A guest post by Jeremy Dawson:
In defence of Israel Folau (kind of)
The ongoing assault on Israel Folau has reached absurd levels. Keep in mind that the comment that triggered this fury occurred on 3 April – 16 days ago. Yet the media continue to pimp for new voices to condemn him.
The question that needs to be asked is why? Why has the media reaction been so extreme in the case of Folau that they keep trying to find new ways to feed the story more than two weeks later? Anthony Mundine, earlier this year, made a comment where he said the only way to solve the problem of homosexuality was capital punishment. That story fizzled within a few days.
One guy says gay people should be killed. Another says it his belief that gay people will go to hell unless they repent their sins and choose God. It isn’t hard to spot which statement should cause the greater offence. It also isn’t hard to see what the difference is between Folau and Mundine – to spell it out, one is Christian, the other is Muslim.
What troubles me in particular about the Folau case is the willingness of commentators to throw around terms such as bigot, homophobe and hate speech. Except Folau is not a bigot, nor a homophobe. And neither is saying sinners go to Hell hate speech. I am not going to defend his choice of words in his initial response to an obvious social media troll. If he changed just two words he would have got his message across in a more positive fashion. It would then have read: “Heaven… If they repent their sins and turn to God.” Because that is the truth – reaching heaven is no different whether you’re gay or straight. It is a choice to give your life to God, and each individual is accountable for themselves.
The article Folau penned to explain himself is far more articulate and deserves to be respected. You can disagree with his biblical interpretation, but it is clear there was no malice, no hate, intended. He wants to speak the truth, as he believes it. As a Christian, I shook my head when I saw the words Folau chose. I agree that how he initially responded had the potential to cause harm to people struggling with their sexuality. The words you choose do matter. But I’m not going to vilify him for failing to think that part through, and ultimately I commend him for standing strong in his faith as everyone piles on the self-righteous bandwagon.
One of the problems society has long suffered from is grandstanding about the flaws they see in everyone else, because it allows them to ignore their own. How many of these rugby players who are suddenly speaking out really think they can take the moral high ground on anything. If Folau’s social media post disgusts them so much that they don’t want to even be on the same field as him, then how can they take the field with teammates who abuse strippers or cheat on their wives or partners. And then you have the media – an industry well-known (particularly in Auckland) for being partial to snorting cocaine despite the thousands of people who are murdered each year just so they can get high. Or maybe selective morality sits well with them.
It’s time the media put a stop to their campaign. As the Bible says, let he who is without sin cast the first stone. That is not to say that Folau should not be challenged on the impact his words have, he should and he has. Faith is a journey, and he is learning. But the relentless media campaign has been over the top and is starting to smell more like an excuse to run an attack on Christianity in general. It’s always fun to have a crack at Christians, after all. We just turn the other cheek.
Jeremy makes very valid points about the double standards between what Folau said, and what Mundine said. I recall a former Labour MP who said that the Koran was correct to recommend gays in certain circumstances be stoned to death. His words attracted far far far less attention that what Folau said.
Having said that, I think Folau is an idiot for his choice of words. If he needs some assistance on how to speak about homosexuality from a Christian perspective without being an offensive ass, he should try following Pope Francis.
And Kim Baker Wilson has written a horrific and brave account of his brain injury after being the victim of a homophobic attack.
Christian scripture also has pre-marital sex as a sin. Does Folau go around saying everyone who has had pre-marital sex is going to hell? If so, I doubt any of his rugby colleagues will be safe!
So Folau’s words do deserve criticism, but the 16 days of almost non stop condemnation is a double standard.