Eternity publishes this opinion piece as a campaign by the Australian Christian Lobby for Israel Folau to play football again intensifies.
There are many reasons you might not like Israel Folau.
If you’re a “progressive” unbeliever, you might be offended by him quoting Scripture listing homosexual behaviour as one of many sins condemning unbelievers to a place you don’t believe in called hell.
If you’re a “progressive believer*”, you might be offended by rumours of him not believing in the Holy Trinity or some other wrong teaching which is dissonant to orthodox Christianity.
If you’re a right-of-Stalin believer with no illusions about your feelings changing God’s eternal Word and no desire to publicly scrutinise another believer’s doctrinal differences, you still may have rathered Israel Folau was a little more polished in his preaching.
But whether or not you like or dislike Israel Folau, what he says or how he says it, is entirely irrelevant to the most important question the various Australia rugby league clubs and the NRL’s board and CEO must ask themselves urgently:
“Why should the NRL let him play football?”
The decimated ratings and revenues of American sports codes which have embraced political virtue-signalling is evidence of the truism, “go woke: go broke”.
It’s not that sports fans are “right wing”. Of course they’re as diverse as most massive markets.
Sports fans just want sporting excellence from their sport clubs. Last year was exhausting for everyone, from the media obsessive compulsive hatred of Trump, to their description of 10 months of race rioting, looting, arson and murder as “mostly peaceful” – sports was hoped to be a refuge from non-stop politcs.
The anticipation of amazing ratings was large after covid deprived fans of anything but repeats. But fans tuning in to the NBA just saw more politics and heard more faux moral superiority and ratings actually plummeted by 45%. Tuning in to escape the pandemic and politics doesn’t work when players take the knee and plaster their jerseys to support the extremist Black Lives Matter corporation, so they tune out again nearly as quickly.
The lesson for the NRL, in case common sense isn’t that common, is stick to your knitting. Clubs struggling to field enough talent shouldn’t be offering advice to Israel Folau. They should be angrily demanding the NRL executives get out of their road and let them field the best team possible, including players whose politics are distasteful to shrill elites determined to be offended.
Code and club CEOs should be telling fans, “We’re in the business of entertaining on the field and winning games. Our job isn’t to scrutinise footballers’ sermons off the field or police their politics on their private social media channels. Don’t do anything illegal and it’s none of our business.”
Then let Israel Folau’s football do the talking. If he was a terrible player no one would want him, but he’s not. He’s a phenominal try scorer. More tries than your opponent wins the game, and fans go home happy. Win more games than your opponents and you make the finals. Score more tries than anyone else in the finals and you win the premiership, and even fans who don’t like Israel Folau will flock to your games, clubs and merch’.
And to the activist media and the ridiculous Pirate of Neutral Bay, the code and club CEOs can say, “During an abortion debate we’re all told, ‘If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one‘. During a euthanasia debate we’re all told, ‘If you don’t like euthanasia, don’t do it to your family‘. During a marriage debate we’re all told, ‘If you don’t like gay marriage, don’t get gay married‘. So with that standard in mind, if you don’t like Folau’s sermons; don’t go to his church and don’t search for them on Facebook. If you don’t like Folau’s Instagram posts, don’t go to Folau’s Instagram profile. Mind your own business, as we will. Our business is winning football, and protecting your feelings from a footballer’s opinions isn’t.”
I do like Israel Folau. He’s a history-making champion on the field; he’s a gentle and humble man off the field.
But I wouldn’t have a different position on this important question if I didn’t like his character, his politics or his religion. It doesn’t matter to the objective truth of what’s the right thing to do.
If the NRL and its clubs have any genuine desire to put their best product on the field they will resist the cancerous cancel culture, ignore inevitable political pressure and let Izzy speak for himself on the field.
What should the NRL, Broncos and other clubs do with Israel Folau – unconditionally?
Let him play.
Dave Pellowe is a Christian conservative writer & commentator, editor of The Good Sauce, and convener of the annual Church And State Summit.
Eternity Note “Progressive believer:” David Pellowe’s opinion piece tribally appeared on his Good Sauce site. He tells Eternity his comments about “progressive believers” were directed at the idea that some of the opposition to Folau’s theology was for shallow reasons such as a tall poppy syndrome. But Eternity has a different context. Eternity has carried several articles that focused on Folau’s departures from orthodox belief, including not believing in the Trinity, by theologically serious writers.
Westminster Presbyterian missionary Tom Richards wrote two key articles critiquing Folau’s theology, while respecting his courage in taking a stand. Richards is a Presbyterian missionary, signed up to the Westminster confession of Faithn has the furthest from a “progressive Christian” you can be.
A mother of a teammate of Folau write her story. A conservative Christian, she was worried that her son would be led into heresy by Folau.