The Word of Israel 



I’ve been following the nasty reactions to Israel Folau’s comments about “gays going to hell” and I think it shows how much we’ve lost touch with our Pacific reality – fa’afafine and māhu are naturally accepted in a Pacific context, but in Australia and NZ we pass laws to accept them and then crucify anyone who disagrees.

People have labelled Folau’s comments as “hate speech”. Tuariki Delamare, ex-minister of Immigration said Folau should be banned from coming here, the media here and across the ditch want him booted out of rugby, and the nutters have gone ballistic on social media.

The funny thing is we pride ourselves on being the heart of the Pacific, having the biggest Polynesian population in the world, and how many Pacific brothers we have playing in our sports teams – but it seems we simply haven’t noticed how deeply Christian alot of them are.

And 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.

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.

I mean did you really not see how Samoa and Tonga all kneeled down together to give thanks to the Lord for allowing them to play so ferociously against one another in the Rugby League World Cup last year? Or how many of them gather to pray with one another after a major rugby match?

Everybody respects their demonstration of faith, but it seems that no-one wants to acknowledge the reality that comes with that faith – that most of them are believers in an old world Christianity that they believe has served their nations well, their people and their families, and helps bind them together during the tough times – the dawn raids, the low wages, the job dismissals, the name mangling by sports commentators. And yet our Pacific brethren bear it all with a modesty and humility that is positively … Christian.

Seems it’s OK to believe in something as long as we don’t ever say it. Yeah I know. Sounds dumb but maybe that’s how we can pretend we’re all just a little bit closer to God than Israel Folau.

To Izzy – much love to you brother. Keep the faith, and may the trials and tribulations that you and Maria are going through right now help strengthen your love for one another. It may not be the world I subscribe to but I respect deeply your commitment to your faith and to your world.

To those of my whānau, my friends and others for whom Israel’s words may seem like life has no future, please understand this – 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. Be comfortable with your own gods, be at peace with yourself, know that you are loved and treasured and feted for the special person that you are, and be assured that in the family of humanity you have a place equal to that of everyone else.

Ofa atu.