Sydney Morning Herald review

Picture from the same SMH photo shoot. I loved that top. I wore it til it fell off. 

tanya_levinM_070803023445074_wideweb__300x366.jpg

From the review by Roy Williams, SMH

PEOPLE IN GLASS Houses is an impassioned and witty expose of the Sydney phenomenon now known as Hillsong. Growing up in Cherrybrook in the 1980s, Tanya Levin was the sort of teenager "that fundamentalist parents longed for". She was well-behaved, earnest and unworldly, immersed in the youth group at Hills Christian Life Centre. But psychologically Levin suffered a great deal and soon after she finished school her life "mutated into a Christian horror movie".

What Levin means is that the inner-city life she began to lead - as a uni student, social worker and single mother - would have been regarded with horror by many of the sheltered Christians she left behind.

Levin admits she did it tough but through hardship she learnt about reality. When years later she came home to the church of her girlhood, she was able to see it for the travesty it had become.

The Hills Christian Life Centre was founded in 1983 by an ambitious young pastor, Brian Houston. His father, Frank Houston, had played a key role in the late 1970s establishing a new Christian denomination in Australia - the Assemblies of God, an offshoot of the Pentecostal Church in the US.

Levin delves into this early history. From the beginning, she explains, the AoG was a fundamentalist sect espousing biblical literalism and a strict patriarchal code of sexual morality; its members frequently practised exorcism and spoke in tongues. In the early days there was also an emphasis on spiritual authenticity. A strong influence was the Haight-Ashbury Jesus People Movement in San Francisco, which eschewed the many trappings and hypocrisies of formal religion.

Levin joined as an impressionable 14-year-old in September 1985. The church's rented premises at the Hills were humble and the small congregation consisted of mostly working-class families. The atmosphere was friendly but austere.

Contemporary ("happy clappy") music proved popular and soon became one of the church's features. The term "Hillsong", coined in 1987 as a name for the annual music conference, ultimately (in 1999) became the official title of the church itself.

Prodigal daughter Levin returned to the fold in 1998 to have her baby son "dedicated". She found many things different. The Hills district was now the land of McMansions. Brian Houston had gone from "pastor to CEO" and his glamorous wife, Bobbie (tagged by Levin as "the High Pastoress of Hillsong, the Hostess with the Mostest"), had assumed control of women's business more