Prime Minister Scott Morrison asked a packed Pentecostal convention to “raise up the spiritual weapons” against “identity politics”, which he claimed was an “evil” presence harming Australia’s young people.
“I need your help,” Mr Morrison told thousands of attendees at the Australian Christian Churches national conference on the Gold Coast last week.
The PM spoke of what he deemed “threats” to the concept of community in Australia, listing social media and identity politics as “corrosive” elements, and speaking about “laying hands” on people he prayed with in evacuation centres.
“If you look at each other not as individuals but as warring tribes, it’s easy to start disrespecting each other … that’s why people start writing stupid things on Facebook,” Mr Morrison said.
“We all know how that is corroding and desensitising our country and our society, not just here but all around the world, and I think it’s an evil thing.
“We’ve got to pray about it, we’ve got to call it out.
“We’ve got to raise up the spiritual weapons against this.
“It’s going to take our young people. It’s going to take their courage. It’s going to take their hope. It’s going to steal their hope. We’ve got to pray about that.”
A spokesperson for the PM’s office said he appeared at the event “the same as he attends many other stakeholder events” held by Buddhist, Muslim and Jewish groups.
Attendees delighted by ‘random’ PM appearance
The Australian Christian Churches describes itself on its website as “a movement of over 1000 Pentecostal Churches” and “representing more than 370,000 constituents”.
It was formerly known as the Assemblies of God in Australia. Hillsong founder Brian Houston was its president between 1997 and 2009.
Many in the crowd at the Gold Coast Convention Centre were surprised to see Mr Morrison arrive on stage for a 25-minute sermon on the opening night of the conference on April 20.
Several attendees posted on social media that his speech was a “guest appearance” or “random”.
Mr Morrison’s address was not publicised by his office, nor publicly advertised on the ACC’s website ahead of time.
A video of Mr Morrison’s address was recorded by the pastor of a Queensland church, who was in the audience at the conference and later posted it online for his congregation.
It was later found and republished on social media by the Rationalist Society of Australia, a secular group.
Opening his address by referring to Australia as “the great south land of the holy spirit”, and acknowledging his “great brother” in Employment Services Minister Stuart Robert in the audience, Mr Morrison spoke for several minutes on community and family, before asking the thousands in the audience to “keep building community in this country”.
‘Evil’ social media warning
The PM said he “worried about” the concept of identity politics, which he defined as people being “only defined by what pack you’re in or what group you’re in”.
Mr Morrison warned such thinking could see people “lose your humanity”, and blamed it for creating “evil” in society.
“It’s such a corrosive thing we’re seeing take place. Sure, social media has its virtues and its values. It enables us to connect with people in ways we never have before,” he said.
“But those weapons can also be used by the evil one and we need to call it out.”
The “evil one” is understood to be a reference to Satan.
The PM asked people to stand up against such thinking, to “help” him to “remind Australians how precious they are and how unique they are”.
“You must be strong, you must be courageous, and you must not be discouraged,” he said.
In closing his speech, Mr Morrison spoke of the “absolute privilege” he felt as Christians around the country sent him and his wife, Jenny, many books and letters – joking he had a “library” building up – and how he had sought to comfort people doing it tough.
“I’ve been in evacuation centres, where people thought I was just giving someone a hug, and I was praying and putting my hands on people … laying hands on them and praying,” Mr Morrison said.
Sharing a photo on social media of Mr Morrison, bowing his head and flanked by four people who placed their hands on him, the ACC wrote the night was “a powerful opening night to our conference”, and “a great honour to unite and pray over our nation and Prime Minister”.
“The ACC conference opening session is being preached by our Prime Minister Scott Morrison,” one attendee wrote on Facebook.
“I never thought I’d see a PM preach and yet that’s what happened,” another posted on Instagram.
Flight records show a Dassault Falcon jet, the type operated by the Royal Australian Air Force for VIP flights for dignitaries and politicians, flew from Sydney to the Gold Coast on Monday afternoon, then back to Sydney on Monday night.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Prime Minister said the appearance was not out of the ordinary for Mr Morrison.
“The Prime Minister was invited to address Tuesday night’s event the same as he attends many other stakeholder events, including for other religious groups such as the Copts, Maronites, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim,” they told TND.
“The usual transport and security protocols were followed as they are for any event the Prime Minister attends.”