Israel Folau’s most ridiculous demand
"I'm hoping for an apology. I'd be happy with that," Israel Folau told reporters outside the Fair Work Commission in Sydney today.
What an infuriatingly ironic thing to say.
It is true that one apology could have fixed the mess between Folau and Rugby Australia. But that apology is long overdue - and Folau is still unwilling to deliver it.
He doesn't even realise he owes one.
Of course, when Folau says he would be happy with an apology from Rugby Australia, that isn't strictly true. He wants a lot more than that - to be reinstated as an exorbitantly paid footy star, or failing that, to receive a payout of $10 million.
All I or anyone else really want from Folau, on the other hand, is an apology. We'd be happy with that. Genuine remorse would be nice, but I daresay we would settle for even the slightest hint of recognition that his words were hurtful.
And that is the fundamental problem here. Folau honestly does not believe he said anything hateful. In fact, he thinks the exact opposite.
"It's something that I'm trying to share in love, and that's the way I look at it in terms of sharing the Bible and the passages with my fellow men each day," Folau said in an interview on Thursday night, referring to his repeated declarations that gay people are destined for hell.
Despite all its qualities, and everything positive it contributes to society, religion still has a nasty habit of spreading hate and calling it love.
That's an awkward problem to talk about. I feel awkward typing this right now, because I know from experience how wonderful and compassionate people of faith can be. But what the heck, this needs to be said.
When you tell someone the god you worship will send them to hell, it is not a loving sentiment. You are implicitly telling that person you believe they deserve to suffer for eternity unless they repent.
It has been put to me frequently over the last week that Folau also condemned drunks, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters.
"The adulterers aren't offended!" the argument goes. How come there's one standard for insulting them and another for insulting gay people?
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Those that are living in Sin will end up in Hell unless you repent. Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him. _______________ Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these , adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 KJV _______________ Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:38 KJV _______________ And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent: Acts 17:30 KJV _______________
You know what sets everything on that list apart from homosexuality? Every single one is a choice. You can choose not to drink, not to steal, not to have sex before marriage.
Being gay is not a choice.
We are talking about the difference between judging someone for how they behave and judging them for how they were born.
I'm at least three of the things on Folau's list. If I wanted to avoid hell, I could quite easily repent my constant drunkenness and never touch a drop of booze again.
When you tell someone to repent for being gay, it isn't that simple. Their sexuality is not something they can control; it's part of who they are. You'd have as much success asking someone to change the colour of their skin.
That is why Folau's words were so damaging, regardless of his intention. That is why he was sacked for anti-gay comments, not anti-atheist. It's a deeper level of prejudice, and Australia's football codes have done the right thing in trying to stamp it out of their ranks in recent years.
Folau was the face of one of those codes. As the most talented and popular player in Australian rugby, he had a responsibility to the sport and its supporters.
Try to put yourself in the shoes of a young, gay rugby fan. Let's say 15 years old. You're already confused about your sexuality and terrified of what your family and friends might think. Then you read a post from your idol, telling you there's something so fundamentally wrong with you that you deserve to go to hell.
I don't know about you, but my head was messed up enough as a teenager without adding any of that incalculable stress to the equation.
So is it any wonder young LGBTQ people are five times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide?
Yes, I know you've heard that statistic before, and no, I'm not going to stop repeating it, because it matters far more than a rugby player's desire to quote the Bible's less savoury passages on Instagram.
The part that saddens me is that Folau has heard the massive public outcry over his comments without actually listening to any of it. There has been no self-reflection; no sign that he cares enough to understand the damage his words might cause.
He still believes he is the victim here, and that he has nothing to apologise for.
"I can certainly see it from both sides. If I had a child who was a drug addict, I would still love my child without anything attached to that," Folau said during that interview on Thursday night.
There he goes again. Comparing being gay to being a drug addict, without any idea how offensive that is or the faintest inclination to learn. And he cites it as evidence he can see the issue "from both sides".
At its best, religion encourages us to show love and empathy for one another. At its worst, it can make us carelessly judgmental, often without even realising it.
Folau doesn't realise it. Hopefully, one day, he will. Then he might consider offering an apology of his own.
Sam Clench is news.com.au's political reporter.