In a country where just over half say they’re Christian, Australia now has a believer in office. Scott Morrison, the country’s new prime minister, brings something extra to the country’s highest position – his Christian faith.
Morrison, who had previously been the country’s treasurer, was sworn in Friday as Australia’s sixth prime minister in 11 years after a political rift among conservative lawmakers led to the ouster of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Australia is one of the United State’s strongest allies and the conservative government one of President Trump’s most ardent defenders on the world stage. That is expected to continue under the new leadership.
The New York Times reports that Morrison, 50, is the first evangelical Christian to become prime minister and that church has always been a part of his life. He even sees Christianity as one of his motivations for public service.
Speaking about growing up and going to church as a young man, Morrison reflects on the early foundations of his faith. “My brother and I, we’d never been particularly denominational. We’ve always just liked going to a local community church,” he says.
Growing up in a middle-class neighborhood, Morrison was a dutiful son. He played rugby, rowed and participated in his parents’ amateur theatre group. He even had an agent as a young boy and was in a few TV commercials, such as a high- profile campaign for Vicks Vaporub. He also did voiceovers and sang, but denies he is any good these days.
His faith eventually led him to a Christian collage in Canada, against his dad’s wishes.
“For me, faith is personal, but the implications are social — as personal and social responsibility are at the heart of the Christian message,” Morrison said in his first speech to the Australian parliament in 2008, according to the Times. He also cited a verse from the Book of Jeremiah as the encapsulation of the core of his beliefs: “I am the Lord who exercises loving kindness, justice, and righteousness on Earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.”
“Australia is not a secular country,” he added. “It is a free country. This is a nation where you have the freedom to follow any belief system you choose.”
Morrison grew up in a suburb of Sydney where he and his family attended the Uniting Church of Australia. It was also at the church where he met his future wife, Jenny when he was only 12.
For the last 10 years, Morrison, Jenny, and their daughters have been active members of the Horizon Church, one of Sydney’s largest Pentecostal congregations. Think Hillsong.
“I think that people of faith around the nation are very much filled with hope that someone of Christian faith and principle is holding such a role in public life,” Kristy Mills, the executive pastor of the Horizon Church told the Times. “I think there is a great hope that decision making will be influenced by godly principles.”
Morrison, who worships with music from Hillsong, is known for speaking out against the discrimination of Christians and for calling for stronger legal protections for religious freedom in the country whose population stands at more than 24 million. In a 2016 poll, a little more than half of the population identified as Christian, according to Wikipedia.
“It always starts innocently and it’s always said it is just a joke — just like most discrimination does,” Mr. Morrison said during an interview last year with Fairfax Media, which was widely circulated. “And I’m just going to call that out.”
Morrison will serve out the remainder of Turnbull’s term as prime minister. A new election will be held next May.