Did Israel Folau defy the CEO of Rugby Australia (RA), Raelene Castle, by publishing his Christian beliefs on twitter and instagram? Raelene Castle waited until a post made on 10 April 2019 to lodge her complaint that Israel betrayed her trust and did what he told her he would not do. But did he betray her trust? He promised he would not be offensive, I understand. He was not offensive. He told various groups of people living their lives in defiance of God that Jesus loves them. What is offensive about that? He went on to quote Scripture, which gives humanity clear warnings about certain behaviour consequences. What if the warnings are based in truth? Will Israel’s detractors then say that he is being disrespectful? In fact, Israel Folau is being highly respectful of these people by warning them, assuming them to be capable of reason and restraint, that hell awaits them for sins they commit and have not repented over (turned away from). One wouldn’t warn an idiot. Why would one bother? But warning people he (probably) doesn’t know, at risk of the abuse that would inevitably come his way; now that is an act of generous respect to the people he is warning.
Let’s look at the values of RA and see if they square with those of Israel Folau. In this statement of RA’s values we read, “Rugby Australia’s core values being passion, integrity, discipline, respect and teamwork” (taken from Georgina Robinson’s article, Sydney Morning Herald, 15/4/19). Folau is passionate, just like RA is. Folau is respectful, otherwise he wouldn’t bother warning people about the consequences of their lifestyles; he has treated them with respect as his fellow human beings made in the image of their Creator, whether they know that or not. Folau shows himself to be a person of integrity (he sticks by his principled beliefs) and discipline (only discipline can effect such excellence in the sport) but RA’s word, “teamwork” is a word worth debating. Israel Folau doesn’t blindly do what interferes with his first allegiance – his allegiance to God and to truth. It is disingenuous to say that he is entitled to his beliefs and then not allow him to express them, with the excuse that it is the WAY he expressed those beliefs that is offensive. Folau was not disrespectful to people – he was the height of respectful because he told them that Jesus loves them but they would need to repent or their destiny would be hell. And then he quoted scripture to support his claim. Israel did not lie. It is the CONTENT of Israel’s beliefs that offends his detractors. Some of these detractors have promoted and passed laws that defy God. And while we are here, why shouldn’t fellow-Christian sportsman, Gary Ablett of the AFL, be allowed by various Victorian sports journalists, to ‘like’ Folau’s comment? Another fellow sports champion and committed Christian, Margaret Court, as well as commentators, Miranda Devine and Alan Jones, have been wonderful advocates for Israel’s right to express his Christian views.
Israel Folau has, over the course of the year, put many lovely comments up on his Twitter and Instagram accounts and received in return some very hostile comments. He has the courage and love to continue despite the vitriol coming his way. How easy it would have been for him to just enjoy his popularity, success and money but such is the man’s conviction, independence of thought, love for his fellow human, love of the truth and love of God that he has sought to follow God unashamedly. Israel Folau will have to decide if he wishes to forfeit his career for the sake of his faith in God and his desire for the salvation of his fellow human, and RA should look at itself and question whether it does, indeed, uphold ‘respect’, where respect stops with the expression of Christian belief – belief that is grounded in the welfare of human beings, not their demise through ungodly choices.