QED

Hell and Other Destinations

Hell has been much in the news lately, oddly for these self-worshipping, hedonistic and non-believing times.

By wading yet again into the waters of Folau, one risks over-egging the story. But the Folau saga is the gift that keeps on giving, and there is yet another angle here, one that explains much of the backstory and which has been mostly overlooked.

Those who support Folau, increasingly with their hard-earned, it seems, fall into three distinct camps.  There are those who support what he said about unrepentant sinners going to hell, those who (it seems) loathe what he said but, following Voltaire (or whoever actually uttered the words first), will defend to the death, or somewhere approaching death, his right to say it, and, finally, those who couldn’t give a rat’s but still go with the freedom of speech defence.

Those who oppose Folau are mostly just one big blob.  They think he is a bigot and that he should be silenced.  Some think he is a rich bigot.  There are others who are not on his side, though.  These don’t especially think he is a bigot, or don’t much care, but think the dispute is simply about contract law.  They do not see any bigger freedom-of-religion picture.

It is worth looking a bit more closely at Folau’s supporters, for they are an interesting bunch.  Those who support his rights to speak on religious matters but feel the need to express abhorrence at his expressed views are especially interesting, and their statements tell us much about the world we now inhabit.

One noteworthy exponent of this position is Andrew Bolt.  According to a Bolt opinion piece this week, Folau’s views are “vile”.  Bolt referred in passing to his own gay relatives and friends being hurt, and then expressed the view that Folau was especially out of line for “comparing” homosexuals to liars, thieves, etc.  By now, we all know St Paul’s list.

Others have concurred with Bolt’s assertion.  “Bigot” is a term often used in this connection.

Another Folau critic, a junior News Corp reporter (who in his spare time, “likes to eat”), one Sam Clench, thinks Folau is “clueless”.  In a simply awful (perhaps, at a stretch, vile) piece of which anyone calling him or herself a journalist should be ashamed, the Clench boy brings out all the big ones – Folau is rich, he will use his winnings to buy a yacht, he is bigoted, he is hateful, he is a hypocrite for pretending that Christianity is about love, he is selective in his use of the Bible, he is judgmental, he says horrible things, and, of course – he is homophobic!  That seals it, then.  His legal case is a “tantrum”.  He is wallowing in self-pity.  Goodness.

Oh, and that wonderful business, GoFundMe, supports kids with leukemia, just by the way.  Go figure.  And lots of Wallabies also don’t like what Folau said.  Well that proves the case!

What is worst, perhaps, is that Clench almost – almost – goes so far as to link Folau’s hate speech with youth homosexual suicide.  This was the Ian “first openly gay footballer”  Roberts line, which, mercifully, which got little traction because it is simply absurd.

Then there is Josh Bornstein, a workplace relations lawyer in the public eye, who has called Folau’s views “ridiculous” and “whacky”, while at the same time suggesting the case is very important for our society and for freedom of religion. Whacky? Vile? This is a quite a backhander to Christians by the freedom-of-speech brigade.  Just letting you know – we think you are kooks, what with the talk of hell, sin and stuff, even though we will support your right to be seen to be kooks.

Of course, anyone is free to slag off at Christian views.  They often do, and they do much, much worse.  I heard in a homily this very morning that around 43 million Christians have been martyred over the past two millennia.  Over half were slaughtered in the 20th century.  The killings and persecutions continue, indeed they multiply.  Insults like vile and whacko, are not even flesh wounds in comparison to the much harder experiences Christians endure, often short of death but typically including the loss of wealth, income and serenity. 

Christians also endure the ignominy of having to live in what Pope John Paul II termed a culture of death – of rampant abortions and killing of the aged – where crimes are dressed up as individual rights, of the sight of men being wed to men and prancing up and down Taylor Square once a year in early March, marching not to protest against the absence of their rights, but to denounce ours.

Is Bolt correct?  Are Folau’s views vile?  Well, if they are, then until about eight minutes ago, the majority of Western populations, then not only believing but also practising Christians, also subscribed to these vile views.  Now, of course, many still-believing Christians would agree with Bolt.  The Church of Nice, as a Kiwi friend has aptly popularised a term borrowed from The Church Militant group, doesn’t hold much to Folau’s “fundamentalist” views of Christianity.  One American priest (Fr James Martin), either a champion or notorious depending on one’s perspective, speaks often and publicly of “building bridges” and of pastoral care, rather than calls to repentance.  His ilk feel they have a friend in the current Pope.  The Gallen “mafia” in the Catholic Church, often aligned with the profiteers of the sexual revolution, might even be called a Catholic Gaystapo.

Bolt is, in effect, what might be termed a post-Vatican II atheist (with apologies to the late Paddy McGuinness AO).  He especially doesn’t believe in what Christians used to believe in, or what he thinks they should believe in now.  He has said (in a recent interview with the American writer Rod Dreher) that he just doesn’t get the Church’s “opposition” to gays.  Bolt’s non-comprehension of the Christian position on homosexuality is similar to Clench’s charge of Christians “condemning them to hell for their sexuality”. (Bolt’s post Vatican II atheism reminds one of the American philosopher Robert Nozick’s quip in Anarchy, State and Utopia about “normative sociology”, the study of what the causes of social problems should have been.  This is an hilarious take on political correctness, a marvellous vignette in a delightful, though generally dense and difficult, book). In other words, were there a hell, it certainly would not be full of the loving gay couples of Bolt’s acquaintance.  Bolt is creating his own heaven, even though it does not, for him, exist. Imagine!

What about Folau’s “comparing” gays to “real” sinners?  This is a canard, Mr Bolt.  We are not picking on gays, Master Clench.  We are all sinners.  We all need to repent, in order to gain the eternal rewards Christians expect and in which they believe.  Folau did not “compare” or “liken” (as another critic put it) homosexuals to (worse?) sinners.  He merely stated that homosexual acts are, and remain, for Christians, sinful, in the same way, post the Fall, that other sins are, well, sins.  And those who commit sins are, well, sinners.  Good heavens!

Which of these views are vile, Andrew?

# “If you love me, you will keep my commands” (Jesus Christ)?

# “Go and teach all nations” (Jesus Christ)?

# There is sin? It is real?

# There is a hell (and a heaven, contra John Lennon)?

# Unforgiven serious sins merit hell?

# God gets to decide which activities contravene His commands? We do not?

# God judges what is in men’s hearts?

# Justice is on the other side of mercy?

# The laws of nature, held to be so since Moses, confirmed by the Lord and by Aquinas (who rated homosexual acts at very, very high up on the list)?

# All men are fallen?

# Sins have been named, and named clearly, in black and white (St Paul, the Didache, the commandments written down by the Apostles – “thou shall not commit sodomy”)

# God has revealed to us his laws?

# “God created them male and female” (Genesis)

Seems Andrew thinks it is vile to be a mainstream, believing Christian.

What is actually going on here is that the Bolt view is creating a secular definition of sin and of hell.  A re-imagining of religion and of Christian belief – and yes, by a non-believer!  In Bolt’s world, there is a new list of sins.  A secular ten commandments, if you will.  For the secular progressives, the things that would condemn one to hell, if it existed, include hate speech, homophobia, cheating (some sins still count), murder (still), paedophilia (still fashionable as a sin, but who knows in the future, given the beliefs of some on the fringes of the sex revolution), climate crimes and Islamophobia. Some would add supporting George Pell to that list.

According to that “right-wing refugee, Rita Panahi:

If you ask me, the only people going to hell are clowns who recline their seats on short flights.

Setting aside Rita’s seat-back sinner, there is no room on the secular sin list for authentic Christian sins, or little room at any rate.  No gays in hell, only serial killers.  Oh, and just about everyone goes to heaven.  In other words, our sin list trumps yours.  We get to pick the sins now.

Here is how one Christian writer has contextualised hell. According to Stefanie Nicholas:

The so-called “merciful” view of salvation-for-basically-everyone-except-Jeffrey-Dahmer that has come into vogue in recent years has no similar endorsement beyond its popularity.

Yes, the no-gays-in-hell view resonates with the times.  Here is Stefanie again:

I believe that viewing Hell as the “baseline” — the default for human beings without Christ, due to the reality of sin entering the world — makes the most theological sense within the defined dogmas of our faith. I also believe that the good fruits of this view of Hell are obvious. Truly working out my salvation with fear and trembling helps me to have the courage to speak the truth about what our faith teaches in other areas, even when it means facing severe criticism and even hatred. It’s worth it. Helping to lead one soul away from the utter horror of eternal Hell is worth anything this world can dish out.

I just hope that Israel Folau keeps believing that “it is worth it”.

Yes, there is now precious little overlap between secular society’s favourite sins and the Christian faith’s rather Mosaic list, later perfected and simplified by Jesus Christ.  The Folau critics, even those who respect free speech rights, want the new sin list to take precedence over the old, and even to banish the Christian sin list from the public square.  The Christian sin list is so day-before-yesterday.  Now we (the new ruling class) get to pick the sin list and our sin list trumps yours. This secularist misunderstanding (wilful perhaps) of the Christian understanding of sin is at the heart of much of the angst over Folau and his Christian supporters.  It is a failing that must be called out, and loudly.

The distinctions among Folau’s supporters also provides a neat, current example of the things that divide libertarians (the free speech obsessives) from social conservatives who, while accounting for differences of theology and emphasis, pretty much support what Folau actually said.  Indeed, they are glad he said what he did, both as a corrective to sloppy and indolent preaching by the pastors of our age who have forgotten sin and hell – “the four last things” – and as a rebuke of those in society who cherish, indeed champion, the godless, anything-goes era we inhabit.

Gary Scarrabelotti has written very well on this.

There is, in fact, a sizable gap in the things that supporters of Folau believe, and support.  Does it matter?  In the short term, of course not.  As the millions pile up in support of the legal challenge, no one is much worrying about why those who support religious freedom do so.  We just want to win the case, and, for a good many of us, to rub Rugby Australia’s and Peter Fitzsimons’ noses in it.

Longer term, whatever the final resting places of our twenty-first century brothers and sisters – hell or other destinations – we would probably do well to drop the right-of-centre virtue signalling, the urge so often apparent in our right-of-centre punditocracy, to tug the forelock to our progressive betters who occupy the cultural commanding heights among the ruling class of the age. 

Rather than calling mainstream Christian views vile and whacky, Mr Bolt and others, instead ponder the downsides of merely accepting as a given Gaystapo’s core argument, the consequences of which are grave here on earth, whatever there might or might not be on the other side.  Those who stop at the freedom-of-speech argument and ignore (or worse) chastise (largely Christian) people who accept the content, meaning and import of Folau’s position, are fuelling the coming turbo-charged age of persecution.

I don’t believe I need to quote Martin Niemoller’s gut-wrenching poem to finish.

7 comments
  • pgang

    Along with Peter Smith’s article, this is the other argument that had to be made.

    I keep asking. Why do so many conservatives accept and undetstand the legacy of Christ and Christianity, yet refuse to take it seriously in essence? It is an absurd and essentially lazy position to take. It is time for agnostics and don’t care atheists to start taking the church more seriously in their ‘private’ lives ( much as I hate to use that distinction as there is only one life).

  • rod.stuart

    ” time for agnostics and don’t care atheists to start taking the church more seriously”
    The generally do when the grim reaper comes to visit.

  • whitelaughter

    pgang – there seem to be a large number of conservatives who consider Christianity to be useful without being true. As such, they are happy to encourage the Gospel without believing it themselves: and this has been the case throughout Australia’s history, with atheists insisting that clergy should be made available to preach to the convicts.
    It’s an understandable distinction – although it seems to boil down to “other people need to be Saved but I’m fine”. Which was a common philosophical position during the Enlightenment – that those poor benighted peasants need religion.
    It’s annoyingly arrogant, but is preferable to the constant venom we get from elsewhere. The obvious question they should be asking it *why* is it useful, unless true?

  • Doubting Thomas

    Speaking of the grim reaper, there was that lovely old story of the Scottish preacher motivating his flock.

    (This courtesy of The Economist.). Puritanical Scottish preachers used to tell their congregations about sinners cast into the fires of hell. The condemned call out to the Almighty for mercy who replies “Did I not tell you to abandon your lives of drinking, fornicating and sinning?” “Yes, lord” comes the pitiable reply “but we didna ken.”
    “Well” comes the implacable reply “Ye ken the noo.”

    In such a dreadful experience for Israel and Maria Folau, they might take comfort in the fact that while they don’t, and probably never will, know exactly who their tens of thousands of friends are, they certainly will know who their enemies are. This may well be the most valuable gift that Rugby Australia and its running dogs claque could bestow.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON

    “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—” (Romans 5:12)
    Adam, against God’s advice, took sin for a test drive and got hooked. As a result, no thanks to our crazy relatives, we all get the same wages: Equal opportunity physical death and even worse a chance at spiritual death for eternity. Different types of sin. Same death!
    How depressing! However, there is good news. Read Romans 6.

  • ianl

    @whitelaughter

    > “The obvious question they should be asking it *why* is it useful, unless true?” Your quote.

    An old question, often answered. Superstition, of many varieties including religions, is used to ward off *fear* of random disaster, catastrophic illness or disease, and eventually, death. If people require this, I have no issue, although why these disasters persist in happening to the believers is never addressed.
    Folau is entitled to spout what he believes, as we are free to ignore him or laugh at him. If his employer insists this contravenes his employment contract, he is entitled to test that in court. If people freely donate to the costs of such court action, that is entirely their proper right.
    I’ve made this point before but every reply surreptitiously avoids the point (ie. I’m not persecuting the superstitious although I’m entitled to laugh at them) and sprays righteous indignation at straw men. Easier, I suppose.
    And as an aside, the Bolt character is just an egoistic clown. His use of the description “conservative” is just his own choice of meeja branding.

  • PT

    It is amazing the number of “non-believers” declaring what a Christian should actually believe in, and that Folau isn’t one, or is a “self appointed and hypocritical theologian” (the last is from Terry Barnes on The Spectator). It reminds me of Tony Blair and all the other “Religion of Peace” promoters amongst the left wailing on about how Islamist terrorism was a “misinterpretation” of Islam, or that it was even “against Islam”. I even recall a journalist asking a Muslim once what effect Blair’s ravings hand on Muslim opinion (this is well before the invasion of Iraq) and seemed surprised when told Blair had no credibility at all amongst Muslims in his opinions on what a Muslim should or should not believe! Seriously, it doesn’t take more than a nanosecond of thought to see that no Muslim would take advice on what it means to be a good Muslim from someone who isn’t! It’s extremely patronising to think otherwise, and we’re seeing the same thing here – and it has long been the case with Christianity.
    .
    Then you get the “clever people” (one commenting on Bolt’s site calling himself “Brainy” – sounds like desperate compensation to me, and the ignorance spouted off proves it. A truly “brainy” person knows what they don’t know and does some basic research before mouthing off and showing their ignorance) spouting biblical quotes to supposedly show the “hypocrisy” of “homophobia”. Firstly there’s the “shellfish” argument. This comes from the fact that Leviticus contains the Jewish dietary laws, which prohibit, amongst other things, eating anything from the waters which doesn’t have scales (oysters, crabs, prawns, lobster etc are therefore not kosher). Funnily enough I’ve never heard any of these people calling Christians “hypocrites” for eating pork products! It’s repeated ad nausium by these ‘informed” people, who are apparently unaware that the dietary laws are set aside in the New Testament (the Book of Acts). Then there’s the “two threads fabrics” canard. Firstly it specifically refers to wool and linen (not cotton, not polyester etc). Secondly, it is a cloth woven of the two materials, not wearing a woollen jumper over a linen shirt! Thirdly, a garment worn by the priest (“Aaron and his sons”) in ceremony is specifically woven from wool and linen. Clearly the blend was supposed to be some sort of holy and ceremonial cloth, and not to be “profaned” by being used for everyday wear. Since none of the Leviticus ceremonies are done anymore, the reason for the ban is null and void, and I’ve never seen a linen and woollen blend being sold!
    .
    It’s pretty clear to me that few, if any, of these people repeating this stuff have ever done any basic research on the things they say. Most likely they heard someone say it on a radio interview, or read some other pompous @rse commenting on social media, and just repeat it, thinking it makes them look clever. These people are the exact same type that used to make a great show of attending Church and other such institutions, and making sure they were seen to be holy than thou. Watching the likes of ANZ, Rugby Australia etc. jump on the bandwagon, is proof positive of what this really is. The lack of self-awareness amongst these people is staggering.
    .
    The aforementioned “Brainy” made a big point claiming that Folau supposedly “took it upon himself” to decide some “2000 year old piece of parchment” was relevant and has besmirched Christianity! He also claims we have no idea who “wrote the bible”. All this belies the moniker of this ignoramus. Corinthians is pretty solidly known to be the work of St Paul – he actually wrote it originally because he couldn’t go to Corinth to speak to them directly. So much for “not knowing”. It would have been written on papyrus, not parchment originally. And finally I am not aware of any Christian Church that does not regard Corinthians as a proper part of the Bible – even the “gay church” the Metropolitan Community Church! Such idiots require the ignorance of others to not expose them.
    .
    This whole saga is packed full of cant, hypocrisy and virtue signalling. People who deny the existence of hell, or even any form of afterlife, acting like saying homosexual acts are a sin that risks the perpetrator with hell. People whose knowledge is based upon repeating other “talking points”, and making not the slightest effort to research to see if it is valid. Holier than thou types latching onto whatever the latest “cause” to sneer at the “lest worthy” happens to be. Bob Bowers, who should know that it’s in Corinthians, but chooses to ignore it, or rationalise it away. And doubtless a great many who used to taunt kids at school about being “poofters” etc. (I STRONGLY suspect that Fitzgibbon is one of these).
    .
    Even more troubling that this cabal of the sanctimonious and the ignorant is the move that to not wholeheartedly champion gay sex is somehow “homophobic”! I’ve seen posts by gay men claiming they are repulsed by the very idea of sex with women (they happy accept that others have the same view of their activities), some even make disgusting comments about female anatomy. But apparently if I were to say that I find the idea of sexual relations with another man disgusting and repellent, I’m highly likely to be condemned as “homophobic”, “a hater”, “contributing to gay youth suicide” etc. by the fine feathered brigade. Surely you can be “accepting” of someone without having to “accept” or celebrate every single thing they do? But not in this bizarre age apparently.
    .
    Finally I think the biggest mistake in all this is being made by gay activists (including Joyce). The alphabet soup is less than 5% of the population. Unlike hetrosexual acts, there is no demonstrable necessity to wider society in their acts (even the most radical gay would admit grudgingly that they do need “breeders” even if it’s to make sure someone can pay their pension and do the heavy work when they get older). Furthermore their numbers are going to stay put at this low level. Whilst other “minorities’ (eg Muslims) are going to grow and grow if we maintain current policies. I get that gay activists have a sudden elation that they have the wind in their sails, and are the number 1 priority (apparently) for the “woke set”. But it won’t last all that long. They have equal legal rights. They even have SSM. Any further push will diminish the rights of others, and cause lingering resentments. Sooner or later they will cease to be a priority for “progressivists” just as the “working class” went from being the salt of the earth to “redneck” “bogan” “deplorable” scum. It is not in their long term interest to antagonise Christians or conservatives any more than is necessary to achieve equal legal rights, as it will minimise their support base once the “woke left” moves onto other groups that may not be well disposed to gay rights. But reason and proportion seem to have gone the way of actual knowledge of the Bible and Christianity.

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