28 Apr Crucifying Israel Folau
The words Israel Folau shared on Instagram have been in existence for more than 2000 years. Yet only now in Australia will a young Christian quoting scripture pay for it with his career. According to Ps Brian Heath, that says more about our culture than it does about him.
Rugby star and devout Christian Israel Folau shared a Bible quote on his personal social media account last week that named homosexuality, and many other practices, as sin. His comments were described in the media as homophobic, hateful, abusive, harmful, bigoted and discriminatory. While people are free to vehemently disagree with Folau, what exactly will be achieved by ending this young man’s football career?
Sin: levelling the playing field
Neither Folau, nor the Bible, single out homosexuals. The scriptures Folau was referring to in his meme were Galatians 5:19-21 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The message of these passages is that every single one of us is a sinner. Have you lied? Been drunk? Looked at anyone lustfully? The honest answer for every person is a resounding ‘yes’. We are all guilty.
Rather than condemning homosexuals, these scriptures level the playing field. Sin is humanity’s great equaliser. Just as the problem is the same for all of us, so is the answer. No one can brag that they are sinless, or pious enough to escape the human condition or redeem themselves. That is why Jesus came into this world.
Ask yourself – who is this Man whose heart towards the liar, adulterer, homosexual and drunk was so full of love that He was motivated to endure a torturous and humiliating public death to restore them and have a friendship with them? That is salvation, not condemnation. There has never been a love like His.
For Folau and the millions of people across Australia who have received this salvation and internal transformation, their experience is so real and so precious that they would prefer to lose their job, be mocked, humiliated and persecuted than deny what Christ has done for them. Asking Christians to pretend there is no such thing as sin for fear of offending someone is asking us to betray Jesus, render His sacrifice powerless and abandon our faith.
‘Ask yourself – who is this Man whose heart towards the liar, adulterer, homosexual and drunk was so full of love that He was motivated to endure a torturous and humiliating public death to restore them and have a friendship with them?’
In a pluralistic society you are free to disagree with Folau and make your own mind up about Christianity and the big questions of life. But Folau should also be free to express his views without having to be put in a position where he is forced to choose between his faith and his job.
The heavy penalty
Free, democratic societies are ones that criticise, not censor controversial opinions. Folau’s beliefs and statements have been widely, sometimes mercilessly, condemned. Rugby Australia issued a clear public statement. Isn’t this enough? No one could make the mistake of assuming Folau’s views expressed on his personal social media were representative of the football code.
Yet it seems it’s not only enough to ruin Folau’s career, his enemies have also gone after every single sportsperson who has supported him. Now, tapping ‘Like’ on a Biblical quote on social media could jeopardise your job. (Let that sink in).
Christian AFL stars Gary Ablett and Matthew Kennedy have been ‘spoken to’ by their clubs and since removed their ‘Likes’.
‘Asking Christians to pretend there is no such thing as sin for fear of offending someone is asking us to betray Jesus, render His sacrifice powerless and abandon our faith.’
That wasn’t enough to appease the mob though as Ablett was subjected to booing from the crowd every time he touched the ball during Easter Monday’s clash between Hawthorn and Geelong.
It seems English rugby star Billy Vunipola didn’t succumb to the pressure of his employer and has been issued with an official warning and dropped as the face of Channel 4’s European promotion of the game.
The severity and implications of these penalties is completely disproportionate to the act. You would expect that this type of disciplinary action would be reserved for heinous indiscretions.
Corporate bullies and cultural hypocrisy
Indiscretions such as sexual assault, violence, public drunkenness, drug-taking, explicit videos, bestiality pics, hallways defecation and group sex. As Chris Kenny points out in The Australian, players have sullied every football code in this country with these ugly exploits and still have their careers and livelihoods intact.
Perplexed NRL great Brett Finch even exclaimed “We’ve let criminals back in”, when the Australian Rugby League Commission swiftly ruled out the possibility of Folau switching codes.
Players charged with domestic violence and sexual assault have been brought back into the code, yet a committed Christian speaking to the tenets of his faith is dumped.
‘Free, democratic societies are ones that criticise, not censor controversial opinions.’
If you’re bewildered at the hypocrisy and double standards of sports bosses, consider who is pulling their strings. The Wallabies’ major sponsor is rainbow flag flying corporate giant Qantas. Openly gay CEO Alan Joyce had no qualms turning our national carrier into a political lobbying vehicle for his own pet project – same sex marriage – a few years ago.
Joyce transformed our iconic flying kangaroo into a rainbow symbol, asked staff to wear a ring for marriage equality after banning them from wearing crosses or crucifixes, and personally donated $1 million to the Yes campaign. In 2016 he proudly boasted that if you were unhappy with corporates using their brands for political campaigning (specifically same sex marriage), you wouldn’t be able to bank or fly anywhere.
Joyce’s use of money and power wreak of coercion. But when held to account over intimidating employees into supporting same-sex marriage, Qantas suddenly became a bastion of free speech and pluralism.
“…we’ve always said we respect there are different views, including among the 30,000 people who work here,” a Qantas spokesperson told the Australian Financial Review during the 2017 plebiscite.
Really? The same corporation attempted to force Folau into submission last year when it threatened to pull the Wallabies’ sponsorship over a similar social media post. Where is the respect for Folau’s conscience and difference of opinion?
Not only has Qantas been exposed as a corporate bully, it has also been caught out for its selective outrage on gay rights. Qantas didn’t utter a word over Brunei’s introduction of the death penalty for homosexuals a couple of weeks ago. In fact, Qantas is an interline partner with the national carrier Royal Brunei Airlines, along with various Middle Eastern airlines whose home countries and supporting governments carry violent and fatal outcomes for homosexuals. Why isn’t Qantas taking a stand?
‘Not only has Qantas been exposed as a corporate bully, it has also been caught out for its selective outrage on gay rights.’
Restoring speech, protecting freedom
The high price paid by those who do not conform to the new view of human sex and sexuality paints a picture of the type of Australia we are creating for generations after us.
When the nation sees people like tennis legend Margaret Court threatened with losing her achievements and accomplishments, the ‘No mums’ abused and threatened during the plebiscite, Tony Abbott assaulted in the street, Christian family businesses like White wedding magazine forced to shut down and Coopers Brewery grovelling to appease LGBTIQ+ activists, it sends a strong message.
To answer the question I posed at the beginning of this article, what will be achieved by ending this young man’s career? The answer is fear and self-censorship. History tells us that long before formal censorship laws are enforced by governments, people actually muzzle themselves. They censor their speech and suppress their views for fear of retribution. That is how corporates like Qantas, and even whole nations, swallow up true diversity of opinion in group think. All it takes is a few high profile examples to create an environment of fear and people stop thinking and speaking for themselves.
‘History tells us that long before formal censorship laws are enforced by governments, people actually muzzle themselves.’
In Christian history, these examples are called martyrs. We need more of them for free speech in this nation. We are not going to get them from Canberra or Spring Street – many of our political leaders have traded conviction for media popularity and political expediency. We won’t get them from academia – many of our universities are following the American trend of banning speakers and conservative views on campus.
Unfortunately, we might not even get them from high profile Christian leaders, many of whom have joined in on the criticism of Folau. Last week we got one from the footy field; and not even $4 million a year and the fame that comes with being one of Australia’s brightest athletes can tempt this man into backing down. Even if you don’t share Folau’s faith or his views, you should defend his right to express them, because this is the type of conviction it takes to restore freedom in Australia.
‘Not even $4 million a year and the fame that comes with being one of Australia’s brightest athletes can tempt this man into backing down.’