|A Social Justice experience of Hillsong|
The article in Christian Post on Monday 25 Oct 2010, entitled “Hillsong Band Advocates Social Justice in Film” talks of Hillsong's involvement in social justice and made comparisons to William Wilberforce and William & Catherine Booth of the Salvation Army. The emphasis was for the followers of Christ to show compassion. The article however fails to mention Hillsong’s controversial foray into social justice. Hillsong is a very large mega church of 22,000 and part of the Assemblies of God (AoG) churches in Australia. Brian Houston, the Senior Pastor, is also the President of AoG. It was regularly attended by Government ministers such as John Howard and Peter Costello.
Apparently, the entry into social justice begin to expand in 2004, when the then Australian treasurer Peter Costello visited Hillsong Church to gather political support. The Liberal Party was subsequently re-elected and Hillsong appeared to have gained much political backing for its social justice projects. A number of grants were given in 2005 and 2006 which ended up in much controversy as the church allegedly took those grants as its own money to be used as desired rather than helping those in need:-
a) A $414K federal grant (which was announced by John Howard) to help the Aboriginal Community. This was however terminated when it could not answer to queries on how the money was used. It was later discovered that the original application was based on letters of support and ideas from RACA which was used without permission.
b) A $965K grant (by IBA) to administer $280K loan to the Aboriginals. This was terminated when it was discovered that ,
- $315K was spent employing its own church staff
- Only 6 loans were made to Aboriginals worth 3K each
c) A 610K grant to run indigenous “enterprise hubs” in Redfern after which not even one Aboriginal found full time employment. At the hub, only flyers were found promoting Hillsong’s Christian Business Directory but not any Aborigines enterprises. A total of 140K of the 610K apparently went into the church on “Shine” program to teach Christian values.
It is surprising how often Christian Ministries ask for money in the name of helping those in need, yet shamelessly using most of the money to serve their own purpose. Only a trickle goes to the needy. Even when the truth was revealed, they will try their best to rationalize and justify their actions. It is indeed sad when many secular NGO’s are much more righteous than some major Christian ministries.
Where have we gone wrong that even the secular appears much more righteous? Often it is our theological construct that results in a failure of basic moral values. Teachings on prosperity theology often compromise our integrity, justifying our wealth even though obtained in an unrighteous manner. We reckon that we deserved the money given, as blessings from God even though the money was meant not for us but for people in dire needs. The Dominion theology preached at Hillsong where the church was supposed to gain a foothold in the Government space rationalised their very close ties and support for the former liberal Government of John Howard.
More often than not we look after our self interests first. It is hard to die for a righteous man let alone a sinner. Yet, as Christians we are called to follow Jesus and be His sacrificial love. We are to deny ourselves.
(Amos 5:22 NKJV) Though you offer Me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, Nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings.
(Amos 5:23 NKJV) Take away from Me the noise of your songs, For I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments.
(Amos 5:24 NKJV) But let justice run down like water, And righteousness like a mighty stream.
In Amos 5, because of the oppression of the poor, the rich became richer and out of their wealth brought much animal sacrifices to God. It was money taken from the poor that was used to fatten the rich. Therefore, the smell of the burnt offerings were not a sweet aroma to God, but a reminder of the sufferings of the innocent and the weak.
When God received our offerings, it was to be a real sacrifice for us and not the result of oppression or injustice. Justice is not about following the bible laws rather it is about the poor and the oppressed being treated with dignity, humanity, fairness and equality. There was to be no favored treatment as was apparently the case between the Howard Government and Hillsongs, for all are equal in the eyes of God. Where was justice where most of the funds that were supposed to be used to help the poor ended up to support the church which was already one of the most wealthy in Australia with a yearly income of more than 50 million, and church property worth 100 million.
When we talk about injustice, it is the harm done to the weak that were often oppressed for the sake and benefit of the rich, religious right, and politically powerful. Unrighteousness and corruption prevailed. The weak has no voice to rise up against the ill treatment. We are reminded of how the Gay community has often been used as a scapegoat by being portrayed as militant sinners attacking the Christianity. We have no shame in using false rhetoric to raise funds for the Christian Ministries such as Focus on the Family who will promise to rise up to defend the church and to defeat the Homosexual agenda.
Our Christian Worship services funded by money collected through injustice against the weak, may be in vain for God will not accept them. He will not hear our praise and worship even if we sing Hillsongs music. For God is a righteous God. He will not accept injustice done in the very name of Christianity. We cannot build our house on sand, but on the foundation of Christ who gave Himself that Justice may prevail.
We have built a dam stopping the flow and river of God from the heavens above to flow to the nations. God will not be with us and our ministries if it is based on oppression. In Singapore, there appears to be few widespread healing anointing and the move of the Holy Spirit with signs and wonders. It is not that we do church wrongly but our ways are often filled with unrighteousness done against the weak. We call for gays to be put in prisons not realizing that our own ministry will be hindered by the hand of injustice and God will stay quiet and be saddened.
Most Christians are so legalistic and law based in Singapore that we have forgotten God’s grace and mercy. The dam of injustice must be broken for the ministry of Christ to shine forth to the nations. God is tonight reminding us that each one of us are to be little gods and be agents of change ushering in the waters of justice that flows from the high mountain of God to bring liberty and freedom to the people under bondage. The waters will gather forth like a large stream of God’s righteousness to the nations bringing the Word of Hope and freedom in Christ. May His Love, Grace and mercy fill your heart and mind tonight in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour.