Scott Morrison at the 2021 Australian Christian Churches conference (Image: Facebook)

Scott Morrison’s address at the Australian Christian conference was full of buzz phrases that mean little to the uninitiated but a great deal to his fellow Pentecostal Christians in the room.

Crikey has decoded what the prime minister said. It reveals a mashup of Pentecostal stories, grand prophecies and Bible references.

The great southern land of the Holy Spirit.

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Morrison captured his audience with his first words which — if you know the code — referenced an Australian Pentecostal belief that Australia has been chosen as the place for the great end times revival and that it would then impact all nations.

Can I start as is my custom every time I speak, particularly as prime minister, can I acknowledge our Indigenous brothers and sisters who are here tonight.

He then added: “The great southern land of the Holy Spirit.”

It didn’t come from the Bible, so who chose Australia for this honour? That turns out to be a Portuguese navigator, Pedro Fernandes de Queirós, who sighted land and declared it to be “Terra Australis del Spirito Santo” (which came to be “the great south land of the Holy Spirit”). His proclamation was made on the day of Pentecost in May 1606.

“I take possession of all this part of the south as far as the pole in the name of Jesus, which from now on shall be called the southern land of the Holy Spirit and this always and forever to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy, sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly.”

The great southern land of the Holy Spirit evokes another giant in the world of Australian Pentecostalism. An English-born evangelist called Smith Wigglesworth visited Australia in the 1920s. The son of a farm labourer he worked in the mills, had no education but said he could “never recollect a time when he did not long for God”.

On one visit, Wigglesworth made a celebrated prophecy that there would be a great end time revival in Australia and that God would use Australia to make an impact on all nations.

Use what God has put in your hand.

As Morrison paid tribute to Hillsong pastor Brian Houston (“Just pay you honour, mate”) he recalled Houston’s words: “Use what God has put in your hand.” This has become part of the Morrison story that God has a plan for him to lead.

It is also a reference (Exodus, chapter 4) to Moses at the burning bush when God turned the stick in Moses’ hand into a snake. This would be used as a sign to the pharaoh when Moses would demand that God’s people be set free from captivity. So it casts Morrison in the position of Moses.

Blessed to be a blessing.

Morrison said this in the context of what he had learnt from Houston. It refers to the prosperity gospel at the core of Pentecostalism. The logic is that if you are not blessed by God you will not prosper — and to be blessed you have to pay a tithe. In other words if you pay, you will be blessed and you will prosper. The converse is if you don’t pay you will be cursed.

In this video “blessed to be a blessing” has been turned into an all-rockin’ all-singin’ church dance number.

For such a time as this.

Morrison used the phrase several times. Speaking about wife Jenny Morrison, he referred to the “opportunity” God had given her as the prime minister’s wife to use her “amazing heart” for “such a time as this”. He used it twice to conclude: “We are called all of us for a time and a season and God would have us use it wisely … for such a time as this, for such a time as this.”

In this case the words come from the Bible: the book of Esther, chapter four, verse 14. Morrison is comparing Jenny and himself to Queen Esther, a Jewish woman who fate had delivered into a position of power to help the Jews as the wife of King Xerxes I. (If the inference wasn’t clear by now, this makes Esther the wife of the country’s leader at a time when survival is at stake.)

“And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” the verse concludes. The phrase is often linked up with the idea of “God’s plan” giving people a purpose for “such a time as this.” (The thought is also expressed in more modern terms: “God’s man of power for the hour.”)

Those who know the code were left in no doubt that Morrison was and is central to God’s plan.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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