Why Everyone Should Care When Christians Lose Their Freedom

16 April 2019

3.9 MINS

Last week, Australia’s highest-profile rugby player Israel Folau tweeted a paraphrase of an unpopular Bible verse. This week, he finds himself barred from our national rugby team and the NRL.

Izzy’s fame has kept his story in the nation’s headlines. But he’s only the tip of the iceberg. Many Aussie Christians face an ugly and growing intolerance simply for holding to beliefs that hardly raised an eyebrow a generation ago.

The same day the Folau story went viral, I received this unrelated message from a concerned friend:

“I work in a health team and we’re doing lots in the diversity space. The thing that really lacks however is respect for Christians and the Christian faith.

“Frequently in training for LGBTI we kept having to listen to negative statements about the church… I don’t feel safe to voice my views as a Christian or even defend Christianity because of backlash from my workplace and these trainers.

“Any suggestions for how to deal with it?”

If you can’t see how hostile western society has become towards the Christian faith—even in just the last few years—then you’ve probably been asleep. Worse still, you might be woke.

Speaking of woke, some readers didn’t like that I took a stand for Christians in my previous post about Folau. It would be more like Jesus, they suggested, if I stood with those not from my tribe.

On this, I agree with them. One of the remarkable things about Jesus—and Christians through the ages—is a selfless care for the plight of others, even enemies.

But it’s also like Jesus to speak against injustice wherever it’s found.

Moreover, it’s in everyone’s best interests to speak against injustice wherever it’s found. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously said:

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

With that in mind, here are four reasons everyone should care when Christians like Israel Folau lose their freedoms.

It’s basically one-way traffic in the media—not just on the Izzy saga but in most stories that are broadcast about the Christian faith.

Without question, the church has its fair share of sins to atone for and plenty of trust to regain—especially after the recent child abuse royal commission.

But for the last decade, if you had only mainstream news sources to go on, you’d think most people who follow Jesus were kooks, bigots or paedophile priests.

Forget that four of Australia’s top five charities are Christian, or that religious Aussies give 50% more to charity than their secular counterparts, or that 91% of Australians describe the impact of their local churches as either neutral or positive.

If followers of Jesus were portrayed with more fairness and accuracy in popular culture, maybe less people would cheer when a Christian like Izzy has his freedoms taken away.

Until then, and as long as the caricatures continue, sticking up for the underdog—in this case, yes Christians—would be a very Australian thing to do.

I don’t think Izzy’s post was tactful. But I also don’t think he was trying to single out people in the gay community. He was actually sharing very mainstream Christian beliefs about sin, heaven and hell.

As Chris Kenny writes, other high-profile NRL and ARL players

“have sullied those codes with ugly exploits ­including sexual assault, public drunkenness, drug-taking, violence, explicit videos, bestiality pics, hallway defecation, group sex and heaven knows what else.”

Yet what has spelt the end for Israel Folau’s career is a public expression of his Christian faith.

In other words, this quite recent secular doctrine known as ‘inclusion’ isn’t exactly what it sounds like. Many groups that were excluded in the past are now welcome in mainstream society, and that’s great.

But ironically, some that used to be welcome are no longer—chief among them, followers of Jesus.

This should be cause for a rethink. Rather than celebrating Izzy’s exclusion, maybe it’s time we Aussies had a chat about an inclusion that genuinely is what it sounds like.

Otherwise we’re just repeating the mistakes of the past but inflicting them on a different subculture.

I believe in a secular public square. By that, I don’t mean a society where religion isn’t welcome—I mean a society where all ideas can be discussed with civility and none are given special treatment.

Having said this, there’s something about our freedoms that most Australians don’t know.

Democracy and its associated freedoms are, for the most part, a legacy of Christian belief. The foundation texts of our political system like The Magna Carta, Lex Rex, The English Bill of Rights and the U.S. Declaration of Independence were written mostly by Christians from a Christian milieu.

Medieval catholic lawyers are a responsible for natural rights which eventually developed into human rights. Reformers of the 16th century redefined the dignity of the human person and set the stage for the idea of individual freedom.

These are revolutionary ideas—enjoyed by very few in history. On them we’ve built the freest, safest and most generous societies on earth.

The West might now be secular, but it owes a deep debt to the Christian faith. Which is why shutting down any public expression of the Christian faith will be a big loss for everyone.

It’s not just MLK who sees justice as an ‘an inescapable network of mutuality’.

George Orwell, author of the eerily prophetic 1984, said:

“If you encourage totalitarian methods, the time will come when they will be used against you instead of for you.”

You may despise Israel Folau’s religious views. You may even despise him. But in the words of George Orwell once more,

“If liberty means anything at all it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

If we value our own freedoms, we must value the freedoms of those we don’t particularly like.

If we don’t, 1984 might be closer than we think.

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  1. Pamela Passmore 20 April 2019 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    Well spoken and a prayer of mine is Lord strengthen your people to stand for you.

  2. Mary Toohey 22 April 2019 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    If Folau had warned team mates on an end of season trip that jumping off the bacony on the 79 floor would result in death so change your mind and don’t do it, he would be considered a hero. Why should warning about spirital death be any different. He didn’t name names or force anyone to do anything. It may have lacked tact but it was in no way harmful unless somone wanted it to be. Telling someone that they can change a bad outcome into a better one is more like an act of love than a hate crime.

    • Pauline Fletcher 25 April 2019 at 1:34 pm - Reply

      Totally agree Mary. Gods judgement is Gods judgement any way you look at it. When a nerve is touched we jump!

  3. […] not purely “political”, the recent case of Israel Folau shows just where Australia is […]

  4. Denise Turner 15 May 2019 at 6:14 am - Reply

    Sadly another instance of the intolerance of the self-professed “tolerant”, who have well-defined boundaries to their tolerance.

  5. Judy Nightingale 15 May 2019 at 7:40 am - Reply

    An excellent well thought out article with much in it to consider.

  6. Rex Stryland 15 May 2019 at 7:43 am - Reply

    Thank you Canberra declaration for informing your people about what’s really going on in this world. May God’s truth reign.

  7. Kym Ivory 15 May 2019 at 7:56 am - Reply

    Well put and we still need to be Jesus right where we are and where we work. We need to continue to love even our enemies and those who don’t agree. Love never fails

  8. Monica Bennett-Ryan 15 May 2019 at 9:23 am - Reply

    While we are talking about the true meaning of ‘inclusion’, maybe it’s time to talk about the true meaning of ‘discrimination’, which, until recently, meant, ‘recognition and understanding of the difference between right and wrong’. That meaning is sadly lacking in all talk about discrimination.

  9. Leanda Kayess 15 May 2019 at 11:11 am - Reply

    Another test of freedom of speech and religion sadly displaying the underlying agenda of “tolerance” only if you believe what we can tolerate.

  10. Christine Burrell 15 May 2019 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Not only Christians are affected by laws which deny each person’s freedom to have their own beliefs and be able to share those beliefs for discussion with others. It is time for all Australians to recognise and stand up for freedom of beliefs and speech.

  11. Brenda Lindsay-Holley 16 May 2019 at 3:07 pm - Reply

    Thank you for writing about the real issues threatening our great nation.

  12. Maggie Murray 16 May 2019 at 6:03 pm - Reply

    We were hoodwinked in 2017, believing that homosexuals just wanted to marry and live happily ever after. What a fallacy that was, don’t believe anything the Left tell you.

  13. Angela 18 May 2019 at 7:14 am - Reply

    If I were one of Israel Folau’s fellow Christian footballers…
    I would leave my rugby union team and start my own team with Israel as captain ….they are the most talented footballers after all… they’ll probably win the Grand Final!

  14. […] risk consequences of imprisonment or fines for declaring the infallible, incorruptible Word of God. Israel Folau is just the most recent example of […]

  15. Chitrani Ratneser 24 May 2019 at 11:53 am - Reply

    What can we do for Israel Folau? Should we help him form a football club of his own? People of God put your heads together. We are still talking of the unkindness to Izzy, perhaps we should talk about how we can help him stand again!

  16. […] situation now has bigger significance in terms of religious freedom, freedom to quote from the Bible, whether such quoting can ever be restricted to a private audience, and the […]

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