Israel Folau a product of 'fire and brimstone Christianity' - Harawira

  • 23/04/2018

Ex-MP Hone Harawira says "fire and brimstone Christianity" is a part of Pacific culture, and we shouldn't be surprised when someone with this belief system makes homophobic comments.

Wallabies star Israel Folau has been under fire in recent weeks for publicly saying gay people will go to hell unless they "repent their sins", citing the Bible as proof.

Mr Harawira says it's as if Kiwis have never noticed "how deeply Christian [a] lot of" Pacific Islanders are.

"When I talk about Christianity, I'm not talking about the new version that changes every month as we add another letter to the LGBTQ parade, or the 'enlightened' version that tries to be all things to all people at all times," he wrote in a lengthy Facebook post on Friday.

"I'm talking about the old school Christianity that the missionaries brought into the Pacific 200 years ago. The fire and brimstone Christianity, the one that tells you the father rules and the mum serves the family, the one that helps elevate the King of Tonga to a level white New Zealand will simply never understand, the one that sees Pacific Island churches scattered all over Auckland, Wellington and other high Pacific population areas in the country, the faith that means so much to Sir Michael Jones, Jason Taumalolo, and the thousands of others sprinkled throughout our sports teams, our communities and even our families."

Mr Folau was born in Minto, a small town southwest of Sydney, to Tongan parents.

Mr Harawira said while everyone respects the faith people have in their religion, "no one wants to acknowledge the reality that comes with that faith".

"Seems it's OK to believe in something as long as we don't ever say it."

In contrast, a parish minister at the Papakura Pacific Islanders' Presbyterian Church says Mr Folau's homophobic comments made him "cringe". 

"I wished he had never made them," Samoan-born Apelu Tielu wrote in the latest issue of Maori/Pasifika magazine E-Tangata, published on Sunday.

"First, because they could have consequences for gay people. Second, because they don't represent the core values of the Christian faith and the primary message of Jesus. And third, because Israel's comments may not reflect who he really is."

He said as "probably the biggest stars in their respective sports" Mr Folau and his partner, Silver Fern Maria Folau, should have realised the impact their condemnation of the LGBT community would have on youngsters who look up to them.

"This is something that the Folaus might not have known. If they knew, but didn't care, that would be very sad and very un-Christian."

He argued that Mr Folau's quoting of the Bible to back his stance was "reckless", and just because "the church used 'fire and brimstone' tactics to scare people into conversion and to control people" in the past, doesn't mean it's right.

"Christians are not God's moral police, because Christianity is not about living a moral life. Christianity is about living a divine life - living life as if we are Jesus the Christ of God. This life offers life to others. It's a life of love in words and deeds. It's a life lived for others.

"By not offering love to the vulnerable and the 'little ones' that Jesus loved, the Folaus have condemned themselves."

Israel Folau.
Israel Folau. Photo credit: Getty

Rev Tielu hopes people forgive the Folaus for their mistake, and that the Folaus would apologise.

He finished by saying the issue of homosexuality in the Bible is "complex, and is highly misconstrued and misunderstood", but wherever there was doubt, followers could always look to Jesus for an example on how to treat others.

"Offer love, not judgment and condemnation - that's the key value of the Christian faith. Be Christ to those you meet in your journey of life."

Mr Harawira finished his lengthy Facebook entry with a plea to those who took offence at Mr Folau's words to "be at peace".

"Your spiritual faith is based on the relationship you have with your own Gods. It is not determined by what Izzy might say, or me, or anyone else. Nor is it determined by what the 'Bible' says either, for the Bible has been used to justify both the greatest acts of kindness and the greatest massacres in human history."