Howzat? Ollie Robinson is given out!

Another public figure has found themselves given the finger by today’s moral umpires. 

Ollie Robinson is, or rather was, England’s newest Test cricketer. The 27 year old fast bowler made his international Test debut during the week against New Zealand. Despite a promising match with the ball, Robinson was caught out. In fact, he is now suspended from all international cricket until a disciplinary investigation has been completed.

It wasn’t Robinson’s on field performance that led to this very public humiliation, but a series of tweets that he posted as a teenager back in 2012/13. I’ve read Robinson’s tweets and they’re not great. They are inappropriate, tasteless, and at times crude. Despite issuing an apology, the England and Wales Cricket Board, have cancelled his next Test appearance and his future in cricket is now far from certain. 

Ollie Robinson is the latest of what is becoming a very crowded space of people who have had their careers and even lives ruined because of past transgressions on social media. 

Do I think his sins deserve suspension? No. I think an apology was appropriate and hopefully he will learn and grow, but should stupid words from childhood serve as cause to lose his place in the nation’s cricket team? The England and Wales Cricket Board certainly believe so, and I suspect the same would occur in many sporting codes today.

In our culture’s obsession with finding hidden skeletons, there is little nuance or attempt to understand. If you break the rules, you’re damned to hell. This is problematic for several reasons. First of all, these rules are constantly moving about like Warnie bowling to Gatting. One moment you’re safe and the next the rules have shifted and you’re stumped! There is no scale for measuring wrongdoing. A person who misspeaks someone’s preferred pronoun can as easily lose their job as someone who bullies a colleague. A Christian may pray with a person and find themselves facing a prison term that’s longer than a real criminal who inflicts bodily harm on another. Another issue is that the rules we’re all meant to follow are often made by the mob and with authorities bowing before whoever is appealing the loudest.

For a few recalcitrants, there is a way out of hades; sure, you’ll lose your soul but you just might be allowed to return to your sport or place of work. All you have to do is fully endorse and join groupthink. Just carry around around your Twitter handle a placard of shame, and then nod and repeat everything that our culture’s new bishops tell us to say, think, and feel.

In the case of Ollie Robinson, did he make comments that were bordering on sexist and racist? Yes. Was he a teenager at the time? Yes. Was it malicious? I doubt it. Foolish? Certainly. I also suspect that if the trolls and governing authorities dig deep enough, every single player in the English team will find themselves suspended for one transgression or another. And let’s not forget the Aussies either! 

We all have done dumb things in our past and said things that we’ve later regretted. We are masters at stuffing up, and with maturity we realise our hopeless inability to erase the past. As the Bible reminds us, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)

As a society we are moving well beyond anything the Bible envisages. We are creating a hyper moralistic, self righteous, and legalistic culture where there is easy rage, much finger pointing and very little forgiveness.

Where is the forgiveness? Do we even believe in forgiveness any longer? I don’t mean for us personally, but offering forgiveness to others. 

We are living in strange times. I remember a time not so long ago when Christians were portrayed as hyper moralistic and judgemental. Christians were supposedly the crowd who went around condemning every moral failing and sinful shift in society. Sure there is a touch of truth in that. More so, Christians are known for experiencing Divine forgiveness and forgiving others. The whole fabric of the Christian faith is about knowing the forgiveness of a loving and holy God and how this good news transforms our lives. 

There are still moments when I’m horrified at the thought that God knows my entire past; every sinful deed and thought. Of course, God’s measurement for right and wrong isn’t defined by the latest social theory or groupthink, it’s shaped by his unchanging character and purposes. However, my distress finds great comfort through knowing the Lord Jesus died for all my transgressions. The God who sees my true failings has in love offered forgiveness and reconciliation.

The thing is, as societies like the UK and Australia turn our backs on the Christian faith it shouldn’t surprise us that we are becoming less tolerant and more fractious. It really is the Gospel of Jesus Christ alone that can hold together justice and mercy, righteousness and forgiveness.

The England and Wales Cricket Board are simply echoing the cries of a failing society that is bent of bowling bouncers and little else. We are seeing lots of shots being pulled in anger, but surely we are desperate to find grace and mercy. If we are not going find forgiveness in our decaying culture, then perhaps we can revisit those communities that are founded upon Divine forgiveness and who are learning to live in the light of the goodness.

I hope to see Ollie Robinson playing in the upcoming Ashes series…and watching the Aussies make lots of runs!

Serving up more Spin

We have moved beyond peering through the looking glass. We’ve entered a crazy new world where left is right and wrong is good and the impossible is normal. Sky is grass and the ocean is space. Nothing is what it seems to be, and questioning the new morality is the only heresy.

The only problem with this new world of topsy-turvey is that it’s given a good shake every 6 months or so, and then once again all the epistemological furniture and our moral certainties are thrown into the air. And it’s not the sanest or smartest who catch the debris and reorder the room but the loudest and most militant.

Case in point, the recent Australian Tennis Open. First of all, what an amazing tournament. Second, in yesterday’s SMH Peter FitzSimons threw a volley at Novak Djokovic for touching the umpire’s foot during the final. If Fitz’s issue was simply that Djokovic committed a foot violation and should be fined for it, that’s fine. But you see, Fitz’s fury doesn’t depend on right and wrong, and rules of any kind, but on whether he supports the activity of the person. Remember, it was only a few days earlier when John McEnroe and Martina Navratilova unfurled a political banner on one of the courts in Melbourne Park. It was a protest against Margaret Court, with Navratilova also attempting to grab the umpire’s microphone in order to speak to the crowd and media. In that case, Peter FitzSimons quickly came out in support of the two former tennis players, who not only broke tournament protocols but brought the game into disrepute.

He tweeted,

“If your last name is McEnroe or Navratilova and you are on a tennis court, you have no need to “hijack” a tournament. You have earned your spot as your sport’s most respected voices.”

Court

In contrast, days earlier Margaret Court was invited to a special evening during the tournament where she was recognised by Tennis Australia for her famous Grand Slam of 1970. On Court, Margaret Court did not use the event to promote her personal beliefs. She said nothing about her views on sexuality which have been denounced in some parts of the community.

The upside roundabout of modern Western thinking isn’t done yet. While Martina Navratilova got away with her anti-Court banner and her online letter was republished or quoted by major media outlets all around Australia and the world, it was only last year that she was sacked by an LGBT group. While serving as an ambassador for Athlete Ally, Navratilova criticised transgender athletes and claimed that men competing as women are cheats and being unfair. Hmmm…so Margaret Court name must be removed because of her views on sexuality, and yet Navratilova, according to the latest definitions of phobia is also a phobe and a bigot. Indeed, how on earth did Tennis Australia miss that one when they ranted about their inclusivity policy?  How can we support and praise the on-court protest by a former player who publicly speaks against transgender women playing tennis at the highest level?

Thankfully, amidst all these double faults being served by our social and sporting commentators,, there was some great tennis played both on and off the court. As journalists tried to grab quotes from players about all kinds of social and moral issues, some players like Novak Djokovic and our very own Ash Barty, saw the spin coming and avoided it with skill and grace; well done.

All this demonstrates these three simple points: One, intersectional politics and cancel culture are intent on smashing their way into every pocket of life. Second, it is an ultimately hypocritical and destructive ethic. Three, our society needs a better way of evaluating moral confusion and for relating to the other.

I remember the words of Jesus,

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32).

That sounds pretty enticing. Just maybe, there is more wisdom and compassion, more goodness and truth in Jesus Christ than we realise. Of course, Jesus remains no.1 target of the cancel culture, but just perhaps, we could look at the world the right way up and see that he is not an opponent to be beaten but the one who gave his life to be our advocate. Recognising such liberating news requires a doss of humility and sadly, few in this age of rage feel able to accept what Jesus says. My suggestion is this, while the intersectional mob throw balls at each other, step aside and take a few moments to consider the One who offers, ‘truth that sets you free’.