Bartlett's Blog

Andrew Bartlett has been active in politics for over 20 years, including as a Queensland Senator from 1997-2008. This blog started in 2004 and reflects his own views, independent of any political party or organisation.

Hillsong diagnoses depression – UPDATED

I’ve been open in recent years about the fact that I have depression and I am always interested in how it is perceived, portrayed and dealt with.

I was reading an article in the weekend papers on the very popular Hillsong pentecostal churches in Sydney. They are seen to have sufficient clout that in recent times they have had visits and speeches from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the previous Premier of New South Wales. Whilst I didn’t find the article overly interesting, there was a mention about the Church’s attitude to depression which I found hard to believe, so I checked out their website.

On the website, under the section headed “Other Teaching”, there is an article called “You Can Be Depression-Free”. If I wasn’t depressed before, I sure am after reading this -

The bottom line is: depression is a supernatural spirit of destruction straight from the devil, and as such, needs to be treated like an enemy. We must take a strong stand against it and deny it any power in our lives.

Depression stems from an underlying root of unbelief in God’s care, His goodness, His faithfulness, or even His ability to get you out of seemingly “impossible” situations.

And I thought Scientology’s views about depression were bad!

I wonder if Hillsong’s various counselling services receive any government funding.

In what I am sure is a total coincidence, the page I linked to on the Hillsong website on Sunday morning no longer exists by Monday afternoon. However, due to the magic of Google caching, you can see the cached version of the original page by clicking here


61 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Deborah

    Yes Andrew, Hillsong is a pet peeve of mine at the moment. This new church embraces the greed is good creed – God helps those who help themselves, God smiles on those whose labours bring profits, don’t feel bad about having more than someone else, you deserve it! Even the greedy and selfish want spiritual fulfillment (in a way that they can relate) – Hillsong.
    Hillsong was recently embroiled in a funding controversy, the church, with the pretense of assisting an Indigenous organisation by way of placing a funding submission were actually ripping off the Aboriginal people that they were supposedly helping. I think it’s been kept fairly quiet though.

    You have also hit upon another of those new cultures – THINK POSITIVE! I know people who refuse to hear any so called negative thoughts at all, lest it interfere with their dynamic management and financial strategy. These people think that any criticism, thoughtful reflection or challenge to them is just negative and they won’t have it. The philosophy must be something like the good luck principle – if you’re optimisic and positive then you attract good things and if you’re negative you attract bad luck and ill fortune. You see the proponents of positive thought in the salespeople who profit from commissions, they have books, CD’s and DVD’s all aimed at positive thought for financial gain.

    I’m not so sure if personal growth is an outcome of this technique, I liken it to being brainwashed, you can’t be living and dealing in the real world if you can’t acknowledge anything other than looking on the bright side and everything being just FANTASTIC! It’s enough to do your head in!

    Not much hope there for a depressive or naturally inclined cynics and skeptics!

  2. Geoff

    Yes the “Godbotherers”
    Honestly I’ve watched him and listened to his sermons… Deborah is right. But anyone taken in by that has problems.

    They are very close to where I live and work. I don’t think Christianity was ever meant to be what they’ve turned it into.

  3. I feel better now to know that my lifelong agnosticism and depression are inextricably linked.

  4. civitas

    Unless one is a member of a Hillsong congregation, what would one care what members of a specific church think about anything? Are there views on everything relevant and worthy of getting upset over, or just their views on depression?

  5. civitas

    I haven’t been through their views on everything else, although I may do.

    This particular view about depression matters because:
    (a) it affects/infects attitudes of people who interact with the wider society. This group provides services to a wide range of people, not just their own churchgoers;
    (b) it seeks to impose a religious/faith view (of sorts) onto a physiological and psychological condition which exists outside of religion; and
    (c) it is such an extreme view. I object to people being told that I am possessed by a supernatural spirit of destruction straight from the devil, even though I don’t believe in the devil.

  6. Geoff Bullock and others once connected with Hillsong are today (and probably forever more) discussing the Hillsong article and the theology underpinning these abusive churches at

    You’re more than welcome to join us.

  7. civitas

    “(a) it affects/infects attitudes of people who interact with the wider society.”

    Who exactly do you mean here? And how do you measure how it affects/infects attitudes that you can say that it does affect/infect?

    “This group provides services to a wide range of people, not just their own churchgoers;”

    are those services dependent upon acceptance of a specific view on depression?

    “(b) it seeks to impose a religious/faith view (of sorts) onto a physiological and psychological condition which exists outside of religion;”

    on whom? I am assuming here that people show up to these Hillsong services voluntarily. If that’s not the case, you might have a point about views being imposed.

    “(c) it is such an extreme view.”

    There are millions of extreme views out there. You can’t control extreme views, nor will they ever be stopped.

    “I object to people being told that I am possessed by a supernatural spirit of destruction straight from the devil, even though I don’t believe in the devil.”

    I guess this is the hardest part for me to understand. People are “told” all sorts of things by all sorts of people. It seems futile to me to think that you can control what people are told by others. I can think of literally hundreds of things people are told that I wouldn’t agree with. Surely that’s the case in all of our lives? No? It seems to me that if people are showing up voluntarily at these services, and returning after being told whatever it is they are told, then it becomes something of a free speech issue.

  8. Geoff

    Just a side point but many behaviours brought about by disease which can be cured or control by medicine today were in the past thought of as cases of possession.

    What does this say about Hillsong?
    I have friends that have relatives involved in it etc and I often see members and hear them talking etc… it’s more cult than christianity.

  9. civitas

    I’m not trying to gag them and stop them saying anything, I’m exercising my own right to free speech and criticsing what they’re saying.

    I’m also saying that their view on this issue is dangerous, because if more people start to genuinely believe this sort of thing then it will (a) potentially create significant harm for any of their followers who do suffer from depression – although one could argue that’s their ‘choice’ to believe this stuff; and
    (b) it will increase the level of public ignorance and antagonism towards people who have depression.

    I would also say that it is unlikely that belief in the religion or this view on depression would be required for people to access to Hillsong’s counselling and other social services. That’s sort of my point (one of them anyway) – people can access these services for all sorts of reasons, but if they get told this sort of thing or receive assistance from people with this sort of attitude, it can be quite harmful to them.

  10. Geoff

    hey I get depressed when Marilyn posts…
    does that mean she’s an evil spirit?

    Sorry couldn’t resist.

  11. civitas

    Of course, you have every right to say whatever you want to about them. Free speech works both ways.

    I can’t make the leap to “it will increase the level of public ignorance and antagonism toward people who have depression”. Are Hillsong subscribers being sent out into the community to round people up for indoctrination? I think it quite likely that the Hillsongers themselves might believe this stuff, but the leap to the general public is weak.

    I do not know what sorts of services people are accessing Hillsong for, if it’s shelter and/or food, I find it tough to believe that they’d be exposed to a lecture on depression while accessing these services. If it’s counseling, and it’s voluntary, then it’s a free speech issue. They don’t have to go back if they don’t care for the services provided. People stop counseling all the time because they don’t like a specific counselor and/or view. I think people could recieve assistance from people with views and/or attitudes they disagree with.

  12. civitas

    I do think there is an awful lot of undiagnosed depression in older people. In the US at least, but I would guess it’s the same everywhere. Older people, particularly after the lose of a spouse are so vulnerable to depression and loneliness. I’ve noticed it with my parents as they’ve gotten older and their friends. And many people this age, over 60, won’t ask for help or have that “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude and do think it a sign of weakness to ask for help. I’ve been begging my mother for years to slip my father a mickey if she has to to get him treated for depression. After he retired it was awful.

  13. Aron

    Hm, Andrew, Geoff, Deborah and all – that was an interesting discussion. I couldn’t agree more about the wackoness of the pentacostal ‘money-is-good’ religion. It reminds me of AMWAY, with which my family was also involved at one stage. I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some cross-over among the congregations!

    I too get ‘depressed’ by the craziness of the world – but I don’t put it down to lack of faith in god. In fact, never have I been as depressed as I was when I did believe in god, religion etc. This is because religion of the type Hillsong espouses is one of denial and repression rather than expression. ‘Wealth and success’ are their demons, and they call it GOD! I do get a little angry when I think of the people they are hurting – I’ve seen people hurt before – and actually, the anger eventually leads me on to some activism, writing or other creative activity.

    I think it’s OK to be unhappy – but our culture has an obsession with happiness and success. On one hand it’s easy to believe in an imaginary friend in the sky, but on the other faith of this kind eventually either must confront reality, or will consume the believer. Dissillusion or madness. I much prefer my impermanent world of mingled emotions and experience – living in truth rather than faith has a certain envigorating quality to it.

    I remember reading Camus ‘Oustider’ at school and being very offended by existentialism. But there really is nothing like freedom. Whether everyone can live such a life, I do not know. But I do know others have lived it before – and this communion with history, imaginary as it may be, satisfies that part of me that once clung so vainly to a dead god.

    If I feel a little disheartened I sometimes read Nietzsche:

    “Truth has to be fought for every step of the way, almost everything else dear to our hearts, on which our love and our trust in life depend, has had to be sacrificed to it. Greatness of soul is needed for it: the service of truth is the hardest service.”

    -Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ 50

    If I may say Andrew, few people in parliament have been as great in soul as yourself to the service of truth – if you are ever feeling unappreciated and depressed, remember that. You make me proud.

    In fact, you all make me very proud indeed. Cheers.

  14. Aron

    An alternative translation – also don’t know if that quote came out or not. :)

    “Man has had to fight for every atom of the truth, and has had to pay for it almost everything that the heart, that human love, that human trust cling to. Greatness of soul is needed for this business: the service of truth is the hardest of all services.”

    – Nietzsche, The Anti-Christ 50

    No doubt I would have been even more offended by Mr N. in school than by Albert Camus!

  15. Donna

    I agree that it’s concerning when a fundamentalist religious organisations give their unprofessional opinion on a medical condition such as depression. Particularly, when they’ve had visits from John Howard & Co; and further when you have John Howard publicly parroting their views on depression, such as he did in recent months. Unfortunately, he vocalised his opinion on the topic shortly after the WA premier resigned for depression. Such a sensitive bloke.

  16. From my own experiences of depression, the feeling is total isolation and directionlessness. My own perceptions of reality become irrationally negative and I see no hopeful path forward.

    For all the faults of the christians, they provide a positive, supportive social environment that is relatively easy to access and provides an effective distraction to depression in many cases.. Despite all the crap about demons and Jesus, the social unit does in fact lead to healing because of basic things such as friendships and peer support. so does the local pub etc.

    Most of us avoid severe depression. and stay out of hospital when depression does hit because of our ongoing contact with friends and family who know no more about medical mental health than the Hillsong people.

    Hillsong, and christian preaching, remind me of a Calcutta street gang I heard about once. Several young men spend the day slashing motorbike seats around the city while others follow them offering seat repair services.

    The Christians tell us we are terrible, appeal to our depressive sides, feed us with irreconcilable ideas about sex, life and death and demons. When they are successfull in causing a psychological disturbance they whip out Jesus and show the depressed the way out.

    It seems to me that the preachers are just as selfish as the motorbike seat slashers. The motivation to convert others is very much a matter of the preachers own ego and self affirmation, not love or concern for the suffering of others. Mental illness is an assett to the christians as the ill are vulnerable to being totally absorbed into the ideologies of Christianity.

    In a previous lifetime I was a christian for about 15 years. In that time I met many christians who suffered mental illness, probably no more % than in mainstream society, but there was a commonality of symptoms and vocabularies that identified their struggle with sin, usually some sort of sexual desire, as how their illness manifests. This christian guilt obsession undermines the good stuff of natural community.

  17. Deborah

    Andrew, here’s the weekend oz link re Hillsong and misuse of huge federal grant,20867,18964888-2702,00.html

  18. Deborah

    Lance, I went over to signposts and found the discussion at

    It is an eye opener and as a church outsider (atheist) I find it quite fascinating, just reinforces my non-belief. I do admire people like Geoff Bullock who manage to stay strong in their own faith, but not blind to the manipulations of the church.

    Do you have an online copy of the Geoff Bullock article referred to? I need to see it myself and also send a copy to a family member.

  19. As a Catholic, I’d just like to point out that the existence of this pentecostal “church” is itself the work of the devil.

  20. You should have a copy now Deb.

  21. Just thought I should mention I’ve had to add an extra link to my original post. The “You Can Be Depression-Free” page that I linked to seems to have been taken down in the day or so since I put up my post, and the page is said to ‘no longer exist’.

    So I’ve had to update the original post by add the cached version of the original page at the bottom. You can go to it by clicking here.

  22. FaceLift

    Andrew, I’m sorry you’ve had to go through depression. I hope some day you’ll get through it.

    I’m disturbed by the implications being constantly made about Hillsong, though. Watever you say about Hilklsong, or M.Hickey, is fine, since they’re out in the public domain and criticism goes with the territory, as you”ll know.

    I’ve read her book on generational curses, and have to say I don’t hold with all it says, although I can’t see a major problem theologically, but since it is taken from a Christian perspective, not a psychological perspective, and mainly addresses Christians, any criticism really goes into the Biblical arena, not the medical area, and there is no evidence that Hillsong exclusively uses this teaching in any counselling service they provide, which you clearly imply, but isn’t evidenced by the information on the very website you cite.

    I can’t see how your theory that people will become even more depressed if they should by happenstance stumble to the wrong conclusion that their depression means they have a demon, which will in turn bring something like shame or guilt into their lives, or that Hillsong staff would be amateur enough to allow that to happen. In fact your post has probably done more to foster this misinformed conclusion than anything Hillsong or M. Hickey says!

    As for Hillsong, you need to check their vision for health care. You’ll see that it is in line with general practice, uses health professionals, and has endorsement from Medicare.

    Their vision:
    ‘Hillsong Health Centres have been established with an aim to provide quality health care to our community. We currently have one centre running in Castle Hill, with vision for growth throughout Sydney. At Hillsong Health Centres, we believe in caring for the whole person by providing care through a team of highly qualified and professional medical practitioners, psychologists and counsellors.’

    You may have a negative view of this, but no one is forcing you or anyone else to go there for help. In fact the majority of their clients, I imagine will come from the Christian community.

    Some of the guff recorded on this thread is pure gossip and innuendo. CL needs to wash his mouth out. These Christian brothers and sisters.

    If anyone bothers to check the Hillsong site with a positive attitude you’ll see that they are doing a great job in their community. They even answer the criticisms being levelled at them by the media.

    Hillsong is a great Australian success story. Maybe not totally perfect, but who is?


  23. Cantrix

    I read that “teaching” article about depression being caused by supernatural forces, lack of belief in God, etc, a while back and was really quite appalled. (For the record, I do have clinical depression.)

    I find the big problem with this teaching, besides its pre-modern ideas of mental illness, is in what happens when someone who is depressed goes along to Hillsong for worship/fellowship/etc, and comes across people who espouse these kinds of ideas about depression’s causes and treatment? Depressed? Pray! Believe! Sing happy-clappy songs at Hillsong! Still depressed? Obviously you’re not believing hard enough, God would cure you if you were, you must be demon-possessed. Yeah, that kind of beration will really help your depression. Placebos and positive thinking can help some people some of the time but the whole thing is really placing the blame and guilt back onto the mentally ill person.

    And while Hillsong followers are of course entitled to their beliefs, Hillsong does blatantly state that they have a big evangelistic drive and want to have strong influence on society. I reckon that’s called pushing your beliefs, and I certainly do not want to have a society that is finally beginning to come to terms with the facts of mental illness have this kind of anti-medical nonsense preached at it. Within the congregation, I might not like it but I can deal with the containment. When it’s part of the evangelising and desire to influence even outsiders, absolutely no way.

    And about the Hillsong Medical Centres…I wonder – do they provide genuinely unbiased counselling and help with regards to things such as abortion? How about gay and lesbian health issues? Transgender/transsexual? (I guess if you were gay you’d know better than to make a Hillsong Centre your local clinic, though, but my question stands.) I have also read about doctors who operate their own clinics in the areas in which Hillsong is setting up voicing concerns about Hillsong’s tax-free status being exploited for non-competetive business practices.

  24. ken

    Everyone pushes their beliefs – from the broad wifdth of every perspective. Some you agree wiht and hecne support some you dont and hecen criticise.

    So whats new – obviously sonme here think Hillsongs is a lot of crock – so be it. otehrs think otherwise – ditto.

    Plenty of people loved the medical modle of ECT back in the 60’s – plenty didn’t. Otehrs think by sitting under a pyramid and holding hands things will get better – billionsa are spent by twits purchasing snake oil opebnly seen in evewry chemist in the land.

    As for tax payers dollars going to this – please -taxpayers dollars get wasted everywhere and on every conceivalbe type of crackpot scheme – philosophy – angle – approach – mates enterpise – favoured group of those in power. on any number of issues. Some people agree with – some don’t.

    So the holy rollers want to get their piece of the chop – big deal.

  25. Hillsong…God forbid. Organisations such as this are dangerous, exploit the vulnerable and exist only for their own purpose. Hopefully they will get burnt at the political stake!

  26. FaceLift

    Rosemary, I don’t think you could call healthy, vibrant young uni students, high schoolers, young families from working class to middle class, pensioners, yuppies, middle aged succesful small business people, firemen, police, bankers, chefs, carpenters, builders, mechanics, doctors, nurses, electricians, plumbers, housewives, dentuists, chemists, mothers, in fact people from all ages and every walk of life categorically ‘vulnerable’. You have a low opinion of the average Aussie if you do.

    And please qualify you accusation that they are ‘dangerous’. In what way? Is their exciting brand of worship music too loud for you? Is their aspirational, inspirational message of hope and a better future too close to ‘success and prosperity’ for you? Is the smile on their face too threatening? Is the thought of a lively, vigorous, relevant Australian church too expressive for you?

    It’s OK. There really is no ‘danger’ here, unless you fear a genuine contemporary church near you!

  27. Geoff

    Maybe we should have a topic then to discuss the whys and wherefores of the culture of the Hillsong Church then.
    Andrew’d probably think his bog isn’t really the place for it though.

  28. people who look up to the open sky with outstretched arms praying to an unseen deity
    for it to rain money
    probbally get very very depressed when it doesn;t
    thus the need for hillsong depression councilling
    services —– i guess—–

  29. civitas

    “I agree that it’s concerning when a fundamentalist religious organisations give their unprofessional opinion on a medical condition such as depression.”

    Why would it be any more concerning for them to do so than any other non-medical source? What if a group of professional wrestlers gave an opinion on a medical condition? Would that be equally as upsetting? How on earth do you stop people from giving opinions, on ANYTHING?

    “Particularly, when they’ve had visits from John Howard & Co; and further when you have John Howard publicly parroting their views on depression, such as he did in recent months.”

    Is John Howard a doctor? Are people hanging onto Howard’s words for medical advice?

  30. Cantrix

    “Why would it be any more concerning for [Hillsong] to do so than any other non-medical source?”

    Because they are positioning themselves as an authority/provider on the subject of health. Churches have long been a source of pastoral care and while there are many fine church-operated hospitals and clinics, those meet general approval because they keep the spiritual and the scientific medical separate. Various groups put out press releases full of opinions on health matters all the time, but they tend to lack the historical perceived authority and trustworthiness of churches.

    FaceLift: Most people are more vulnerable than you think (advertising would never work otherwise!). Just because they’re in a stadium with 2,000 other deliriously happy-looking people doesn’t mean they are. Have you ever read any accounts of people who have been rejected or felt compelled to leave churches such as Hillsong? They nearly all have a central theme, that when they deviated from the happy, well-dressed and perky image and question what the leaders said, they began to be rebuked and edged out of the community by leaders and peers. It’s like high school all over again. (Unsurprising really, given Hillsong & co’s teen demographics.) If you don’t look the part, if you don’t follow the leader, if you have any real individuality, you can’t join the “popular” kids/worshippers. They prey on insecurities and vulnerabilities in the same way that commercial marketers and advertisers do. “Come to Hillsong, we’ll give you spiritual and religious justification for your conspicuous consumption lifestyle! Forget all that stuff Jesus said about giving all you have to the poor, he didn’t really mean it! You’re OK (as long as you do what we want you to do)!”

  31. Ken

    Cantrix – Sounds like you got a lot of unresolevd issues – bottom line is – so what. All of that can apply to any range of groups out there. Just say I don’t approve of this lot.

  32. FaceLift

    Cantrix, now you’re talking! I expect there are all the usual peer pressure problems going down at ‘youth group’ at Hillsong as happens in every other youthy atmospheric tribal group. And it’s not all hype and happy clappy. Real issues are dealt with and real lives are affected, just as they are all over Australia.

    The main difference is that many, if not all, of these kids learn to worship God, find lasting freidships, relationships and even life partners within the community of believers. The success of Hillsong is not preying on these people, but praying for them and with them.

    Just like everywhere else there are some kids, adults, seniors who just don’t fit in with the crowd, but use it as a personal escape mechanism anyway. You know, it’s easier to dissolve into a crowd than in a small group.

    Which is one of the reasons they and other Pentecostal churches run small groups away from the main meetings, where the opportunity to build community and find out how life can be made better despite the hurdles and challenges, where another kind of healing takes place – that of mutual support and acceptance. Again, not everyone fits into this category well, but I think you’ll find that much if not most of the growth of ‘mega’ churches comes from the small group connection which helps open people up to share their lives with others.

    There’s a far bigger picture to the Hillsong and Pentecostal movement than is being shared in some of the comments I’ve seen over the last few days on this. It’s more than a weekly ‘Rock’ concert. It’s about sharing lives, warts and all. Not commerce, more community. Not control, but contact. Not mere confection, more connection.

    By the way, Jesus might have encouraged one person, the rich young ruler, to give all he had to the poor, but he also said to us all, “Give and it will be given back to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over!” You can’t out-give God! He’s the Blesser-in Chief!

  33. Geoff

    “And when it comes time for the offering, parishioners are reminded they can pay by cash, cheque or credit card.”

    Whatever happend to a few coins and passing the plate.

    Brian is on TV every week, I’ve actually sat through some of his sermons, all I can say is anyone who listens to the confused “garbage” (for want of a better word) he espouses and believes it and dotes on him, needs help.

  34. FaceLift

    Inflation happened!

    Seriously, you think its inappropriate for churches to move into the 21st century where most of the citizens of this earth space called Australia use a combination of…what? Oh yes, cash, cheque or credit cards. How else can those who CHOOSE of their OWN FREE WILL to give actually give what they want to give? Clearly you haven’t yet got to the stage where those little coins are becoming almost worthless!

    I mean, the other thing is, if you’re very poor and all you have is coins and you give them as an offering you bless God, and you’re giving him your best, but if you’re rather better off and live in the modern world and can afford more than coins, or coins would actually be an insult to God (like giving him the dregs), but forgot to go to the Teller on the way to church (it’s amazing how many do), you actually might need an EFTPOS machine, need to know who to write out a cheque to! Having the facilities available in a church is just good stewardship!

    And you don’t have to listen to Brian Houston you know! You don’t like his teaching? Fine. Turn off TV! Others love it! Fine! leave on TV and enjoy, live and learn.

  35. civitas

    “Because they are positioning themselves as an authority/provider on the subject of health.”

    They are advertising their services as medical professionals? If a group of professional wrestlers positioned themselves as authorities on the subject of health, would you be equally as concerned?

    “Churches have long been a source of pastoral care and while there are many fine church-operated hospitals and clinics, those meet general approval because they keep the spiritual and the scientific medical separate.”

    No, I don’t think that’s why they “meet general approval” at all.

    “Various groups put out press releases full of opinions on health matters all the time, but they tend to lack the historical perceived authority and trustworthiness of churches.”

    Churches have perceived authority on medical issues? No, I do not think they do.

  36. FaceLift

    It depends on where the wrestlers are positioned, civitas. If they were positioned directly in front and behind you and they told you in clear terms they were medical professionals, you’d probably agree! And, come to think of it, you’d also be concerned!

  37. civitas

    Probably agree with what? That professional wrestlers are medical professionals? No, I don’t believe I would. No matter what they said. You can’t keep people from saying whatever it is they want to say. If it’s that you should be listening to them about medical issues and they are wrestlers or ministers, then you have to make up your mind if you’re willing to do that. Some people will be, some won’t. If you’re going to try to say that no one should be able to give an opinion even on medical matters, well, that would be a violation of free speech in my opinion. People give opinions all day long on all kinds of things. This is really no different.

  38. Well they are advertising their services as counsellors, which may or may not come within the term ‘medical professional’, depending on your definition, but certainly creates an expectation of some degree of expertise.

    However, I wasn’t specifically wanting to bag everything that Hillsong does. As a few people have commented, if someone feels it suits them and gets some good out of it that’s good, as long as they aren’t exploited. My concern was specifically about the views expressed on depression, because if someone who has faith in Hillsong who also has depression gets told they have the devil in them or some such thing, it can be quite dangerous, depending on the nature of their depression and surrounding factors.

    As I’ve said a number of times on this site, I’m not religious, but I support freedom of religion so I’m hardly going to be suggesting people can’t or shouldn’t engage with it if they want to. I’ve criticised specific statements of the Pope before, but that doesn’t mean I am anti-Catholic.

    Interestingly, while I am somewhat inherently suspicious of the Hillsong type approach to religion, one of the more interesting services I’ve been to – which also had a genuinely interesting and uplifting ‘sermon’ – was with the Inner City Tabernacle church in Brisbane, who could probably be viewed as somewhat similar to Hillsong in style. Depression wasn’t mentioned (not surprisingly), so I couldn’t say what their views were on that.

  39. FaceLift

    That was a joke about the wrestlers! You know – big guys who bash people for a living!? Sorry!

  40. Keith


    The article on depression on the Hillsong webpage is quoting Marilyn Hickey who is not a pastor of Hillsong church. Her ministry is in Denver Colorado. Marilyn Hickey has spoken once,I think, at Hillsong church.

  41. civitas

    “Well they are advertising their services as counsellors”

    I can call myself a counselor if I want to (and anyone wants my counsel, which would be debateable!) Now if it’s something one has to be licensed to do, that’s different, but simply giving advice? To people who come to you for it? That ought to be legal in my view. If we’re going to go around telling people that they cannot give uneducated, or even bad advice, we’re going to have a huge job on our hands. If you’ll look at other threads on this subject, (John Quiggin’s for example) you’ll find everyone on the thread, and not a doctor in sight, has given a medical opinion on the subject of depression, all while bashing Hillsong for doing the exact same thing!

  42. Dan

    Thanks for the heads up on that Hillsong blurb. I have depression, and what’s more was raised in the Pentecostal movement. My association with the Pentecostal expression of the Christian faith continues, albeit adjusted. It’s no secret that the charasmatic movement in general has shown little capacity to embrace and unconditionally support those with mental illness. It’s much easier to leave the blame and root cause with the sufferer putting it down to demonic oppression, possession or unbelief.

    I have a problem with Hillsong’s position purely because of the clout and influence they carry. But, at the end of the day I have to live and let live if those I know, influenced by the Hillsong ‘thing’ can’t extend their reasoning to even consider changing their position.

    I’m just grateful Jesus enjoyed the company of nutjobs such as myself.


  43. gary porter

    I found the original MARILYN HICKEY article and I do believe you have taken it out of context Andrew . i do think that pentecostals sometimes overstate the ”devil” and sometimes do not always convey what they mean well to people outside their churches so it sometimes is like we have two different languages and the communication is easily misconstrued . however the psychology is often very good so long as the bottom line is love ….and sometimes it is not unfortunately . having been in various churches and a pentecostal one for 20 years i have seen the good and the bad .usually the bad hapens when someone wants to be too rigid and legalistic and hit people over the head with their beliefs . tempered with love can be an altogether different result .

  44. gary porter

    just as a follow up .for example a woman who was sexually abused as a child may express negative thoughts of being a bad person etc . The psychologist may say words to the effect she suffers poor self esteem due to a traumatic experience . the pentecostal may say she has had a lying spirit, that the voice telling her she is not a worthwhile person is in fact a liar . the net effect is both are telling her the same thing but using diffferent terminology. personally i think the pentecostal explanation is more explanatory. by personalizing it sometimes people see it for what it is and that is a ”lie”.they have been lied to . abusers classically tell their victims they will not be believed …another classic lie ….and i think victims relate to that better than some” high brow” psychological explanation .

    gary porter

  45. Deborah

    In your scenario, there is only one person who has told the woman the truth = the psychologist.

  46. gary porter

    Deborah we will continue to disagree. When we say ”spirit” we do not mean someone is ”possessed” . the recent Beaconsfield episode highlighted the AUSSIE spiit as does Anzac day . You cannot prove that scientifically there is any such thing as an Aussie spirit but you know it exists .We know love exists but it cannot be measured . Why hold a funeral ceremony if there is no such measurable quantifiable entity such as love ?
    I think the critics mainly come from those threatened with irrelevancy .

  47. gary porter

    I think the web site cut out the bulk of my letter unfortunately

  48. Deborah

    I don’t believe that Aussie spirit does exist. Aussie spirit is nothing more than national pride and patriotism, the same “spirit” that people from other nationalities have.

    The woman who was sexually abused as a child needs to know that her self worth was damaged by another person, not a “spirit” from within her, somehow making it the fault of the victim.

    Funerals are held for the living, and for a variety of reasons, the dead don’t care – Kerry Packer would not have been loved by all who attended his funeral.

  49. gary porter

    No body ever said the abused woman was ever at fault herself . you completely misinterpret that .ALSO YOU COMPLETELY MISS THE POINT ABOUT THE FUNERAL.It is for the living but if there is no spiritual aspect to humanity it is a pointless exercize ! Going back to the abused person…frequently they are so deeply affected so deeply hurt that their own inner voice is telling themselves that and it is a lie . I talk to depressed and abused people every day and have done so for 26 years . tHERE ARE many causes of depression and many are relatively simply explained in terms of a series of bad experinces, bereavemnt , excess work hours , genetics , alcohol, marijuana use etc. They have no spiritual aspect .Unfortunately some overenthusiastic pentecostals have on occasion rushed in witha ”spiritual cure ”. Sometimes medical professionals have also made bad mistakes with bad results so pentecostals are not alone in their ability to make mistakes . Sometimes you see intelligent ,articualte , well educated people who have had excellent medical and psychological treatment for say some abuse issue for example . Yet at the end of the day it cannot restore the nagging inner feeling that somehow they are unworthy . One sometimes see people who have had some ”religious experince” spititual healing , revelation of gods love for them or whatever you want to call it but the fact remains that for whatever reason they have some inner healing or change that unlocks the key to their self esteem . Now you may say those church people lied to you , get back to the psychologist but I for one am not going to be that arrogant or callous .I will be delighted for them .The skeptic in me may say we will wait some time and see if it is sustained and often it is . As well as that they may be ina church which sings ,claps ,dances jumps around all of which is good for inducing endorphins which aid depression .They may get a sermon with a positive message . they may now be involved in a sense of cmmunity which also helps in depression and they may be involved in church activities helping others in their community and abroad all of which may aid their sense of self . For young people this is all in a drug and alcohol free environment, two well known depressants .

  50. gary porter

    Modern medicine shows exercize is as effective as medication and cognitive behaviour therapy for mild -moderate depression which seems to me modern medicine is not as scientifically advanced in treating depression as some would believe . Electro convulsive treatment is back in vogue and the science behind that is medieval . perhaps someone should sponsor a study to look at Christianities benefits to depression ? might be an interesting comparison .

  51. Deborah

    I wouldn’t mind a study to look at christianity / religion as causes of mental health problems.

  52. Peter

    I am a born again Christian and have suffered from life threatening depression while training to be a minister. In desperation and with enormous embarrassment at my lack of faith as well as heaps of sexual guilt I sought a Christian psychiatrist. It took 5 years to get healthy. I’m still a Christian and miraculously, now happily married most of the time. My advice is dont commit suicide but take Valium if you need to. Slowly venture into physical and social activities when you can summon up the courage. Try and focus on that little speck of white light in the black mess. God is love. My mother said she believed in me. Read CS Lewis books. Read Keith Miller books. Christianity works against you when it emphasises judgement. Keep away from Pentecostal churches until you are strong enough to handle the demons yourself. I actually had a girlfriend who was a charo and nearly committed to her and joined her church. I would have tried to tolerate the speaking in tounges which I think is mostly a load of rubbish. I am glad God helped me to be patient and wait.

  53. Brian Hou$ton (finally) responds on the depression issue.

    ““Neither I, nor any of my staff, have ever made comments about depression as those recently attributed to Hillsong. We are extremely sensitive to the very real issues surrounding depression, and through a range initiatives and programs, including counselling services and support groups, we endeavour to help those experiencing depression overcome what can often be a debilitating issue in their life.

    The quote in question was part of a contributed guest article and was taken completely out of context.

    Brian Houston – Senior Pastor”

  54. Donna


    Sorry I have not responded to your blog before now. Here we go:

    I find you are using a lot of rhetorical, irrelevant, and diversionary arguments.

    “Why would it be any more concerning for them to do so than any other non-medical source? What if a group of professional wrestlers gave an opinion on a medical condition? Would that be equally as upsetting? How on earth do you stop people from giving opinions, on ANYTHING? ”

    It is no more concerning. It would still be highly inappropriate. But I haven’t come across professional wrestlers giving public sermons on medical conditions or deliberately misrepresenting themselves as professional counsellors on medical issues. So it’s not really an appropriate argument. It’s completely minimising the issue by suggesting this misleading representation is just people giving an “opinion”.

    “Is John Howard a doctor? Are people hanging onto Howard’s words for medical advice?”

    Again, what’s the point of these rhetorical and irrelevant questions. When JH has the power to decide what organisation will get funds and what will not, such as removing funds for state budgeting that could be channelled into state health, then it becomes quite a serious issue. When he himself publicly gives his uninformed ‘opinion’ on depressions that further marginalises sufferers, he misuses his power for public office. He should know better, but he doesn’t.

  55. Elwyn

    I think it was best said by Tom Cruise (renown “religious” high priest): “You don’t know the history of professional wrestlers in the medical profession. I do.”

    Or something like that.

  56. Rob

    Am I wrong or have some churches put forward the belief that cancer can be cured etc if you have enough faith? Implying that those who aren’t cured don’t have .. which could be sumised to mean that they are influenced by the devil.

    Andrew, you are perhaps over sensitive on the depression angle, but it is an angle that has no doubt be put forward about all ailments, not only by the church but the media too. Let it go and it will go away ..

  57. In response to Rob’s question, “have some churches put forward the belief that cancer can be cured etc if you have enough faith?”, the answer is yes. Leon Fontaine, pastor of Winnipeg Canada’s Springs Church (Very closely connected to Hillsong, teaches these ideas which have been past down from other big figures in the “Health and Wealth” movement. The following are audio clips with Mr.Fontaine on record saying such things:

    Another interesting statement made by Mr.Fontaine is his belief that he will live to 120 through ‘Jesus living on the inside’ of him.

    Hope that helps a little bit.

  1. Larvatus Prodeo - Apr 30th, 2006
  2. DogfightAtBankstown - May 1st, 2006

Mini Posts

  • Rhetoric vs reality

    I’ve had a break from writing for a variety of reasons, but the reckless approach the new Queensland government is taking to their spending decisions – and the straightout nonsensicality of some of their claims – roused me enough to pen a piece for New Matilda. Time will tell whether the Newman government will start trying to ensure their statements have some connection with reality – I suggest the way they respond next year to the findings of the inquiry into child safety which they’ve established will be a significant test.

  • End of LP the end of a blogging era

    Back in October, I wrote here about the decline or re-defining of blogs, at least in the Australian political arena.  The relatively few posts I’ve done on this blog since then shows how much less useful I find it to do my own blog than I used to, and as I mentioned back then, a big reason why I don’t read many of the blogs I used to is because the valuable links to many interesting stories, ideas and pieces of information can be found more easily through Twitter or Facebook, sometimes with comment threads which are also at least as good.

    The recent announcement by the Larvatus Prodeo blog that they are ceasing to operate is quite a significant one. (more…)

  • A final comment on Labor’s leadership laments

    Fundamentally, I don’t greatly care about the outcome of Labor’s leadership travails. As my previous post indicates, the bigger issue is that the ALP is being fundamentally damaged by the toxicity of this brawl, and the fact that the brawl is happening in this way is a sign of some much greater problems within Labor. Whatever the immediate outcome, I think those problems are likely to continue.  The outcome of the leadership contest (including the size of what will surely be a Gillard victory) will shape how those problems play out, but they will still be there.

    Not surprisingly, I see this as presenting an opportunity for the Greens to build some support, but more importantly it presets extra responsibility and obligation for the Greens to be a stronger counter to what is a seriously reactionary Coalition.

    But seeing we’re all pundits now, and despite having little inside knowledge, my prediction is that there will be no ‘third candidate’ in tomorrow’s leadership ballot.  Julia Gillard will win comfortably. The instability will not disappear. It’s quite possible there will be another leadership ballot before the election but Kevin Rudd will not become leader then either. No matter how good Kevin Rudd looks in the polls, that polling lead would disappear very quickly if he was back in the PM’s job.

  • The Ups & Downs of Ups & Downs – interview with Greg Atkinson

    I’ve mentioned before my liking for the 80s Brisbane band Ups and Downs. I got a chance to interview their lead singer Greg Atkinson on 4ZzZ FM a few weeks ago. They’ve released a compilation CD of 20 of their best tunes and played a gig in Brisbane earlier this month to promote and celebrate it.

    It was a fairly long interview, but I found it very interesting to hear the views of someone who has been active in the independent sphere of the music industry for so long about what has changed and what is the same.

    You can listen to the interview at this link.

  • Speeches to refugee rally + SIEV-X exhibition

    A local activist helpfully recorded speeches given by myself and by Julian Burnside at a refugee rights rally held in Brisbane last Saturday.  You can listen to them here and here. The rally was held to mark the tenth anniversary of the sinking of the SIEV-X.  353 refugees drowned when that refugee boat sank on the way to Australia on 19 October 2001.  There is a beautiful exhibition at The Studio on the ground level at the State Library of Qld this week, commemorating that anniversary. It finishes this weekend – I strongly recommend you try to get along for a look if you have a chance. The Library also has a screening of the documentary Hope on Friday October 28 – this film tell the story of Amal Basry, one of the few survivors of that tragedy.