Monday, April 22, 2019

On the Israel Folau hysteria

There’s nothing left to be said about the Israel Folau affair, but I’m going to say it anyway.

■ The outrage is confected. People had the choice to either take notice of Folau or ignore him. They chose the former, presumably because it gives them an excuse to display their fury. This is the zeitgeist; the spirit of the times. By taking notice of Folau, and by parading their virtuous indignation in countless social media posts and commentaries in mainstream media, they are giving his beliefs far wider circulation than they would otherwise have had. They are therefore complicit in spreading the harm that they claim to be concerned about. This was perfectly illustrated by a commentator over the weekend who wrote that we should ignore Folau, but then contradicted his own sensible observation by devoting an entire column to him. It makes no sense.

■ If what Folau said in his Instagram post is preposterous, as all his critics say, why dignify it by taking him seriously? That makes no sense either.

■ Folau is said to be quoting the Old Testament prophet Leviticus. His views can thus easily be ridiculed as primitive biblical fundamentalism – the sort of thing that the loving, forgiving Christ of the New Testament would never have endorsed, and therefore not to be taken seriously. But Folau’s post was based on a letter from Paul to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 6-9). In other words it’s entirely in line with mainstream Christian belief – or at least mainstream Christian belief as it was generally understood until relatively recently (and still is, in many Pasifika communities). In other words, what Folau is saying is consistent with beliefs that formed the basis of Western civilisation. Seen in that context, it’s not quite the crazy, extremist fringe opinion that it’s characterised as.

■ What’s more, being a committed Christian, Folau presumably believes it’s his God-given obligation to do whatever he can to save other souls by spreading the gospel message. It might not make sense to the rest of us in an overwhelmingly secular society, but that doesn’t free him from what he would see as his duty.

■ As is obvious from all the uproar, Folau’s position is a deeply unpopular one. But since when was it forbidden to express unpopular opinions? The barrage of opprobrium that Folau has brought down on himself sends a clear signal that while we theoretically enjoy the right of free speech, fear of the baying mob will deter all but the most determined from expressing unfashionable thoughts. It’s an ominous pointer to where the pending review of so-called hate speech might lead us.

■ None of the above should be taken as suggesting that Rugby Australia has no legal right to terminate Folau’s contract. I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me that if he undertook to refrain from making such statements, then he has to live with the consequences. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be worried about the climate of censoriousness that now prevails in the sporting and corporate worlds or about the enforcement of secular orthodoxy, which is no less threatening than the religious kind.


Brendan McNeill said...

Agreed, a lot has been written on this topic, but it is relevant as the teaching and ideas of three men now compete in the public square, and presumably only one will have preeminence. They are Jesus Christ, Karl Marx, and Mohammad.

The teaching of Jesus and the Bible generally formed the foundation of what we once called Western civilization. We have been busy deconstructing the teaching of Christ and associated institutions now for many decades. With all the deconstruction, it will not be surprising if we end up with a pile of rubble.

Karl Marx has re-surfaced, not directly in the form of fully fledged communism, but in a totalitarian expression none the less. Its ‘holy trinity’ is ‘inclusion, tolerance and diversity’, and as we have seen with Folau, it is intolerant of perceived intolerance, and is prepared to act accordingly. It will exclude him in the name of inclusion.

The claims of Mohammad are slightly more complex in our context and even though they are real they are not the presently subject of this discussion. Currently Marx has preeminence, having displaced Jesus in the public square, and relegated faith to the private domain. The evidence is before us in the rush to condemn Folau in the name of tolerance.

The political reaction to May 15, and the response to Folau don’t bode well for the continuation of free speech, or the ability to espouse anything other than the new orthodoxy in the public domain. Totalitarianism in all forms is to be courageously resisted.

hughvane said...

Sense as she is spoke, Karl. I have put at risk a good friendship over the Israel Folau stupidity, largely on philosophical grounds. The man is a loose cannon, but he is one zealot amongst many, and his principal misdemeanour is that he let his mouth get away on him. His right to express his tenets has to be maintained, if only to battle the loathsome onrush of moral hypocrisy and sanctimony.

Hilary Taylor said...

Good column & comments.
I was delighted at Folau's proselytising 'round 2' cos it provided a news counterpoint to the saccharine blather over Ardern's post-massacre leadership...where she did what any decent NZ leader would've done in her shoes. Did not most of us just say 'oh there he goes again, and just watch the perpetually-offended froth at the mouth'. Did not most of us like the wit of the commenter who just laughed it off, saying hell sounds more fun than the (empty) heaven? I mean, if he has followers who lap this nstuff up then go's not meant for me.

In a pub recently, outdoor section, one other group of patrons, mid-evening. Should've heard the sort of stuff being spoken, punctuated with regular cussing, yes, booze was behind most of it. Kindness, inclusion, diversity conspicuous by their absence on any level.

Philob said...

I am not sure how "deeply unpopular" Folau is. Certainly he is so among the Left commentariat. But most or many people middle aged or older are nominal Christians or can at least remember when Folau's views were mainstream. The frenzied invective against him will have been noted, and further divided the neo-Marxist Left from the rest of us.
As to his employment, we have yet to see how stupid his quotes were. Rugby Australia forgot to include the anti-controversy clauses in his new contract. Folau's lawyer will likely argue that far from being anti-gay and non-inclusive, he was only trying to help gays by warning what would happen to them if they did not repent and mend their ways. If Folau hated gays he would say nothing, or worse, encourage them - an un-christian act. Christians are urged to admonish sinners; it is one of the seven Spiritual Works of Mercy. There was nothing personally vindictive in Folau's post.
We shall see.

David said...

Folau is only a symptom.

When I hear Morning Report announcing -- as it did today -- that one of the "symptoms" of far-right extremism is "championing freedom of speech" -- then it is time to be very afraid.

It is obvious that the Christchurch mosques atrocity has been seized on with joy as an opportunity to move against free speech. The problem is, can this galloping threat even be effectively opposed?

When I started in journalism, most journalists in my experience championed freedom of speech. Those days are long gone. Journalists are now leading the charge against freedom of speech, cheering on those who would suppress it and labelling those who still dare support it "far-right extremists."

I was thrown out of the Kiwi Journalists Association group for supporting free expression and questioning this New McCarthyism. That group has 2900 members and includes the roll-call of almost every present and past working journalist you can think of.

The "free speech" they and those they oppose and want to silence is, put simply, viewpoints they believe are unworthy of being heard. Their "woke" view is all that should be heard. Increasingly in the media that is all that is heard, along with attacks on those who express unwanted views, which they call "hate speech."

Folau has become a hate figure of the Woke but he is only a fleeting one. They have far wider targets. Folau's views on hell, sin and damnation appear quaint and odd to me, but they only make me laugh and prompt me to list as many of his sins as I can plead guilty to.

Our society's wider freedoms, our freedom of expression, freedom of political opinion and freedom of association are coming under direct threat, aided by a media that once fought for them and now opposes them when that freedom is claimed by those whose views they deem unworthy or, FFS, "extreme right-wing."

The irony that McCarthy also opposed freedom of expression, freedom of political opinion and freedom of association and that journalists stood up against him and what he stood for and championed what they now want to suppress is lost on them.

I want to fight back, but I know what happened to Winston Smith, which is why I am becoming afraid.

Karl du Fresne said...

I'm happy - in fact proud - to say that the KJA membership doesn't include my name, although there was a time years ago when I briefly dallied on its page in the mistaken belief that it stood for classic journalistic values.

powderburns said...

This is only just beginning. Folau and friends are pitting themselves against the new pagan cult of the politically correct. There can be only one religion, and both sides believe it. This is the neo religion of the "atheist" progressives. There's a tribal war going on at a limbic level. Christians have a long history of martyrdom in the face of persecution. The main dude was nailed to a cross after all.

Cathy Stewart said...

Carl your ignorance is showing and possibly prejudice a... anthropologists will tell you that ancient archaeological records show physical evidence of at least five different genders...same with Maori, recognised at least five different genders before Christian colonisation and ironically Israel falau's pre-colonised
culture uphold the "fa'fine" as the wise people to be consulted on important matters.. the statement that there are ever new permutations of sexual identity and gender is WRONG.. There has been multiple genders recognised throughout all of the history of is just been the culture clubbing machine of religion,especially Christianity that has decided this is somehow wrong.
As a journalist with some integrity please don't slip into what other journalists are doing and coming from your some research...the information is there..don't be lazy and by the way by supporting Israel folaus stance youre supporting more possible suicide of young people with gender dysphoria..whata great thing to do!!!

Brendan McNeill said...

Hi Cathy

This is indeed fascinating. You stated: "anthropologists will tell you that ancient archaeological records show physical evidence of at least five different genders...same with Maori, recognised at least five different genders before Christian colonisation.."

Do you have a link to this research? Did the genders have specific names, and were there written records, or does this predate written language in these cultures?

Karl du Fresne said...

Cathy's comment obviously relates to my May 16 column in The Dominion Post, which I've just posted under the headline 'Some more thoughts on the Folau furore'. But just for the record, I don't accept a thing Cathy says.