Scott Morrison gave his life to God, committing himself to the service of Jesus for the rest of his days, on January 11, 1981. He was 12 years old. He remembers the day and the moment with perfect clarity. He has never gone back on this promise. When Morrison became Prime Minister in August 2018, he made religious history of a kind. He was the first member of a Pentecostal church to become Prime Minister of Australia and the first Pentecostal to become a national leader in any developed nation. Morrison doesn’t go out of his way to talk about his religious beliefs but he doesn’t hide them; he’s happy to share them if asked. When it’s relevant he’ll say a prayer, as for rain in a drought, but his religion doesn’t determine any policy matter.
“I grew up in the church. My mother is still going there. My father went there till he died. Church life and community were wrapped up in one for us.” The church in question was the Presbyterian church at Waverley, which later became part of the Uniting Church. Morrison’s choice to be an active Christian was emotional, intense and entirely personal. As a child, he attended with his family a huge Billy Graham crusade at Randwick Racecourse in 1979. Coincidentally, his future wife, Jenny, whom he had not yet met, was there too. Morrison’s brother Alan also went down to the altar to make his own life’s commitment: “I have this lingering memory on the night, my brother went down and he was two years older than me. I talked it over with dad. Dad said, ‘Don’t go just because your brother did. Wait till the time is right for you.’ ”
When Morrison was in Year 7, he went to a Boys’ Brigade camp in Nunawading, Melbourne. “On that camp I gave my life to the Lord, on January 11, 1981. I was 12. I massively felt it that day,” Morrison says. “It is a confession of repentance. I felt that movement, to get to my feet. I spent the rest of the day sitting with the chaplain.” How does Morrison pray privately? “I try to pray every day. When I can I’ll get down on my knees. Getting down on your knees is a sign of complete dependence in your life. Other prayer is conversational, in the garden at home or wherever. Prayer is an important act of submission and acknowledgment. It involves humility, obedience, submission, faith and thanksgiving,” he says.
“The Bible is massively important to me. It’s got easier now that it’s on your mobile phone. This year I’ve been reading the Old Testament. I’m currently reading about Ruth. I read parts of the Gospel regularly. Faith is not passive. Faith is an active process of engaging with God. Generally I won’t talk about it too much. It’s got nothing to do with politics. It’s really relevant to me. I couldn’t function without it. My faith informs my life.” Does Morrison believe in eternal life? “Absolutely.” Will he see his father again? “When we go to glory. I absolutely believe it.” Will we be judged on our lives? “Of course, we all are and we’ve all failed. That’s why Jesus came, to save, not judge. The doctrine of grace says that none of us gets there on our own. Of course I absolutely believe in eternal life.”
Edited extract from Christians, the Urgent Case for Jesus in our World by Greg Sheridan (Allen & Unwin, $32.95).