Scott Morrison has rejected suggestions he believes God chose him to be prime minister, hitting back at critics of his speech to the Australian Christian Churches conference.
Morrison told 2GB Radio on Friday that his comments suggesting he received divine inspiration to run for office were merely an expression of the fact Christians believe “whatever you do every day … is part of your Christian service”.
It comes after a speech on Thursday evening in which Morrison warned against “identity politics” and gave a fuller account of how his political philosophy is shaped by Christian values.
In a speech to a Jewish community fundraising appeal, Morrison argued that the belief in human dignity leads to the conclusion people matter “individually” rather than for attributes such as sex, race or religion.
On Monday, Guardian Australia revealed Morrison told the conference last week he had sought a sign from God in the difficult last fortnight of the election, and believed a painting of an eagle at an art gallery was a message that “you’ve got to run to not grow weary, you’ve got to walk to not grow faint, you’ve got to spread your wings like an eagle to soar like an eagle”.
Morrison also revealed on election night in 2019 his pastor had urged him to “use what God has put in your hands … to do what God has put in your heart”.
Although Morrison has been open about his faith, inviting journalists into the Horizon church in the Sutherland shire during the 2019 election campaign, the prime minister rarely shares details about how religion shapes his approach to the top job.
The Labor leader, Anthony Albanese, objected to the idea Morrison had been called to do God’s work, telling Radio National “the idea that God is on any political side is no more respectful than the idea that when someone’s sporting team wins it is because of some divine intervention”.
On Friday, Morrison responded by saying he was “disappointed about how some of that [speech] has been mischaracterised” by “others who should know better”.
“Christians talks to Christians about Christian things,” he told 2GB. “I don’t think that’s really a newsflash.
“People of faith, Christians … we just feel that, you know, whatever you do every day, you do, is part of your Christian service.
“Whether you serve as a prime minister, whether you serve as a journalist, whether you serve as a police officer, a nurse, a teacher.
“We just see that as part of our faith, that you know you’re there, doing service as part of your Christian faith.”
Morrison refuted the suggestion he believed he had been chosen by God, explaining there was “no suggestion about anyone other than the Australian people deciding who runs this country”.
Morrison’s ACC speech was also controversial because of the revelation he believes that, when hugging people, such as victims of natural disasters in evacuation centres, he is practising the laying on of hands, a Pentecostal tradition of healing and encouragement to faith.
On Wednesday, the employment minister, Stuart Robert, a fellow Pentecostal, defended Morrison’s laying on of hands, saying it was a “really powerful” and valuable practice.
“If you look at how the prime minister engages with Australians, and he does, he’ll chat with them, he’ll pray with them, and there is nothing wrong in seeking permission but coming to Australians and saying you know what, we love you, we care for you, we want to pray for you,” Robert told Sky News.
Morrison’s comments to the ACC, which were not publicised or published by his office, echo his victory speech on election night, which he described as a “miracle”.
In April 2020, footage of Morrison calling for prayers for state and territory leaders and committing the Australian nation to God also emerged at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
On Thursday evening, Morrison spoke about the importance of community, including religious community, at the United Israel donor dinner in Sydney.
Morrison said that Judeo-Christian values can be summarised by the concept of “human dignity”.
“Seeing the inherent dignity of all human beings is the foundation of morality,” he said. “It makes us more capable of love and compassion, of selflessness and forgiveness.”
Morrison linked religious values to his liberal political philosophy, explaining that “liberty is not borne of the state but rests with the individual, for whom morality must be a personal responsibility”.
“In short, to realise true community we must first appreciate each individual human being matters. You matter. You, individually.”
Morrison said we must “never surrender the truth that the experience and value of every human being is unique and personal”.
“You are more, we are more, individually, more than the things others try to identify us by, you by, in this age of identity politics.
“You are more than your gender, you are more than your race, you are more than your sexuality, you are more than your ethnicity, you are more than your religion, your language group, your age.”
Morrison warned that by “[reducing] ourselves to a collection of attributes, or [dividing] ourselves, even worse, on this basis … we fail to see the value that other people hold as individuals”.