or homosexuality?
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:33 PM on March 19, 2008


Exodus 22:17 is where I'm headed, of course. So my next question is "Should witches be put to death?"

instruction relayed within a cultural milieu you cannot grasp to a nomadic desert tribe chosen for a distinct task several millennia ago, lifted out of context and interpreted as a compulsory demand to different people in a different age is unmuddled thinking? do you see konolia killing witches? is five fresh fish an intelligent, open-minded liberal thinker, able to see beyond his own bigotries?

no, to all of the above.
posted by quonsar at 3:39 AM on March 20, 2008


So my next question is "Should witches be put to death?"

We are not Old Testament Israel and we are under a different covenant. Jesus died for our sins and hopefully each of us will decide to appropriate that sacrifice for ourselves=to include witches and practitioners of the dark arts. I have met folks who have done just that.

If a witch-or anyone for that matter-rejects Christ, then they are responsible for their own sin before God. That is not a good position to be in.
posted by konolia at 4:18 AM on March 20, 2008


People who perform wiccan rituals because they think they get results by doing them? Or the people who perform rituals to 'cure' others of things like mental illness or homosexuality?

Actually in this case I am referring to selfproclaimed Satanists. A wiccan would have condemmed what these particular people did.

But as to your former point-many of you knew I struggled with bipolar. I do believe that in many cases including mine there is a physical component to that. But after prayer ministry, and dealing with all aspects of the illness, I am totally free of it.

Even my doctor released me from treatment. He had no reason to keep me. I have been medfree and fine for a year now. Now that is not to say there are some "ministries" out there that do way more harm than good to people who suffer with these things-been there, done that too. The key is to find ministries that understand the role that medical treatment and medication play, and that encourage folks to use that as well. If a person truly is healed a doctor will be able to tell and act accordingly. As in my case. And no, my doc wasn't a Christian and bamboozled. He watched me for months afterward.
posted by konolia at 4:23 AM on March 20, 2008


I think the Chaser's satire sums up Hillsong the best.

There are many parallels between Hillsong and Australian Idol. Both claim to represent a cause, promotion of new musical talent on one hand and Christian values on the other, but are really just big empty shams to make money. Both prey on a younger audience, with less appreciation of the real thing and low scepticism.

If at the end of the day the Hillsong crowd were more accepting, generous and open people because of it that would be great. Instead we are getting the same mean spirited, closed minded people, who don't think twice about attacking people based on their genetic makeup and personal life choices.
posted by CaveFrog at 6:42 AM on March 20, 2008


Not because they are sadists, although I am sure they probably are, not just because they are evil-which anyone who would do what these people have done are unquestionably evil-but they do what they do because they get results by doing it.

Because they are able to control and hurt the people they want to control and hurt? Or because they summon up some sort of demonic power to control and hurt? That's my confusion over these answers.
posted by agregoli at 6:57 AM on March 20, 2008


instruction relayed within a cultural milieu you cannot grasp to a nomadic desert tribe chosen for a distinct task several millennia ago, lifted out of context and interpreted as a compulsory demand to different people in a different age is unmuddled thinking?

This includes, too, the criminalization of homosexual behaviour and the "proper" role of women in the family. And myriad other idiocies to which a good number of fundamentalist Christian cultists adhere.

Talk therapies, exercise, and discovering a purposeful role in life do wonderful things in the treatment of depression, Konolia. Congratulations!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:39 AM on March 20, 2008


I'm afraid it's the summoning up real demons answer.
posted by agregoli at 12:52 PM on March 20, 2008


Agregoli, I know a number of people who have actually SEEN demons. (Thankfully not me, as from the descriptions given, they are not particularly pleasant to look at unless they are doing the angel-of-light routine.)

I suggest people who think it's a fine idea to call them up rethink that notion. NOT a good idea.
posted by konolia at 1:31 PM on March 20, 2008


Seeing demons does not necessarily mean they exist. Same with seeing angels or any other non-scientific explainable phenomenon. People with mental illness or physical brain issues can see all sorts of things. Lest you think I'm an atheist, I am not. I consider myself Pagan, although not really pantheistic in the sense that I believe in a sun god or a grass god or anything like that.

How could anyone call up a demon? Does the Bible tell you how? Is there a specific method to avoid, or could I do it by chanting, "I summon a demon!" I would think that since there is a defined way to worship from many different Christian perspectives, that there would be a defined way to summon demons and the devil as well.
posted by agregoli at 1:51 PM on March 20, 2008


Also, what happened to the people who have seen demons? Did they call them up? Did anything happen to them when they saw them?

I am not trying to be disrespectful, I'm honestly curious about this. I've never known anyone to claim having known anyone who has seen demons and didn't think they were mentally not right.
posted by agregoli at 2:00 PM on March 20, 2008


(But we can take this to memail if that's more appropriate. Sorry for derailing).
posted by agregoli at 2:01 PM on March 20, 2008


I don't mind answering here...thread's old enough, I suppose. Let me try the questions in order...

1. Of course the Bible does not give directions for summoning a demon/spirit (unless you count the story of Saul and the Witch of Endor-more a cautionary tale using Saul as an example, actually.) You say you are a pagan-in that case I know that you know there are many folks who claim that label with vastly different types of practices, etc. I'm thinking it might be more the satanists or people who consider themselves into black witchcraft who would be straight up doing this, at least from what I have gathered over the years. Obviously, since I don't care to call one up, I'm not searching out methods.

2. Well, years ago someone I am close to not only saw but had conversations with the demonic realm. Mostly they appeared as angels of light but he did have experiences when he saw them as they were. He was not summoning them-but they did have an agenda for him. Thankfully he made different choices. That's all I really need to say about that as it really is not my story to tell.

As far as other sightings, I have a friend who had them show up in her house-she saw them briefly.

I have also had family members see them in our home. In each case the demons were ordered to leave and they did. The house in question (not where we live now) had a long and checkered history of previous residents who were into all sorts of unsavory activities. Not sure if that would be related, but many times it can be.

Also it is not uncommon for folks involved in deliverance ministry to actually see something when demons leave. It isn't necessary and doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen. I know folks in that category.


As far as people who see these things being "not right"-well, the people I know who have seen them are perfectly mentally normal. I do understand that people with mental illnesses can have hallucinations, but I also have a suspicion that some (not all, some) folks who are diagnosed as batcrap insane and see things are actually seeing things that are there that other people cannot see. In our western context that causes them to be seen as insane. Perhaps in other cultures, not so.


In general in our western culture folks don't see a lot of this stuff. You go to places in Africa and Asia where the outlook is different, and that's a horse of a different color. If you can get a bunch of missionaries from certain parts of the world talking freely you will hear some stories that will definitely make you go Hmmm......

By the way I also know people who have seen angels. I know others who know people who have conversed with them. There's a whole spiritual realm out there that many folks have no clue about. But I think people have a hunger for the supernatural and for something bigger than themselves. One reason New Age books and seminars sell so well these days (Oprah, I'm looking at YOU.)
posted by konolia at 2:56 PM on March 20, 2008


To add to this - in some ways, Catholics are less acceptable than gays in all the fundamental/pentacostal/evangelical groups I've visited. Being gay is wrong, but being heretic is apparently pure evil.

I attended an evangelical grade/middle school, although my family was (and remains) Catholic. It was ... interesting.

There were definitely times that I felt like an outsider, but the same was true of any kid whose family didn't attend the school's affiliated church. But for the most part, my Catholicism was not a big deal. Two things that stand out were: 1) a teacher ranting about the evils of the Knights of Columbus, and 2) some kids telling my sister that she would go to hell because she worshipped the Virgin Mary.

I didn't feel that the people there were particularly anti-Catholic. Rather, they disapproved of anything that deviated in any way from their particular brand of Christianity.
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 3:28 PM on March 20, 2008


konolia:
FFF, one of my friends grew up in a very abusive, self-proclaimed satanic worshiping household. They did lots of rituals, lots of stuff to her specifically and/or in her viewing that would make every one of you cry. She stated that the reason they did it is there was Real Power to be obtained.
Pics or it didn't happen.
FFF, people do these things for a reason. I had to watch my friend have a meltdown yesterday because she had a flashback to one of those rituals...she will tell you herself why the folks who are into that sort of thing do it. Not because they are sadists, although I am sure they probably are, not just because they are evil-which anyone who would do what these people have done are unquestionably evil-but they do what they do because they get results by doing it.
I have to echo five fresh fish's skepticism here. Just because someone had a horrible childhood, even due to ritualistic abuse, doesn't prove that they managed to summon demons and such. Only the horrors that we humans can manage to inflict on each other.
There are indeed aspects that do trouble me-but then again no church is perfect-and I would not go so far to accuse them of being run by Wormwood.
I was talking with some people the other day about the infamous blasphemy against the Holy Spirit topic. From the context we decided that it was to accuse the work of God as being the work of the devil. I'd already been trying to back down the rhetoric against people that might be accomplishing any good along with whatever else, particularly in God's name, and that exposition only seemed to confirm that's a good idea. That doesn't mean not advocating against harmful or counterproductive activities, but rather that the way to do it is just to hold everything up against the example of Jesus rather than calling everyone out as an agent of Satan.
These groups are run by imperfect people in an imperfect world. Lately my prayer has been, "Lord, just make me a solution and not part of the problem...."
Agreed on this point. I think this is the only Christian response. Jesus seemed pretty clear that we should focus our judgement inward and seek God through prayer, and our changed lives would impact the community around us. And by remaining in the Church we can affect that for good along with the wider secular community. With God's help, that is.
posted by vsync at 3:57 PM on March 20, 2008


ysabet:
I have been to the sing-and-dance church services.
[...]
I was honestly frightened for my life.
Honestly? Really?
posted by vsync at 3:58 PM on March 20, 2008


Pics or it didn't happen.

It happened. I have no pressing desire to convince you. I just know how hard my friend has worked and is working to heal from what she went through. And she's in her fifties NOW.
posted by konolia at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2008


My friend had a tenant who was schizophrenic. Off-meds, all sorts of bizarre and scary things inhabited his world.

Vaults of Erowid have endless stories of people who have drug-induced encounters with various strange and sometimes frightening other-worldly entities. The fictional works of Carlos Castenada can be an interesting read in much the same vein, should you prefer a paper-based media.

I once had a vivid dream that lasted hours into my waking life. When I got to work, I was surprised to the point of gibbering exclamations at Joe that he was dead, how on earth could he be here, OMGWTFBBQ.

The human mind has an astonishing capacity for self-deception. It creates its own reality, separate (but usually parallel) to that of real reality.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:12 PM on March 20, 2008


Konolia, I don't think anyone here is doubting your friend was horrendously abused.

Horrifically abused children have many mental and emotional problems. It is entirely unsurprising that she believes what she does.

That doesn't make her beliefs real reality. They are the product of a brain that needs to model and explain a reality that it can't adequately deal with. They are the product of a brain that is desperately protecting itself. IMO.

Strange how you so easily meet angels, while the vast majority of earth's population does not. What makes you such a special?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:18 PM on March 20, 2008


The human mind has an astonishing capacity for self-deception. It creates its own reality, separate (but usually parallel) to that of real reality.

Ah, there's the rub-how does one truly know where one ends and the other takes up?

(As for me, one of the only two times I ever dropped acid, I saw no angels or demons as such -unless you want to count the entire Hindu pantheon I saw in a vision while under the influence. And let me point out I never became a Hindu because of it either.)
posted by konolia at 5:42 PM on March 20, 2008


The irony in that parenthetical thought overwhelms me.

Measureability seems like a fine metric for reality. That which can not be measured is conceptual: it is in the mind.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:28 PM on March 20, 2008


Konolia - thank you for replying.
posted by agregoli at 6:17 AM on March 21, 2008


Measureability seems like a fine metric for reality.

As I was going up the stair
I saw a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today
I wish, I wish, he’d stay away.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:35 AM on March 21, 2008 [2 favorites]


that which can not be measured is conceptual

how did unselfish altruism, love and generosity evolve? why do these traits persist? what Darwinian advantage do they bestow? how are they measured?
posted by quonsar at 6:37 AM on March 21, 2008


when, and why, did quonsar start making sense?

but to answer the question, there's heaps of writing on these things (related to the selfish gene) in evolutionary biology, especially with respect to Darwinism. i'd dig around for peer-reviewed articles on the subject that include scienceriffic measurements of altruism in the natural world, but that would probably require me to fork out a handful of my hard-earned, so that's about as far as my generosity extends for tonight.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:40 AM on March 21, 2008


All of quonsar's questions answered. via
posted by Doohickie at 11:04 AM on March 26, 2008


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