By Warren Nunn
Are those who respond with vitriol to certain opinions actually intolerant, extremist, fundamentalists?
It could be said that irrational outbursts and vitriol are becoming more common, particularly on controversial subjects.
In Australia, the over-the-top-reaction to sportsman Israel Folau’s social media post about all sinners, has dissolved into baffling hyperbole and rhetoric.
Rather than focus on what Israel has said about everyone and all sorts of actions, many are over-reacting and are taking umbrage on behalf of homosexuals only.
By approaching the subject in that manner, they are, in effect, saying their views should take priority over competing views. It really is an attack on free speech and it is getting increasingly ugly.
Having said that, it is helpful to consider an understanding of intolerance, extremism and fundamentalism.
An intolerant view?
One dictionary description of intolerance is “an unwillingness or refusal to tolerate or respect opinions or beliefs contrary to one’s own”.
Much of what has been written or said about Israel Folau fits that description. The overwhelming message has been along the lines of:
- Israel is guilty of hate speech;
- he is guilty of intolerance of homosexuals;
- he causes harm to people who are struggling with their sexuality;
- his views should be shut down;
- his livelihood should be taken away from him;
- sanctions should be imposed on him and on his wife for supporting him;
- and those who support him should be likewise vehemently opposed;
Anyone who insists that any of the above should apply to anyone in society on the basis of an opinion, could be described as an intolerant, extremist, fundamentalist.
Consider the real message
Let’s examine what Israel posted. Here are the words:
Hell Awaits You
Only Jesus saves
Nothing in the above singles out any particular person over another. It is therefore mystifying how anyone can take those words and insist that it exclusively targets homosexuals any more than it targets thieves.
It doesn’t incite hatred as many voices are saying. Likewise, it doesn’t incite violence.
It offers up a warning, based on biblical principles, that those who reject the message of salvation through Jesus Christ, face the prospect of forever being separated from Him.
Christians have the hope that beyond our earthly existence awaits an eternal, perfect life in heaven. It is a gift that can’t be earned and is offered free to everyone.
God honours our choices
Whatever anyone chooses to do with that free gift, God has promised through the life, death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ to honour His Word to all humans.
If anyone chooses to say no to the gift, God will accept that. He won’t force anyone into accepting Him. He honours everyone’s choice. Otherwise we wouldn’t have free will to say yes or no.
That opens up a whole host of questions for many people. We live in an age where strong opinions are commonly expressed.
If the message of a loving relationship with the eternal God, through His Son Jesus Christ, is thought to be unacceptable to some, then the problem is with the person receiving the message.
Should certain people be silenced?
If those who are so offended by Israel Folau were to be similarly confronted and told that their views were unacceptable and they should be likewise sanctioned, would they accept that?
Of course they wouldn’t. And neither should they.
There’s a major problem for those who want to silence Israel Folau. How do you silence anyone without denying them the fundamental human right of having an opinion and being able to express it?
Who decides on acceptable speech?
Who decides what is an acceptable form of words?
If those suggesting Israel Folau’s words are high on any sort of scale, what are they going to do with those who utter and suggest physical action against individuals with whom they have a problem?
That’s why the vitriol being aimed at Israel Folau is so puzzling … and irrational.
Which is partly why I liken the dialogue to that which comes from the extremist fundamentalists.
While a dictionary description of fundamentalism is “a religious movement characterized by a strict belief in the literal interpretation of religious texts”, the parallels can be drawn.
Those pushing the anti-Israel Folau rhetoric are saying that he has breached what is acceptable speech. Some call it the metanarrative.
How is that any different to a religious movement that insists on a literal interpretation of its religious texts?
Who, then, is a fundamentalist?
Those who insist their voice should trump all others could be tagged extremist, fundamentalists.
The same would apply to me should I insist that only my view prevail and a particular group of people be shut down because they offend me.
It’s time to grow up.
It’s OK to disagree.
I won’t call you out as a heterophobe because you support same-sex marriage.
I won’t label you a Christophobe because you poke fun at my faith in Jesus Christ.
That would be an over-the-top reaction of an intolerant, extremist, fundamentalist.