It has been reported today that Raelene Castle, the Chief Executive Officer of Rugby Australia, would still have sacked Israel Folau had he only posted Bible verses stated in the hearing against Israel Folau that she would have sacked him, even if the only thing he did was to post
Miranda Devine writes,
“Raelene Castle effectively damned the Bible as hate speech in astonishing unreported testimony at Israel Folau’s code of conduct hearing in May.
She declared it is the Bible itself which is offensive when she testified before a panel of three judges who went on to find Folau guilty of a “high level breach” for posting a biblical quote calling on “drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists and idolaters” to repent or face hell.
Castle told panel chairman John West, QC, that some biblical passages are unacceptable, and that even if Folau had posted a photocopy of a Bible page, he still would have been sacked.
West asked Castle: “What if Mr Folau had photocopied passages from the Bible and simply posted that on his social media pages, would that have caused a problem for you?”
Castle replied: “I think it depends on which ones — which pages he photocopied.”
West asked: “If he’d photocopied the passages that are referred to in the posts would that have caused a problem for you?”
Castle, “Yes it would have.”
The Bible itself is apparently offensive and to be defined as hate speech. Today’s revelations are not the first instance of throwing the Bible onto the bonfire of popular opinion. Gregory Callaghan suggested in The Age yesterday that,
“If we continued to take every biblical injunction seriously, slavery, the subjugation of women, stoning, cutting off hands, and being barred from wearing clothes woven of two kinds of fabric would be still in force.”
We have an issue in Australia with widespread biblical illiteracy and ignorance. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that shouldn’t surprise anyone, given the deliberate fashion in which we have turned our backs on Christianity over a period of decades. Some people fear what they do not understand and others dislike what they do understand and cannot accept.
Is the Bible really to be considered hate speech? Are we really at the place in Australian society where quoting the Bible can be used as material evidence against an individual?
This isn’t the first in history where the broad society has misunderstood and misrepresented what Christians believe. This is an ancient problem. Remember the good old days in the Roman Empire? Pliny the Younger, the Roman Governor of Bithynia et Pontus, assumed that the Christian practice of the Lord’s Supper consisted of Christians eating the flesh and drinking the blood of fellow human beings. He also believed that all that Christian talk about brothers and sisters involved some sexual appetite for incest. What happened to the Christians in Bithynia? Filled with a fountain of misinformation and insisting that they also adhere to the cult of the Emperor, he began to have them systematically imprisoned and executed.
Thank God that we don’t live in one of the many countries that still practice this kind of punishment on Christians (and other minorities). What is new today is that the West (including Australia) has had centuries of Christian teaching, access to the Bible, and freedom to read, study and explore the meaning of the Scriptures. We are not living in first century Rome. At yet basic Bible knowledge and grasping that the Bible is to be understood in light of the person and work of Jesus Christ escapes the attention of many.
We have a Bible comprehension problem. Churches are not always helpful on this front, as many sell their soul for an esteemed role in the marketplace and for public congratulations. How can outsiders understand the Bible if Christian preachers carry a pair of scissors in their pocket, and cutting out any teaching that contravenes society’s dogma? If Churches are not reading and teaching the Bible faithfully how can we expect anyone else to be getting it right?
Jesus documented a similar issue in his day,
“Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
“Lord, who has believed our message
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their hearts,
so they can neither see with their eyes,
nor understand with their hearts,
nor turn—and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not openly acknowledge their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved human praise more than praise from God.” (John 12)
My advice to Christians is this:
- Make sure that the public reading and preaching of the Bible is front and centre at all your Church services. Why wouldn’t it be?
- Make the reading and teaching of the Bible foundational to all your Church ministries. If it’s not, why not?
- Find ways to help your broader community engage with the Bible. Ask your friends, have they ever read the Bible and would they be interested to do so with you? Could you start up a group for interested people in a local school or community hall? Show people how to read and interpret the Bible. Share with people why the Bible informs and it transforms for good.
Raelene Castle has launched into a world familiar to many people of faith who have escaped oppressive nations, but this is unusual for Australia. To call out in a formal disciplinary tribunal that the Bible amounts to hate speech is extraordinary. This is an extraordinary step in the latest of a series of ridiculous cultural malpractice. Don’t be fooled, she will find substantial support among our cultural elites. But is she on to something? Does the Bible never disagree with our moral inclinations? Do the Scriptures never cause discomfort? While the Bible is never hate speech, it is a dangerous book. Entire nations have changed on account of the Bible. Cultures have shifted toward enlightenment and progress on account of the Bible. Fairer societies have been built, slavery outlawed, fair working conditions for the poor, homes for orphans and the elderly, and in fact, much of the fruit we enjoy today finds its roots in ideas stemming from Biblical revelation.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)