Hillsong Church

Australia's new Pentecostal prime minister: Try to guess how the press is receiving him

Australia's new Pentecostal prime minister: Try to guess how the press is receiving him

Australia has a new prime minister, which is certainly news. Reading the story’s domestic and international coverage makes clear that its newsiest angle -- for journalists, at least -- is its compelling religion twist.

That’s because the new prime minister, Scott Morrison, is an outspoken, politically conservative Pentecostal Christian. This mixing of religion and politics may be old-hat at this point for Americans. But it's an entirely new experience for Australians.

Morrison’s selection as PM is, for this American, something of a surprise, as Australia is among those Western nations in which Christianity is, by and large, gradually losing steam. However, it’s also a place where conservative politics is steadily on the rise, giving Morrison, a compromise candidate for the prime minister’s job, a leg up.

The coverage of his ascendancy to his nation’s top political post has also noted that his political style is “pragmatic,” meaning that while he’s clear about his values, he’s generally been willing to stand down when it's clear his traditional views on issues such as gay marriage are a bit much for the majority of Australian voters.

Here’s a chunk of a The New York Times story on his selection. 

Mr. Morrison and his faith represent a break with tradition in Australia, where politics has long been ardently secular. He is the first prime minister to come from one of the country’s growing evangelical Christian movements, leading many experts and voters to wonder how his Christianity might affect various issues, from foreign policy to social policy.

“The question is whether Morrison will choose to make his faith part of his political persona or to what extent he will,” said Hugh White, a professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University. “At this point, he doesn’t seem to have shoved it in people’s faces.”

In many ways, Mr. Morrison cuts a markedly different figure than evangelical Christian politicians in the United States.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

OK, Daily Beast, let's try this 'Despacito': You CAN question Bieber's faith, with a little respect

OK, Daily Beast, let's try this 'Despacito': You CAN question Bieber's faith, with a little respect

When the GetReligion team receives an email referencing coverage of a news story, the subject lines are generally subdued. When tmatt wrote asking, "Anyone wanna jump on this hand grenade," we all knew it would be, for want of a better phrase, a real hot tamale.

So we arrive at the young life of one Justin Drew Bieber, age 24, the pop sensation whose current mega-hit single, "Despacito," ("Slowly") would remind a listener who knew both Spanish and the Bible more of the sensual verses in the Old Testament's Song of Solomon than, say, a Keith Green worship piece.

But there's another side to the "Biebs," as he's known to millions of fans. He's a Christian, or so we're told from time to time in the media. And the latest bit of media fanfare came last week from The Daily Beast, which often seems to vie for the coveted "Least-Respectful of Faith" title in the news business.

Their religion coverage is uneven at best, downright snarky at worst. Some of it is news. Some of it is clearly biased editorializing.

This time, the website asks, "Is Justin Bieber Sabotaging His Career for Jesus?" And the text leaves little room to doubt what they're thinking:

... On Tuesday, Hollywood’s least-holy gossip site ran a story explaining that, according to sources connected to Hillsong, Bieber’s church, the singer is taking a professional step back because he has “rededicated his life to Christ.” The update continues, “Bieber’s decision seemed to come out of the blue, but our sources say it was squarely based on what Bieber believes is religious enlightenment.”
Attending more Sunday services is one thing, but opening your own franchise for the Lord is quite another. According to TMZ’s “inside source,” Bieber “may be even planning to start his own church,” which sounds like a magical place where DUIs are automatically stricken from your record and Selena Gomez is always willing to give you a second chance.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

GQ presents nuanced view of Hillsong, Justin Bieber and the cool cult of celebrity

GQ presents nuanced view of Hillsong, Justin Bieber and the cool cult of celebrity

Does Justin Bieber actually have a church?

Several readers dropped the GetReligion team notes that GQ just came out with a l-o-n-g feature on the Australian-based Hillsong Church and its Manhattan branches. As the prelude says:

“It’s where the cool kids spend Sunday morning after Saturday night at the club. For ye of little faith, it’s hard to make sense out of Hillsong. Is it legit? Is it a hipster cult? And why’s everyone wearing Saint Laurent? GQ’s Taffy Brodesser-Akner joins the flock to find out if Christianity can really be this cool and still be Christian.”

Who would not read this story after such an intro? Turns out that Brodesser-Akner is Jewish and visiting Hillsong, to her, is like covering life on Jupiter. But she does so nonetheless in a breathless, first person, words-piled-on-words style that somehow works in this quasi-novel of a piece. And atop it she asks the pertinent question: "What would cool Jesus do?"

We’re not sure how to answer that after finishing the piece, but we do know this:

About five years ago, Pastor Carl got a phone call. Carl is one of the lead pastors at Hillsong NYC, a mega-church so reputedly, mystifyingly cool that cable-news outlets cover its services like they’re Kardashian birthday bashes at 1 Oak. On the other end of the line was one of Carl’s best friends, Judah Smith, another mega-pastor who also happens to be the chaplain for the Seattle Seahawks. “I need you to help me with a young man,” Pastor Judah said, and Pastor Carl rushed to agree, because helping is Carl’s thing, and the young man was, yes, Justin Bieber …

Please respect our Commenting Policy

As the Hillsong world turns, questions about sex, the media and what a pastor said

As the Hillsong world turns, questions about sex, the media and what a pastor said

Leaders of the Australia-based Hillsong Church — described by Religion News Service as "one of the most influential religious brands across the globe" and by The New York Times as "one of the more influential global megachurches" — held a news conference in New York last week.

The Christian Post apparently didn't like the questions asked by mainstream reporters.

NEW YORK — Brian Houston, senior pastor of Australia-based Hillsong Church, was hit with a series of critical questions during a press conference in New York City on Thursday, just hours before he was to take the stage at Madison Square Garden to preach before more than 5,000 Hillsong Conference attendees.
Houston, 60, appeared visibly nervous as he sat alongside his wife and Hillsong Church co-pastor Bobbie Houston and his son and Hillsong United frontman Joel Houston, who also pastors at Hillsong NYC with Carl Lentz. Lentz rounded out the quartet of church representatives at the press conference, where the group welcomed local media to probe them about the conference kicking off that night and issues related to their ministry work through the multi-city megachurch.
Once the floor was opened up for questions, however, it became clear that some members of the press were more interested in hearing about the sex abuse committed by Brian Houston's father in the 1970s, how Hillsong Church spends its money, and how the senior pastor handles cultural relevancy, specifically when it comes to issues of sexuality.

As regular GetReligion readers may recall, The New York Times just last month published a front-page story on Hillsong's international appeal and its place in the modern American religious scene.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The religion beat: Hillsong rocks the evangelical world, and the NYTimes' front page

The religion beat: Hillsong rocks the evangelical world, and the NYTimes' front page

A photo of a crowd at what appears to be a rock concert dominates the front page of today's New York Times.

No, the image has nothing to do Apple's U2 album giveaway, although the Irish rock band makes a cameo appearance at the end of the Times'  Page 1 feature on a "megachurch with a beat."

I'll make a few constructive criticisms (that's why they pay me the big bucks, after all), but it's a solid story overall with a terrific, colorful lede:

LOS ANGELES — A toned and sunburned 32-year-old Australian with the letters F-A-I-T-H tattooed onto his biceps strode onto the stage of a former burlesque theater here and shouted across a sea of upstretched hands and uplifted smartphones: “Let’s win this city together!”
The crowd did not need much urging. Young, diverse and devoted to Jesus, the listeners had come to the Belasco Theater from around the city, and from across the country, eager to help an Australian Pentecostal megachurch that is spreading worldwide establish its first outpost on America’s West Coast.
The church, Hillsong, has become a phenomenon, capitalizing on, and in some cases shaping, trends not only in evangelicalism but also in Christian youth culture. Its success would be rare enough at a time when religion is struggling in a secularizing Europe and North America. But Hillsong is even more remarkable because its target is young Christians in big cities, where faith seems out of fashion but where its services are packing them in.
Powered by a thriving, and lucrative, recording label that dominates Christian contemporary music, it has a vast reach — by some estimates, 100,000 people in the pews each weekend, 10 million followers on social media, 16 million albums sold, with its songs popping up in churches from Uzbekistan to Papua New Guinea

Please respect our Commenting Policy

The AP discovers the Christian hipster pastor

Does your pastor wear v-neck shirts, have tattoos on both forearms, and ride a fixed-gear bike? Is the building where you go to church on Sunday morning a tavern/microbrewery on Saturday night? Are the communion wafer at your church gluten-free?

Please respect our Commenting Policy