Opinion

Is Israel Folau's new footballing gig good news or bad news?

Israel Folau is off to play Rugby League in France for the Catalans Dragons. They play in the Super League, the top level club competition in the Northern Hemisphere.

The Dragons are based in Perpignan, Pyrénées-Orientales, France, and represent Catalonia – the Spanish region across the border from Perpignan.

So its fair to say that Folau will be playing in the northern NRL equivalent.

The governing bodies of the sport – Rugby Football League and Super League – have distanced themselves from Folau’s views on homosexuality. In response, Folau issued a statement: “I acknowledge the views expressed by Super League and the Rugby Football League.”

“I’m a proud Christian, my beliefs are personal, my intention is not to hurt anyone and I will not be making further public comment about them,” he said.

“I look forward to my return to the great game of rugby league with the Catalans Dragons.”

But as Folau agreed to be silent on the topic, it became clear almost instantly that the debates will not go away. Within 29 minutes of Folau’s announcement (according to The Australian), Super League team Wigan Warriors tweeted this:

https://twitter.com/WiganWarriorsRL/status/1222139681116172289

It is hard to work out who comes out ahead on this announcement.

  • Israel Folau returns to a top level sports competition, which is a boost to his bank balance, as well as having a chance to make the most of his top years as a footballer (he is 31). This move also is a riposte to Rugby Australia and NRL who have shut him out.
  • As a man who said his faith required him to express his conservative views on homosexuality, Folau will have had to think through whether he can be silent.
  • But Folau can say that his views have been so thoroughly spread through media – often by people opposed to him – so that he hardly needs to reiterate them.
  • As Folau has been silenced, are the Christians who have been thoroughly supportive of him the losers in all this? Some, perhaps many, will be disappointed at the news of his agreeing to no longer publicly expressing his views.

For other Christians, for whom the sacking of Folau cast a shadow over their freedom of speech, the choice to be silenced may not be welcome.

We are left with the same question we started this ‘Folau social media post’ conversation with: what would Jesus have said?

What would have been a better reply, in the two instances of Folau’s posts: the first one, responding to a mate about homosexuality and the second one, responding out of frustration at a Tasmanian law?

For conservative Christians:

  • Should he have drawn with a stick on the ground? And advised only the sinless could cast a stone?
  • Should he have come up with a great line that left his questioners flummoxed, such as “Render unto Caesar…?”
  • Should he have made a whip of cords – as in the cleansing of the Temple in Jerusalem?

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