Scott Morrison’s address to the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) gathering on the Gold Coast last week began with a roll call of Christian influence on the government. The words were music to the ears of an adoring audience of Pentecostal Christians lapping up the proof of how far they’d come with one of their own in the highest political office in the land.
“Brother Stewie,” the prime minister said, name-checking Employment Minister Stuart Robert, a fellow Pentecostal. Robert has recently been promoted to the government’s powerful Expenditure Review Committee.
Then there was “brother Matt”, who’d “recently joined us”. This was West Australian Liberal Matt O’Sullivan, elected to the Senate in 2019, who graduated into politics via billionaire Christian businessman Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest’s Minderoo Foundation. In his brief time in Parliament, O’Sullivan has already distinguished himself as a defender of the government’s robodebt scheme (which was incidentally introduced on the watch of Scott Morrison as social services minister).
“It’s wonderful to have [Matt] here joining our band of Christian believers in Canberra … ” Morrison said. “And there’s more of us from all different denominations providing encouragement and fellowship to each other.”
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The audience was by now close to a state of rapture.
Here was proof of the outsize influence of Pentecostalism within the Australian government. Followed by just over 1% of Australians, the religion now lays claim to a prime minister, a cabinet minister and a new senator carrying its standard in government.
For Pastor Bob Cotton — a sceptic of the thrusting political power of the ACC and the brand of “prosperity Christianity” it represents — it was a demonstration, too, of the power of the so-called “Seven Mountains mandate” in action.
A Seven Mountains pin-up boy
The Seven Mountains mandate is a little-known Christian movement that aims to wield influence in seven key areas of society. And having Pentecostal Scott Morrison in the Lodge made him “the pin-up boy globally” of the mandate, Cotton told Crikey.
The seven key sectors are: education, religion, family, business, government/military, arts/entertainment, and finally media. (Yes. Media.)
Those who follow the Seven Mountains mandate believe that “before Christ can return” the church must take control of these seven spheres for the glory of Christ. Once the world has been made subject to the kingdom of God, Jesus will return and rule the world. That’s how vital it is to get control.
As Cotton explains, the Seven Mountains mandate is a spin-off of another Christian movement called Dominionism. The name is drawn from the biblical reference to Adam in the Garden of Eden having “dominion over every creature”.
“The bible doesn’t teach this stuff,” Cotton told Crikey. “It’s false but it works on people who are gullible.”
The Seven Mountains mandate operates in some ways like a secret society. If you know the code then you’re in the know. And then you’re in.
Church and State Summit
One example Cotton points to is an annual gathering called the “Church and State Summit”, which brings together prominent figures from politics, business, the media and academia. The logo for the summit’s website is a discreet graphic of seven mountain peaks which, according to Cotton is “unmistakably” a Seven Mountains mandate symbol.
Speakers at the 2021 summit included Cardinal George Pell, Australian Christian Lobby head Martyn Iles, and Senator Matt Canavan, whose short bio spruiked the north Queensland conservative as taking “a public role in arguing for the biblical definition of marriage during the public debate on the topic in 2017”.
Speakers at the 2020 conference included Senator Eric Abetz, Queensland LNP state MP Fiona Simpson, and Dave Hodgson, a former special forces commando and born-again founder of the Paladin group of companies valued in excess of $1 billion. According to his bio, Hodgson is a “highly sought-after speaker at global summits and churches all over the world” who teaches how he learnt to do God’s will, God’s way, “resulting in a meteoric rise from $76,000 credit card debt to a $100 million business in 31 months”.
In 2019, Murdoch columnist Miranda Devine and Queensland Senator Amanda Stoker were listed as speakers. Stoker, according to her bio, wanted to see Australia return to being “a free land of opportunity, based on Christian values”. LNP member George Christensen was also a speaker.
A driving force behind the Seven Mountains movement is a US Pentecostal televangelist called Kenneth Copeland, who also has a major presence in Australia via the Kenneth Copeland Ministries in Mansfield, Queensland.
Copeland is an eloquent proponent of the “prosperity gospel”, which preaches a message of abundance through religion. It’s a message which has drawn the enthusiastic backing of Hillsong church founder and Morrison confidant Brian Houston, who sent Copeland his warm congratulations via video for his years of ministry.
Thankfully for Copeland he has now been blessed with a net worth estimated at close to US$900 million, demonstrating that, like some other preachers, he has successfully put his mouth where the money is.