So Israel Folau has not been sanctioned by the Australian Rugby Union for his tweet about those unrepentantly practicing homosexual behaviour ending up in hell.
It’s been a merry dance for all concerned. And Folau has managed – just – to stay ahead of the pack.
Following a meeting with the ARU it was stressed to Folau that he needs to temper his approach to such matters. He said he will consider it.
I’m with Michael Jensen, who was quoted at length in Eternity magazine today:
“In some respects, he wasn’t offensive enough!” Jensen said today after Folau’s meeting today with Rugby Australia and the NSW Waratahs.
“It’s unfortunate that he singled out one part of the community. He shouldn’t have. Gay people are not singled out by the judgment of God. They are not the only people who need to repent; we all do. People of whatever orientation are in need of the grace and mercy of God.”
That’s the guts of it. The gospel offends everybody until they repent. Perhaps Folau needs to be drilled in the art of subversive responses in this social media age. However he was asked about the issue specifically and he answered it specifically.
At least it reminds us that for all the years the secular world whined about how much Christians focussed on sex, sex is actually the focus of the secular world. The porn addiction of our culture would tell us that. Deep personal autonomy and the right to choose who you have sex with, or even what sex you choose to be are fundamental rights in our Sexular Age.
But it’s interesting that religious freedom rights are not. Or at least they are not quoted as such by the Australian Rugby Union, which stated:
‘‘Folau’s personal beliefs do not reflect the views of Rugby Australia … Rugby supports all forms of inclusion, whether it’s sexuality, race, or gender, which is set out in our Inclusion Policy (2014).”
More pointedly the ARU will support Folau as a heterosexual Polynesian man, because that’s what public about him, but his deeply held religious beliefs? Well, they’re personal. Private views that are opinions, just like all religion is private opinion as opposed to public fact.
Because that is what this is about. Folau hold views privately that the ARU does not agree with. It has a public stand about the secular facts of sexuality that precludes those private religious views being expressed, upon pain of sanction.
And of course they are free to sanction him. That’s their call. They are a private organisation that is free to do what it wishes to do in this area. Just as QANTAS is. Both are powerful, non-government organisations that want to present a view of the world, and will use those within their employ to further their own causes.
When I last looked those causes were, respectively, winning rugby matches and flying passengers safely from one destination to another.
But we no longer see big corporations like that. We see them as social campaigners, shapers of culture, and reflectors of an ideal culture. Big corporations and sporting bodies have as much, if not more, pulling power that governments. And they’re more than happy to beat their chests and order people to tow themselves into line or be towed in.
Which, ironically, has caused something of a backlash. Even that most progressive of organs, the Sydney Morning Herald, while at great pains to lash Folau for being such a Neanderthal, is squeamish about the growing bullying tactics of groups like QANTAS its permanently grinning CEO Alan Joyce.
You don’t get to be CEO of any major organisation, regardless of your sexuality, without having a level of bullying, slightly narcissistic personality to you. Even the liberal media is getting nervous about pitting the rich powerful white CEO against the lonesome athletic with the ethnic background.
In other words, look out for the pendulum swing. There’s certainly a section of the Australian populace who are thinking “Look Joyce, you got what you wanted last year, but we don’t like over-reach.”
The ARU’s full statement contains some encouraging words, or at least some idealistic hopes:
“This is a difficult issue when you think you are trying to combine religious beliefs, freedom of speech and inclusion, respect and the use of social media,” Castle said.
“We’re proud of the fact that he’s a strong believer and he’s prepared to stand up for what he believes in.
“We want athletes in our code who are prepared to do that and that’s really important.
“But at the same time, Rugby Australia’s got a policy and position of inclusion and using social media with respect.
It’s the “But at the same time” that’s going to be the bind. The likes of the ARU has gone out hard on social policies and now is having to build the freedom of speech boat well after it has sailed. Increasingly this tension between competing interests and values is going to cause no end of sleepless nights.
Joyce and the ARU have made big statements that their organisations values are not being reflected by Folau’s statements. But Australians have a healthy mistrust of the high and mighty determining what we should believe. They might just might fumble the ball on this one, and before you know it Folau will be over the line.