The American Revivalist Tradition Mark II

The American Revivalist Tradition of

Donald Trump’s “Radicalism” and Scott Morrison’s “Liberalism”

The American Revivalist Tradition Mark II Since 1995

9 June 2024



“The successful outcome of complaints in relation to Citipointe’s January 2022 enrolment contract also sends a strong message to the NSW Government that it is time to remove out-dated privileges that allow religious schools to discriminate against LGBTQ people,” he said. [Alastair Lawrie, Public Interest Advocacy Centre, SMH, Jun 10, 2024, updated]



Since 1995 I had forewarned where the American Revivalist Tradition (ART) was taking the Christian institutions in Australia, from my doctorate awarded by The University of Queensland. I had, though, never really understood the spiral of history, and could not imagine how the impact of ART would contribute to our current Trumpian and Putinian state of affairs. At the time, the “American empire” was, again, on the ascent, and the “Russian Empire” had collapse. With the rise of the economically-driven American secular nationalism, came the reinvigorated Christian nationalism of the 1990s, as the Institutional Church is the handmaiden to the State. The new Evangelical outlook built on the nationalism of the 1950s in the paradigms of anti-communism and American Modernism (or “Americanism”) to which Robert Wuthnow describes as “American Religion”; also Harold Bloom in The American Religion: The Emergence of the Post-Christian Nation (1992; second edition 2006).



From the roots of American modernist nationalism, developed the 1960s of William F. Buckley’s neo-conservativism, the 1970s Moral Majority, the 1980s New Christian Right, and, of late, the 1990s, with succession into the early 21st century, of the Evangelical Religious-Rightist Alliance. It is important to understand that this is not the global evangelical world. American evangelicals are very divided, almost to the point of a civil war. Certainly, denominations and individual churches have split in the contemporary culture-history war. Lets be clear, Christian nationalists are not beyond turning to violence. And if Christian nationalists were to take power, again, under a presidency of Donald Trump, global evangelicals would, again, be against American culture in its degeneration. There are already Australian evangelical voices speaking up (e.g., Tim Costello, a senior fellow at the Centre for Public Christianity, in the SMH, June 9, 2024 — 5.00am).



Let’s be clear. The legacy of the ART has again become revolutionary and hypo-radical. American revivalism was born in the ethos of revolution, both before and after the American revolutionary war. The motifs of warfare are the motifs of ART. It is true that Donald Trump is an opportunist and his Christian convictions are little apparent, and, indeed, much evidence to the contrary. However, a Trump administration knows where its electoral base is, and it is in the Evangelical Religious-Rightist Alliance. There are also signs of a broader, secular, reshaping of the United States, if such alliance was successful, again. Russ Vought, the former president’s budget director, is laying the groundwork for a broad expansion of presidential powers (The Washington Post, June 8, 2024, at 6:00 a.m. EDT). Vought has led the Center for Renewing America, part of a network of conservative advocacy groups staffed by former and potentially future Trump administration officials. His ideological position is called, “radical constitutionalism.” Vought, argument in a seminal 2022 essay, which argued that the Left has corrupted the nation’s laws and institutions, and that the solution is 1) a recognition of our “post-Constitutional time,”  with the “woke and weaponized” bureaucracy, and to 2) give the American President more direct powers, overriding the current US constitution, and 3) allow such a President to carry out “retribution.” 



Even as there has been significant resistance to Americanization in Australia, recent militant protests during the short era of the global pandemic shows a sizable section of the Australian population captive to American national rightist narratives. The role of the 30th prime minister of Australia (2018-2022), Scott Morrison, was central to this warped, and populist, American-influenced, Australian nationalism, even as the Prime Minister was himself a target of nationalist attacks on the government’s pandemic health restrictions. Grace Tame, the 2021 Australian of the Year, and director of The Grace Tame Foundation, published a damning critique of Scott Morrison in The Monthly (June 2024). Tame’s critique is based on Morrison’s Plans for Your Good: A Prime Minister’s Testimony of God’s Faithfulness, a 272-page desperate battle cry to American right-wing Christian nationalists. Tame writes:


Plans for Your Good flows with all the plausible, coherent, rhythmic religiosity of a psalm recited by the Swedish Chef. At best, it is unoriginal, inconsequential, cyclical, paternalistic evangelism. At worst, it is a dubious attempt at indoctrination. But neither Christian values nor the practise of faith more broadly are the problem. It’s Morrison’s willingness to use them as tools of manipulation, distraction and evasion. In the Gospel According to Scott, he is always the hero, never the villain. His superpower is amnesia.”


Australian popular culture is exposed to Morrison’s Americanisation. The 2022 Australian Lamb promotional video illustrated the point. Morrison before politics was director of the New Zealand Office of Tourism and Sport (1998- 2000) and was managing director of Tourism Australia  (2004- 2006). The lamb video (“lamb-to-the-slaughter”) was à la Morrison’s Where the Bloody Hell Are You? It was Morrison tourism schema that overrode the nationalistic-centralism and the care for mental health issues, by “Just laugh it off’; as Morrison did as Prime Minster, on refugees, Aboriginal communities in isolation, and ‘policies’ whatever that is. The public cultural perception became “Yes, let’s have a laugh. Oh, yes, the French arriving in subs, I wonder what that is about.” The culture thinking was one of a bubble-encased country rather than the capacity to explore a world on its own terms.



More seriously, with the Southern Baptist Convention and the Hillsong Church in the news, in the local Australian media, it seems that the spiral of history has returned, at the point that Neo-Pentecostalism again dominates politics; the fall of Australia’s first and (I cautiously predict) only Pentecostal Prime Minister, and its continuing legacy. It goes back to the days of Aimee Semple McPherson and her Megachurched Foursquare Church, in California. This was explained in the Politics, ScoMo’s Pentecostalism, and Indigenous Philosophy (or ScoMo Native Pentecostalism), Sea of Faith Brisbane CBD Group, 17 October 2021.




The ART influences among Australian evangelical believers made a mess of their thinking on Indigenous Australia. First, is the “what” of the history of Australian Pentecost missions among the indigenous inhabitants. The Australasian Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements reveal the patterns which had similarities to other white mission stations: Isabella Hetherington at the Daintree Mission (1928), the Enticknap brothers working among Islander and Aboriginal people around Townsville (1923), as examples. The general observation has to be made is that missions are entangled in the politics, particular for Queensland history, and this includes the history around Pacific Islanders in central Queensland. Rosalind Kidd’s The Way We Civilise (1997) is still the best work on this topic.



The argument from the Pentecostal historiographer Mark Hutchinson is that “charismatic faith is now ‘normative’ in the Uniting Church’s Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress, a synthetic and often conservative indigenous voice in an otherwise quite liberal and white tradition.”  It is a fair statement, but it is very troubling that the voice of the “quite liberal and white tradition” is now ‘normative’ for Aboriginal Christians, and no less for the Pentecostals among the tribal groupings. The statement is true as historical fact. The great failure, though, is to understand multiple indigenous voices within a Pentecostal world. Facts are Facts, but the Pentecost leadership has been extraordinary naive in the education of political history and sociology. If you read the Pentecostal literature that Scott Morrison reads, you will see that the facts of the deeper Aboriginal experience are downplayed by the Pentecostal leadership.


In Australian Pentecostal histories and historiography, generally, the outlook is blind-sighted to the politics. This is not only true of Australian megachurch neo-Pentecostalism but across the ART spectrum of “big belief and doubt”. Recently, the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church has been in a consternation, with Gareth Hales, the son of the church’s global leader Bruce D. Hales, and his purchase of the two-hectare estate (SMH, June 9, 2024 — 5.00am). The Church’s leadership is used to espouse a doctrine of a simple and humble life, rather than a portfolio of statement homes and trophy estates, and it has become very troubling in the least. In the end it is political naivety which got the Church into this unwelcomed situation. Let’s be clear. It is the politics of corporate capitalism.



I have brought the analysis of Australian Pentecostal histories and historiography, comprehensively as a summary, into a review essay published in Journal for the Academic Study of Religion (34.2,2021, 234–237). Pentecostal traditions have had a strong self-reading of marginality in the histories. Critics have stated or inferred that Pentecostal grouping has taken marginality into a martyr complex or ‘Us and Them’ politics (Maddox 2005: 163–65, 222–23). There is a Neo-Pentecost outlook that is the legacy of the British folk tradition and its influence on ‘proto-Protestantism’ in Australia, and continually misunderstands “big belief and doubt.” There is the disconnect between the work of Australian intellectual historians and sociologists, who are considering the wider society for the local ethos, and Pentecostal historians and historiographers who have either portrayed their stories as being a-politically irrelevant (itself a politically-charged message), or speaking in the militant politics which is portrayed as a secular government out to destroy the religion of the devout.


Australian Pentecostal histories and historiography are still caught-up in American Pentecostal Whig outlooks. Often the choice of political argument depends upon the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement’s institutional advantage at each historical moment.



ART is not Australian culture, and while truly liberal Australia understands, the Australian Evangelical Religious-Rightist Alliance has taken the country into ‘strange waters.’ The success of the Australian Alliance has been mixed. Unhappy for the alliance, the Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017, passed the Parliament of Australia on 7 December 2017. Happily, for the alliance,  2023 Australian Indigenous Voice referendum was defeated. It is difficult to predict an ART trajectory in Australia. The fall of Scott Morrison makes ART dominance less likely. Nevertheless, the country is still very receptive to the influences of cultural Americanisation.




Buch, Neville (1995). American Influence on Protestantism in Queensland since 1945. PhD diss., The University of Queensland.

Chant, Barry (2011). The Spirit of Pentecost: The Origins and Development of the Pentecostal Movement in Australia, 1870–1939. Emeth Press, Lexington, KY.

Deverell, Garry Worete (2018). Theology: A Trawloolway Man Reflects on Christian Faith. Morning Star Publishing, Reservoir, Vic.

Haack, Susan (1993). Evidence and Inquiry: Towards Reconstruction in Epistemology. Wiley-Blackwell, London.

Hutchinson, Mark, and John Wolfe (2012). A Short History of Global Evangelicalism. Cambridge University Press, New York.

Maddox, Marion (2001). For God and Country: Religious Dynamics in Australian Federal Politics. Parliament of Australia, Canberra.

Maddox, Marion (2005). God under Howard: The Rise of the Religious Right in Australian Politics. Allen & Unwin, Sydney.

Yong, Amos (2005). The Spirit of Poured Out on All Flesh: Pentecostalism and the Possibility of Global Theology. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.