According to Pink News in its article titled: “Rugby star Israel Folau tells gay people: ‘HELL AWAITS YOU’”. The article begins: “Australian rugby international Israel Folau has used Instagram to tell gay people that “HELL AWAITS YOU.” The 30-year-old star player posted the meme on Wednesday (April 10), just hours after Tasmania passed sweeping reforms to increase transgender rights. The picture issues a “warning” to “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” that “HELL AWAITS YOU.” Next to the message, which ends: “REPENT! ONLY JESUS SAVES,” Folau wrote: “Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent”. Later it includes a quote by Israel Folau: “I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him”, which I see as resonating with many Christians as being the right approach to evangelism, and is about love and not hate.
I could have included many sources to introduce this article but settled for Pink News because it is pro LBGT rights and I have often found its reporting to be fair even when I disagree. What happened to Folau has been detailed in several places in my various media feeds and particularly resonates with me ever since I began to write on a matter that bothers me and has never been reconciled satisfactorily in my view: whether or not LBGT rights should trump those of Christians to say and act according to their conscience. While I can guess what has been going on – a devout Christian using social media and his popularity as a rugby star to share his sincerely held views with honorable intent and being checked and ultimately sacked by his sport’s governing body for being a bad example and going against their mantra to promote diversity and inclusion, I am not cognizant of all the facts leading to a decision that looks likely to put a sharp end to the career of a popular and talented sports star.
It should be noted an English rugby star: “Billy Vunipola backs shamed rugby player Israel Folau in Instagram post”, and is likely to be disciplined by the equivalent English authorities, has also been picked up by Pink News and at the other end of the reporting spectrum by Premier Christian Radio: “England rugby star defends Israel Folau over post about sin and hell”. Checking out Vunipola’s, in my view appropriate, Instagram posting relating to this, I cannot help feeling sympathy with him and irritation that his club have caved into requests to be seen to be doing something to appease the outrage of loud shouters. Back to Folau, many views are to be found on the subject of should he stay or go. One I found thought provoking, even though I didn’t agree entirely, was an article by the Sydney Morning Herald: “Rugby Australia only has itself to blame for Israel Folau crisis” that they should have seen this coming, knowing the sort of person Folau is, but came to a view that to win at all costs mattered most.
It wasn’t long ago I was blogging on the hapless Tim Farron, ex-leader of the Liberal Democrats, who was repeatedly asked the question “is it ok to be gay” and fudged his response each time. Eventually he stood down as leader and cited as a reason that he found it hard to both hold traditional Christian views on matters like sexuality and operate in the public role he had, which I commented was regrettable as Christians are meant to be the salt of the earth. Similarly, in the case of Israel Folau! I get it that he is expected to be a role model and, given his sport wants to right a wrong of the past and stand against homophobia along with any other hate attitudes, his stance appears to undermine this. I have no doubt some reading this will support his sport’s governing body for excluding him for his non compliance, and given earlier similar incidents.
I have a concern … what evidence is there that his motive is hate fueled (likely none) or that he has wronged or discriminated against LBGT people? And why should promoting a message of equality and diversity be considered more important, for a Christian, than sharing the gospel message, which has eternal consequences. Some would say it is tantamount to gagging the voice of Christians in the public square, where it is so needed. If the Bible text he used and Pink News cited is true, sharing it is very important, PROVIDING it is not used as a stick to beat up LBGT folk and is applied to all sinners, and that includes everyone reading this and the author.
Update 16/04/2019: Sadly as far as their careers goes, it doesn’t bode well for Folau and Vunipola. I can’t help admiring these two young men who unlike the vast majority are prepared to suffer for their principles (may the Lord bless them). “The Australian” today were correct in its article: “Rugby throwing devout Christian Israel Folau to the lions“: “The so-called Israel Folau affair, if we dismantle the humbug, can be summed up quite simply. If the young man is not free to state his religious views, let alone Christian views, then we are all in trouble.It would be helpful if people analysed what he said before condemning him to rugby oblivion. He issued a warning to “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters, hell awaits you, repent, only Jesus saves”. “Jesus Christ loves you and has given you time to turn away from your sin and come to him.”For this he faces, it appears, the termination of his playing career”. While in the natural I hold my hands up in consternation at the political correctness and censorship – and what we are seeing here is a further manifestation of the culture war, my mantra is “God is not mocked“, and will have the last word. In the meantime kudos to those who speak truth in the face of scoffers, and it will prevail.