ABC viewers have complained that the public broadcaster showed footage of Hillsong Easter services rather than focusing on “mainstream churches”.
“Why have ABC News included footage on Hillsong in its segment on Good Friday church services? They are not a mainstream church,” insisted a tweet that was liked and shared thousands of times.
You can hardly blame ABC viewers for being confused about what constitutes mainstream Christianity.
If you get your religious news from the ABC, you would be quite convinced that a mainstream church is one led by a transgendered minister preaching to wooden pews barely populated by a mardi gras of “allies” about how Jesus was actually a socialist revolutionary who, regardless of whether or not He actually existed, serves as a useful example to support whatever woke fad is being pushed from the pulpit this week.
Now if you think I’m exaggerating for comedic effect, you’re wrong. My satire skills are no match for actual ABC news reporting.
The ABC’s The Drum aired a story over the Easter weekend celebrating “the first trans person to be inducted into an Australian mainstream church”.
You might imagine that a mainstream church ceases to be mainstream when it appoints a transgendered minister. But such thoughts do not occur to journalists at our public broadcaster.
The ABC reported that the Uniting Church minister, who came out as trans in 2017, embodied Christianity’s call for “transformation”.
Well indeed. But I’m not sure that the Apostle Paul had gender transitioning in mind when he told the Corinthians,
“If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.”
Last time I checked, Holy Communion did not include puberty blockers.
Nevertheless, the transgendered reverend was shown walking into a church, the front door of which was adorned, not with a cross, but with a sign that said: “Act on Climate!”
Well of course. As the Good Book says: “For God so loved mother earth that He gave carbon credits so that whosoever reduces his emissions might not die from fossil fuels but have everlasting solar power.”
Can I get an ‘Amen’?
Inside the church, the ABC reporter referenced Biblical teaching that God created humans as male and female. This was dismissed by the transgendered minister as “an incredibly ideological statement that ignores the experience of people like me”.
Now ‘people like me’ are perfectly free to pursue a religion that makes a god of their individual experience. But they are not entitled to call it mainstream Christianity. Actually, don’t even call it Christianity.
The central message of Christianity is that Jesus is God. And if Jesus is God, guess who is not?
That’s why a lot of people reject Christianity. It’s an affront to the human ego. And it’s hard to give up being the god of your own universe when you’ve been playing at it all your life.
Yet the ABC would have viewers believe, right before the holiest day on the Christian calendar, that a mainstream church is one in which we remake god in our own image. That might be a mainstream secular club, but it’s not a Christian church.
A member of the transgendered minister’s church told The Drum’s reporter:
“This church endears me greatly because it is open and receptive to people of all walks of life no matter what.”
Which is a bit like saying ‘I like this church because it’s not a church at all’. And that rather undermines the whole point, doesn’t it?
All of which might explain the inverse relationship between the increasing number of stories the ABC does on woke elements within the Uniting Church and the decreasing number of people actually attending the Uniting Church.
Hillsong, by comparison, is booming. Thousands attended Easter services at their Sydney Norwest location. Tens of thousands more gathered at sites across the rest of the country and still more watched online.
Sure, they’ve had their share of scandals. But that is to be expected in the Christian church, whatever the brand, where the only requirement for entry is to admit that you are not good enough for entry.
But when the ABC dared to show footage from Australia’s largest church in their Easter news package, viewers were angrier than a mob at a crucifixion.
People demanded to know why “mainstream” churches weren’t featured, by which they presumably meant churches where anyone’s “lived experience” overrides anything the Bible says; and where saving the planet is more important than saving souls since people’s souls are perfectly fine the way they are.
You can knock Hillsong for being big and bold and brash if you prefer your religion to be small and apologetic and timid.
And you can criticise Hillsong for bringing in too much money and for having too many large auditoriums if you prefer your church to be penniless and meeting under a tree.
But just because you don’t like their style doesn’t mean they are not mainstream.
In terms of what they believe and teach (which let’s face it, is the essence of Christianity) they are as mainstream as Christianity gets. So mainstream that they turned the Apostle’s creed — the core beliefs of Jesus’ disciples — into one of their most popular songs.
It goes like this:
I believe in God our Father
I believe in Christ the Son
I believe in the Holy Spirit
Our God is three in one
I believe in the resurrection
That we will rise again
For I believe in the name of Jesus
I believe in life eternal
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the saints’ communion
And in Your holy Church
I believe in the resurrection
When Jesus comes again
For I believe, in the name of Jesus
That’s mainstream Christianity in rhyme.
Meanwhile, churches the media would have you believe represent the mainstream may well be inoffensive in style, but are completely freewheeling in doctrine. Resembling nothing like traditional Christianity they are more likely to sing:
I believe in Mother Nature
I believe in Wind and Sun
I believe in the spirit of Gaia
The coal industry is done
I believe in decarbonisation
Mother Earth will rise again
For I believe, environmentalist Jesus
I don’t believe there is life pre-natal
I don’t believe sex is assigned at birth
I don’t believe there are only two genders
I don’t believe you even need the church
I believe in gender transition
Socialism must be tried again
For I believe, in social justice Jesus
Churches traditional in style and freewheeling in doctrine are cancelling themselves. Their old-fashioned style is unengaging; and you can hear the same wokey doctrine in a dozen other progressivist forums without the need to disrupt your Sunday.
The prize for being considered mainstream Christianity by the ABC is to be loved by people who will never darken your doors on a Sunday.
Meanwhile, actual mainstream churches that deliver the timeless Christian message in a timely style are packing them in, even as the Twitter mob shouts “crucify them”.