Israel Folau and the Hogwash of His Heresy Hunters

It’s been three months since Israel Folau’s sacking, but the nation’s big news outlets are still finding stories to publish about the saga. Last week, the Sydney Morning Herald carried two hit pieces on the former rugby star, and they’ve unsettled many who’ve sided with Izzy.

In an article called “Did Israel Folau actually misquote the Bible? Hell, yes“, John Tait took issue with Folau’s use of the KJV Bible, accused him of misquoting Scripture, and claimed Folau is reading modern ideas of hell into the text.

A few days later, Kate McClymont wrote, “Why the PM and most Christians are ‘going to hell’“. In it, she depicted the Folau church as an ‘isolated hate group’ that denies the Trinity, promotes end-times conspiracy theories, and is deeply judgmental towards outsiders.

It’s enough to rattle anyone who has stuck by Folau thus far. Or is it?

This is the sixth article I’ve written about Israel Folau since April, and personally, I remain unmoved by these latest ‘revelations’. The SMH has not only missed the point of the entire debate, but they’ve further exposed their own deeply illiberal motives.

Here’s why I’m convinced that Folau’s heresy hunters are full of hogwash, and why deep down, they think little of freedom.

They think freedom is only for the orthodox

From the beginning, I have defended Israel Folau’s right to free speech. But along with the majority of Christians who’ve sided with him, I’ve distanced myself from how Izzy communicated his beliefs.

You’ll never see me post anything like what Izzy did on Instagram. It was clunky, brash, and came off as judgmental—even to me, a Christian.

But the fact remains that what he posted was a paraphrase of a Bible verse. The Bible, or parts of it, are considered holy writ by Christians, Jews, Muslims, and a thousand cults besides. Moreover, this book has had more influence on the West than any other piece of literature.

If someone can’t paraphrase the Bible without losing their job in 2019, it’s not just sports stars who are in trouble—it’s our civilisation. This is why I continue to stand with Izzy, despite how wacky some of his beliefs might be.

The SMH have sought to disperse Folau’s supporters by appealing to Christian doctrine. It’s odd that a secular paper, so often hostile to Christians, is suddenly the standard-bearer for Christian orthodoxy.

It’s also odd that they assume Christians only want freedom for other like-minded Christians. Most of the vocal Christians that I’m aware of in this debate all seem to agree that the end of our precious freedoms is bad news for everyone.

The minute our society defends freedom only for ‘orthodox’ beliefs—whether sacred or secular—is the minute we abandon freedom altogether.

Maybe Folau’s church does deny the Trinity. Maybe they’re guilty of every accusation the SMH could throw at them. Still, I would repeat those words attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

There’s little point to freedom otherwise.

They gave Folau no freedom to speak

Both articles included quotes from Israel’s Instagram account—and Kate McClymont especially went out of her way to find the juicy ones.

But neither of the journalists actually spoke to Israel.

Martyn Iles is managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby, the group that hosted Israel Folau’s fundraiser and are in regular contact with the Folau family. He said this in response to the McClymont piece:

“[Folau’s] alleged beliefs are largely unsourced and unreferenced. It is written by hostile journalists who have been listening to a woman with an axe to grind against Izzy’s family (who won’t identify herself and has been trying to make trouble for a while now).

“Izzy’s people asked to include a comment in the article, even if only one sentence, and were refused.”

And if you’re wondering what Folau and his family thinks about it, here it is:

“We are extremely disappointed the Sydney Morning Herald’s Kate McClymont did not seek comment from Israel, his family or his church, for her story focussed on Israel’s church and its doctrine.

The story carried a number of factual inaccuracies which could have been avoided had Ms McClymont simply followed standard journalism practice and approached us for comment.

The story appears to be based predominantly on quotes from a single anonymous source who has been acting in concert with Rugby Australia. Any suggestion that Israel would stand in judgment of another person is incorrect.”

If McClymont is so interested in what Israel Folau believes, why didn’t she just ask him?

They disregard the fount of our freedoms

In the rush to uphold the new rainbow orthodoxy, many journalists are using their free speech to shut down Israel’s—and they don’t seem to realise the irony.

It isn’t just people who quote the Bible who should have the right to speak freely. It’s also people who are hostile to it, including Izzy’s opponents. After all, freedom of belief includes freedom from belief.

But the desire to put an end to these freedoms is born of a dangerous disregard.

English philosopher G. K. Chesterton wisely said that if we come across a fence that our society has constructed, we’d do well to inquire of its purpose and origin before we rush to dismantle it.

What Folau’s critics are yet to realise is that if they successfully shut down his freedoms, they ultimately undermine their own.

Freedoms like speech, conscience, religion and association were hard won. They’re easy to lose, hard to regain, and still quite rare on the global stage.

And most relevant of all, these freedoms were deeply informed by the Christian faith that Israel Folau subscribes to.

Journalists who think little of Christianity are a dime a dozen. But they’re deeply indebted to the faith they despise.

And they’d do well to think on this before they continue their crusade against it.

By |2019-07-23T18:06:03+00:00July 23rd, 2019|Australia, Authors, Faith, Freedom|7 Comments

About the Author:

Kurt Mahlburg is a qualified primary school teacher and a freelance writer. He blogs at Culture, Worldviews and Life with Jesus and writes for the Canberra Declaration and occasionally The Spectator Australia. He has a particular interest in speaking the truths of Jesus into the public square in a way that makes sense to a secular culture and that gives Christians courage to do the same. Kurt has also studied architecture, has lived for two years on a remote island in Indonesia, is fluent in several Indonesian languages, and among his other interests are philosophy, history, surf, the outdoors, and travel.

7 Comments

  1. John Launder July 23, 2019 at 8:17 pm - Reply

    Agree totally Kurt.

  2. Jean Antill July 23, 2019 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    This entire dzgz around Israel I’d not to go with really what he quoted because throughout the Bible in all versions Jesus taught about sinful behaviour. He clearly stated that a man lying with another man as you would a woman is condemned. Whether people believe this as written it is a choice but l for one as a Christian accept the words of the Son of God Jesus Christ. However this focus is not just about Israel’s quote but how those of us who do believe and especially Christians. Other spiritual beliefs are rarely critised and consider being gay a death sentence do why just Christianity?

    I believe it is because WesternERS no longer want this as part of their culture. It puts a big front into their values an beliefs. They say they do not believe so if this is correct why the all out attempt to destroy these beliefs? It is about stopping the public from having freedom of speech about any subject and that is very much aligned with Communist ideology where Christianity is forbidden and a crime. This is about those that are minority groups forcing their ideology on the standards of living on those of us who differ. For those that feel this is not happening do not continue because believe me you will regret ever wanting this way of life.

    The belief in Jesus Christ will never die and history has proven this to be so! Yes it has been significantly reduced in the past but revival existed and still does. That journalist is entitled and arrogant and she would not have a clue! Christianity and freedom to express our views will never die regardless of what anyone in the community hopes or believes.

    So yes freedom of speech on any context must be allowed as that is democracy! Anything else is Communism! Pity help Australians if this is ever becomes the ideology of this beautiful nation we call Australia. Nation of free speech! Not control! Please do not let this happen even if you do.not believe in God.

  3. Stephen Tierney July 24, 2019 at 12:44 am - Reply

    I am a born again Bible believing Christian and I it would be fair to say that I have strong views on certain Christian beliefs.
    It would also be fair to say that Israel Folau and I may have a different interpretation on some Bible verses – but not the ones in regard to homosexuality.

    However I support Israel Folau 100% in his right to have his beliefs – and his right to share his beliefs, as per his belief in The Bible he loves.

    While I may strongly disagree with some people who hold to a different religious belief – or none at all – I also accept their God given right to have that belief.

    If Israel Folau had made the same comments while on the field, wearing his team’s jersey I could see cause for complaint- because it could appear that his views were the views of the entire team – and perhaps even Rugby Australia.

    But he didn’t – he aired his views on his personal web – so the views were the views of Israel Folau.
    Those who do not share his beliefs and may be offended are not compelled to read them.

    But it must be stressed that his blog was NOT his words – he had taken a quotation from The Bible, so they were God’s Words.

    It should also noted that the media did not report his entire blog – only the part that suited themselves.

  4. Anna Soh July 24, 2019 at 1:25 am - Reply

    It just sounds like media are the puppets of corporations that want to protect their right to be our moral compass! Wonder how much money is offered to do their “dirty” work? They are just piling on evidence as to why we should fight even harder to get our government to bring in a Religious Freedom Act and not just another anti-discrimination law! I guess we need to pray more people see through this biased twisted reporting by our media who are supposed to keep us informed truthfully!

  5. Brenda Rudolph July 24, 2019 at 5:24 am - Reply

    Nbrilliant, Kurt. This needs to be shared far and wide.

  6. AuskiHeth July 24, 2019 at 2:35 pm - Reply

    A well written piece sir, countering the McClymont woman’s attack on Izzy and CHRISTians as a whole.
    I resonate fully with Izzy and often suffer the same attacks as he does, due to my direct approach regarding sin, it’s consequences and my desire to see people set free from sin and hell. As I’m much older than Izzy and heading into my twilight years I am hugely aware that time for my “shining the Lord’s light” is def nearing it’s end.
    I can’t help but notice tho, how in my lifetime, there has been monumental change in society. I can’t say whether that’s normally how things are , as of course we only get one lifetime. But as I follow events around the world, i cant help but notice how evil , like cream, has risen to the top. Sadly, most westernised countries are all going thru this immense upheaval; where that which was good is now bad, and vice versa.
    The absolute hate towards CHRISTians is every where. And you’re right in the fact that so much of our nation’s values and morals are Christian based.
    To coin a phrase of my dear old mother … Society it seems is hell bent on “cutting off it’s nose to spite it’s face”.
    To remove Freedom of speech ,so people you “don’t like can’t say what you don’t like”, inevitably results in EVERYBODY being SILENCED ; which is a the point you made in your piece but those fighting for ” throwing the baby out with the bathwater” seem oblivious to the overwhelming consequences.

  7. Ray Barnett July 29, 2019 at 1:31 pm - Reply

    ‘…I would repeat those words attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”’
    Except Kate McClymont? Take care folks. It is all too easy to become like those we disagree with. We either defend free speech or we don’t. ‘…many journalists are using their free speech to shut down Israel’s—and they don’t seem to realise the irony.’ Perhaps there is a little irony connected to our outraged responses to Ms McClymont as well?
    The issue ought not to be that Ms McClymont spoke, (something, I take it, we will defend to the death) but whether what she said was true. Society ought to disparage lies broadcast as truth. Truth can be investigated and confirmed. In this case, if the things said about Israel Folau and his church are true, attempting to shut down the comments by outrage is no different from those attempting to those trying to shut Folau down by outrage. If they are untrue, then meet the attack with gently expressed truth.
    The nature of comments about McClymont’s article may show cause as to why the ‘anonymous woman’ wished to remain so. ‘Hogwash’ and ‘Heresy Hunter’ are not terms calculated to open a conversation. Difficult though it may be, we, of all people, need to create an atmosphere of grace even towards our detractors. If too difficult, then, as Scripture says, ‘There is a time to be silent.’
    We live in testing times. I hope this helps.

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