Freedom to speak
Israel Folau, a rugby superstar, has come out with a social media post saying, amongst other things, that homosexuals are going to hell unless they repent.
Now, like Folau, I am a Christian, like him I believe that the world is not as it should be and like him I believe that Christ, in a way I don’t pretend to fully understand, was divine.
It is difficult in a simple blog to dissect Folau’s statement, critique his theology or question his motives and let me make clear that his thoughts are not my thoughts, I do not see the faith the way he does it nor do I hold his views on homosexuality, heaven, and hell.
But where I differ even more is on our society’s response to him posting about his beliefs and I can only conclude that people have finally given up any pretense that they think for themselves, they have suspended logic, reason, and rationality and have succumbed to a mob mentality based on either sheer stupidity or cowardice.
Here is why I think that.
1. Why do we set these rugby players up on pedestals and give their thoughts and opinions any validity except for when it is about the sport they excel in. Folua can run fast holding a ball and if I want to learn how to run fast with a ball than maybe I could listen to him. But as for giving any credibility to anything, he says about life, morality or faith! Give me a break!
2. Life is tough, reality is cruel, the world is unfair and it will beat you down and kick you while your down.
“Existence is suffering,” said the Buddha and it would take a better man than me to argue with him. People are going to offend you because we all think and act differently. If we try and stop anyone ever being offended then our world will become a bland monotonous grey existence with virtually all thought and speech rendered intolerable.
3. We have never tried harder to wrap people in cotton wool, protect feelings and be more inclusive or accepting than we are right now and while we are doing this, mental illness and depression are sky-rocketing. Maybe cotton wool doesn’t work. Maybe its only exposure to pain and suffering that breeds resilience in us, and it may be suffering teaches us lessons that only it can teach, like coping with hardship and triumph over adversity.
4. Society has a way of balancing itself out if allowed. Folau has posted his view and in response, hundreds of other high-profile sports people have posted opposing views. I would agree with muzzling Folau if his was the only view being expressed as that would be dangerous and would harken back to when religions or dictatorships tried to suppress thought, but his view is now a minority view and just part of a wide range of views, thoughts and ideas.
The best way to deal with Folau’s posts is to allow more posts from more people expressing more views and let discussion and dialogue run their course.
I would argue that Folau has inadvertently done a great service to any young people who have been feeling confused or isolated about their sexuality as he has caused a groundswell of sports stars expressing their support for the gay community.
5. Is it not an oxymoron to say we are wanting an inclusive society and culture when to achieve that aim we decide we are going to exclude a person or group whose philosophy or ideas we don’t agree with? Isn’t this what we have tried so hard to move away from for the last fifty years? And yet now we embrace it again with open arms?
I didn’t like Folau’s post, it’s not how I interpret the scriptures, it’s not how I see my Christian faith and I consider myself no less a Christian than he.
But as Rowen Atkinson so eloquently said. The answer to speech we don’t like or agree with is not less speech. It is more speech.
We must tread carefully and be very cautious.
Today we ban Folau. Who do we ban tomorrow?