So Izzy isn’t orthodox. There’s the gotcha moment right there, courtesy of an expose in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Who would have thought that the Herald would be appealing to Christian orthodoxy in its latest attempt to shut down the widespread support for Israel Folau? That’s what we’ve got following an investigative piece by Kate McClymont headlined: Why the PM and most Christians are “going to hell”.
It’s an invitation for all right thinking Christians to distance themselves from Folau not on the basis of what he believes about sex, but what he believes about the Trinity, or doesn’t believe about it.
And if those paragons of Christian orthodoxy, ScoMo and Brian Houston are going to hell too, then why would any Christian back him on anything? Izzy’s now just the Aussie equivalent of a Westboro Baptist nut bar, right?
It does feel somewhat confected. Fresh from giving Scott Morrison a hiding in the months since he became Prime Minister over his spooky Pentecostal views, and alongside a long-term campaign against Hillsong over its finances, the Herald has had its Damascus Road experience, and returned those two to the “normal Christian” column. For the time being at least.
Where was the Herald when we really needed it back in the 11th century?
The Herald has suddenly become the heresy detector in our midst, and we should be thanking them, right? Listen to the cheer of many an orthodox Christian from the bleacher. There’s a positive sense of relief that they have someone from the secular media confirming their silence on the matter.
McClymont is simply playing one side off against the other. When it suits to bag out the PM over his Christianity that’s what the Herald will do. When it suits to paint ScoMo as the victim of another brand of Christianity, let’s side with him.
What next? Perhaps the Herald can help us solve the interminable “filoque” crisis that has separated the Eastern Church and Western Church for centuries. Where was the Herald when we really needed it back in the 11th century? Ah well, better late than never I suppose.
The expectation now is that Christians should be so convinced that Folau is not really one of them, that their reason for supporting him is delegitimised. Cut him loose people, he’s not one of yours. We’re waiting!
Yet one reality the mainstream media does not get is just how sliced and diced religious belief is, even inside the Christian tent, never mind across faiths. Simply put, most Christians are well aware of the plethora of sects with wacko views on just about any biblical topic.
In fact many Christians do have a problem with Folau’s unorthodox beliefs. We’ve muddied the waters somewhat, but in a deep sense we are speaking up for free speech for someone we don’t agree with. That commitment, which often runs counter to our nature, spring from the worldview we hold; one in which humans are created with value, dignity and worth, and can not be coerced into belief.
I myself am on record for have defending La Trobe university’s Roz Ward, one of the architects of Safe Schools, a program that I quite frankly feel is destructive and an attempt to sexualise minors.
It’s weird, slightly fundamentalist and locked into conspiracy theory.
When Ward was threatened with suspension for saying that the Australian flag was outdated and racist, there was a pile on. But many Christians, including me, spoke up for her. Why? For the same reason we speak up for Folau. I don’t agree with Ward, but why should she lose her job for speaking her mind on this matter? What are we looking for? A culture in which inner dissent is tolerated as long as outward assent is offered? Didn’t we fight a world war – and the Cold War – to reject such a world?
I’ve heard all too often that Christians wouldn’t be so quick to back Izzy if he were Muslim or Jehovah’s Witness. Well actually they would, and indeed many have been advocating for religious freedom, not simply Christian freedom. And many a minority Muslim has been watching this debate silently, and wondering what’s going to happen to them when they realise that the religion or race card does not hold the same value as the sex card in the workplace.
So I don’t agree with much of Folau’s church’s theological stance. It’s weird, slightly fundamentalist and locked into conspiracy theory. It is less than charitable to those it disagrees with within the faith, so it’s hardly surprising it’s less charitable again towards those outside the faith.
But that’s the nature of sectarianism. I’ve met plenty of Christians who belong to such groups. Would I go to their church? Not at all. Would I trust them with my finances if they were an accountant? Absolutely. I can make the distinction.
So let’s not replace a religious sectarianism that cannot cope with difference with a secular sectarianism that not only cannot cope with difference, but doesn’t have the wherewithal to hold to the freedoms that were bequeathed to it: Freedoms bequeathed by the very Christian framework it is so hostile towards, but which it will still use and abuse in order to further its own cause.
Editor’s note: Eternity understands that the material used in the McClymont piece was supplied by Christians concerned at the theology of Folau’s church. So the invitation to Christians to distance ourselves from Folau’s theology came from within. John Sandeman