What a polarising world we live in and one where more and more often those thoughts and ideas that were once privileged to the confines of our minds and our communities are now thrust into the arena of social media and debate. Nothing has become more polarising than the upheaval that is the FE, or “Folau Effect”.
This FE has ceased being a world-class rugby player with a private and now public expression of his faith and has instead become a coat hanger for differing opinions and ideas, where so many different groups now have hung their coat.
Be it the coat of religion and its freedom to be expressed or those who oppose it, the coat hanger of hate speech and its effect on the LGBTQI community, or those who have grown up in Pacific Church communities around the world, and have held private views and opinions on homosexuality and the LGBTQI community that are now forced into the arena of public opinion.
The world is changing so quickly and our thoughts and opinions are called upon to stand, be it to agree or disagree, because the time of having an opinion without standing for it is quickly coming to a close.
The $400,000 dollars raised in a day for Folau’s legal fight against the Australian Rugby Union should tell you there are those who not only supported his stance but supported his right to take a stand with regard to his faith, and how he demonstrated it.
Interestingly it is the trending, highest-rating GoFundMe campaign, far exceeding those including terminally ill children seeking medical for life threatening disease they had little choice over.
And this speaks volumes to the many silent supporters that have shown their support with the discretion afforded by anonymous donations.
Whatever stand you take again, we find ourselves polarised by the actions of others and almost forced into a them-or-us mentality, and drawn into debate which is in itself healthy on what we think, what we believe and why. I am confronted by it and I have had to think very carefully about my position with regard to this.
A quote I have always held to sits on my laptop: “Compromise is but the sacrifice of one right or good in the hope of retaining another … too often ending in the loss of both.”
Jesus himself made it clear that we cannot serve two masters, we will either love one or loath the other but we cannot love both.
So herein lies our dilemma. What do we do when public opinion or outcry calls us in a certain direction, and our faith and our religious view calls us in another? Especially when these ideas and issues are no longer played out in the confines of our homes or in our churches, coffee tables, or cafes. They are instead played out in the public arena, in the media space and on social media and we are compelled to make a choice.
A choice like men and women have made in the past over slavery, when people of faith stood on either side of that table; some said it was right, others said it was wrong.
A choice like those who saw Martin Luther King rally marches across America where people of faith said the black man cannot vote, and where others said he must.
A choice like when in 1981 the racially-selected, apartheid-backed Springboks toured a divided New Zealand and the many said, leave it alone, it’s just a rugby game. My family and I marched, and said they must not be allowed to tour New Zealand.
Either way, we are responsible for the choices we make internally and externally and for those of us that have a faith in God, we also know in the end these choices we make internally and externally we will be made accountable for.
And that in itself is very sobering. Whether it be to God, or to our own conscience, we make a choice and that choice, that ability to choose, that freedom to have my own thoughts, my own views and ideas, and to come to those without duress or pressure, must be preserved, maintained and treasured at all costs.
We cannot and should not be corralled into thinking a certain way, no matter what pressure there is to do so. Folau, like us, will have his supporters and detractors – but like us, he must be afforded the human privilege to choose.
Because it is not the dilemma that we find ourselves in that causes us to be fully human, it is instead our ability to, without restraint, chose this day who we will serve and how, and to whom we will respond and what we then choose to believe.