Hidden win for guilty Folau
"Alan, I'm at peace, mate," Israel Folau reportedly said in a note to one of his most feverish supporters, Sydney shock jock Alan Jones. "My head is held high."
I'll bet he's at peace, and I'm sure his head's held high. Because despite the fact that Folau "lost" at Tuesday's hearing convened to determine whether or not his controversial social media post about homosexuals and other sinners breached his $4 million contract with Rugby Australia, he has won.
He's achieved precisely what he wanted to achieve. This was never a fight about a rugby union contract. It was never about "freedom of speech", as Folau's most frothing supporters like to shriek all over social media (usually pointing, irrationally, to the US Bill of Rights).
It was about Christians like Folau believing, with absolute, unshakeable certainty, that homosexuals (and for that matter, a host of other assorted undesirables) are wrong, evil and disgusting, and that it is their breathless duty, as God's earthbound soldiers, to point this out.
And when someone with Folau's profile uses his platform to do exactly that, it opens the floodgates for everyone else to let their ugliest views out into the open. It greenlights hate.
Where once these people might have had the sense to realise their poisonous prejudice is something best left to fester and ferment in the private recesses of their angry minds, now they have a beacon, a light of righteousness showing them the way.
Whether Folau, their messiah, won or lost in front of a panel of stuffy sports arbiters is beside the point. The point is they want to see their message of intolerance spread, they want to be applauded for doing so, and that's exactly what's happened.
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The spitting vitriol from others who may once have felt their views are too ugly to voice in public is eye-watering. And it's everywhere. Oh, how they've been bottling this stuff up and waiting for the day. What a fiesta of bigotry and intolerance we've been treated to this time round. We haven't sludged through this particular sewer since the same-sex marriage debate, and boy has it been bubbling and rotting since then.
"Sodomy is disgusting!" was a typical comment on a mainstream news site.
"Things animals don't do we humans do," was another horrified assessment of homosexual sex.
"My boys know right from wrong, I would never let the devil force them to be gay," is another.
Parents threatened to take their children out of rugby in case they're forced to come into contact with gays or gay sympathisers. Howls of death, destruction and God's furious hellfire were everywhere. Not cowering in the shadows, not tucked away on some obscure Reddit thread. On every mainstream website, on every form of social media.
Folau is holding his head high through all of this because he's quite clearly pleased with the attention around his crusade and its broader shockwaves.
"At times it's hard to understand why true followers of Christ experience suffering for glorifying His name," Folau wrote pitifully on another Instagram post, a quote from Peter 4:14, before adding that the whole enterprise is, overall, rather satisfying. "Through every reproach," he added, "Consider it all joy."
He says it right there on the tin. He and his supporters take great pleasure in telling the gays where to go (hell, for those not paying attention), and the resulting backlash is just part and parcel of their righteousness.
So quit your public hand-wringing, Christian hardliners. Dry your crocodile tears Alan Jones. A rugby career was not the prize here.
Whether or not Folau plays again, his mission is accomplished. His actions have encouraged others to pour heavy, hot hatred into the world. Their preaching is meant to shame, marginalise and persecute a group of people they don't like, and they're thrilled to have been given the chance to do exactly that.
Alex Carlton is a freelance writer. Continue the conversation @Alex_Carlton