Channel 9 produced what turned out to be a ‘propaganda’ segment on Hillsong. We will be refuting the very deceptive claims Hillsong made on the program ‘True Believers’ and will be exposing just how unprofessional the Channel 9 reporting actually was.
It is our intention to alert readers of this article that Hillsong claims they are not a cult, and how they thought it was appropriate to malign the Royal Commission for summoning Brian Houston to give evidence for Case 18.
In the opening segment, Leila McKinnon asked this question about the ‘charismatic’ couple Brian and Bobbie Houston:
“So, what’s their magic formula? How did they do it? And – how have they managed to answer their critics to preside over one of the fastest growing churches in the world?”
The initial problem with that statement is that this report assumes that Hillsong is in fact a church. This should be an indicator that this presentation has no regard for journalistic integrity. To further establish this claim – none of the questions above were really answered by Hillsong and the report failed to answer these questions at all.
What’s fascinating about this report is who they try to establish Hillsong’s enemies to be. Is the enemy Tanya Levin? (She has been seen to be Brian Houston’s personal ‘nemesis’ for the last decade.)
Brian Houston also calls Chris Rosebrough of ‘Fighting for the Faith’, Jordan Hall from ‘Pulpit & Pen’ and any other qualified pastors, teachers or persons that correct him as ‘evil’, ‘demonic’, ‘pharisees’ and ‘religious people’.
But who did Inside Story portray as Hillsong’s enemies?
‘A Current Affair’ and The Royal Commission.
And this is what made the show a propaganda piece – Inside Story allowed Hillsong to demonize their ‘critics’ and at the same time allowed no voice to those who question their religious movement (Hillsong teaches that they are a movement while Christianity has taught for 2000 years that Jesus Christ and His Apostles established the church as an institution).
Brian Houston enjoyed criticizing his critics… again:
“We’re the biggest church in Australia and sadly, there will always be people on the side that want to chip. You know, we talk about the ‘tall poppy syndrome’. And it just frustrates me that that side of Australia is so juvenile.” [4:17]
After he says this, Inside Story transitions to Ben McCormack’s report on Hillsong from ‘A Current Affair’. What’s interesting about McCormack is that his reports on Hillsong are far more accurate than all of Brian Houston’s sermons and books combined. The only ‘juvenile’ on Inside Story is Brian Houston who can’t defend what he does when questioned, and often appears to display a somewhat childish temper when people point out his shortcomings as a pastor on social media.
It makes us wonder if Hillsong was a ‘ghostwriter’ for Inside Story. Especially when Inside Story filmed Bobbie Houston saying this:
“I know this is going to sound, like, far too, like, noble- but I really do pray for our enemies out there. And I just think there’s just a handful.” [4:46]
As soon as Bobbie Houston said the above quote, Inside Story then transitions to the Royal Commission.
Inside Story are portraying the Royal Commission as Hillsong’s enemy? Really?
Did Hillsong try to influence the writing of this piece? Why did Inside Story present Brian’s view as to why he was summoned to the Royal Commission, rather then presenting the Royal Commission’s reasons as to why he was summoned?
All other media outlets and organisations know that Brian Houston was summoned to explain how he handled the allegations about his father. The looming question – did Brian Houston try to cover up his father’s very serious offences?
So why did Inside Story fail so abysmally in their “inside story” as to what happened at the Royal Commission? Once again, we are more than a little convinced that Hillsong gave them a biased version of the truth – and Inside Story ran with it, and in doing so, appeared to portray the Royal Commission as Hillsong’s enemy.
We understand and sympathise that Brian Houston is a victim of his father’s behaviour. However, what is absolutely unacceptable is Brian Houston still using the victim card even though he CHOSE to “carry the can”. That means rather than removing himself from dealing with his father, he CHOSE to deal directly with his father, thus ignoring the obvious “conflict of interest” and ignoring AOG policies and procedures (see our next article).
Listen to how Brian Houston portrayed himself to Inside Story when he was at the Royal Commission:
“He was a paedophile. My dad was a paedophile. I can say it now. I have sort of come to grips with it now. But I do sort of find myself carrying the can for stuff that had nothing to do with me. This was not my crime. I didn’t do this.” [5:02] [Emphasis ours]
This is a serious allegation. Whoever said this was Brian Houston’s crime? No one ever said Frank’s paedophilia was Brian Houston’s crime. We don’t know any media organisation, blog or person that thinks that Frank Houston’s paedophilia was Brian Houston’s crime.
So Brian, WHO thinks this is your crime? Certainly the Royal Commission was not saying it was your crime. And Brian Houston – in spite of what you think, the Royal Commission is not your enemy.
The “this is not my crime” statement is not an off the cuff comment. This is a deliberate statement and not an uncommon way he speaks about this matter.
For clarification sake: Just like everyone else, we can’t even begin to imagine what an emotional, mental, physical and spiritual experience this would have been for the Houstons to deal with.
If you have difficulty understanding the swipe Houston made to the Royal Commission, his daughter also expressed her views about the Royal Commission:
“With the Royal Commission and with the media and so on, I get very upset that the focus is on my dad. Because it’s as if he is paying the consequences for another man’s actions and I think that’s extremely unfair.” – Laura Toganivalu [18:58]
After watching that segment, take note of your reaction. Did you feel for Laura? Did you relate to her, and her father? Did you want to give her a hug and feel compelled to help them?
If you are human, your heart will go out to them. Unfortunately what’s missing in this presentation is the other baggage and misconception that comes with it.
In saying this, we believe that Laura was being honest with us about her feelings towards the investigation, which is understandable. However, we are tackling what is overall being presented to viewers about Hillsong – and this is where the deception is.
Brian and his own family members (like Laura), in dealing with the sad truth about their father and grandfather, appear to be unaware of the reason why Brian Houston was summoned to appear before the Royal Commission. Laura’s emotional appeal is understandable: she is defending her father because she loves him.
What we are hearing is something very similar to what Brian said. Brian said, “this is not my crime” and Laura is saying her dad “is paying the consequences for another man’s actions”. And she links straight to the Royal Commission. Sadly, her protest highlights that she is unaware and does not understand the purpose of the Royal Commission: it was to investigate institutional responses to child sexual abuse. And her father was in charge of the institutions.
So what was “extremely unfair” about the Royal Commission?
Why didn’t she understand this? Why wasn’t she informed by her father as to why he was summoned in the first place? She is not only Brian Houston’s daughter, she is also a Hillsong leader over the Hillsong Youth department. So it begs the question, what were Hillsong leaders and subsequently congregation members told about the Royal Commission?
Consider the information control here: it’s selective, it’s carefully presented, the wording is carefully constructed and associated with concepts to help him convey his agenda. You will see this supported in this next section.
In fact, Hillsong endorses this presentation despite key facts that are wrong. They are happy with the error present in this piece. Hillsong are so pleased with this coverage that they even uploaded the Inside Story to their Hillsong Church youtube channel.
Dishonesty in the details: welcome to the diet of the Hillsong faithful.
HOUSTON’S CRITERIA OF A CULT
Before we tackle what Brian Houston says a cult is – you may like to familiarise yourself with the concepts of what is a cult.
Brian Houston talks about what a cult is on his terms (another straw man):
“To be honest, I think people who think Hillsong is a cult are… have a small world view. Cults hold people against their will. You basically try to control their minds. You try to divide families. Those sorts of things. At Hillsong… no one has to do anything.” [22:56]
If he is managing people’s perceptions of himself and the Royal Commission, he is fulfilling his own criteria of a cult.
Even in the quote above, he is literally accusing anyone who perceives Hillsong as a cult of having “a small world view”. Do you want to have a small world view? If not, don’t consider Hillsong a cult. Is this not a good example of how mind control works?
This is actually a good example how Brian Houston unethically influences people’s thinking. And just like any cult leader, the brainwashing occurs when you fuse contradictory statements together:
At Hillsong… no one has to do anything. Just make sure you don’t dare consider us a cult or say we are a cult – that means there is something mentally wrong with you, you have tall poppy syndrome – and in you’re in the minority.
See how this works? Let’s say you don’t go back to Hillsong because you thought they were a cult. Guess what? You need to live with the fact that you still “have a small world view” and that you’re in the minority. (And this coming from Mr Positivity.)
And if you’ve got any family or friends in Hillsong – this how they will think of you. Hence the divide starts between family and friends.
And while “no one has to do anything”, Brian Houston gets away with lying to the media about how he financially defrauds people to give through similar means. He just tells his church they are missing out on God’s blessing or will claim that people are not in the will of God if they don’t tithe or give money to Hillsong.
This program supports the idea that Hillsong is a cult based on the underlying manipulation at work in the Inside Story presentation. The information was selective, at times wrong and appealing to people’s emotions rather than facts.
It doesn’t take much to find further support that Hillsong is a cult when you examine their history, their theology, their leadership structure, their church takeovers, their marketing arm and so on. Furthermore, allow the CLC/Hillsong victims a voice by listening to their stories. Look at the evidence and transcripts of the Royal Commission, they’re available to the public. What they say is revealing.
In our next article we will be looking at the poor journalistic standards and integrity in the Inside Story report on Hillsong in light of all the information that emerged from the Royal Commission.