Honouring Israel Folau

This blog is, mostly, about things to do with economics and public policy.   The stepping-off point was my background in monetary policy, financial markets, and financial regulatory issues over the course of a long career at the Reserve Bank, together with something I had come to care rather more about, the decades-long underperformance of the New Zealand economy and the associated policy failures.  I range more widely these days, but always try to anchor (dragging as the anchor may be) more or less close to policy and associated analytical issues,  with a heavy weight on New Zealand issues and perspectives.

The blog is also, these days, the forum through which the most people encounter me.   And thus it represents something of who I am.  When I set up the blog, I took the opportunity to note quietly (on the About Michael Reddell page) that my first loyalty was to God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, and linked to another low-key, intermittently updated, blog I run in which I sometimes offer thoughts on matters ecclesiastical, the occasional interface with policy, the inspiration I take from great hymns and poems etc.  I didn’t, and don’t, want to make a great fuss about it, and the statement was in part a check on myself: the standard I try to live by in conducting the blog is a Christian one –  how I interact with people, when I do (and don’t) write and so on.  Better to make those standards explicit, and open myself to accountability if (when) I fall short.

I don’t suppose my faith ever had any impact on what OCR I recommended, or much impact on what I thought the inflation target should be (although the Bible is strong on honest weights and measures).   I don’t suppose those holding the dominant alternative faith (some sort of secular Enlightenment worldview) thought their beliefs made much difference to their views on such technical matters either.   But all of us, in the way we interact with others, the choices we make, the things we say no to, are influenced and shaped by our presupposition, beliefs, and cultures, theistic or otherwise.    There were libertarians and libertines in the course of my working life.  And there were serious and orthodox Christians.

So why this post?  It is about Israel Folau and what his treatment this week –  partly at the hands of the ARU, but more so that by media, politicians etc –  says about the room for orthodox Christian belief in public in modern day New Zealand and Australia (the situation seems similar in the UK and Canada, if more mixed in the United States).

There are things where I disagree with what I know of Israel Folau’s reported views.  There was a story out of Australia yesterday about some remarks he’d made recently in a sermon.

Celebrating Christmas and Easter is wrong, Israel Folau told parishioners at his church last month.

So too is wetting babies’ heads during Christenings.

For some time, the Wallabies superstar has been preaching during Sunday worship.

Folau, once purely a devout follower, has in the past 18 months developed into a church leader with strong opinions on Christianity.

He repeatedly attacks the Catholic Church and Christians who do not devoutly read the bible.

Giving the most comprehensive insight into Folau’s mindset and beliefs, a video obtained by The Daily Telegraph shows one of the world’s most famous rugby players attacking the “man-made” traditions of the two holiest periods in the Christian calendar.

“Christmas and Easter, that’s man-made,” Folau tells worshippers.

I don’t happen to share his interpretation on most of those points (the Bible, however, remains central to Christian faith, and should be read by those who follow Christ).  But I understand the case he is making.  There are whole Christian denominations that don’t approve of, or practice, infant baptism (“wetting babies’ heads during Christenings”) –  it was the tradition within which I was raised. In our part of the world, the denominations still holding their own (or growing) tend to be those which eschew infant baptism.

What of Christmas and Easter?   There is a perfectly respectable argument, grounded in Scripture, for the case Folau is making –  if I never quite shared it, I was once quite sympathetic towards it.   The celebration of Christmas and Easter (and Pentecost, the third great Christian festival) was banned during the Commonwealth period in 17th century England, and banned or simply not practised in a number of the US colonies long after that. Even today, there are plenty of Protestant churches –  perhaps especially in the US –  that would not have special Good Friday or Christmas services.   I recall once commenting to my mother about how our Baptist churches seemed not to do Good Friday well, and she responded by pointing out that when she was young her –  large established – Christchurch Baptist church didn’t have Good Friday services at all.

Folau’s views on these issues might seem odd to some (many).  But there is a long history of serious people with similar views.  People who take the Bible seriously, as their authority in faith and conduct.

But, of course, that story was really only a bit of colour to the Folau story, perhaps designed to feed some sense of Folau as a nutter.  No one would care –  Prime Ministers on two sides of the Tasman wouldn’t be commenting –  if a prominent rugby player had simply been heard declaring that he didn’t think Easter should be celebrated.  Probably neither do most atheists, and all Muslims.  As it happens, Good Friday isn’t even a public holiday in the (somewhat more Christian) United States.   Even within the Christian tradition, most –  I don’t know about Folau –  would treat most of this subset of issues as second order in nature.

No, what really bothered those who have been up in arms this week (and it carries through to editorials this morning in both our main newspapers) is that a top rugby player takes the essentials of his Christian faith seriously, and isn’t afraid of stating those beliefs –  not, it seems, in the middle of game of rugby, or even in team practices (where people couldn’t avoid him), but in church and on social media.

Those essentials?   Two, on my reading.  The first, the reality of sin, which puts on uncrossable barrier between God and man (see the story of the expulsion of the Garden of Eden for how the Jews captured this belief).  And yet God doesn’t give up on us.  Christians proclaim –  and (most) will celebrate specially next Sunday – that in the death and resurrection of Jesus God took the initiative and opened up the way to reconciliation.  Those who would avail themselves of this offer –  or call –  do so in repentance and humility, resolving to turn aside from their sin and, with the aid of God’s Holy Spirit, to seek to put on holiness.  Intent matters in this story, for in this life none of us succeed in putting off sin completely (indeed, Martin Luther once argued that the most holy people remained most conscious of how far short of God’s standard they still fell).

And the second, is what evangelical Christians term the Great Commission – the last words of Jesus on earth, at least as recorded in the gospel of Matthew.   Go, preach the gospel to all nations, make disciples, and teach them to obey. (“Obey” isn’t a popular word in our society.) From a Christian perspective, it is a glorious truth –  good news of salvation open to all human beings, a salvation that has implications for how we should live –  and a serious responsibility.

The responsibility stems, in part, from a belief –  firmly grounded in the Bible (even if it isn’t necessarily the only possible interpretation) – that continued rejection of the free offer of salvation, available to all who repent and will to turn from their sins, is eternal separation from God, often characterised (by orthodox creeds and believers) as Hell.  No serious believer could (or should) wish that fate on anyone –  not Brenton Tarrant, Adolf Hitler, Xi Jinping, nor our neighbours and friends.

Here, I’m not asking you to believe the Christian message –  the gospel, or good news – but simply trying to describe the world view of an orthodox Christian.  I don’t speak for Israel Folau, but they are my own views, and (from what I’ve read and heard) seem to be something like his.    He was an adult convert to Christianity –  raised Mormon apparently –  and I rejoice in his apparent zeal for the faith, and in his witness.

This was the Instagram post that has excited the mob this week

folau 2.png

That is the essence of the gospel –  sin abounds, and all of us fall short, and yet…..to all who repent, who turn away from sin, there is the offer of Christ’s sacrificial love and restoration.  He even puts a Scripture text alongside the simplified graphic.

It isn’t as if the text stands in isolation from the rest of the Bible.

Here, at a very general level, is St Paul in the books of Romans

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here, Paul writing (inspired by God, so the church has traditionally taught) to the church in Corinth

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[a] 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Or from the book of Revelation

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

I could go on.  These aren’t exhaustive lists: any unrepented sin that separates human from God.   It is New Testament teaching and Old –  read in Exodus or Deuteronomy how fearfully the people of Israel are recorded as receiving what we now know as the Ten Commandment.  It has been the consistent teaching of the church for the best part of 2000 years, and in the Jewish teaching and tradition before that.

(As a reminder, Christianity has been the religion that predominated in the West –  and western offshoot societies (including modern New Zealand) – for 1500+ years.  That doesn’t make it true, of course, but it played a key formative role in the societies that formed us.)

Of course, no one in the public domain was much bothered about Folau highlighting that adultery, theft, and lies fall short of God’s standard.   Even in today’s society –  degenerate as it is in many respects –  most people aren’t going to defend those sorts of acts (or tar anyone who suggests that such behaviour isn’t acceptable).   All the fuss was about Folau’s report of the biblical – and longstanding Christian and Jewish (and Muslim for that matter) –  view on homosexual practice. It is sinful –  wrong.  Note that in Folau’s list, homosexual practice isn’t singled out –  it comes between drunkenness and adultery, together with lies, sex outside marriage, theft and idolatry.   The Bible takes a dim view of homosexual acts and of sexual sin more generally –  reflecting, no doubt, the fundamental importance of sex in any society, and perhaps especially one teaching that men and women are made, in the image of God, to complement each other – but you will read the New Testament in vain for any sense of it as uniquely wrong.  The sins I struggle with matter just as much in God’s sight –  or at least so the church has traditionally taught.

I’m well aware that there are plenty of liberal Christians who will claim that all this is irrelevant –  that they know better than Moses, Jesus, St Paul, or the church through 2000 years.  I know many of their arguments around translations, social context, and so on and so forth.  Many are in a hurry to keep up with the spirit of the age, whichever chaotic direction that spirit leads

But those points are irrelevant here.  It isn’t for the baying masses, the leader writers of newspapers, Prime Ministers, or heads of rugby bodies, to define Christian faith and teaching.   As Folau presumably believes, (and I certainly do) these are revealed truths and teachings, the same yesterday, today, and forever.  It is the truth we seek to live by (however inadequately).  It was, I’m pretty sure, the sort of truth held by Billy Graham when he attracted tens of thousands to his New Zealand rallies only a few decades ago.

If –  as most New Zealanders and a large proportion of Australians now claim to –  you don’t believe in the existence of God, let alone of eternal separation from God or Hell, it is hard to know why what Folau is saying should bother you.   You surely believe he is simply deluded and wrong, as he will discover (or rather not) when he dies.

That probably is the view of a fair number of people in New Zealand and Australia today.  But it isn’t the view of those holding the commanding heights –  MPs, leader writers, columnists, business leaders and so on –  who have demanded that it be stopped.  They simply cannot abide the thought that someone of any prominence should openly affirm that sin is sin, and that homosexual acts are among the things labelled as sin.

Here I’m not mainly interested in the Australian Rugby Union. I have a modicum of sympathy for their position, even if (as I noted in an earlier post elsewhere on these issues) the problem was partly one of their own making.   Rugby could just be rugby, but that’s not enough for today bosses.

My interest is more in what it says about our society – New Zealand and, it appears, Australia –  that no prominent person is free to express centuries-old Christian belief (views backed, rightly or wrongly, by the law of the land until only a few decades ago) when it trespasses on the taboos and sacred cows (“homosexuality good”) of today’s “liberal” elite.  And if no prominent person can –  and it is interesting to note that not a single church leader has been willing to stand up openly for Folau, and the Scriptures –  how will those less prominent be positioned.   Folau may lose a multi-million dollar contract, but he’ll already have earned much more than many ordinary working people make in their life.   But what of the ordinary employee of a bank or of one of those right-on government agencies.  It might not even be a personal social media account, or a speaking engagement at the local church.  It might be nothing more than a reluctance to participate in celebrations of what (in their belief, in the tradition of thousands of years) sinful acts.   The issue here isn’t someone proselytising across the counter of the bank, any more than Folau’s “offence” involved activity in the middle of a game, but a totalitarian disregard for any view –  no matter of how longstanding –  that doesn’t fall into line with today’s orthodoxy.

I don’t envisage writing any more than usual here about aspects of Christian faith –  perhaps the odd Christmas and Easter post, and the occasional somewhat relevant allusion – but these are my beliefs: theft, idolatry, lies, adultery, dishonouring one’s parents, covetousness, homosexual acts, dispossessing the poor are all (among the) sinful acts.   The just wages of sin is death, and yet the free gift offered in Christ, conditional only on penitence and a resolve to amend one’s way, is salvation.  I won’t celebrate what God has called sin (or simply keep quiet).     The message of the gospel is supposed to be uncomfortable, but akin to the surgeon’s knife that offers a path to something much better.

If all that makes you uncomfortable reading what I have to say about the OCR, bank capital, immigration, productivity, the PRC or whatever, so be it.  You can choose to stop doing so. That is a choice that only you can make, consistent with your own beliefs.  For me, I will try to prioritise Jesus, focused on the long (and faltering) obedience in the same direction that he called his disciples to.

There is a line around the Folau case of the sort “why couldn’t he just keep quiet, and save his views for home and church”.  That isn’t what disciples of Christ are called to.

(Nor, probably, should it characterise a free society. Having said that, I’m sceptical of process liberalism, and doubt that any society can really tolerate too much diversity for long.)

I do end up wondering how long a very senior unelected public figure, serving in a field close to the Prime Minister’s own portfolio, can last when that person serves as President of an organisation  –  a mission organisation I donate too, and used to be involved with – whose statement of belief includes this

God, in revealing himself, inspired the Holy Scriptures so that they are entirely trustworthy and have supreme authority in matters of doctrine, faith and conduct.

and next

We all were made for fellowship with God, but disobeyed him. So we all have become sinners, guilty in God’s sight, under his wrath, and alienated from him.

and goes on

  • Jesus Christ took the sin of the world on himself when he died on the cross as our representative and substitute. This is how God showed his love for us and provided the only way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to him.

  • Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead by God.

  • The Holy Spirit brings us to trust Christ and repent of our sins, lives in us, and develops our new life in Christ in the fellowship of the Church.

That would seem to be very close to what Israel Folau has been saying to anyone who chose to read his social media posts (or the now countless repeats in media here and abroad).  And called out for doing so by the Prime Minister.

I honour Israel Folau’s courage, and am inspired by his example.   Perhaps our government will go the path of attempting to make such words “hate speech” (as, whatever the intent, seems to been happening in the UK), or perhaps not, but it is speech –  from the Bible –  Christians are called to proclaim and to bear witness to.

Finally, words of Jesus

33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.

It is almost always easier just to go along, to accommodate, to fit in, to keep quiet –  even in an erstwhile “private life” – (and that would be the advice of many to Folau –  including perhaps many who want to see him play rugby, something I have little or no interest in) but that isn’t the call of Jesus to those who chose to follow him.

It was an unusual post.  Then again, tomorrow begins what (most) Christians mark as Holy Week.  I’ll be back to monetary policy –  some older history of our institutions –  on Monday.

58 thoughts on “Honouring Israel Folau

  1. Thanks, Michael for this piece. I was brought up in a very religious household and for most of my life have been an atheist but I absolutely support freedom of religion — which includes the freedom to publicly manifest those beliefs (unfortunately most of the public and the PM seem to think you can have religious beliefs but you should just keep them to yourself, which is a very truncated view of what freedom of religion means). Folau is a brave man and not one, as far as I can tell, who hates gays or anyone else.

    He is simply stating how he sees the world (and the afterlife he believes in) functions. He is in fact warning sinners out of love… it’s clearly not personal.

    I also believe in the right to mock religion in general but I respect people’s right to believe whatever they do. I think you’re brave too for being open about what you believe.

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  2. As an admitting heterosexual atheist of advanced years I can agree with just about all of your sentiments.
    However just one point concerns me.
    To me a sin requires a perpetrator and also a victim.
    So theft for example assumes a victim
    Homosexuality fails to meet the above threshold in many instances.
    Other than that I can see your philosophy and I can point to the fact that many atheists lead far more christian lives than many self proclaiming Christians.

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    • As a personal comment, I received my early education as the only non-Catholic in a Catholic primary school.I probably was already heading in my final direction as early as a 7 year old.

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  3. I have a 14yo and she has strong and articulate views, and forces me to articulate a framework for what I believe on these things.

    Yes, there are limits to what a person can publicly express in their personal capacity while being the public face of a mainstream organisation. The sentiments that you quoted from the “statement of belief” should not fall into the proscribed category. Whether carefully or not, they do not explicitly call out vulnerable minority groups and say that they are going to hell. So I don’t think that they are problematic, and shouldn’t be even if tweeted by the head of DPMC, for example.

    I think it is legitimate to describe as offensive statements that say that people are sinners and will burn in hell for what they are (as opposed to their conduct.) So saying publicly that someone will burn in hell for theft shouldn’t be offensive. For a public-facing person representing a main-stream organisation, in 2019, this has gone as far as also making it unacceptably offensive to say that hell awaits those who perform acts which are lawful and not regarded as proscribed by law or elite morality. There is probably wriggle room for condemning and calling out as sinful immoral conduct which is not illegal, provided that the immorality is justifiable according to the dominant secular belief system – so for example, a man in his 50s having sex with a vulnerable teenager.

    Why should be surprised and alarmed that in order to represent a mainstream organisation, one has to stay within the bounds of the the dominant elite belief system?

    As the PM has said, Israel’s post can be harmful, even though it isn’t (and shouldn’t be) hate speech in a legal sense.

    To sum up, I’ll quote Eddie Clark (@publicwrongs): ‘Last RT: the damage of Folau’s comments isn’t just the “you’re going to hell” bit, it’s the comparison to liars & drunkards; that by being who you are you’re the equivalent of those. Damaging as hell to gay kids. Not to mention how shitty it will make young queer Christians feel.’

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  4. There are places in society where being homosexual can get you physically attacked. A celebrity posting on social media may inspire such attacks. There are some really dumb and evil people out there who need little encouragement.

    Folau lists eight groups who are risking hell. Most of them are simply a matter of self control; I can choose not to drink to excess, commit adultery, lie, etc. However I cannot deny my atheism – well I can to other people but if a God who can read my heart exists, not to him. The term ‘homosexual’ now means a person who is sexually attracted to others of the same sex; it is inborn. No reasonable interpretation of the bible would have God punishing us for an inate attribute.

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    • “Folau lists eight groups who are risking hell. Most of them are simply a matter of self control; I can choose not to drink to excess, commit adultery, lie, etc. ”

      Bob, just a slight clarification on a point that I think has been under-emphasised in this debate. The evangelical message as I understand it is that even if you think you live a “good” life and feel you mostly don’t make it a practice to do any of the sins listed, you still risk this fate if you haven’t entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. (That was the point of His sacrifice – no one is able to attain salvation other than by faith in the One who became our spotless atoning sacrifice, such that we can be justified before God and receive His grace.)

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    • Homosexuals are not born Homosexual. There was an extensive study of identical twins spanning many years which showed that there were some cases a twin grew up and became homosexual and the other twin did not become homosexual. Now if we are to believe homosexuals are born that way ,then why did only one twin become homesexual given that they are geneticaly identical.

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  5. “Folau may lose a multi-million dollar contract, but he’ll already have earned much more than many ordinary working people make in their life.”

    So true. A reality that fundamental Christians would have no tolerance for. Wasn’t it Martin Luther who said that money was the most common idol on earth? And of course ‘idolaters’ are one of those he points out will go to hell.

    So for Israel, I’m sure that none of this fuss and the consequences of it will matter. Hopefully he’ll do something more humble and worthy with his life that serves the wider public for far less material reward. Like say, being a Prime Minister.

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  6. Hmmm, freedom of religious expression and freedom from discrimination based on sexual orientation/gender are always going to collide in a sticky icky ways at times… but overall best to let everyone say what they think at the end of the day as otherwise people feel frustrated and ignored. I don’t like the Islamic veiling of women but I tolerate others choosing it as long as it’s not imposed on me.

    When it starts impinging on the education of young girls we need a democratic debate and limits placed on it. When do parents religious rights start impinging on the individual rights of children? It’s all a mess.

    You are free to hold and express your belief and try to persuade others of your belief as long as it doesn’t impinge on anyone’s legal rights that are decided democratically.

    For what it’s worth, the homosexual parent couples I know are the most functional loving families I know. I find it very hard to see their bedroom behaviour as sinful because the have the same genitals. A just and loving God would see that.

    Religion in my opinion isn’t revealed truth. It’s stories people have made up to make sense of the world. I’m with Sam Harris/Hitchens/Dawkins. We can do better as a species cause religious dogma holds us back. Better to use philosophy and science and some nice meditation or yoga to relax us.

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  7. Another day, another witch hunt in this increasingly infantile country. The contrived, highly selective outrage of the media and their “celeb” friends has the putrid odour of hypocrisy about it. Folau was stating his religious beliefs. I understand he pointed to the hope of salvation through repentance. This is more than the Sultan of Brunei or I suspect your local mullah is offering. But the announcement of Sharia law penalties including stoning to death for homosexuals is apparently a matter of little consequence. Why, the Greens’ own resident expert on human rights, Ms Ghahraman, declined to criticize the Sultan and I have never heard her advocate for the human rights of the many who are tortured or hung each day in her birth country.

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  8. Michael, could you please explain who is harmed, and in what way, by a homosexual relationship? If you’re not able to point to someone who is harmed, then saying ‘homosexuality is wrong’ is no different to saying ‘ear piercing is wrong’ or ‘country music is rubbish’: they’re aesthetic judgments, not moral ones. These statements carry no moral weight if they cannot point to an individual harmed.

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      • Because Michael is placing moral weight upon them by characterising them as “wrong” (=immoral). He should really say “I don’t like homosexuality”, that would be more accurate.

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      • That defense reminds me of Stanley Milgram’s experiments: “The experimenter told me to, so I followed orders”. You have a choice over whether or not to accept the prohibition, and your choice is to accept.

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      • To the contrary, I make a clear and conscious choice to follow God, as revealed in Jesus. Do I know the answers to all my questions? No. But I choose, on balance, to follow and to defer to the revealed teaching and the wisdom of the church (flawed vessel as it is) over 2000 years.

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    • The harm can occur because of the homosexual act which is anal penetration by a penis.
      FYI:: human physiology makes it clear that the body was not designed to accommodate this activity. The rectum is significantly different from the vagina with regard to suitability for penetration by a penis. The vagina has natural lubricants and is supported by a network of muscles. It is composed of a mucus membrane with a multi-layer stratified squamous epithelium that allows it to endure friction without damage and to resist the immunological actions caused by semen and sperm. In comparison, the anus is a delicate mechanism of small muscles that comprise an “exit-only” passage. With repeated trauma, friction and stretching, the sphincter loses its tone and its ability to maintain a tight seal. Consequently, anal intercourse leads to leakage of fecal material that can easily become chronic.
      And harm may occur to one or both partners..

      The end result is that the fragility of the anus and rectum, along with the immunosuppressive effect of ejaculate, make anal-genital intercourse a most efficient manner of transmitting HIV and other infections. The list of diseases found with extraordinary frequency among male homosexual practitioners as a result of anal intercourse is alarming:

      Anal Cancer
      Chlamydia trachomatis
      Cryptosporidium
      Giardia lamblia
      Herpes simplex virus
      Human immunodeficiency virus
      Human papilloma virus
      Isospora belli
      Microsporidia
      Gonorrhea
      Viral hepatitis types B & C
      Syphilis7
      Please refer to medical research if you doubt the above.

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  9. These statements carry no moral weight if they cannot point to an individual harmed.
    ————————

    If these statements carry no moral weight (and I fully agree, they don’t) why is the person making these statements being penalised?

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  10. Yes I wrote about this as well.
    It is clear no people who criticised Folau read what he vsaid about ! corthinians 6 9-12.

    quite clearly Rugby Australia have not.

    He makes it very clear it is the act of homosexuality that is the sin. his list was as list of doing things.
    Those people w ho said he was condemning all homosexuals to hell clearly were ignorant

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  11. Thank you Michael for making an explicit stand in support of your Christian faith, and also for making a qualified stand in support of Israel Folau.

    All cultures and societies have sexual prohibitions. Today in the west, every sexual practice is permitted amongst consenting adults, with very few prohibitions – incest perhaps being the only one. This is a recent phenomena, and one that has arisen as the pull of religion has diminished in our culture.

    It has been suggested that consensual homosexual activity is a victimless crime, and from the perspective of a 21st century secular mind, that is a reasonable conclusion. However to understand why homosexual practice is proscribed by the God of Israel you have to understand two things. First God created us male and female and deemed that the only authorised sexual practice was between a man and a woman. Second, when God led Israel into the promised land he told them they were not to engage in the sexual practices of those nations he was displacing before them, or to worship their gods, because this would defile them. The list of these forbidden practices can be found in Leviticus 20.

    Therefore, for Jews, and subsequently Christians, confining sexual relationships to marriage, and that between a man and a woman, was a sign of obedience to God, and holiness before the Lord.

    Now rebels are free from obedience to God, and can pursue what ever sexual practice they choose, within the legal constraints of society. For Christians and Jews however, homosexual practice is disobedience, which is sinful, and sin is the very reason Christians believe Jesus endured the cross at calvary; to break its power in our lives, and to set us free. For Christians therefore, sinful behaviour has created a victim and it is Christ, who, absent our sin, his sacrificial death would not have been required.

    Now you may ask what kind of God demands a blood sacrifice for sinful human behaviour, but that’s because we don’t understand how holy God is, and how shameful and abhorrent is our rebellion in the face of his grace and mercy expressed towards us us every day.

    That’s probably enough theology for now, but hopefully it helps to answer the ‘victimless crime’ question, at least from a Christian perspective.

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  12. The bible is God’s revealed truth as creator of heaven and earth. Whether one accepts or rejects this truth, it does not change that this the truth . The bible enabled English speaking people to create a better system than any other peoples other than Israel . And instead today it is being and has been thrown away by allowing political correct debauched left wing people to force their views through the media, education and politics. Good for Falau and Michael for stating their thoughts. Although Michael you don’t like to allow factual statements on your blog about the evil of Islam.

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    • The last I heard China was publishing more copies of the Bible than any other country. My French relatives may object to the idea that England has a better system than France.
      If the Bible is God’s revealed truth then as per the teachings of the Church of Scotland you have to read it yourself with nobody to come between you and God. When you have difficulties you need a guide to the translation from the original Latin, Greek and Aramaic and that is the purpose of a Church of Scotland minister.

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  13. To all those asking who the victim would be in a homosexual act, the clear Biblical answer would be the participants themselves. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus talks about sins being issues of the heart, adultery being defined as lust, murder being defined as hate, etc. The primary ‘victim’ of lust is not the object of lust in most cases, but the person lusting, and the same is true with hate. The internal action of lust is corrupting before any external action is taken.

    This is an impossibly high standard to be sure, but that is part of the point. There is no earthly way to righteousness.

    Going back to homosexuality, even given that all participants are consenting and doesn’t lead to a degeneration of society, it still is people acting outside the will of God. Perhaps an impossibly high standard for a homosexual to aspire to, but not out of line with the other standards that the Bible sets forth in other areas.

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  14. I agree with the thrust of Michael’s arguments on the PC lynch mob, even if I disagree with most of what Folau says. But Folau should have been more careful in distinguishing between homosexuals going to hell for being homosexuals and those who commit homosexual acts- which presumably is his Christian message.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Ian,

    you are correct. Social media is not a great avenue to talk about biblical theology. He wrote an article on this and I found that quite reasonable. In it it is quite clear he is talking about homosexual sex not being a homosexual.

    I have it linked at my place for anyone interested.

    Like

  16. As a non-Christian I can say that what was most offensive about Folau’s post is specifically calling homosexuality a sin, and that gay people will go to hell.
    Now I know this is what the Bible says. So what? That doesn’t make it right. We today know that some people are gay. It isn’t a sin, its just a fact.
    Now, is it a surprise that pious men of two thousand years ago considered homesexuality a sin? Not at all! Because to them homosexuality was an aberrant behaviour, not the biological variation we know it is now.
    The thing is Jesus preached a kind of uber-tolerance (turn the other cheek). Is it therefore not hard to imagine that his disciples were less enlightened than He was, and so injected their own contemporary bias into the scriptures?
    That my take anyway. Does it mean that the Bible is faliable and not the perfect word of God. Sure. But we already know this. For example Deuteronomy 22: “she (a non-virgin bride) shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.”
    I hope Maria was a virgin on your wedding day Israel – otherwise you’re r being completely hypocritical.
    It’s not enough to say Christ changed the law in the new testament, because the same Bible says God was the same yesterday as today. Therefore a literal interpretation of the Bible says God considers it just to stone brides of they’re not virgins.
    This is important because gay youth are vulnerable and Israels message only compounds that. Why not preach love, understanding and tolerance, as your religions founder did?

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  17. Hmm. I don’t see your defense of Folau and your bigoted Christianity does any favours to your religion. Folau is welcome to his freedom of religion and freedom of expressions. But presumably that also extends to our Prime Minister, who acknowledges she does not have any responsibility for Folau but calls for people in positions of influence to use that responsibly?

    Jesus Christ seemed to be a exemplary human being, and some believe he was also an incarnation of God. Many have used his life to push their own flawed philosophies; not least the church that grew up after his time. I note none of the seeming evidence of God’s disapproval of homosexual acts seems to have been mentioned by Jesus himself (you quote scripture but none seems to be from the Gospels?)

    The bible as a whole is a troublesome guide for regulating our behaviour (I trust you don’t shave; Leviticus 19:27, or eat shellfish; Leviticus 11:10). A person with any intellectual credibility would at least acknowledge it is inconsistent, most people who follow it I think would also acknowledge it needs some interpretation. (By the way, can anyone explain how the bible is God’s revealed truth? Did Jesus write it? Was it delivered from God on stone tablets heralded by thunder, lightening and trumpets? Or did some people put it together?)

    I don’t believe the religious understandings at the time that the bible was put together is the last word in terms of human belief and development. Perhaps some Christians acknowledge this and would take the injunctions against homosexual acts as a product of their time rather than the eternal will of God. For me, an person who takes the bible as a literal guide is a sign of a person who either does not have a great deal of intellect, or a person who is wittingly (or unwittingly?) using the interpretability of the bible to push their own ideas/bliefs/morals.

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  18. In my almost 8 decades I have found many Christians are narrow in their views
    Narrow to the extent that they are quick to rubbish other Christians whose views are not the same. For me the bible is a fairy tale and people like Folau are nutters. His mind appears to be brainwashed and his utterances absurd.

    Like

    • It is certainly true that church disputes can be painful and acrimonious – presumably a reflection of the importance people place on things bearing (as they see it) on their eternal salvartion and God’s plan for the world.

      As the foolishness/nutters etc:

      The apostle Paul wrote centuries ago, “For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . . For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For indeed Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek for wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Geeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. . . . God as chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong . . .” (1 Corinthians 1:18, 21-25, 27).

      Christians walk an uneasy path: the mission is to spread the word, make disciples etc etc (to persuade), and yet we follow Jesus who was not ashamed to suffer death on a cross (v shameful in Jewish culture) as part of an extremely counter-cultural act/message of salvation.

      Liked by 1 person

  19. There’s something else going on with this; cultural values. We are supposed to be living in a “multicultural” society. The PM celebrates that but, apparently, can’t accept the uncomfortable reality of multiculturalism; all values are valid. There was quite a fuss during the last election regarding knowledge and acceptance of our values by immigrants. The proposition was widely derided by the left on the grounds we were multicultural, needed to be more accepting of others values etc. Apparently that doesn’t apply to themselves, turns out Jacinda Adern isn’t willing to tolerate diversity of values at all..
    Culture isn’t the superficial aspects like food or dance but, above all else, a value system. The various religious and cultural beliefs and practices were bound to collide with the sort of manufactured morality espoused by Jacinda and the “progressive” agenda. She can’t honestly speak of “our values” in a multicultural society, there’s no such thing as “our” anymore.
    The folk at the marae or Gloriaville or at the local mosque or church or even bikie gang represent a separate culture. The only way we can hope to form some sort of cohesive society is through free and honest dialogue. Perversely that avenue is being shut down, to our very great danger, in the idiotic delusion that someone might get offended. God help us.

    Liked by 3 people

  20. What Folau said is reprehensible and goes against the standard of decency held by society at large. The same goes for the homophobia and the intolerance held by narrow-minded Christians. It seems to me that Christianity in a person is like rabies in a dog.

    I am very happy that he is being ostracised from society for bigotry. What you are allowed to say depends on societal preferences. Free speech is a privilege, not a right (There is no ‘God’ to grant you this right), and as a privilege it can be taken away at society’s discretion.

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    • Free speech is a right Anon, it’s in our bill of rights and can’t be taken away at “society’s discretion”.
      This “standard of decency” you speak of, where does that come from? God? How is it transmitted, measured and turned into the apparently immutable law “societal preference” in a multicultural (multi value) society. I would suggest there is no such thing.
      BTW that quote about the rabid dogs was by Churchill in reference to Islam. Always acknowledge quotes – reprehensible!

      Liked by 1 person

      • David George, you are one angry man.

        It does not matter how you frame the freedom to speak under the Bill of Rights – it is granted at the discretion of society and can be revoked by elected representatives.

        Learn to read – I have already said that the ‘standard of decency’ comes from society – that is the social preferences held by people. This standard has nothing to do with God.

        The quote may have come from Churchill in reference to Islam, but it is more applicable to Christianity than Islam.

        Like

      • Thank you for your reply Anon.
        I’m well aware that we are governed by laws with regard to what we can say; discussion of moral imperatives is not, so far, against the law. You go on to cite “the standard of decency held by society at large” as the arbitrator in these issues but the questions of how these standards are arrived at, applied and calculated, or what rights those in minority cultures and religions have to hold and express their concepts of morality remains unanswered. These are philosophical/religious questions that can only (and hopefully will) be resolved through honest dialogue not the kind of “you can’t say that” tyranny you suggest.
        Re the rabid dog allusion; you are aware that homosexuality is heavily persecuted in the Islamic countries in accordance with Sharia law? Penalties range from loss of employment, public humiliation, imprisonment and public beatings to (in at least a dozen of them) barbaric public execution. Calling for repentance pales in comparison.
        Israel Folau has lost his job for expressing his deeply held opinion; that anyone (including our vacuous and hypocritical prime minister) supports that sort of tyranny is deeply concerning. Further, Israel had the courage to put his name to his beliefs and not hide behind some idiotic fake name.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Free speech is a privilege, not a right (There is no ‘God’ to grant you this right), and as a privilege it can be taken away at society’s discretion.
      ———————-

      And who exactly might be this “society” that grants/withdraws such a privilege?

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    • I worry about your “”standard of decency held by society at large”” and your “”society’s discretion””. At one level your are correct; for example in my lifetime the law changed on the distribution of wealth at divorce giving the woman a bigger share and the legality of homosexuality and the death penalty abolished. My worry is that govt’s seem to move faster than the public. If there had been a public vote only the first of those three examples would have been approved at the time it occurred. At some point we vote for representatives to do our considered thinking for us and it may produce problems as Brexit has proved. There are similar issues with legislation relating to abortion, right to life, supplying drugs.

      On the other hand if we prevent the expression of controversial views we would still have slavery, women as chattels, the earth as the centre of the universe and no theory of evolution. The media is welcom to condemn Mr Folau but a prime minister who in my mind rightly avoids speaking out about human rights in Saudi Arabia or China, should keep her mouth shut about minor celebrity statements made by a foreigner in a foreign country.

      My worry is that a small narrow elite is coming to self-reinforcing conclusions on my behalf.

      Liked by 3 people

  21. “Freedom is indivisible. As soon as one starts to restrict it, one enters upon a decline on which it is difficult to stop.”

    I am very concerned where we are heading in this country. So-called “progressive” politicians have seized on the Christchurch tragedy to set out to demonize and destroy people whose views they don’t like. They are drunk on their own hate-fueled hyperbole and I don’t believe they know when to stop, and it seems no one in government is interested in stopping them.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. As a (very occasional) drunk, fornicator ( partnership -not married), and atheist I was unfazed by the Folau post. as I suspect gays really were unfazed too. They understand what that strand of christianity says and the threat of hell won’t concern them. I doubt whether the Folau post will result in any gay bashing -which is the only real public concern. Folau is to lose his job. He had been warned on identifying groups of people (rather than actions) – but he knew that and put his beliefs over the money. So no harm really done there either.

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  23. I also have watched the storm of fury after Folau’s post. What I found interesting was the way the media portrayed his comments as “an attack on gays”. Where ever you looked it was Folau’s apparent attitude to gays that was the offensive piece. I didn’t notice any drunks, liars or atheists speak of their outrage. The point of his post was to present a list of what the Bible calls “sinners” not to say gays are worst, but as the Bible says “ALL have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” So here Folau is a completely orthodox gospel believing Christian. He is simply saying all people have sinned and need the salvation found in Jesus Christ. And that very simply is the Christian gospel and has been for 2000 years. I would suggest the man has been misrepresented as a “gay hater” when I don’t think he is anything of the sort. He takes his religious belief’s seriously wants others to hear the gospel message, and I say good on him.

    Like

  24. Michael,

    I disagree with just about everything you say in this post. Israel Folau is entitled to say what he wants (as offensive and lunatic as his views are in my opinion). As are you. I do not dispute his or your right to express his/your views – christian or otherwise. But in doing so, he is also opening himself up to criticism from many parts of society (myself included). His views and those of many conservative christians (such as yourself), conservative muslims, etc will, inevitably, meet with strong reactions and criticisms. And that is entirely appropriate in my view. You seem to think that he should be immune from the criticisms made of what he has said. Tough. Conservative christian views are anathema to many of us. They are often cast in judgmental, self-righteous, holier-than-thou tones. You and he are fully entitled to your views, based on your interpretation of the bible. But do not expect others to sit quietly and nod contentedly as you do so. Folau deserved to be called out for his views. I and many thousands of people view his comments with utter contempt.

    As for the bible, much of it can only be described as crap (or worse) if read literally. One only needs to read parts of the Old Testament to find many examples of statements that are bizarre, sinfully violent, murderous and even genocidal. If that is the religious text you want to worship and live your life by, go for it. But I will opt for a human, loving, tolerant and compassionate creed any day – with or without the presence of a god. And as for christians, especially conservative ones, they are among the most hypocritical creatures I have had the misfortune of knowing. They are judgmental, intolerant, very often unloving, uncaring and riddled with self-righteous bigotry. Sadly, most of the christians I have met or been exposed to are christian merely in name. They live their lives ostensibly in the name of Jesus Christ, but are far, far removed from the Christ depicted in the bible.

    So, feel free to express your views. But do not expect to be immune from reaction, including sharp reactions like mine. And do not – for one moment – have the audacity to think that your beliefs are closer to those of god (if there is a god) than those of others. The bible is full of words capable of many interpretations. If taken literally, it would be one of the most hateful texts ever written. Only god (if it exists) knows what the real truth is. I, for one, have ZERO interest in hearing your or others views on such matters.

    Geof Mortlock

    Like

    • Hi Geof

      The issue isn’t whether views should be debated and challenged, even robustly. All views should be open to such challenge. The issue is more about whether society tolerates minorities, or whether it actively seeks to deprive them of economic opportunities or perhaps even criminalising them for uttering views that are pretty central to the world’s largest religion.

      Re your last para, of course i have the “audacity” to believe that the views I articulate in this area are closer to those of God. Presumably any serious person believes that the views they express on significant issues are closer to “the truth” – whether revealed, reasoned, or asserted – than different views on the same issue(s) advanced by others. Not to put too fine a point on it, but the tone of your comment certainly suggests that is your approach too.

      Like

    • I, for one, have ZERO interest in hearing your or others views on such matters.
      ——————-

      In reply to Geoff Mortlock:

      Yet, you’ve spent considerable time replying to Michael’s post. Funny that, isn’t it?

      Like

      • Taieri,

        There is no contradiction in what I have said on that matter. I said I have zero interest in hearing the views of those who think they know the ‘truth’ of god’s teachings. I would rather read the bible for myself and reach my own view or read open-minded interpretations of those who do not simplistically apply a literal (but often conveniently selective) interpretation of the bible. Ultimately, none of us knows the answers. Each to their own view.

        The time I spent on my response to this post was mainly to counter the views expressed by Michael about Israel F’s comments and related points, rather than in debating theological points.

        Like

  25. Michael,

    I don’t think many would dispute the rights of people to express their views, such as the views expressed by Israel Folau. He was strongly criticised for his views. And i am very pleased he was. But I have not read much to suggest that people are arguing that he should be silenced. Most of what i have read about him is condemning of his views but not of his right to express them. Contrast that with the long traditions of the Christian churches, who forbade any contrary views being expressed and condemned people for daring to speak their mind. Maybe christians are just getting a taste of what their forebears dished out for centuries, but in a much more mild form.

    Like

    • As you may have noted in my post, I’m not optimistic about the capacity of any society (perhaps especially not a democratic one) to cope with much diversity of view on foundational issues.

      On Folau. I think the climate in which it looks as if he will lose his ability to play professional rugby and at the same time (in non rugby fora) live and declare his faith is the sort of “silencing” concern I’m talking about. It is easy for people to say “he knew the risks”, but he shouldn’t have been put in the position where it was a choice. But again, my concern is less with wealthy high profile people than with ordinary modestly paid people under pressure from big corporates or govt agencies to keep quiet about their beliefs, to forbid any conscientious objection around (say) corporate celebrations of (say) gay agendas, on pain of losing their job.

      Unlike some, I’m not complaining about this, but describing it. I think there is something inevitable about the tyranny of a majority (in this case, representing a degenerate society). In a way, it is the pretence of an open and liberal diverse society that bothers me more.

      A few years ago a US Catholic cardinal observed, prophetically, that “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. ”

      Exaggerated? Possibly,perhaps even probably, but it seems directionally correct. His (and my) Christian hope was in the rest of the quote
      “His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history.”
      http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tim-drake/the-myth-and-the-reality-of-ill-die-in-my-bed

      The Folau situation is just one straw in the wind. In trying to make sense of how societies are shifting, the straws sometimes offer clues.

      UPDATE: And this is a concrete (UK) example of traditional Christian views/teaching being delegitimised, to the point of costing someone their job.

      Liked by 1 person

  26. The Australian Ruby Union talked a good game regarding its recent policy of “Inclusion”, however their response to Israel Folau’s Instagram post is anything but inclusive. Rather than “diversity being our strength” their actions demonstrate our increasing societal fragility. The new holy trinity of “tolerance, diversity and inclusion” is not sufficiently robust to include those who quote the Bible in the public domain. As commentator Mark Steyn opined:

    “Nothing Israel Folau said is illegal (yet), but it is nevertheless sufficient to get him banned from plying his trade anywhere in his native land – although presumably he is not yet enjoined from working at a meat-pie shop or as an outhouse-cleaner in Alice Springs. And all this for views that would have been regarded as utterly unexceptional for the first century of the Wallabies’ existence, even by those who were fitful adherents to the strictures of Galatians 5.”

    https://www.steynonline.com/9304/the-gay-blade

    Indeed.

    This should be of concern to everyone, not just Christians. We may be in the ‘out’ group of identity politics today, but who knows what tomorrow holds? Perhaps you may inadvertently use the wrong gender pronoun with one of your colleagues at work and loose your job; if not you, then your children or grandchildren.

    For this reason we all need to push back against the inherent fascism of controlled speech, and ensure people still have the right to be offended, without the right to destroy someone’s career.

    If you find yourself cheering for the Australian Ruby Union, I suggest you are backing the wrong team.

    Liked by 2 people

  27. Hi David,

    I don’t think anyone is trying to stop Israel Falou saying what he’s saying. Many are simply reacting to and defending hard-fought gains of tolerance and protection for gay people in our society.

    One should expect a backlash if you say something extremely unpopular…something that also places vulnerable people, like gay teens, at further risk of harm.

    I think if you had a gay kid, this might all make sense to you. Your love for your child would challenge (and hopefully triumph) over your need to state again and again a black and white religious rule that you have chosen to live by.

    I’m a Christian too, but I personally think love makes a mockery of all our old rules in the end.

    Robert

    Like

    • I’m afraid there are plenty trying to stop Israel from speaking his beliefs including pressure from Quantas to that effect, even our PM (God knows what it’s got to do with her) and vocal comment from our MSM. With very few exceptions the call has been “have your beliefs but don’t tell anyone”. The perverse reality is that the very people speculating on possible harm (to vulnerable young gays) are the ones spreading Israel’s message. The shear hypocrisy is overwhelming, he posted this on a personal message site yet mischievous and dishonest media have blown it up out of all proportion.

      Like

  28. I was interested to note some legal experts in Australia had opined that if Folau is sacked by the ARU because of his advertised beliefs, he may have a case against them for religious discrimination. It will be interesting to see if he “goes quietly”.

    The other new really we are presented with here is that the “Rainbow community” is untouchable, as far as commentary and criticism. With legislative victories being apparently not enough. They must be perpetually protected from people like Folau who have a different view.

    Like

  29. Reblogged this on The Inquiring Mind and commented:
    Whilst I have issues with some of Michael Reddell’s comments, these are not with the central tenet that a sincerely held religious, belief should be attacked. This just is wrong!
    Furthermore, whatever one might think of Folau’s beliefs he has proudly proclaimed them. For that alone, he deserves respect.

    Like

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