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Does anyone really believe rugby star Israel Folau that 'hell awaits' gay people?

PUBLISHED: 16:37 12 April 2019 | UPDATED: 16:37 12 April 2019

Australian rugby player Israel Folau wouldn't like Norwich Pride. He's a fool, says Steven Downes       
Picture: Nick Butcher

Australian rugby player Israel Folau wouldn't like Norwich Pride. He's a fool, says Steven Downes Picture: Nick Butcher

Archant © 2018

Should we take Bible verses literally? Steven Downes says we need to wise up, get real and realise that some of its messages are outdated nonsense

Rugby Australia is to terminate Israel Folaus contract over discriminatory social media posts    Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.Rugby Australia is to terminate Israel Folaus contract over discriminatory social media posts Photo: Adam Davy/PA Wire.

When the Australian rugby union winger Israel Folau said “hell awaits” gay people, you’d be surprised how many people were secretly nodding in agreement.

By now he has probably been sacked by his club, which won’t stop him being lauded by some for his “bravery” and made into a modern martyr for the misguided.

It goes to show that sporting talent and a working brain are no guarantee against sheep-like stupidity.

What qualifies me to opine, you may ask? Well, having had the wool pulled over my own eyes for a few years, I’m something of an expert.

I counted myself a Christian for much of my adult life, and for a while I went along with the sort of nonsense spoken by Folau.

Despite having A-levels, eyes, ears and intelligent parents, I took Bible verses literally and viewed the world as made up of sinners and the saved.

However it was sugar-coated by happy faces, charitable giving and cake sales, without Jesus you were going to hell. The silk glove always contained an iron fist.

To my shame, I was more interested in hauling a soul across the line to salvation than taking an interest in the real person. It was for the glory of God, though, wasn’t it? No, it was for the glory of Steven Downes.

While there are countless quiet Christians with an unassuming faith, I can assure you that there are still people active in Christian churches who will stand in a pulpit and rail against homosexuality as a “perversion of God’s creation”.

Plenty of others believe that gay people can be cured by a miracle through fervent prayer. The same people believe in the possession of “sinners” by demons - and would vouch for the power of a good exorcism.

Just try to imagine people gathered around a man, laying their hands on him and telling the “demon of homosexuality” to leave him.

Too far fetched? No, it happens, and it is happening in England even today.

If it weren’t so psychologically and emotionally damaging it would be funny.

The funny thing is how off-piste this behaviour is, even though the participants would count themselves as adhering to the fundamentals (yes, I’m using that word deliberately) of the faith.

Jesus spent so much time talking about social justice and the poor, but that’s rather too challenging for some.

So, instead of responding to needs, it’s easier to seethe about what people get up to in their beds - or elsewhere, if you dare imagine such risque behaviour.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens on Saturday July 27, when the fervent prayers and hellfire prophecies meet the “sinful” multitudes of Norwich Pride.

Will thousands repent before they are swept into the fire to be eternally tormented in agony?

After all, some Christians genuinely believe that the Pride participants - including their smiles, laughter, music, freedom and exhilarating colour - should be hounded into hell for their sexuality.

If that’s you, for the sake of your God/god, grow up. All that you are is an echo of medieval narrow-mindedness.

If you’re stupid enough to believe that gay people will face the fiery pit of sulphur, you’d probably have agreed with burning heretics in the 16th century - and marching to Jerusalem in the Middle Ages to slaughter Muslims.

Maybe you’d throw in a bit of stoning of blasphemers and isolating women during their period? Alternatively, it could even be time to boycott shops with clothes woven in two different materials (Leviticus 19:19).

It took me too many years to realise that I was a misguided fool. Now, I know these two things:

1 If salvation comes with a frown and self-righteous judgment, you can keep it.

2 If sin is accompanied by smiles, laughter, freedom and a riot of colour, I’m in.

I’ll gamble that the hellfire bit is just a bit of creative writing.

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