Politics and Pentecostalism

Politics and Pentecostalism

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Australian Pentecostalism in Political Context

Pentecostalism has a long history in Australia.6 The largest denomination, the
Assemblies of God in Australia, formed in 1937.7 As in many other parts of the
world, the charismatic renewal of the 1960s and 1970s saw a mass migration
of Christians from traditional denominations into pentecostal congregations.
By the 1980s, the Assemblies of God was planting a new church every nine
days and became one of the most sustained church-planting movements in
Australian history.8 Various Australian megachurches, such as Hillsong, Plan-
etshakers, Influencers, and Christian City Church grew to exert significant
influence on global pentecostalism. The Assemblies of God in Australia was
rebranded as Australian Christian Churches in 2007, and pentecostals are now
the second largest group of church attendees on any given Sunday, behind
only the Catholic Church.9 Australian Christian Churches alone comprises over
1,000 churches with over 375,000 constituents.
Despite this growing influence and profile, Australian pentecostals have not
historically been as influential in politics as their counterparts in the United
States of America.10 This could be attributed to the relatively recent growth
of the pentecostal movement in Australia and to the uniqueness of Australian
society. While Americans have an acknowledged tendency to vote for charis-
matic individuals for the highest position, Australians have tended to vote for
change at state level while imposing constraints on the state leadership at the
national level. In the end, “Australians don’t have control over the Prime Minis-
ter we elect.”11 Part of the reason is that American elections have a voluntarist

6 Peter Elliott, “Nineteenth-century Australian Charismata: Edward Irving’s Legacy,”
Pneuma 34, no. 1 (2012): 26, https://doi‑org.ezproxy.library.uq.edu.au/10.1163/157007412X62
7 Denise A. Austin and Shane Clifton, “Australian Pentecostalism: From Marginalised to
Megachurches,” in Asia Pacific Pentecostalism, ed. Denise A. Austin, Jaqueline Grey, and
Paul W. Lewis (Leiden: Brill, 2019), 372.
8 Denise A. Austin, “ ‘Flowing Together’: The Origins and Early Development of Hillsong
Church within Assemblies of God in Australia,” in The Hillsong Movement Examined: You
Call Me Out Upon the Waters, ed. Tanya Riches and Tom Wagner (Cham, Switzerland: Pal-
grave Macmillan, 2017), 27.
9 “First Results of 2011 National Church Life Survey,” ncls Survey (April 2013); http://www​
10 R. David Muir, “Pentecostalism and Socio-political Engagement: A Prolegomenon for the
Common Good,” Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association 38, no. 2
(2018): 172.
11 Peter Marsh, “US election: How does Voting in America Compare to Australia?,” abc News;

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franchise, while Australian candidates do not need to perform to bring out the
electors: voting is mandatory.
Nevertheless, Australian “secular” society has never excluded religion from
public discussion and decision-making. Rather, the country’s constitution was
designed to limit the powers of sectarianism, meaning a government’s exces-
sive attachment to a particular dogma or exclusive doctrinal religion. There-
fore, Australia as a nation has been carefully crafted to embody an expression
of freedom grounded in a diversity of worldviews, with faith perspectives being
a core part of the development of democratic ideals. To garner as many votes
as possible, politicians rarely espouse strong religious sentiment, particularly
in policy-making decisions.12
There are, as is usually the case, some notable exceptions within Australian
pentecostalism. The general superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Aus-
tralia (1977–1997), Andrew Evans, successfully leveraged his national religious
influence to cofound the Family First political party.13 For a short time, Fam-
ily First held the balance of power at both state and national levels.14 Alex
Hawke is Federal Member of the Australian House of Representatives, Minister
for International Development and the Pacific, and Assistant Defense Minis-
ter.15 Ordained pastor Mark Robinson is a long-serving Member of Parliament
in Queensland.16 Fiona Simpson has been a Member of Parliament in Queens-
land for almost three decades and served as the first woman Speaker of the
House in its 150-year history.17 She comments, “As a Christian, I also know that
we have a creator God who is very much in the business of strategic placement
and ‘salt and light’ positioning for influence.”18

12 John Warhurst, “Religion and Politics in the Howard Decade,” Australian Journal of Polit-
ical Science, 42, no. 1 (2007): 20; Anna Crabb, “Invoking Religion in Australian Politics,”
Australian Journal of Political Science 44, no. 2 (2009): 259.
13 Denise A. Austin, “Andrew Evans: The Making of an Australian Pentecostal Politician,”
in Australian Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements: Arguments from the Margins, ed.
Cristina Rocha, Mark P. Hutchinson, and Kathleen Openshaw (Leiden: Brill), 148–170.
14 Denise A. Austin, Jesus First: The Life and Leadership of Andrew Evans (Sydney: Aus-
tralasian Pentecostal Studies, 2017), 150.
15 “Hon Alex Hawke,” Parliament of Australia; https://www.aph.gov.au/Senators_and_Mem
16 “Dr Mark Robinson,” Queensland Parliament; https://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/mem
17 “About Fiona Simpson mp,” Fiona Simpson mp; https://www.fionasimpson.com.au/about​
18 Annalisa Roberts, “Destiny Seeds—Growing Leaders with Fiona Simpson mp,” Chris-
tian Heritage College; https://chc.edu.au/news/destiny‑seeds‑growing‑leaders‑with‑fiona​

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As national president of Australian Christian Churches (1997–2009) and
founder of Hillsong Church, Brian Houston was integral in raising the profile of
pentecostalism. Despite scholarly criticism of Prime Minister John Howard for
bringing religion to “the table of public discussion on law and policy,”19 Howard
opened Hillsong Church’s $ 25-million complex in Sydney in 2002. Other con-
servative politicians associated with Hillsong Church were Louise Markus and
Alan Cadman.20 Since that time, many politicians from both sides of parlia-
ment have attended the church or spoken at Hillsong Conferences.21
The phenomenal growth of Australian pentecostalism has caused many ana-
lysts to view pentecostal politicians with suspicion and assume a genealogy
linked to the American religious right.22 The resulting conflation usually dis-
credits the contribution of pentecostalism within the Australian religious and
political landscape. Morrison’s leadership provides a unique avenue to exam-
ine the cross-sections between pentecostalism and Australian politics. This is
especially the case given Morrison’s open discussion of his pentecostal faith,
which will be explicated below. The disproportionate amount of media atten-
tion spent on Morrison’s religious affiliation since his rise to power has included
some egregious misunderstandings of pentecostalism. James Boyce claims that
“Pentecostalism is obsessed with the Devil to an extent that is heretical to main-
stream Christianity,” and Morrison’s “belief in Satan and the imminent return
of Christ also helps explain the prime minister’s less-than-passionate response
to the pressing environmental issue of our time.”23 This study provides a timely
response to such claims.

2 Methodological Considerations

In writing an article of this nature, we readily acknowledge its limitations. First,
almost nothing has been written on Morrison and pentecostalism from an aca-

19 Frank Brennan, Acting of Conscience: How Can We Responsibly Mix Law, Religion and Poli-
tics? (St Lucia qld: University of Queensland Press, 2007), 9.
20 “Hillsong’s True Believers,” Sydney Morning Herald, November 7, 2004; https://www.smh​
21 John Warhurst, “Conscience Voting in the Australian Federal Parliament,” The Australian
Journal of Politics and History 54, no. 4 (December 2008): 579–582.
22 Amanda Lohrey, “Voting for Jesus: Christianity and Politics in Australia,” Quarterly Essay
22 (2006): 1–79.
23 James Boyce, “The Devil and Scott Morrison: What Do We Know about the Prime Min-
ister’s Pentecostalism?,” The Monthly, February 2019; https://www.themonthly.com.au/​

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demic perspective. We are drawing our data on his beliefs and traits primar-
ily from publicly available statements. While obtaining an interview for such
research from a sitting Prime Minister was not possible, this study could be
supplemented and enhanced in the future by further exploring Morrison’s own
perceptions of the links between his pentecostal beliefs and the outworking of
his political office. We cannot claim to speak for Morrison, nor can we know
what his motives are in relation to each policy decision. Mind you, that has
not stopped myriad speculation on the way in which his pentecostal beliefs
impact his policies, usually with negative inferences and ignorance about those
pentecostal beliefs. Our goal is simply to highlight some areas in which pente-
costalism can have a positive effect within politics, drawing speculative exam-
ples from Morrison’s success.
To achieve this, we draw parallels between Morrison’s public statements
and widely acknowledged characteristics of Australian pentecostalism. We
are not suggesting that these parallels are causal connections. Establishing a
direct connection between another person’s beliefs and actions is a difficult
task. Motive can be difficult enough to discern within oneself, let alone within
another person. Rather, they might be better described as a family resemblance
between pentecostal impulses and Morrison’s own approaches to leadership.
Such a preliminary and suggestive study cannot be exhaustive, and that is
not our goal. There may be many parallels that we do not cover here. It is
intended to highlight potential rather than explicate all perspectives. We also
acknowledge that our stated goal is to suggest positive correlations between
pentecostal beliefs and Morrison’s political journey. Not because we are naïve
and do not recognize that negative correlations may also exist, but simply
because those negative correlations have been meticulously listed elsewhere
and this article is intended to balance the ledger somewhat. Our hope is that
this stimulates further study on Morrison as a pentecostal who holds the high-
est political office in Australia. For those interested in the connection between
pentecostalism and politics, it is not often that such a rich opportunity presents
As a final comment, when describing pentecostal beliefs or inclinations,
there is no ubiquitous standard to which we can refer. We draw our reference
point from Australian Christian Churches, in which we are all ordained minis-
ters and which is the denomination to which Morrison affiliates. However, the
degree to which these Australian pentecostal tendencies are also representa-
tive of pentecostalism in other denominations and other countries is not for
us to say.

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3 The “Miracle Man”

The story of Morrison’s remarkable rise to power has been widely publicized.
He has made strong links in public statements between his electoral victory,
ongoing role in politics, and his faith as a pentecostal. Scott and Jenny Morrison
and their two daughters are long-term members of Horizon Church (formerly
Shirelive) in Sydney. It was founded in 1949 and is affiliated with Australian
Christian Churches.24 Michael Murphy, former assistant minister at Hillsong
Church and then senior pastor of Shirelive, comments that Scott Morrison has
“a genuine faith, an authentic faith.”25 Morrison maintains a close friendship
with Murphy as well as with the current senior pastor of Horizon Church, Brad
Bonhomme, also a member of Australian Christian Churches National Execu-
Morrison intentionally drew on his pentecostal identity when framing his
“call” into political office. In his maiden speech to parliament, in 2008, he

My personal faith in Jesus Christ is not a political agenda. As Lincoln said,
our task is not to claim whether God is on our side but to pray earnestly
that we are on His. For me, faith is personal, but the implications are
social—as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Chris-
tian message.

He then cited Jeremiah 9:24 as encapsulating his personal mission statement:

From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righ-
teousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our com-
mon humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair
go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever
unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal
responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect
the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of mar-
riage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute stan-
dard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way: “we

24 “What We Value,” Horizon Church; https://hz.church/what‑we‑value/.
25 Stephen O’Doherty, “ ‘Every am, Pray for your pm!’: Scott Morrison’s Former Pastor on the
Challenges of Leadership,” Hope103.2, September 4, 2018; available from https://hope1032​

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expect Christians … to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for
justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and
the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy
believable witnesses.” These are my principles.

Unapologetically owning his pentecostal faith, Morrison went on to quote Joel

[I]t says in the Book of Joel, “Your old men will dream dreams; your young
men will see visions.” Let us have in this place a vision of young men and
women that realises the dreams of generations past … May God bless and
guide us all in this place as we serve those who have had the good grace
to send us here on their behalf.26

Such a strong declaration of faith from an Australian federal politician was
unusual and the uproar it caused in parliament was telling, as the speaker
called: “Order! … I remind the House that this is the honourable member’s first
speech. I therefore ask that the usual courtesies be extended to him.”27
Over a decade later, when Morrison first led his party to an election, and
despite widespread predictions that Labor would win the election by a com-
fortable margin, Morrison’s Liberal-National Coalition was victorious, with
seventy-seven seats in the lower house, a net gain of four with a 41 percent
vote share. To celebrate the victory Morrison and his family attended Horizon
Church the following morning. He was invited to the platform and gave a short
word of thanks to God for the election result and was prayed for by church lead-
ers. He came across as understated in presentation, yet overt in his confident
faith in God.28
In his public acceptance speech after being elected prime minister, Morrison
began by saying, “I have always believed in miracles” and, in relation to his elec-
tion victory, said that “tonight we have been delivered another one [miracle].”29
These references resulted in the “Miracle Man” moniker. He also wished the

26 Scott Morrison, “Mr Morrison,” Parliament of Australia, February 14, 2008; https://parlinfo​
27 Morrison, “Mr Morrison.”
28 Personal recollection of Stephen Fogarty, who attended the church service and spoke with
Scott Morrison afterward.
29 Amelia Moseley and Matt Holbrook, “After Weeks of Campaigning, Aussies Went to the
Polls and Decided to Keep Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the Top Job,”Behind the News,
(abc1), Time: 10:00, Tuesday, May 21, 2019.

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leader of the opposition “God’s blessing.” Publicly acknowledging Brian Hous-
ton as one of his spiritual mentors, Morrison made headlines again in July 2019,
when he appeared on stage at the annual Hillsong Conference in Sydney. In
front of over 30,000 people, he prayed for war veterans, suicidal young people,
people suffering from mental health issues, remote Australian Indigenous com-
munities, people with disabilities, and drought-affected regions. He finished by
stating, “I speak about my faith because I want everyone to feel comfortable to
talk about their faith in this country. It’s not a political agenda; it’s who we are,
and who you are.”30 He also allowed himself to be photographed in church with
arms raised in worship, despite media sensationalizing of these images.
Because Morrison himself has highlighted the link between his faith and
his role as prime minister, it is not surprising that others have done the same.
However, virtually all analysis has been negative and written by those without
a genuine understanding of pentecostalism. As insiders within the Australian
pentecostal movement, we have a unique perspective on the potential of pen-
tecostal impulses to impact politics in positive ways. As a suggestive proposal,
we will discuss these in relation to the prime minster under the headings of
strong leadership, practical pragmatism, marketing acumen, and a narrative of

4 Strong Leadership

It has long been acknowledged that strong leadership has been central to the
success of pentecostalism, and entrepreneurial leadership has been credited
with the worldwide growth of the movement.31 This has certainly been the
case within Australian pentecostalism, where megachurches have been built
on the basis of strong leadership, often focused around charismatic individuals.
In fact, Morrison’s former pastor at Horizon Church, Michael Murphy, now runs
a global leadership consultancy service. That is not to suggest that Morrison
“learned” his leadership from his pentecostal pastors, but his faith has enabled
him to observe strong leadership exemplified and valued. David Kemp argues
that it is the “credos” (or sets of values and beliefs) of Australian political lead-

30 Cited in Stephen Fogarty, “pm Prays with Us and Refuses to Keep His Faith in a Box:
Amen to That,” The Sydney Morning Herald, July 10, 2019; https://www.smh.com.au/nation
31 Truls Åkerlund, A Phenomenology of Pentecostal Leadership (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock,
2018), 2.

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ers that focuses attention on their ideas and allows them to bring innovative
policy changes.32 It is not a stretch to suggest that there are parallels between
church and political leadership, and Morrison has provided stable and strong
leadership to a political party that had experienced significant leadership dis-
ruption prior to his ascension.
When then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s unpopular “carbon tax” plans
and a plummeting performance in the polls led to a party-room leadership
challenge in 2018, Morrison put his name forward as a nominee.33 To the
surprise of many, Morrison won the ballot and was sworn in as prime min-
ister on August 24, 2018. He immediately commenced campaigning for the
upcoming federal election. On the one hand, Morrison’s transactional leader-
ship style focused on long-term stability through regular economic and social
exchanges.34 His approach did not naturally lean toward grand visions, dra-
matic speeches, and rapid reactions.35 On the other hand, his political rhetoric
was clearly designed to inspire his base.
Political analysts saw Morrison’s transparent faith as a calculated move to
draw middle-class educated conservative voters back into the Liberal fold and
create an environment in which people feel “both safe and welcome.”36 His
presidential-style election campaign ran with the slogan, “I want to unleash
the great capacity of Australians.”37 Political analysts have credited Morrison’s
strong leadership style as a major reason for his victory in the election because
he was “the most popular of all the leaders.”38 Mark Bennister and Simon Oben-
dorf note that Morrison “fought a strong election, placing his own leadership

32 David Kemp, “Leadership Practices: Reflections on Australian Political Leadership,” in
Public Leadership: Perspectives and Practices, ed. Paul ’t Hart and John Uhr (Canberra: Aus-
tralian National University Press, 2008), 206.
33 Derek McDougall, “From Malcolm Turnbull to ScoMo: Crisis for the Centre-right in Aus-
tralia,” The Roundtable: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs 107, no. 5 (2018):
34 Robert N. Lussier and Christopher F. Achua, Leadership: Theory, Application, Skill Develop-
ment, 2nd ed. (Eagan, MN: Thomson-West, 2004), 13.
35 Stephen Fogarty, “Australian Spirit up to the Task of Getting Us through this Pandemic,”
Canberra Times, May 9, 2020; https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6748704/pandem
36 Niki Savva, Plots and Prayers: Malcolm Turnbull’s Demise and Scott Morrison’s Ascension
(London: Scribe Publications, 2019), 10.
37 Joe Kelly, “Scott Morrison: Hope for the Liberal Party,” The Australian, May 17, 2019; avail-
able from https://www.theaustralian.com.au/inquirer/scott‑morrison‑hope‑of‑the‑liberal​
38 Sarah Cameron and Ian McAllister, “Policies and Performance in the 2019 Australian Fed-
eral Election,” Australian Journal of Political Science 55, no. 3 (2020): 250.

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up front.”39 He built a large church support base to leverage in the electoral sys-
tem. While not all pentecostals align to conservative politics, to Morrison’s core
constituency of megachurch voters, and to rural swing seat voters threatened
by deindustrialization and the decline of key industries such as coalmining, he
became a role model of strong, intelligent leadership.

5 Practical Pragmatism

Amos Yong finds that “pragmatism is a feature of global Pentecostalism,”40 and
this certainly holds true in Australia. In his ecclesiological analysis of Aus-
tralian Christian Churches, Shane Clifton notes a “pragmatic orientation” that
has often characterized the movement.41 This has meant a focus on practical,
measurable results, especially in relation to church growth, rather than a pre-
occupation with doctrinal or ideological issues. Regarding Morrison’s political
leadership, John Sandeman states that “Australian Pentecostalism is experi-
mental as well as experiential, willing to try new things in an entrepreneurial
manner, drop things that don’t seem to work and focus resources on those that
do.”42 Obviously, this is the definition of pragmatic leadership.
While such pragmatism has inherent risks and needs to be balanced by a
quest for the ideal, there is clearly an important place for pragmatism in pol-
itics. While electorates may be interested in ideology, there is always a desire
for action and outcome. Therefore, successful politicians tend to adapt their
leadership style depending upon a wide range of constituency contexts.43 The
bbc News labelled Morrison “Australia’s conservative pragmatist”44 and the
“pragmatist” (or even “arch-pragmatist”) label has been applied to him across
numerous reports and articles. Positively, this has enabled him to respond to

39 Mark Bennister and Simon Obendorf, “The 2019 Australian Election: Quiet Australians,
Daggy Dads and Climate Change,” Political Insight 10, no. 3 (August 8, 2019): 25–27.
40 Amos Yong, Discerning the Spirit(s): A Pentecostal-Charismatic Contribution to Christian
Theology of Religions (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock, 2018), 228.
41 Shane Clifton, Pentecostal Churches in Transition: Analysing the Developing Ecclesiology of
the Assemblies of God in Australia (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 159.
42 John Sandeman, “Scott Morrison, Pentecostalism and Pragmatism,” Eternity, March 21,
2019, https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/scott‑morrison‑pentecostalism‑and‑pra
43 Kevin Morrell and Jean Hartley, “A Model of Political Leadership,” Human Relations 59,
no. 4 (2006): 483–504.
44 “Scott Morrison: Australia’s Conservative Pragmatist,”bbc News, May 18, 2019; https://www​

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changes in the electorate, for example around expectations on climate pol-
icy,45 and effectively navigate party-room divides. Morrison took on leadership
of a fractured political party and an openly hostile parliamentary environment.
There had been seven prime ministers in eleven years and Australians were des-
perate for stability and unity. Pragmatically, Morrison had long been known as a
“faction-agnostic,” building relationships across political lines and party-room
divides.46 His impulse toward practical pragmatism, an impulse that also epit-
omizes Australian pentecostalism, has served him well.

6 Marketing Acumen

Allan Anderson holds that entrepreneurial acumen has been key to the success
of global pentecostalism.47 Australian pentecostalism is particularly known
for using contemporary language, media, and music to spread this message.48
Some even argue that Hillsong Church has been Australia’s most powerful
brand.49 Hillsong’s success is partly attributable to its capacity to embrace the
technologies and trends of the contemporary music industry, as well as asso-
ciated communication technologies, to create and build a global label.50 Thus,
Mairead Shanahan concludes that the “commodification and commercialisa-
tion” of Australian megachurches promotes a lifestyle of success, flourishing,
and blessing.51 While this can lead to criticisms of style over substance, every

45 James Massola, “Morrison the Pragmatist Leads from the Back on Net Zero,” The Sydney
Morning Herald, October 16, 2021; https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/morrison‑the​
46 Helen McCabe, “Who is Scott Morrison? The Prime Minister Shares a Rare and Candid
Look inside His Personal Life,” The Australian Women’s Weekly, March 20, 2020; https://​
47 Allan Heaton Anderson, To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation of
World Christianity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 672.
48 Jacqueline Grey, “Under the Surface of Pentecostalism: Any Substance Behind the Style
of Church that Our pm Attends?”Eternity, May 9, 2019; https://www.eternitynews.com.au/​
49 Tom Wagner, “The ‘Powerful’ Hillsong Brand,” in The Hillsong Movement Examined: You
Call Me Out Upon the Waters (Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), 253.
50 Shane Clifton, “Pentecostal Approaches to Economics,” in The Oxford Handbook of Chris-
tianity and Economics, ed. Paul Oslington (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 267.
51 Mairead Shanahan, “Marketing and Branding Practices in Australian Pentecostal Subur-
ban Megachurches for Supporting International Growth,” in Australian Pentecostal and
Charismatic Movements: Arguments from the Margins, ed. Cristina Rocha, Mark P. Hutchin-
son, and Kathleen Openshaw (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 129.

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coin has two sides. Without a compelling message and clear communication,
any voice will struggle to be heard in the modern cacophony of competing
Morrison portrays himself as an average beer-drinking, footy-loving,52
church-going family man still paying off the home mortgage. He grew up in
a Uniting Church in the eastern suburbs of Sydney and became active in poli-
tics at a young age, owing to the influence of his father, who was a policeman
and then the local council mayor. In 2006, as managing director of Tourism
Australia, Morrison oversaw the infamous “So where the bloody hell are you?”
tourism campaign, featuring Lara Bingle.53 While banned upon release in the
United Kingdom, it became one of the most effective marketing campaigns
since the days of Paul Hogan.
Morrison reflects the instincts of Australian pentecostalism by using the
creativity of his marketing background to create a holistic package that was
attractive to voters. After Tony Abbott was ousted by Malcolm Turnbull, in 2015,
Morrison became federal treasurer. One of his most memorable “stunts” in this
role was bringing a piece of coal into parliament to combat the “coalophobia”
of renewable energy advocates.54 Ultimately, his passionate support of the coal
mining industry found substantial traction, particularly in regional Queens-
land.55 The acidic criticism of the digital press, circulating on the left and
among youth cultures, saw Morrison tagged with the soubriquet “Scotty from
Marketing.” While clearly intended as a pejorative, Morrison’s ability to craft a
clear and compelling message has almost certainly contributed to his rise.
As scrutiny regarding the prime minister’s pentecostal faith has intensified,
some journalists have painted pentecostals as self-help marketeers56 or devil-
obsessed heretics.57 Graham Maddox argues that Morrison’s pentecostalism
preaches the exclusive, prosperity gospel of neo-liberalism—a criticism often
levelled at pentecostal onshore and offshore multicampus megachurches.58

52 “Footy” is Australian football.
53 “So Where the Bloody Hell Are You?” YouTube; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rn0lw
54 Scott Morrison, “House of Representatives,” Hansard, February 9, 2017, 536.
55 Bennister and Obendorf, “The 2019 Australian Election.”
56 Elle Hardy, “Today’s Pentecostals Aren’t Tongues-talking Hicks—They are Slick Australian
Exports,” The Guardian, May 1, 2019; https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/​
57 Boyce, “The Devil and Scott Morrison.”
58 Graham Maddox, “Politics as Cruelty: Asylum Seekers, Australian Government Policy and
the 2019 Federal Election,” Social Alternatives 38, no. 2 (2019): 61–63.

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Morrison’s motto of a “fair go for those who have a go” was sharply criticized
by Anglican scholar Philip Almond as having prosperity gospel undertones.59
But such simplistic readings of pentecostalism fundamentally misunderstand
the movement and also underestimate the attractiveness of pentecostalism’s
message to large parts of society. The phenomenal growth of the movement is
evidence of that appeal.
Morrison has clearly understood his constituency and proactively utilized
his marketing experience to shape a message that appeals to them. While other
political parties such as Labor and the Greens focused on inner city “progres-
sives,” Morrison coined the phrase “quiet Australians” and gave them a promi-
nence and importance not previously granted.60 When Christian schools and
faith-based organizations objected to controversial revisions proposed for the
Religious Discrimination Act in the wake of the same-sex marriage referendum,
Morrison called for further community consultation.61 He stated:

[H]ere is a summary of the unshouted views I’ve been picking up from
us quieter Australians.… As for religion, it’s our own personal business.
What you believe is up to you, and no-one should give you a hard time
about it.… The same goes for sexuality. It’s your life, live it as you’re free
to do and good luck to you.… I won’t be dragged off to the right or left
or intimidated by the shouting. I’ve always had my feet firmly planted in
the same place they’ve always been. Family, hard work, common sense,
respect, responsibility, a fair go for those who have a go and being pre-
pared to help others.62

This focus on messaging can and has been viewed cynically, in the same way
that the marketing acumen of pentecostalism has been heavily criticized. How-
ever, it could also be viewed simply as an integrous commitment to faithfully
representing and speaking to the constituency that elected him.

59 Philip Almond, “Five Aspects of Pentecostalism that Shed Light on Scott Morrison’s Poli-
tics,” The Conversation, May 23, 2019; https://theconversation.com/five‑aspects‑of‑penteco
60 Laura Tingle, “Quiet Australians Evaluate Scott Morrison’s Government Six Months After
Election Victory,” abc News, November 14, 2019; https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019‑11‑14/​
61 “Religious Discrimination Bill: Faith-based Groups and Equality Advocates Welcome
Delay,” The Guardian, November 30, 2019; https://www.theguardian.com/australia‑news/​
62 Scott Morrison, “Listening to Our Quiet Australians,” Prime Minister of Australia, Jan-
uary 14, 2019; https://www.pm.gov.au/media/listening‑our‑quiet‑australians.

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7 A Narrative of Hope

Birthed as it was within the context of eschatological urgency, mission, and
hope, Pentecostalism in Australia tends toward positivity and hopefulness in
its focus. Luke Bretherton notes that mission is inherent in pentecostal the-
ology and aligns to a quest for political leadership.63 Amos Yong argues that
Christians must develop an eschatological politics of hope given the “incon-
trovertible this-worldliness to pentecostal spirituality that is focused on the
present redemption of human life in all of its domains.”64 Australian Chris-
tian Churches, the movement to which Scott Morrison belongs, has a statement
of beliefs that includes the following: “We believe that God wants to heal and
transform us so that we can live healthy and prosperous lives in order to help
others more effectively.… We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is coming back
again as He promised.”65
This message of hope has regularly been a feature of Morrison’s leadership. A
little over a year after he came to power, Australia was rocked by multiple disas-
ters that called for national leadership to bring hope amid despair. After years of
crippling drought, ferocious bushfires broke out across Australia, many of them
deliberately lit by arsonists. Between September 2019 and February 2020, thirty-
three people died and more than two thousand homes were destroyed as bush-
fires decimated land and wildlife across twelve million hectares (over twenty-
seven million acres) of Australia.66 Popular opinion soured after the media
revealed that Morrison was holidaying with his family in Hawaii during the
bush fire crisis. An apologetic Morrison rushed back to Australia.67 Through-
out the crisis, he attempted to focus on national concerns while respecting the
spheres of state sovereignty (of which emergency services were a part).68
Torrential rainstorms finally quenched the fires but also caused mass flood-
ing and further damage to homes. Many people blamed the extreme weather
events on the prime minister for his lack of commitment in the fight against

63 Luke Bretherton, Christianity and Contemporary Politics: The Conditions and Possibilities of
Faithful Witness (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).
64 Yong, In the Days of Caesar: Pentecostalism and Political Theology, Sacra Doctrina: Chris-
tian Theology–Postmodern Age (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2010), 329.
65 “Our Beliefs,” Australian Christian Churches; https://www.acc.org.au/about‑us/.
66 “Australia Fires: A Visual Guide,”bbc News, January 30, 2020; https://www.bbc.com/news/​
67 “Australian Fires: pm Scott Morrison Sorry for Hawaii Holiday During Crisis,” bbc News,
December 22, 2019; https://www.bbc.com/news/world‑australia‑50879850.
68 Scott Morrison, “Address: National Press Club,” Prime Minister of Australia, January 29,
2020; available from https://www.pm.gov.au/media/address‑national‑press‑club.

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climate change.69 Philip Almond even linked pentecostal eschatological belief
to Morrison’s stance against lowering carbon emissions.70 However, Jacqueline
Grey countered:

For Pentecostals, the hope of Christ’s return does propel them to outreach,
to want to share the good news of Jesus—to evangelise. But it also pro-
pels them to care for others, which includes caring for the Earth.… While
there are many ways Pentecostals understand premillennialism, it does
not necessarily lead to a disrespect for the environment.71

Mark Robinson comments, “Scott Morrison’s faith translates in a holistic way
into the everyday world of Australians as a confident authentic leader and lov-
ing husband and father, with integrity and hope.”72 A leaked video showed Mor-
rison praying at Planetshakers Church in Melbourne for victims of the Sulawesi
earthquake as well as for drought-affected farmers and Australian Indigenous
communities. He stated, “You love all Australians if you love Australia. Whether
they’ve become an Australian by birth 10 generations ago … or if you came last
Just as the fires and floods abated, the world was impacted by the covid-19
pandemic and Australia was forced into lockdown. Zareh Ghazarian holds that
the pandemic gave Morrison “the chance to reposition himself as that average
Australian that he had so desperately tried to be seen as during the election
campaign.”74 Morrison embraced inclusive language, stating: “together we will
get through this.”75 The goal was “to slow the spread of coronavirus to save lives,

69 Mark Beeson, “The Lucky Country’s Lacklustre Leadership,” Australian Journal of Interna-
tional Affairs 74, no. 2 (2020): 109; Andrew Clark, “Fires Spread a Pall of Depression,”Finan-
cial Review, December 13, 2019; https://www.afr.com/policy/energy‑and‑climate/fires
70 Almond, “Five Aspects of Pentecostalism that Shed Light on Scott Morrison’s Politics.”
71 Cited in John Sandeman, “The Monthly Sledges Pentecostalism (Again),” EternityNews,
January 17, 2020; https://www.eternitynews.com.au/opinion/the‑monthly‑sledges‑pentec
72 Mark Robinson, Personal email with Denise Austin (December 7, 2020).
73 Tom McIlroy, “Prime Minister Scott Morrison Prays for Indonesia, Farmers in Leaked
Video,” Financial Review, October 4, 2018; https://www.afr.com/politics/prime‑minister​
74 Cited in Zareh Ghazarian, “Coronavirus: Could the covid-19 Crisis be the Making of Scott
Morrison?,” Lens: Monash University, April 3, 2020; https://lens.monash.edu/@politics‑soc
75 “Grattan on Friday: Morrison Looks to His Messaging on Coronavirus and Climate,” The

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and to save livelihoods.”76 When asked how his family was coping, his narra-
tive of hope was evident. He responded that they “imagine the world on the
other side of this” and talk about “how amazing Australia is and how we will all
come out of this.” He added, “our faith is very important to us. That helps us get
through each day.”77
Morrison again drew on this narrative of hope to bring encouragement and
a focus on the future. In his Easter message, he said:

For Christians, not being able to gather does not diminish the hope that
we have through this important Easter period. This year, we will live out
our faith by doing the right thing. That means staying at home, making
sure we’re checking on our neighbours and supporting our communities
and families, our friends. That’s what living our faith is all about.78

Then, in May 2020, Morrison featured in a nationwide, online Australian Chris-
tian Churches Pentecost Sunday prayer meeting from his parliamentary office.
We all attended the prayer meeting in which Morrison quoted several Bible
verses and requested prayer for unity among the state premiers and chief min-
isters in the national cabinet. He prayed:

I pray that we will be a restorer of streets, with people in them, busi-
nesses open again, Australians going about their lives again, returning
to their jobs, returning to their livelihoods, returning to normal times in
our schools so children can learn and that we can get to the other side of

When Kylie Moore-Gilbert, who had been detained in Iran and sentenced to
ten years in prison on espionage charges, was finally released after two years

Conversation, February 27, 2020; https://theconversation.com/grattan‑on‑friday‑morrison​
76 Scott Morrison, “Update on Coronavirus Measures,” Prime Minister of Australia, April 3,
2020; https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update‑coronavirus‑measures‑030420.
77 Lanai Scarr, “Coronavirus Crisis: Emotional Prime Minister Scott Morrison Pleaded Aus-
tralia to ‘Stay Together’ during covid-19 Pandemic,” The West Australian, April 2, 2020;
78 Scott Morrison, “Prime Minister’s Easter Message,” Prime Minister of Australia, April 9,
2020; https://www.pm.gov.au/media/prime‑minister‑easter‑message.
79 Australian Christian Churches Pentecost Sunday prayer meeting, May 31, 2020, Zoom.

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in a notorious Iranian prison, Morrison again gave thanks for miracles. He
commented, “I have always believed in miracles and I’m just thankful for this
one.”80 Such overt religious language led one journalist to mock the prime min-
ister’s “simple, Bible-stoked mind.”81 At the 2021 Australian Christian Churches
National Conference, Morrison was again criticized by the media for the prac-
tice of “laying on of hands” when praying for bushfire victims.82 Nevertheless,
regularly and consistently, Morrison has projected a narrative of hope.

8 Conclusion

Strong leadership, practical pragmatism, marketing acumen, and a narrative
of hope are characteristic of the pentecostal movement in Australia. While we
acknowledge that each of these features has the potential for both good and
evil, we suggest that they also have the potential to outwork themselves posi-
tively within the political sphere.
A few short years ago it would have been inconceivable that the seemingly
hyper-secularized Australian nation would be referring colloquially to their
pentecostal prime minister as the “Miracle Man.” Historically, pentecostalism
in Australia had been staunchly apolitical but, in recent years, there have been
a handful of pentecostals who have established successful political careers.
The meteoric rise of Scott Morrison drew Australian pentecostalism into the
spotlight in unprecedented fashion. Morrison led from the front with strength
and conviction in much the same way as many prominent pentecostal pas-
tors in Australia. Influenced by his marketing background and reflecting the
marketing acumen present in much of Australian pentecostalism, Morrison
captured the attention of “quiet” voters. After a rapid succession of prime
ministers destabilized the political landscape, Morrison brought a practical
pragmatism that focused on action and outcomes over ideology. Finally, his

80 Colin Packham, “Freed British-Australian Academic Thanks Supporters after Iranian
Release,” Reuters, November 27, 2020; https://www.reuters.com/article/uk‑iran‑britain‑de
81 Ian Warden, “Our Pentecostal pm’s Busy Prayer Patellas,” Canberra Times; https://www​
82 Daniella White, “pm Says Social Media Being Used by ‘Evil One,’ Gives Rare Insights into
Pentecostal Faith,” The Sydney Morning Herald, April 26, 2021; https://www.smh.com.au/​

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narrative of hope mirrored the eschatological hope of pentecostals everywhere
and promised a better future beyond immediate crises.
For too long, Morrison’s pentecostal beliefs and heritage have been por-
trayed as an encumbrance to effective policy-making and governing. We believe
this is an ill-informed and unfair portrayal of pentecostalism. Whatever one
thinks of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, and, to be sure, he has his detractors,
his pentecostal faith can just as easily inspire and empower his leadership. Of
course, only time will illuminate his legacy and the degree to which this occurs.
A preliminary article like this can only be suggestive, but it is intended as a
counter to the negative caricatures of pentecostalism and its influence on pub-
lic policy within Australia.

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