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Many conservative Catholics are deeply concerned with a moment of unfettered pagan idolatry at their Youth Festival in Perth in recent days.

I recently interviewed Mark Powell about his article regarding the use of indigenous protocols in Christian services and events and the danger of mixing Aboriginal religion with worship of the One True God. Little did we know such an explosive example of the worst kind I have ever seen would happen so soon following our discussion.

This wasn’t at a government or secular event where ignorant obeisance to political correctness can be expected and maybe even suffered in silence by God-fearing believers. This was at an event organised by leaders charged with leading our youth in discipleship to Christ.

The portion of the video I’m commenting on has the title overlay saying “Richard Walley Welcome To Country”. I don’t know if that’s a type of ceremony or the name of the person giving it (who later refers to himself as Sean). Fascinatingly, Richard Walley is the guy who invented the modern ceremony with Ernie Dingo in only 1976 when some Polynesian performers asked for a welcome to country as their spiritual beliefs dictated (not simple manners or diplomatic protocol).

When federal parliament opened in 2008 the Prime Minister was presented with a message stick that explained a welcome to country “acknowledges our people and pays respect to our ancestors, the spirits who created the lands.” Richard Walley said ancestral spirits and spirits of the land are invoked “to watch over our guests and our visitors while they’re in the country”.

No thank you!

The Ceremony

Here’s what this gentleman invoked, and you can check context and implication for yourself in this video of the ceremony.

When you see the tree and the river and the birds and the land animals as one, as brother and sister, then our world becomes a greater place… How do we see a tree as our loved one, as a brother or a sister? Everything is created equally. And this is where we now, as an opportunity to remind us on the country that we stand on, that we are able to give you a sense of unity before you start to move all this beautiful energy once again for the next three days and you get a chance to be bathed on country on… the Mother, the land we call home.

“As we stand on this beautiful country… look for the gift. It’s there. The Great Mother… the land we come from, she has many gifts… many teachers: the bird, the tree. Why do we celebrate our birthdays, why do we celebrate your life? Because as the sun comes up, our Mother, the warmth, the bird goes [whistles like a bird]. That’s the magpie. He sings and he dances to the sun, and the birds and the trees start to move with the wind as a beautiful coolness comes across from the ocean, and then the warmth from the desert comes back, and you see the movement and the dance of all things. And then when the sun goes down it does the same. It slowly but surely drifts downwards, and then you hear the bird come back again. [more whistling] And they sing and they dance again for the sun as it disappears into the distance. For us as Aboriginal people to be still to embrace the art, song, dance, language, story of everything – this where our greatest teaching of the [local tribe] down here and right across Australia – we always have art, song, dance, language, story that connects us to the bird, the tree, the sand, the ant, the bee…

“I encourage you to lay underneath that [Christmas] tree for you are one of the greatest gifts that the Universe and Mother gave to itself.

“If you see our countrymen on country they’ll come up to the sand and go like this here.”

At this point, the speaker simulates kneeling down to gather sand in his hands and rub it on his stomach.

‘Don’t forget me, Mother.’ And we rub everything on us because everything turns to dust. When we put the ochre on our body and our sand and our dirt and our ashes of trees, everything is connected. And we show our great country. ‘Can you see me, Spirit Country?’ For there… is where everything is connected, never separated. And we now say to those old people, ‘Bad spirit, go away, we don’t need you right now. Good spirit, come, sit, not in the air, but on our skin.‘ And when you feel the goosebumps going over your body, hopefully transferring from one to another, that’s the old people dancing with your spirit child inside you. Everything is born with the spirit.

“…Let our spirits be connected for eternity. Thank you very much. May all the gods bless you. And may all our spirits give you goosebumps, not just for today, but for the rest of your life.”

He spoke for ten minutes – the longest ceremony of its type I’ve ever seen – so I’ve omitted the somewhat benign parts in the above transcription while attempting to be faithful to the context and intent, as well as providing the source for your verification.

But in case you missed it, this ceremony had nothing to do with Jesus, the One True God, Holy Scripture or sound doctrine. It was a perversion of Truth and normalisation to impressionable minds of pagan practices and beliefs in stark contradiction of God’s Word, including animism, pantheism, spiritism, ancestor worship, sun worship, and polytheism.

Correcting heresy

Parents sent their youth to this expecting something sacred but got something entirely profane. I would not send my children to this dangerous spiritual pollution. What that “festival” should have done, if naively surprised by the pagan ritual, was stop the program and teach the following.

No, everything is not created equally. Hebrews says mankind is crowned with glory and honour and everything has been put under our feet, a clear position of superiority and dominance. Genesis says only mankind was created in the Image of God. That’s why farming animals isn’t immoral, but the shedding of innocent human blood demands a reckoning and justice.

Neither the land/earth/country nor the sun is an entity, let alone sacred. It is an object. It is not deserving of reverence or worship. It is not the “Great Mother” or a giver of gifts any more than a kitchen table is. It is created. Its bounties are the blessing of a Person with Whom we can have a personal relationship. Romans describes the sinfulness of people who, “exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator.”

The universe has no mind. There is no “Mother”. This Gaia-worshipping, pagan tripe is sickening. You certainly have a destiny and purpose for your life, but it doesn’t come from the universe or “Mother”. It comes from the Creator of the universe, the Lord God Almighty, Creator of the heavens and the earth, the sun, moon and stars, who formed man from the dust of the earth and commissioned us to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and overall the creatures that move along the ground.

Don’t pray to “Mother” or “Spirit Country”. Again, these things aren’t entities and have no mind or will or memory – unless you’re communicating with evil spirits posing as what you’re looking for.

Don’t pray to “good spirit”. If the speaker was intending to refer to the One True God by the words, “the Good Spirit”, then he is little better than the gentiles in Athens with an altar inscribed “To an Unknown God“, who Paul described as ignorant of the very thing they worshipped.

Surely, in 21st Century Australia, the speaker has by now heard His beautiful Name? His Name is Jesus. God overlooked times of ignorance in the past, but now commands repentance. There’s real power in that Name, a Name the speaker didn’t once mention or acknowledge in any significant way.

Spiritism and witchcraft is a sin. It would be sober vigilance to flee the speaker’s invitation for transferring goosebumps one to another with linked arms as the “old people [dance] with your spirit child inside you.” Communicating with the dead is called spiritism, and is the trade of mediums and witches, explicitly forbidden in Scripture. Our dearly departed are exactly that: no longer here. They are hopefully in heaven, so who or what is “dancing with your spirit”?

There is only one God. There is no multiplicity or plurality of “gods” to bless you. It’s beyond incredible a speaker at a Christian event doesn’t know the difference between the One True God and the plethora of false gods of which there are two varieties, the purely demonic and the purely fictitious figments of human imagination. Clearly we need to go over the first few years of Sunday School again together.

  • “You shall have no other gods before Me.” – Exodus 20:3-5
  • “I am the Lord, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me.” – Isaiah 45:5-12
  • “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.” – John 17:3
  • “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” – 1 Corinthians 8:5-6

Final Word

This was meant to be a brief article, but there was too much to say which was important to be said.

At this stage in my seeking to navigate the line between indigenous culture and false religion, I don’t think it is impossible to invite indigenous people to extend a welcome at events without false religion or racist distinctions contradicting Kingdom culture. I also don’t see the benefit in trying, compared to the latent risks. To clarify, I condemn this iteration, and not all attempts forever and ever.

Praise God for the faithful Roman Catholic Christians who alerted us to this heresy and blasphemy. I reiterate my opening sentiment, that we have much to learn from true disciples like them and others across all denominations in Christianity. They too are on guard against false doctrine and syncretism: the mixing of paganism and humanism and every pretension that would set itself up against the knowledge of God.

This incident is not an opportunity to bash the Bride of Christ, but it is necessary to identify false teachings and pagan practices seeking normalisation in Christianity and reject them emphatically. False religions and false gods, this kind of welcome to country, have no place in Christianity.


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