The unintentional extremist: Israel Folau, the Bible and Homophobia

Binoy Kampmark Roar Pro

By Binoy Kampmark, Binoy Kampmark is a Roar Pro

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    What limits opinions? Especially by sportspeople, who are often confused for geniuses of the mind and ambassadors of tact outside their very limited field of endeavour.

    (Yes, he can dribble a ball with sigh-inducing majesty, so he must know a thing or so about social and intellectual problems.)

    The obverse tends to be true. The sporting personality, presuming it exists, is often incapable of adjusting once off the field. Social media becomes tempting; ranting can become irresistible. Having viewpoints, certainly shoddy ones, can be a dangerous thing, and the atmosphere for policing such remarks as those made by Australian rugby union player Israel Folau, is very much heated.

    Israel Folau looks on

    (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

    While Gore Vidal never thought there was such a thing as the homosexual per se – there are only instances of behaviour across the spectrum, with preferences coming and going – the stage hands and even players have not always thought so.

    Locker room homoerotica is not to be described as it is, nor are all the ancillary pointers: the heaving, the sweat, the groping, the engagement, the shower encounter.

    The list of controversial statements on homosexuality in sport – as a pejorative, that is – is extensive. Much of this seems rooted in a fundamental misunderstanding similar to that found in successful armies.

    Some of the best fighting forces of history fought and thrived on the issue of man love rather than starved heterosexuality, the Spartans being most famous for it. Which brings us to certain collective sports which might be seen to be extensions of the same.

    From management to player, the homophobe remains keen and prevalent. Marcello Lippi, for a good stretch coach of the Italian football team, openly admitted in 2009 that openly gay players would never play for the Azzurri. Scandal and distraction would follow.

    The response from the Arcigay association asked of Lippi a fairly sensible question: “Why, dear Lippi, couldn’t footballers openly experience gay love when they show their flirts with every type of showgirl in front of every TV camera?”

    Players have also been rather happy to shoot from the hip (and mouth) on that score. The former Miami Heat guard Tim Hardaway was particularly full on the subject. “You know,” he exclaimed on Miami radio in February 2007, “I hate gay people, so I let it be known. I don’t like gay people and I don’t like to be around gay people.” School book definitions had been mastered: “I am homophobic. I don’t like it. It shouldn’t be in the world or in the United States.”

    Israel Folau is but another sprinkling in the annals of dogma. His response to a question submitted by an Instagram user about what that not-so-good deity had in mind for gay people was tart. “HELL… Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.” Pressure followed; the squalls gathered, and still, after some days, Folau held firm. As has Rugby Australia.

    The Australian context was given further spice on the subject of religious freedom, a term often as incoherent as the religious advocates themselves. But this did not involve cake and gay couples; this was a matter of fiery hell and imminent doom predicted by a self-confessed zealot, albeit it on social media.

    It’s hardly the god bothering that matters so much as the people bothering in the name of god, or some other conjured up fantasy that lodges itself in prejudice. But was this sports figure, hardly nimble in mind, allowed to express it?

    Israel Folau

    (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

    Folau made an attempt to supply context in Players Voice, flaunting his sense of erring by claiming he was “a sinner too”. It would hardly have mattered to his detractors, but here was a man confessing to the literal and the fundamental, a foot soldier who, given a chance, might well slay for the unelected Sky God.

    “My response to the question is that to believe God’s plan is for all sinners, according to my understanding of my Bible teachings specifically 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10.”

    The passage itself oozes the contentment held by the righteous, the idea of who will inherit the Kingdom of God like some over prized bit of real estate. “Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor the drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherent the kingdom of God.”

    As with all followers of celestial tyrannies, Folau felt he was doing good, providing appropriate counsel to a misguided wanderer. “I do not know the person who asked the question, but that did not matter. I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart.” The Bible was the “truth”. And so, the coda for perfect, corpse sowing extremism is laid bare.

    Israel Folau Australia Wallabies Rugby Union 2016

    Israel Folau. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    There were some who thought that the rugby figure had simply ballsed up the whole issue of god and the good word, though it came from those churchmen uncomfortable with the evangelised knock-off version of the Bible. Folau’s critics resorted to visions of catastrophe – for the living.

    Albury-based Archdeacon Peter Macleod-Miller was not one who felt a religious dispensation applied. “It becomes an engine for refugees within our own community… to allow this sort of thing to happen is grossly irresponsible and so corrupt.”

    The issue with Folau is even less the issue of the literalists and the agnostic symbolists as to whether his Bible-based homophobia impairs his performance. Focusing on the task at hand, the sport can be played as long as the collective spirit remains. But then comes the issue of business, something Folau was attuned to.

    In meeting with Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and Waratahs general manager Andrew Hore, he acknowledged that both “have to run things in a way that appeals broadly to their executive, fans and sponsors, as well as its players and staff. It is a business.” That said, his beliefs would not be tradeable. He would only play as a dogmatic spear carrier of faith.

    Fellow players not willing to take to the field with him, be they opponents or from the same team, might suggest possible impediments. But as homosexuality remains the boxed and the unspoken in a range of homoerotic sporting activities (done and not described), Folau might well struggle to find a safe shower.

    Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmarkatgmail.com

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    The Crowd Says (69)

    • Roar Guru

      April 19th 2018 @ 3:23am
      Corne Van Vuuren said | April 19th 2018 @ 3:23am | ! Report

      I think this issue has been discussed from enough angles already.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 3:42am
        Ozinsa said | April 19th 2018 @ 3:42am | ! Report

        I so hope you’re right BB. I have been tempted to jump in a number of times as I feel like I’ve got an opinion but find that I don’t care enough to join what is a multitude of different clubs, all of whom really do care

      • April 19th 2018 @ 4:44am
        Cuw said | April 19th 2018 @ 4:44am | ! Report

        and a couple of scrum halves have got in the action 🙂

        meanwhile the NZ netballers got hammered at CG

      • April 19th 2018 @ 4:51am
        John Templeton said | April 19th 2018 @ 4:51am | ! Report

        Apparently, not until everyone agrees with one particular angle.

        • Roar Guru

          April 19th 2018 @ 6:28am
          Mick Gold Coast QLD said | April 19th 2018 @ 6:28am | ! Report

          Oh boy, ain’t that the truth!

          • April 19th 2018 @ 8:12am
            rebel said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:12am | ! Report

            It appears that way.

          • April 19th 2018 @ 12:28pm
            High Tackle said | April 19th 2018 @ 12:28pm | ! Report

            “everyone is entitled to their own opinion”

            Well imo they are not.
            If somebody has an opinion that is damaging and dangerous, that needs to be addressed.

            People act as if we are all allowed to believe what we want.

            No, we are not.

            All non-inclusive, racist, homophobic and destructive attitudes, thoughts, acts and beliefs need to be countered, not met with appeasement as if one is entitled to think what they want no matter how negative and hurtful that action may be.

            • Roar Guru

              April 19th 2018 @ 1:04pm
              stillmissit said | April 19th 2018 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

              HT so opinions and statements of faith are not allowed in your world?. I have read his statement and I am wondering where all the consideration and understanding of others feelings, that people are shouting about is, when Folau’s statement is well known by any Christian who has read the bible.

              Now what I do not understand is that uglier comments, regarding homosexuals, are made every day by people, particularly of the Muslim faith, that are far worse than his statement, yet nothing is said.

              It is easy to attack his beliefs but how much better a human being are you?

              BTW I am not a Christian nor believe in any organised religion, yet I think Christianity is a better system to live by than being driven by your ego with no restaraints at all. Going on witch hunts over whatever idea you have today is a total anathema to freedom of speech that our forefathers fought and died for.

              • April 19th 2018 @ 5:30pm
                Ruckin Oaf said | April 19th 2018 @ 5:30pm | ! Report

                “……………when Folau’s statement is well known by any Christian who has read the bible………….”

                Nope. That’s just your assumption.

              • Roar Guru

                April 20th 2018 @ 7:25am
                stillmissit said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

                Nope, that’s just your assumption about my assumption!

              • April 21st 2018 @ 4:06pm
                High Tackle said | April 21st 2018 @ 4:06pm | ! Report

                Are expressions of faith allowed in my world you say?
                Yes, I never said they were not.
                What I said was that you can’t think and say what you want and declare that you are entitled to your opinion without it being challenged. Faith or no faith, THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE.

                We tend to, and people expect us to, tip toe around subjects such as this because religious belief is claimed. The old “it’s my faith” card needs to go and rightfully so.
                I suggest that if you think homophobia is a view you, Izzy or anyone is entitled to without challenge then I posit you need to rethink.
                I could not care less that somebody claims exemption from critical analysis because of their faith. The idea is offensive in itself.

                So in conclusion….
                You or anyone can not just say and think what you or they want, hiding behind religion as if your alignment with one of thousands of faiths insulates you from our outrage at the damage caused by such beliefs.

                Imagine what a young gay man or woman feels when a sporting hero says things like this.
                Maybe their own family condems them unknowingly and then they turn on the TV and hear Izzy saying they’re going to hell.
                The next day they’re at school and they hear classmates taunting each other with homophobic slurs or describing something bad as being “gay”.
                How awful, how wrong.

                No, you are not entitled to say and think what you like imo.
                If anyone thinks in a homophobic way it is our duty to voice condemnation of such thoughts and beliefs as it our duty to voice condemnation of any our descriminatory beliefs, like racism for example.

            • April 19th 2018 @ 2:56pm
              Redsfan1 said | April 19th 2018 @ 2:56pm | ! Report

              What’s your end game Taylorman? Folau gives up his religion? Is punished not really locked out of rugby? If your so outraged why don’t you fly to Saudi Arabia and say the same comments against the Saudis?

              • April 21st 2018 @ 4:41pm
                High Tackle said | April 21st 2018 @ 4:41pm | ! Report

                This makes no sense.

            • Roar Guru

              April 19th 2018 @ 3:16pm
              Ralph said | April 19th 2018 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

              “an opinion that is damaging and dangerous”

              And who do you propose will be the judge of that?

              • Roar Guru

                April 19th 2018 @ 6:32pm
                SandBox said | April 19th 2018 @ 6:32pm | ! Report

                Ralph, there are benchmarks for where freedom of speech ends. The most common one I hear is yelling “fire” in a crowded cinema, when there is no fire. Hate speech, inciting others to persecute gays in anyway, is also not freedom of speech

                Agree with the author on this. However, it could be argued that Folau was entrapped into his reply by an internet troll

                His limited intellectual capacity, plus a need to be honest, should not cause surprise with his reply. that he clings to nonsense written and most likely invented in Nicaea well after what probably didn’t even happen. This, along with doubts about translations, and the obvious contradictions. Along with a complete lack of anything that stands up to the scientific method.

                These things need to be pointed out to him. His poorly constructed position needs to be refuted. People saying “I’m offended” just makes us weak

              • Roar Guru

                April 20th 2018 @ 7:38am
                stillmissit said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:38am | ! Report

                Sandbox, amazingly arrogant of you to state that you know a bunch of things about Folau including his IQ!

                Then you have this cracker “inciting others to persecute gays in any way, is also not freedom of speech”. Yet you openly support others for persecuting Folau!

                IF you think for yourself (which seems doubtful) , that Folau will come out of this without any impacts from your persecution, then look to the Me2 campaign and the damage that has done or check out how well Tiger Woods has been going since the attacks on him 5 years ago. How about the Aboriginals Only computer room in Qld? This rubbish just rolls on and on – virtue signalling and assumptions that you are smarter and more in touch with your feelings, makes me want to vomit!

                You have no idea about freedom of speech. You just have the version that universities and other left leaners have given you..

              • April 20th 2018 @ 1:58pm
                soapit said | April 20th 2018 @ 1:58pm | ! Report

                difficult to judge in grey areas ralph but this isnt one. its easily demonstrated how it is damaging and dangerous

            • Roar Guru

              April 20th 2018 @ 7:50am
              stillmissit said | April 20th 2018 @ 7:50am | ! Report

              HT – You will have to front the Virtue Signalling Police. You stated their end goal when you have no authority to do so!

              “People act as if we are all allowed to believe what we want.

              No, we are not.”

              I hope you survive to post about rugby in the future……

              • April 21st 2018 @ 4:20pm
                High Tackle said | April 21st 2018 @ 4:20pm | ! Report

                Still, do you suggest I can speak and think racist and/or violent themes without it being questioned condemned.

                We have NEVER been able to think whatever we want without it being questioned condemned and thank…god for that.

                The idea we can think and say whatever we want has always been false and to suggest religious belief gives us a right to do so is absurd.

                It’s true, legally I could say that I think a particular race is this or that but you have every right to voice outrage at that and condemn such thinking even if I tell you my faith allows me to think that way.

                But hey, let’s pretend there is no right and wrong.
                Let’s allow descriminatory thoughts and speaches if it says that in a book that somebody has faith in.

                No thanks.
                I will do my best to stop people from thinking that way.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 5:21am
        Taylorman said | April 19th 2018 @ 5:21am | ! Report

        Itll go on until he repents BB, this is somewhat of a crossroads between ones right to free speech and the phenomena that is social media. Now players are coming out on it and seeing it for what it is. Everyones being consistent, including Folau, in using their individual right to fee speech. Social media just provides the medium to more people than ever inthe past to do so. And fair enough too. It is what it is.

        • April 19th 2018 @ 5:43am
          Cuw said | April 19th 2018 @ 5:43am | ! Report

          i doubt he will be in the right mind to play.

          saw it with Kaino and Smith ( and even Savea ). off field things in ur mind – just becomes a big burden.

          • April 19th 2018 @ 12:04pm
            Taylorman said | April 19th 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

            Yes mentioned that when all this started. His on field game just may suffer, especially when you have comments like Brad Webers who isn’t a fan of playing ‘people with those views’.

            He just doesn’t need it.

            • April 19th 2018 @ 4:00pm
              Cuw said | April 19th 2018 @ 4:00pm | ! Report

              and i wonder how the crowds will react ?

              will he be public enemy number 2 – now that QC is no longer playing?

              and what will Nigel Owens say to Folau ?

              • April 19th 2018 @ 8:26pm
                Fionn said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:26pm | ! Report

                Nigel Owens is a true professional. I don’t think he would say anything, or it would impact his refereeing.

              • April 19th 2018 @ 9:40pm
                Cuw said | April 19th 2018 @ 9:40pm | ! Report

                @ Fionn

                i said that in jest .. 😛

        • April 19th 2018 @ 10:11am
          rebel said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          Some players are also starting to come out in support of Issy. This has the potential to get a bit personal on the field.

          • Roar Rookie

            April 19th 2018 @ 10:42am
            piru said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

            I hadn’t seen that Rebel, was that today?

            • April 19th 2018 @ 12:22pm
              rebel said | April 19th 2018 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

              Apparently Alan Alaalatoa has said something about looking up to Issy as a Christian and the values he holds. There was no specific referencing of the Hell comment though.

            • April 19th 2018 @ 12:57pm
              rebel said | April 19th 2018 @ 12:57pm | ! Report

              Also I heard on one sports programme that there a few league players in support, off the record at this stage. It has the potential to blow up which is why I believe considered conversations are better than finger pointing and name calling, from both sides.

          • April 19th 2018 @ 10:51am
            Joe B said | April 19th 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            Will be interesting to see how the tahs perform, and how they are received by the crowds… I hope they choke on a big one.
            Got my tickets for Western Force v Fiji !
            Woohoo!

      • April 19th 2018 @ 12:29pm
        Joseph said | April 19th 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

        Go Issy.. Im with you all the way boy

      • April 20th 2018 @ 4:09pm
        KF said | April 20th 2018 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

        This makes me feel that you do not believe that I am entitled on my opinion on this matter if I want to share it with the rest of the world.

    • April 19th 2018 @ 6:08am
      Titoo said | April 19th 2018 @ 6:08am | ! Report

      Shows how false religion is…

      • Roar Guru

        April 19th 2018 @ 1:09pm
        stillmissit said | April 19th 2018 @ 1:09pm | ! Report

        Religion is not false and is not true, but it is far better than wandering around this world thinking there is no one greater than yourself!

    • April 19th 2018 @ 6:57am
      Reverse Wheel said | April 19th 2018 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      For the love of god, please stop. This has been done to death. There’s nothing new to say. Please move on.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 8:53am
        JJJ said | April 19th 2018 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        No, there’s more advertising dollars to be wrung out of this hot little topic. Unlike Folau, The Roar and RA are governed by money. Stand by for more freedom of speech articles on this sports website.

        • April 19th 2018 @ 6:39pm
          Malo said | April 19th 2018 @ 6:39pm | ! Report

          This is RAs idea of great & cheap marketing.

        • April 19th 2018 @ 9:06pm
          Money? said | April 19th 2018 @ 9:06pm | ! Report

          Folau? Chased money from league to afl to union! Swapped churches so he did not have to do his 2 years Service. Not about money! Please. Rich man, eye of the needle? He will be there to greet all the hell bound. Just a typical poorly educated, brainwashed christian – selective about which [arts pf the fictional bible he quotes!

    • April 19th 2018 @ 7:09am
      Cynical Play said | April 19th 2018 @ 7:09am | ! Report

      Good article. Free speech. Author can have an opinion right?

      Plenty on the Roar don’t want to hear it and I can understand that. Rugby used to be my escape from the daily politics and religion pushers. Folau opened the box and his manager seems to think it will be alright.

    • April 19th 2018 @ 7:30am
      In brief said | April 19th 2018 @ 7:30am | ! Report

      Author misses the point. Rugby is not a homophobic sport and neither is Folau. My pet hate is religious leaders re-interpreting the scriptures to meet the latest social trends. This is dishonest and a obvious attempt at populism. By definition religion is extreme – there is one way or the high way – you don’t get to pick and choose.

      • April 19th 2018 @ 11:05am
        The Sheriff said | April 19th 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

        Shame Izzy has picked a version of “God’s” way. It diminishes him and the game we all love.

        • April 19th 2018 @ 4:16pm
          In Brief said | April 19th 2018 @ 4:16pm | ! Report

          Your ignorance is underwhelming

    • April 19th 2018 @ 7:33am
      nowaered said | April 19th 2018 @ 7:33am | ! Report

      well, who would have thought – a non religious academic coming into the fray with his own set of values which seem to be very different to those of many sports people.
      you are entitled to your opinion, however, I believe, in this case, it is simply a matter of stroking your own ego.
      Let it go!

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