Friday, 26 April 2019

Rugby Australia Is In A Dark Place

Fettered Minds

Alan Jones is a former coach of Australia's national rugby side.  He has changed roles.  Now he walks around a notional rugby ground with a big whistle dishing out penalties.  He has called out an noisome foul committed by Rugby Australia--at least as he sees it.  

Jones has taken out his filleting knife and skinning the fish.  He has decided he will stand in Israel Folau's corner and whistle the game as he sees it.  It turns out that Rugby Australia is beneath contempt--at least as Alan Jones sees it.  How refreshing to see the Chattering Classes get exposed. He writes:

Before proclaiming Folau’s guilt, one would have thought he was entitled to the deliberation of a tribunal. But RA have already said he won’t play for Australia; he won’t be picked for NSW; his contract will be ripped up. Folau is, sensibly, going to contest all this. But this is after the event.

Rugby Australia have already called for punishment, banishment and termination because Folau warned “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”. This is nothing more than what all Christians are called to do. It is part of the great commission Jesus gave to his disciples.

Matthew 26:18-20: “Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’. ”

We are talking about a young man who is a dedicated Christian expressing a legitimate view based on biblical teaching. Christians around the world are under siege. It appears now that sanctions of the most draconian kind are being imposed on Christians here who dare to proclaim their faith.  Anglican Bishop Michael Stead, who heads the South Sydney diocese, said on Tuesday: “If a rugby player can be sacked for doing nothing more than posting on his social media page what is essentially a summary of the Bible, then it is a signal to the rest of us that we better keep our mouths shut.”

Forcing people to keep their mouths shut because they might express a view contrary to ours has almost become the norm. It is interesting that Joyce is entitled to his view even though, apparently, Folau is not. But surely Joyce cannot appropriate his view to the whole Qantas family, many of whom disagree with him.

And by what Christian teaching do we seek to destroy an individual and his career for articulating a summary from the Bible, which is thousands of years old? Folau, as I have said before, is from a devoutly religious Polynesian family and it is interesting that many who now criticise him have, in the past, demanded tolerance for their viewpoint.

And that is fair enough. A diversity of viewpoints is healthy; but none of that tolerance is extended toward Folau. What is to happen to many of Folau’s fellow players who “liked” what he had to say? Are they to be banished? The drunks, the liars, the thieves, the fornicators and the atheists are not complaining.
We are encouraged that Israel Folau has "gone to ground" as it were.  He is not speaking publicly.  He is said to have hired a very competent lawyer.  He will make Folau's case against Rugby Australia in due course.  From an outsider's lay perspective it would seem that a great deal will hang upon the detail in Folau's contract.  If that contract stipulates that Folau must not comment publicly on the details of his Christian faith--in particular, he must not convey any negative sentiment about anyone, regardless of his or her beliefs, then he appears to be in a prima facie breach of his contract.  He must suffer the consequences.

But if not, then Rugby Australia must suffer.  But, at another level, the Bible clearly commands that Christians must do their utmost to warn folk of the wrath to come.  It is part of what it means to care for lost sheep.  Even if it were true that Folau has broken an obligation not to speak of the Christian faith, ultimately Rugby Australia is the loser.

Pacific Island rugby has energized Australian rugby with lots of talented players.  Many of these players are deeply committed Christians.  They will be reading the winds at this point, and will quietly be making plans to move out to places and nations and rugby teams where their Christian faith is not just tolerated, but welcomed.

It has been jarring for the average Australian rugby fan to turn on the news and see Rugby Australia chief executive Raelene Castle and NSW Rugby boss Andrew Hore, both Kiwis, talking rubbish and questioning the character of Folau. The difference is, Folau is authentic.  In comparison, Hore and Castle are Kiwi rejects, seemingly able to trade off their nationality because our game is such a basket-case, our board members will listen to anyone wearing an All Blacks tracksuit.

Who the hell hired these people to run NSW and Australian Rugby? Christianity was introduced into the Pacific Islands by missionaries. Most of these Islander people don’t have a lot of material things. But you only have to see their smiles to know they are rich of heart. They could teach our administrators a lot. Israel, keep your head high. There are millions of ordinary Australians in your corner. Not all of them share your beliefs but they recognise your right to express them and they understand you are coming from a place of love. For those of us who have looked at your complete comments, we understand you are genuinely concerned for your fellow man.

These words are not yours. They have been part of the scriptures for 2000 years.  As I have said this week, Folau has shown a rare degree of moral courage. I would want him in my team any day.  Beyond his rugby skills, his example of moral courage is one that should inspire young people. This is not a battle that rugby administrators can win but they think they can. We know that rugby today is in a dark place.

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