RELIGION AND POLITICS IN AUSTRALIA Lecture 6 (2 August 2007) EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS AND POLITICS 1. Evangelical Christians • Found in all mainstream Christian churches, but fewest in Catholic Church, and also in own separate churches. Smaller mainstream churches, such as Baptists, are evangelical. The term refers to a distinctive style of Christianity and to particular churches. Emphasis on preaching, biblical teaching and conversion of ‘unchurched’ people. • Evangelicalism: began as a mid-18th century religious movement. Components include Puritan morality, religious singing, Bible reading and justification by faith alone (not ‘good works’). Influenced most Protestant Christians in early European Australia and inspired movements such as the British and Foreign Bible Society and the Sunday school movement. Lobbied to protect Aborigines in colonial times. Gradually lost influence and became minority, conservative/fundamentalist Evangelicalism dominant only in Sydney (OCAH). • Pentecostalism: style of Christianity that can be found both in mainstream churches and own churches. It “emphasises the ‘baptism of the Holy Spirit’ and its demonstration in charismatic gifts of inspired utterance, physical healing and the speaking of tongues” (OCAH). 28 Pentecostal denominations; American influence, including visiting pastors, is important. Pentecostal Church (Melbourne) founded 1922. The term ‘born-again Christians’ is often applied. • Assemblies of God: the oldest/largest grouping of Pentecostal churches (50% of these churches). Each assembly is autonomous. National President is Brian Houston, senior pastor of Hillsong Church, Sydney (see T. Levin, People in Glass Houses, and ALR, August 2007). The network began 1937. Individual leaders very important. Many churches (50%) are small; some large, especially Hillsong (ABC Australian Story, 1 August 2005), but also Paradise, Adelaide. Emphasis is evangelical, fundamentalist and biblical rather than liturgical (churchly functions and sacraments). Pro-economic growth and conservative on social issues. AOG are <2% by affiliation but 7% by church attendance (D. Streak, “Pentecostal churches attract youth”, Canberra Times, 6 August, 05). BRW estimates 195,000 active Pentecostals. 2006 Census 220,000. 2. Sydney Anglicans (C. McGillion, The Chosen Ones, 2005) • Assets of $2-3 billion, 1 million nominal Anglicans, 50,000-75,000 attend church; annual growth 1-2% (2006 Census) is against trends. • Archbishop Peter Jensen (2001), ABC Boyer Lecturer: core objective is to multiply Bible-based Christian fellowships, congregations and churches; no accommodation with secular culture and regards Australian culture as “not now merely anti-Christian, but it has suppressed the
meaning of Christ”; opposed to 1960s culture because of its stress on personal liberty; resists ordination of women, against gay clergy and same sex unions, and fights internationally with Archbishop of Canterbury Evangelicals: “Christian believers who are more Protestant than other Anglicans in outlook, stress belief in personal salvation and in the Bible as the sole authority in matters of faith and place a high priority on evangelism/winning converts to Christ” Jensen: “If I’m going to create a vision and sell it, its got to be in a stadium not a cathedral”; aggressive Christian proselytizing has upset nonChristian leaders. But he can be a critic of federal government on IR laws.
3. Political and Religious Attitudes of Evangelicals • Taking Stock: A Profile of Australian Church Attenders, Kaldor(1999) • Churches in Society: Pentecostals rank “converting unbelievers” first, whereas other Christians rank this seventh • Church involvement: evangelicals rank wider community care relatively lowly and reaching the unchurched relatively highly • Attendance: Pentecostal churches have an age profile younger than the community, while major churches relatively elderly • All church attenders 61% female; AOG/Pentecostals 57% female. • AOG/Pentecostals include higher number newcomers/switchers • 92% attend church weekly • 67% give 10%+ of income to church (average is 22% among all churches) • Very non-traditional attitudes to services/worship • Distinctive beliefs among Christians on matters like taking a literal view of the Bible (67%/35%) and approving speaking in tongues (93%/35%) • Social Attitudes: Abortion never permitted: AOG/P 56/52%, All Christians 33&, Aust. 7%; Anti-euthanasia: AOG/P 83/78%, Aust 22% • Other issues marginally less progressive (environment • Homosexuality immoral (SMH 30-31 July 05): clear majority of Baptist or evangelical Christians, Catholics 34% (Australia Institute survey) • Maddox (SMH July 8 05): conservative Christians radical anti-racists • “Being a Christian is likely to make you more conservative on some things-law and order, marriage and abortion. But practicing, devout Sunday-by-Sunday Christians are less likely than others to want Asians out of Australia, refugees sent back to where they came from or the unemployed derided as dole bludgers”. 4. Evangelicals and the Family First Party • Maddox stresses the international context of FF among Pentecostals. • FF was founded (2004) by Andrew Evans, former pastor of AOG church, Paradise, elected to SA Parliament (2002). Strong supporter base among Pentecostals, especially AOG. FF National Executive is strongly AOG. 60% FF voters attend church weekly, younger and above average incomes (tentative conclusions of AES, 2004). Senator Fielding’s record???