Israel Folau
Israel Folau (Image: AAP/Peter Rae)

Israel Folau is a good… well… a Christian man, so he will not be surprised to see that his erstwhile supporters on the right have vanished.

The Gethsemane moment came after he preached at his church that the current bushfires were divine punishment for same-sex marriage and abortion legalisation. The Guardian and Nine reported on it, and The Australian gave it a mention when the big banana Alan Jones came out to chide him for, you know, saying and believing exactly the same things he was hitherto defended for.

But of course Folau had said that LGBTQ people (I’m not sure of his position on “I”, intersex folk) would burn in hell. Now he’s saying they’ll burn in New South Wales.

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But here’s the thing: he said it in church. To like-minded people. The argument as regards his earlier statements was whether he had breached a contract imposed by a sports-entertainment body, with a financial interest in preserving its broad social appeal. There’s no question of that now. If Folau doesn’t have an absolute right to say fundamentalist things in a fundamentalist church, where can he?

The very reporting of it thus had a dash of liberal totalitarianism and tabloidism to it — something The Guardian is increasingly tempted and fallen to these days. But the utter and echoing silence on the right was a miracle to behold.

They really are utter, utter cowards aren’t they? They’ll pick up and use anyone for 15 minutes and then disappear them down the memory hole when need be. And need be great at the moment, because of course Folau’s fundamentalism is adjacent to ScoMo’s religiosity — the one he has come to use effectively in generating a sense of purpose that Labor is quite unable to do.

That has only been achieved by taking out practically all its content. To have a not-so-happy clappy celebrating communities burning as God’s judgement is — quite aside from referencing the Beetrooter’s shocker that two people killed in the north east were “probably Green voters” — is inconvenient. So they have washed their hands of him. Exactly when his right to speak should be defended — as part of a commitment to pluralism; that society should have the absolute freedom to propagate multiple world views, especially within closed audiences such as congregations.

Reporting the sermon he gave was completely unnecessary, and managed to combine the propagation of it far beyond its intended audience, with a sly attack on such freedom by the very act of reporting it.

Still, at least it has exposed the right’s hypocrisy afresh. Praise be!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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