While paying a friend a visit in London, I came along the so-called “Hillsong Church” to one of their regular services at the Dominion Theatre. Though I don’t believe in the supernatural, I thought it to be a good idea to please the person who invited me. However, I was not ready for what awaited me beyond the door of the big musical theatre, as it closed behind me and behind hundreds of others. To make a long story short: I think this “church” is more like a cult and may be extremely dangerous for simple-minded people.
The hall was pitch black when suddenly the lights and a projector with lyrics went on and 12 people came on stage and sang for about 20 minutes. They sang songs like “Arms Open Wide“, with passages like: “My whole life is Yours, I give it all, surrendered to Your name and forever I will pray. “It was more like a concert than aservice, and everybody stood up and cheered. You get the idea if you have a look at the image above. Until this point I was shocked because of the whole topic and the message which the lyrics transported but it was OK. The real shock awaited me after that.
The Hillsong Church Cult has its own Steve Jobs
Some guy who looked a bit like a plump version of Apple’s CEO Steve Jobs entered the stage and told the thrilled audience of his visions and that everything positive that happened in their lives was the will of God. It was rhetorically impressive because he used the word “imagine” at the beginning of every sentence he spoke and a piano and an electric guitar were playing silently in the background to give his speech even more power. “Imagine we could fill the O2 arena next year. Imagine every one of us (Hillsong members) could get five more people into Hillsong. Imagine we would visit the schools and talk to the children…” At that moment I really became angry. They want to go to the schools and to teach their opinions to helpless children? I hope this is not permitted by the law and hopefully I will have the chance to send my children to a school where they only have education in ethics and philosophy rather than religion.
It was a hard time for me up this point because every time the audience was urged to stand up and pray, I sat down. This sounds easier than it actually is because if hundreds of people are standing and you are the only one in the crowd who doesn’t follow the rest of the group, it is an unpleasant feeling to say the least. Then after a prayer the collection bags were handed out. I even saw some people who gave away their credit card number and the permission for a certain amount of money to be withdrawn from the bank.
The Hillsong Church Cult is not charity
After that, I started to take pictures and a video in order to have proof of what I had seen and experienced. After the “service”, many people asked me what I thought about the event. At first I tried to avoid unpleasant questions with answers like “It was interesting but I don’t believe in things like that.” Later we went to a pub where we were met up with some guys from the Hillsong Church and some people who only were visitors like myself.
After a few glasses of Guinness I had to ask: “Where is the difference between Hillsong, Jehovas Witnesses and Scientology and Christianity in general? Haven’t you watched movies about indoctrination? ” The answer was that “Hillsong does help the poor in the third world and that the money is used to make services like the one I saw possible and to get more and more people even closer to the love of Jesus and God”. In my opinion this is also true for the Jehovas Witnesses. They claim to support the third world with their money and everyone knows that they collect money from their members to make their church bigger and even more powerful in order to “save” people. In fact, there is no real difference when it comes to the concept of a sect or cult.
This Hillsong Church is a huge empire with over 21.000 members worldwide and is criticized from many different directions including the media and politicians. Their methods are similar and other groups like TEN SING are even more popular here in Germany and may be considered equally dangerous. As far as I know at least they do not try to collect money.
I am an atheist and believe in nothing but the pursuit of wisdom and knowledge which is, in my opinion, the task of science. For me, religion is the cessation of thinking. I wrote a quite complete article in german language called Forschen VS Glauben (engl. research vs. faith) and made the “steep thesis” (ger. steile These ;-) ) that everyone who visited a university should be clever enough to not believe in mystic tales like the creation myth or the concept of god. Before I went to the Hillsong service, I thought that things like that exist only in music videos like Genesis – Jesus he knows me.
What bothers me the most is that I had not founded a cult by myself. I mean, it should be easy to get some followers and to make people believe in something like the Flying Spaghetti Monster with simple answers to the complex questions of life. Everything good that is happing to my church members would be because of healthly living and everything bad comes from the Spaghetti Monster. Piece of cake. But to be honest I would be satisfied if busses like this would be driving around more often.
Last but not least I would like to thank Liron. She was so kind to help me out with grammar and spellchecking!