Friday, May 17, 2019

Israel Folau Can Fuck Off Now

   But he won't. The smart money has it that God will tell him to go as far as the Supreme Court and collect some cash, rather than take a vow of introspective poverty in order to work effectively with the less fortunate. One couldn't expect more (or less) from a chronic shamer, unwilling to accept appropriate shame and appropriate consequences. The ignominy of a pariah isn't necessarily forever, however. Unrepentant wrongdoers often tend to set themselves upon the path to martyrdom since it has wondrous payoffs for the arrogant ego looking to perpetuity. In the meantime there's always common secular law to be milked for all its worth - in service to power grabs in the name of furthering religious authority.

Kicking Off

   Words hurt. They do. But let's not rush to jump on that LGBT strategy as the only reason why Israel Folau needs to know the force of a society's disapproval. Without getting too Talmudic about it all, an essentially emotive point-of-view does indeed resonate with many, but that which comes from the heart invites iniquities. We're wise to know that a victim experiencing hurt means success for any bully. And as we've not unexpectedly seen, Folau is all too willing to have himself painted as a victim who deserves to be conflated with Colin Kaepernick, despite the latter's courageous battles not being fueled by homophobic bigotry.

While many rush to defend his freedom to express religion, most fail to keep a scorecard on who and what he's hurting...consequences never being quite what they seem. As a zealot, Folau's the last person to be trusted to define well-meaning religious intent, so let's not get ahead of ourselves by tacitly giving him a pass along the lines of good intentions. Let's just first line up Folau's victims in some corrected order:

  • Truth is often a casualty of religion because Australia's laws legitimize and codify religion as belief in the supernatural. Scientology was the test case. It's immaterial whether or not Folau is telling the truth about anything at all because there's no requirement to do so. Truth is only ever apprehended by disciplined thinking, but we do Truth a great disservice when we think we need to respect "somebody's truth" if Truth itself is a matter of invention, dependent on individual whimsy.
  • We're all people of Faith to some degree or another. We're usually told things like achievement are as simple as ABC: Act upon a Belief, sustained by Confidence. As it is for religious believers, so it is for non-believers. Sometimes the facts and the evidence justify hypothesis in the pursuit of objectivity, sometimes the Belief itself is just an appalling abrogation of principled humanity delivered from the darkest hearts and egos. The religious who take faith seriously enough to experience "faith challenges" invariably question the quality and worth of the belief. It's simply Machiavellian to seize upon a belief (or a fact out of its true order) in order to create a desired end.
  • Common assumptions about theology mistakenly portray it as universally devoid of Critical Thinking but that's not quite so. Philosophically humanist approaches to faith don't necessarily dismiss a leap of faith to belief in a loving, just and merciful higher power which simply but consistently does good. No reasonable evaluation of Israel Folau's faith conforms to that paradigm, but fair evaluation instead suggests destructive  opposition to faith as a creative force.

  •  Liberty is defined as different things across different disciplines. The good news is that it generally denotes absence of arbitrary restraints, modified by the rights of others. The bad news is that liberty and salvation become entwined within theology, and often end up being at odds with secular freedoms in the hands of religious evangelism. But lofty ideas about liberty are just that unless they translate directly to how we experience the human condition. Or more precisely, our proximity to achieving peace of mind as a reasonable psychological goal, devoid of chaos and delusion. Folau's specific and general damnations about sin coupled with promised "salvation"  bring exactly nobody peace of mind, and must be viewed as a spectacular fail for his brand of evangelism.

    "Liberté, égalité, fraternité" as a tripartite motto can lurk in the back of our minds as something wonderfully aspirational when we forget that all three have served to justify the basest intents of politics and religion. But they're not a bad encapsulation of the core concerns of much of philosophy's questions as we know and explore them. It's hard to dispute that equality defines the lives of most North Koreans and all those in servitude to theocracy. Similarly, fraternity in practice hasn't given society much more than toxic masculinity on current reckoning. And homophobes like Israel Folau offer men nothing new or worthwhile as we face up to our modern challenges. He actively opposes what menn in droves have always worked out for themselves:  that carrying homophobia is an unwanted and non-productive burden. Whatever team you're on, homophobia is bound to diminish it rather than strengthen it. It always has, and would-be Messiahs are wise to know it.

The Homophobia Offense As Power Play

    Talent, money and fame have elevated Israel Folau to a rarified and privileged position within male hierarchy. It was his choice to assume the mantle of male leadership, regardless of what he perceives 'God' told him to do. For every Christian soldier bravely onwarding his homophobia, there's another man of faith whose educated contempt for it eschews any assumed need to discuss it. The eminent theologian Dr. Eugene Scott's stock response to homophobic religiosity condemning individuals was always a succinct: "The real perverts are already in the churches."  Homophobia seves the public consciousness as a canary testing the mine-shaft of masculinity (and general decency) because it's rarely not in tandem with racism, hatred of women and a tendency to bullying other males. A characteristic of toxic masculinity is that it seeks dominion and power over all other men with weaponized homophobia being but one implement. Homophobic men therefore institutionalizing themselves as leaders and/or teachers represents significantly menacing power-grabs which can't be ignored. 


Responsible quality journalists never descend to scriptural debates because it's the domain of non-thinkers, slogans out of context and worse. Broadcasters generally don't permit it because it bores their audiences who switch off in droves. Evangelists and fundamentalists however are drawn to it like catnip, on the non-negotiable laid-out assumption that a god literally wrote scripture. Those of the Christian variety face significant challenges as Christians because under scrutiny their full acceptance of their Messiah is very "iffy" indeed. And there's every indication that Queer Jesus is a threat to their re-conceptualized Christianity.

Calling The Game

   Sloppy online dictionaries have a bad habit of redefining words and language to suit ideologies. The word "bigot" has undergone significant redefinition recently, and the apparently subtle shift now encroaches on the concept of tolerance. That's highly problematic since tolerance is best understood by putting Karl Popper's Paradox of Tolerance through its paces. While bigotry and intolerance are not the same, it's becoming more commonplace than ever for the emboldened promoters of intolerance to attempt shutting down their opponents with accusations of bigotry. And opponents who haven't applied too much critical thinking to their position often back down - sometimes in the erroneous belief that unlimited and infinite tolerance are somehow innate to good and righteous people. It's a dangerous vanity to accept the unacceptable from a bully - especially when it's delivered with no more argumentative authority than an ad populum attack. Sublimated and/or residual Queer guilt often determines whether or not we respond appropriately to toxic ideas and people of bad character, and if indeed we make an appropriate distinction.

Shorthand post-post-modern morality doesn't wish to see itself derided as fascistic, but it does leave itself open to the accusation when it can't or won't take an ethical stand, and clearly define its boundaries on tolerance. While boundaries will most certainly change from individual to individual, there's no justification for us as a society handing default victories to ideas best understood and known as anti-social. 


We're usually quite aware of physical menace but when it's verbal we often miss the cues. Or worse, we buy into it by first believing that those who come with the trappings of piety automatically deserve respect as if they're more respectable and of real authority. When it comes to religion, fundamentalists and evangelists alike tolerate no legal, moral or ethical limitations on them whatsoever. It's what they are. It's what they do. We can spin our wheels with attempts at reason, but are there ever reasonable outcomes in attempting to reason with the unreasonable? Or does the good and ethical person simply say: "Fuck off - I'm at the end of my tolerance for you and your kind."?


  1. Nice piece, linguistically and conceptually. As a philosopher who takes a rather strong anti-religion stand, I'm always cautious about any form of limitation on freedom of expression, while recognising some to be necessary to decent civilisation. That aspect of the Folau case has me constantly vacillating on certain points. I'd be horrified to think my freedom to express the view that certain manifestations of theology are 'evil' could be curtailed on the basis that persons find such offensive or 'harmful'. I think it's sadly but unavoidably true that not a single one of Nietzsche's works would be printed in the contemporary political environment.

    Of course, the Folau saga is about so much more than just freedom of speech issues. If people can stomach it they really should watch the ACL YouTube videos on the subject. Martyn Iles would run rings round the average self-righteous twitter user. He's vastly more dangerous in that sense than a half-baked wanna=be political theologist like Lyle Shelton.

    On the question of 'bigotry' I have to say I find myself rather irritated by the lazy and reactionary use of pejoratives in public discourse. I'd say perhaps 75% of instances of it are unjust and just plain false. Folau is likely not a bigot or a homophobe himself, but is locked into a faith paradigm that demonstrably is those things. What level of private conflict he experiences in relation to that is unknown to us but I'm willing to believe some degree of it likely exists. Either that or he's banished that conflict in order to survive it.

    Anyway, I'm rambling here. Just wanted to drop by and commend a fine article.


  2. Thanks Dan! Glad you enjoyed the piece.

    Yes I've been monitoring the ACL for some time & agreed: the addition of Martyn Iles is a sinister turn for the worst. He's slick & dangerous. Shelton is doing his duty & taking on board all criticism (for them) so that strategic "responses" can be workshopped for Iles as mouthpiece.

    Pejoratives - like the entire ethos of "identity politics" - need to be only used judiciously.Calling somebody a bigot after all is just an ad hom unless we're able to articulate bigotry and directly relate it to bad character.

    So thank YOU for your comments - they're very much appreciated.