As the Liberal Party surveys the disaster of the 2022 election, it needs to read the sermon Scott Morrison delivered to Margaret Court’s church, Victory Life Centre, last Sunday and ensure that another Morrison can never again rise through the ranks to become parliamentary leader and prime minister.
The reason? Morrison’s 50-minute sermon examined in detail reveals a man who lives in a starkly different reality from most Australians.
Press gallery journalists too should take the time to closely examine the words of Australia’s 30th prime minister and ask themselves how they missed one of the biggest stories of the decade: the coming to power of a politician so thoroughly in the thrall of a niche religious belief.
Crikey has been pointing it out for at least a year, but it took Morrison’s departure to reveal the extent to which God had inhabited the Lodge over the past four years. Morrison’s lengthy sermon to Pentecostal believers gives us a better understanding of the defining features of his prime ministership: his disdain for secular accountability (whether an ICAC or the findings of the Australian National Audit Office) and his ability to mislead, be caught and yet carry on without apparent shame.
Get Crikey FREE to your inbox every weekday morning with the Crikey Worm.
Ultimately Morrison reveals himself as a man who can justify much in the cause of spreading the dominion of the Lord. Here is what we have learnt, courtesy of Morrison himself:
God prolonged Jenny’s labour by several hours …
More than once Morrison has proclaimed the role of God in the birth of the Morrisons’ first-born daughter, Abigail, on July 7 2007 — the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year — after more than a decade of IVF.
In his Victory Life Centre sermon, he added a new and highly significant detail. He said Jenny’s waters broke about 8am on July 6. Jenny would have been happy to give birth “any time after about 10 o’clock that morning, I can tell you”.
“And as we got later that night, it started to twig to me what was going on,” he said. “And Abby was born soon after at 1am on the seventh of the seventh of the seventh. And you know, what that said to me was that God is faithful.”
It’s worth pausing to consider how realistic it is that God would have intervened in Jenny’s labour, but it carries a powerful meaning.
… a signal from God that the Morrisons are special
In Christianity, seven is the number of perfection — referring to the seventh day after God’s work was done. (The sixth, by contrast, is the number of man, a fallen being.)
So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all His work that He had done in creation. (Genesis 2:1-4)
Pentecostal Christians invest the number seven with extra, almost magical, meaning. The implication is that the Morrisons have a special destiny because God has singled them out with a 07/07/07 birth date, a meaning well known to Morrison’s audience.
He also spoke of the day he walked through the green belt in Wellington, New Zealand, and shouted at God in disappointment over the problems he and Jenny were having with conceiving a child: “I let Him have it. I’d say if people had heard this [shouting] they would have locked me up.”
Morrison believes paintings send him messages from God
Morrison told of walking into an art gallery run by a Christian couple in Bourke during a drought when he was treasurer. He saw a painting of an old gum tree on the side of a flowing river and it reminded him of a biblical verse: “Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, and whose trust is in the Lord, for thy will be like a tree planted by the water that extends its roots by a stream, and does not fear when the heat comes. But its leaves will be green. And it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to yield fruit.”
(We might also ask what this means in terms of Morrison’s thinking on the link between climate change and drought, but that’s a whole other story.)
The gum tree by the river is a companion experience to one which Morrison related last year at a Pentecostal Christian conference where he saw a painting of a soaring eagle during the 2019 election campaign that he interpreted as a message from God to keep on going.
Done something wrong? Don’t worry about it
A central point of Morrison’s address was that God understands the anxieties of humans, indeed understands your anxieties better than you do, and that to overcome these anxieties just “declare the name of Jesus and declare His forgiveness, and declare His blood on the cross”.
The biblical verse Morrison quoted is:
Be anxious for nothing. But in everything, by prayer and supplication, and with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4, 6-7.)
“Be anxious for nothing.” He repeated the phrase again and again, emphasising the word “nothing” and pointing out there were “no exceptions”.
What was there to be anxious about? Morrison referred to “anxiety about our past, the scars, the hurt, the failings, the damage, that you feel”, which can “shut you down … cripple you”. “You cannot be held anxious over these things because God has broken [the link].”
Linked to the idea that “God loves you” for who you are, it’s little wonder Morrison feels released from any guilt or anxiety over his actions.
And surely God’s acceptance must matter more than any audit office investigation or a parliamentary committee finding. The thought becomes scary when you recall that as prime minister Morrison had responsibility for enforcing ministerial standards.
Accusations? They come from Satan
Morrison explicitly brought Satan into the mix as the being that makes accusations: “Satan is known as the accuser, the great accuser, and he’ll keep throwing this stuff at you.”
According to Crikey’s theological expert, “stuff” can be anything the enemy wants to attack you with, justified or not. And Satan is attacking you because you are a Christian and you are a chosen people set apart by God.
It is surely then a short step for Morrison to equate any accusation against him as being the work of Satan and therefore to be brushed aside lest it gets in the way of God’s plan.
Trust in God, not government: theocracy rules
Much has already been made of this section of Morrison’s sermon (with a couple of lines added before and after):
Listen to God as to how he would have you and how he would guide you and be faithful. God’s kingdom will come. It is in his hands, we trust in Him. We don’t trust in governments, we don’t trust in United Nations, thank goodness. We don’t trust in all of these things, fine as they might be. And as important as the role that they play. Believe me, I’ve worked in it and they are important. But as someone who’s been in it, if you are putting your faith in those things, like I put my faith in the Lord, you are making a mistake. They’re earthly, they are fallible. I’m so glad we have a bigger hope.
It is hard to beat as a statement that puts secular government second to theocratic will. It underlines precisely the problem with Morrison as the most senior member of government in Australia: he believes God does it better — a demoralising message, if nothing else, for Canberra’s machinery of government.
We Christians v the rest
Morrison clearly differentiates between Christians and the rest of society, those who don’t know “the truth of God”.
Speaking of treatments for anxiety, he said that when he looked carefully at the many provided, he saw “a lot of parallels [between] what I was learning, and [what I] had always known about God, and how God seeks to engage with us”.
“It’s funny how that happens, isn’t it, that people in a secular sphere discover what we already know in a spiritual sphere. It’s the truth of God. It’s the truth of God.
“No matter what society [seeks to deny], no matter how they might seek to deny it, or even dismiss it, the truth of God stands up and shines through.”
It is worth recalling that three years ago, and not all that far from Court’s church, Morrison promised $4 million in funding to the Esther Foundation rehab facility run by a Pentecostal pastor using religion-based therapies. Speaking to the women of Esther, Morrison used the same Pentecostal language as he deployed at the Victory Life Centre.
The foundation has now collapsed amid revelations of serious abuse of girls and young women stretching back more than a decade. Health Minister Mark Butler is still unravelling how the funding came to be approved from the Health Department budget.
From Morrison there is no word — but then none is required when you are the Lord’s anointed.