Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed is a 3-part documentary series featuring several ex-members of the Hillsong church who share harrowing allegations of the trauma, abuse, financial and labor exploitation that created a culture of chaos at the megachurch. All 3 episodes are streaming on Discovery+ now.
Think of this Hillsong exposé as a companion piece to recent dramas about American televangelists viz. The Eyes of Tammy Faye and the Righteous Gemstones. This Hillsong story is the latest in a long line of tales concerning religious organisations (and leaders) who have abused their positions of influence for the sake of power and wealth.
Essentially, the narrative is delivered though the experiences of victims as well as the opinions of experts – rather like a legal case. This is the manner in which all good documentaries should be approached. While the first two episodes were a little bit dry, focusing as it does on Hillsong’s American expansion and the Carl Lentz scandal – it is hard not to appreciate that the molotov cocktail of Hillsong and American celebrity worship would explode in everybody’s faces.
However, what is interesting in the first episode is that Hillsong built up their financial power via their music arm. Selling millions of albums worldwide, which allowed Brian Houston, the church’s Senior Pastor to expand its brand into the USA and beyond its Australian origins. The music was utilised as a Trojan Horse to infiltrate the Christian culture all over the world. Certainly, this business model has now been copied by many other churches as well.
The third episode is probably the most powerful – focusing on two areas. One, the church’s abuse of volunteers as free labour and two, the cover-up of founder Frank Houston’s pedophilia by Brian, his son. For anyone who has ever been involved in church activities, the former is triggering and is an abuse commonplace in many churches. As for the latter, at least, finally, Houston has been charged for the cover-up and he has stepped down from church leadership.
Hillsong: A Megachurch Exposed is a cautionary tale – beware of religious organisations that care more about money than human beings. Recommended.
… still there’s more …