Touch Not the Lord's Annointed Music


That's the headline to this article which outlines the concerns Hillsong music has that 

"Despite the demographic of our audience being predominantly Christian, sadly we are not immune to the challenges posed by music piracy"  This was written in a submission to an inquiry on the government's draft copyright laws. 

There are so many Reasons Why This Is Funny that I'm having trouble starting but here goes:

1. Hillsong already makes a truckload out of their music. It's the music that helps with the giving, the music that forms so many good feelings and gets people addicted. It's central to the show and the whole community. The songs are part of the faith, the soundtrack to it...are they not doing well enough already?

2. Is it really a surprise that Hillsong fans are pirating their music, despite it being their version of Christian? This is a church of no theology, where everything is OK and God only does nice and good things. There's no great drama about sin or repentance or hell, so there's not really a whole lot of right and wrong. And they expect their followers to be morally stringent? Cute. 

3. Despite Hillsong claiming to be a Christian religion, nothing is free. Does it cost money to make their music? Sure, but not as much as most production companies. But crazy thought here: what if they gave stuff away? and not just the stuff that was easy to give away like other people's time and money? Imagine if they just gave a whole lot away, or gave to anyone who asked? It would be, at the very least, some damn fine press. 

4. A not so funny Reason why this is absurd is that I am not aware of what else Hillsong feels strongly enough to lobby government for. I haven't seen them demanding government responds to their Christian outrage about the threats to Aboriginal communities, or violence in families, or substance problems, or homelessness or the suicide epidemic in Australia. Very obvious issues to address using Jesus's commands, yet they stay silent. 

But don't steal their music. Don't touch their profits. Because where your treasure lies, there your heart lies also. 


The beginnings of Glass Houses

Just over ten years ago, i got the chance every budding writer dreams about. A friend of mine was working with publisher Allen and Unwin and rather casually whined that I’d like to write a book about Hillsong. I’ve often had lots of great starter ideas, and not always been great at finishing them.

She surprised me when she said, “if you’re serious this time, Tanya, put something together and I’ll forward it to the editor.”

With no idea how books were written, I sat nervously on my living room floor and wrote down the concepts I wanted to cover giving each a page.  I needed to devise a chapter outline and a couple of examples of those chapters. Within a few days, I had that done. It was scary and exciting and humbling. I revised, edited and revised, and emailed it to my friend.

Two weeks later, having had no reply, I hesitantly approached her. Was it that bad, I asked, that you didn’t know how to tell me?

No, she answered, she hadn’t found the mail. Immediately she sent it up the channels and within days, I had a coffee date with an editor to pitch my book. If you’re supposed to write about what you know about, then Hillsong was it, or rather, the struggle with my faith which had culminated in the  five years in the church that had started that movement.

My ideas were accepted. No one had talked about Hillsong publicly, and to outsiders, it was a huge mystery as to what went on in there, and why people continued to attend so loyally. I learned immediately that my art was not going to be marketed. Rather, not unlike Hillsong and Christianity, I had a marketable brand to sell, and my art should adjust.

So in February, 2005, I signed a contract for the Hillsong book, as it is commonly known. The folk at Allen and Unwin were terrific. My editor worked closely with me and taught me from scratch how this thing would work. It was not an easy task and she was patient and mentored me for 2 years. The cover looked like this:


And then she went away on leave.

It was during this time, a week before the book was due to go to print that Allen and Unwin changed their minds. I got a phone call telling me that due to legal reasons, the book could not go ahead. This seemed incredibly strange as we had all met with a fancy defamation lawyer at the very beginning and the legislation was explained to me carefully. Now, the advice had changed.

I was later to be told by another of AandU’s authors that Hillsong’s threats had been the real driver behind the decision.

It seemed way too strange. I called Jennifer Sexton at the now defunct The Bulletin and asked her opinion. She turned it into the lead story, with a 3000 word extract, and a cover exclaiming

the book that was too hot to print. I'll add the pic as soon as I find it, again....

Soon after, I signed with Black Inc Books, who had received different advice, and were not concerned about lawsuits. Two months later, in July of 2007, my first book baby, People In Glass Houses, was born.

The fun was only just about to begin.




Here we go again... YAY

A few months ago, it was decided there was no time like a Warner Bros produced Hillsong movie to re-release People In Glass Houses. The original idea was to have it ready for the Easter premiere and that would be great timing.

And so I set about writing an update chapter to try to encapsulate the last 8 years since the book first came out in around 4000 words. This proved very difficult. So much has happened in these few short years all around the world.

There are more Hillsong outlets, more offshoot churches, Hillsong-run community services and school programs and youth programs and more Hillsong music than ever before. And of course, more scandals, as the inherently dangerous system spits out more victims of the never-ending promises that don’t quite make it.

So many issues, and so many individuals could be written about for this re-release, but for the sake of time and brevity, one chapter had to do. For now.

And so on 22 April 2015, People In Glass Houses (an Insider’s story of a life in and out of Hillsong) will be in stores near you. And if it’s not, insist that it is. Or buy one online for almost nothing.

This is pretty much all I know right now.  Except that Warner Bros quit and now there's a distributor called Relativity, which I like cos Hillsong is all about nepotism and mediocrity.

8 years is a long time, especially in book years. Especially in e-book years. This project is going to be really interesting.

Who do you blame for Leelah Alcorn's death?


I've been thinking a lot about the death of Leelah Alcorn. Before we go on, I will refer to the subject here as Leelah and use the feminine pronouns because that is how this person identified. Whatever your views may be on the authenticity of transgender people, or their beliefs about themselves, what is clear from Leelah's final writings and signature is that she identified very strongly as female. Does that make her female? I can't say, but if honouring people's deepest held convictions about themselves means using one word instead of another, then that's not a big request.

But it's apparently the be-all and end-all for some people. Protesters have taken to social media to claim Leelah's suicide and her suicide note as this week's martyrdom; that her mother's initial response to news of her child's death using the masculine pronoun 'he' was akin to murder.

What has struck me again in this case is the screeching. When a tragedy occurs, and all teen suicide is horrific tragedy, complete unknowns appear to dictate to the situation, to judge, to scream and worse, to threaten.

I can't imagine the devastation of finding out your child has been hit by a truck accidentally or by choice. . Leelah's mother, Carol, posted on facebook that her child was dead. She referred to Leelah as Josh, and said that he had had an accident.

Perhaps soon after you get the news, you post something on facebook as a formality to explain to people what has happened. Perhaps you don't see yourself as the representative of all the people in the world affected by gender issues. Perhaps it's not a straightforward time.

So when people made the decision to dox her parents, to reveal their contact details, home address, places of work in order to intimidate them and to incite people to harrass them in whatever form might follow, it was a brutal response for the overwhelming majority who had never heard the name Leelah Alcorn. And it demonstrated the very intolerance and lack of communication and understanding that the screamers so loudly demand.

Because what else can that sort of intimidation hope to achieve? It won't bring Leelah back and it won't help any one else going through such a raw and sensitive time. It won't contribute to Leelah's siblings' trauma. It can only turn a nightmare into trauma that may punish, but won't resolve anything.  Surely the family should be allowed to bury their child without more threats and fear from complete strangers.


There is no doubt that Leelah was going through hell. But by her own explanation there were a chain of events that led to her despair. And her parents were only one step. 

She went to her mother to ask to transition from male to female and her mother said no. Her mother said God doesn't make mistakes and took her to a Christian counsellor. Now, it's incredibly vital that people understand how terrifying it is for Christian parents to confront the idea that their child is going to hell for being a sexual deviant. For such devout parents, they would have not been able to compute the concept of their son wanting to change sex. It is forbidden in the Old Testament,  and considered punishable by hell in the New Testament.

It is Christianity that has so much to answer for. Guns may not kill, it may be the humans that pull the trigger, but if guns and Christianity weren't ever-present, the death rate would be way lower. In the wrong hands, Christianity can be lethal, even with the best of intentions. John Weaver's recent work on the harms that evangelical approaches to mental health cause is an excellent resource on this.

I have seen Christians posting that there were clearly demons bothering her, that it was just a teenage phase, and most outrageous, the old claim that God will use this devastation to bring something good out. Like how God sends ambulances to crash sites. Maybe he could have prevented the devastation in the first place. Christianity is so mentally abusive intrinisically.

Leelah's mother took her to a Christian counsellor where Leelah says she knew she did not get the help she needed. Christianity and counselling cannot co exist for anyone except the Christian who wishes to pursue that world view. For any one else it's laughable, it's dangerous, it's abusive, and it can be fatal. Things got way worse for Leelah after that counselling and it's the report that is consistently returned by mental health consumers who feel patronised, judged, and dismissed: the precise opposite of what seeking help is meant to achieve.

Sure, her parents are judgemental and probably bigoted. Did they contribute to her isolation and despair? I'm sure they did. But I'm also sure they're not lying when they say that they loved her. Few parents manage the announcement of an alternative gender or sexuality with their kids brilliantly first go, but those in the grip of fundamentalism are not equipped to do anything but react badly.

But when that family went for help, they went to those who are supposed to, above all provide professional responses to a young person with severely distressing mental health problems. They did not, and as so many people who come across bad psychological services will tell you, you don't reach out for help too often when it's failed miserably during the hardest times of your life.

Leelah's withdrawal was not surprising given her contact with Christian counsellors who were not willing or able to assist and her Christian parents' collusion with these 'experts'. These are the people staffing the counselling positions in Australian schools and they have to get out. Or the impact on kids like Leelah, or even kids with much less complex and rare circumstances, will be severe and potentially fatal. It is not a case of gentle pastoring. Christian counselling can be incredibly dangerous, alienating and intimidating to an outsider, especially a young person who is vulnerable and in need.

There are calls for the traumatised driver of the truck that Leelah threw herself in front of to be punished. He is being accused of being transphobic and conspiring in the suicide of a transgendered person. The world really is a stupid place. The Screamers really are making life difficult for those of us who want to see understanding, learning, growth, and support.

And those are the things that the Screamers claim to want. But with the explicit backdrop of violence and intimidation, we lose sight of who the real culprits are: those who knew Leelah's deepest fears the best, and chose to pray about it instead.