Why Israel Folau is the Greta Thunberg of Christianity


Everywhere you look, it's the end of the world, with a different street-corner Jeremiah leading the news every night warning us to stop our evil ways or face an eternity of fiery torment.

It seems only weeks ago it was Greta Thunberg, warning the world that if we didn't stop our coal-digging, burger-chomping, consumer capitalist ways this very instant, we wouldn't have to wait a few hundred million years for the sun to explode and burn us all to a cinder because climate change would get there first.

And now we have Israel Folau jumping into the mix to warn that it is not consumerism that is bringing about the end of the world, but gay marriage.

Israel Folau leaving the Kenthurst Uniting Church. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone
Israel Folau leaving the Kenthurst Uniting Church. Picture: Daily Telegraph/Flavio Brancaleone

From the pulpit of his Kenthurst-based The Truth of Jesus Christ Church, the former rugby legend recently cashiered for crimes against wokeness picked up the climate change ball and ran with it.

"God is speaking to you guys, Australia", said Folau, already risking the wrath of Twitter with his careless deployment of the work "guys".

"You need to take these laws and turn it back to what is right by God, what God says in his word …", he continued.

"Look how rapid these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come in a short period of time. They have changed that law that legalised same sex marriage and now those things are okay in society, going against the laws of what God says."

Everyone from Scott Morrison - himself a serious Christian - down pretty much agreed that Folau's comments were "appalling", though it is interesting to wonder what inspired Folau to link same-sex marriage to bushfires and climate change.

Perhaps he'd heard the legend of the early Christians pegging Christmas to an ancient pagan Roman holiday to given them cover and figured he could do the same thing, but with climate change.

If so, nice try, but given claims that carbon emissions are warming the planet won't get your average North Shore Zali voter to give up her 4WD, using them as a threat to turn around the law on same-sex marriage doesn't seem like much of a starter.

But for all the outrage over Folau, it's interesting to note that he has picked up the environmental thread in his doomsday prophesying.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the UN. Picture: EPA/Justin Lane
Climate activist Greta Thunberg addresses the UN. Picture: EPA/Justin Lane

Looked at in the context of under-informed doomsayers with a media platform, Greta Thunberg is to ecology what Israel Folau is to theology: Only the reactions in the media are different.

Because while the likes of Thunberg are feted around the world, Folau and his ilk are thrown to the proverbial lions: How dare he, indeed.

(Before you get in a tizzy, serious scholars don't buy Thunberg's end of the world prophecies, Australia's contribution to global greenhouse gases are so small as to make eliminating them possibly even less effective than the "trust the science" brigade's much maligned thoughts and prayers, and if you want to do something about bushfires you'd start clearing the land of fuel and undergrowth, not letting it build up to a tinderbox to satisfy greenie protocols.)

The similarities are there for all to see.

Greta Thunberg and Israel Folau are both apocalyptic preachers of doom who warn that we will all burn unless we repent and change what they say are our sinful, materialist, pleasure-seeking ways.

Both use information - be it Bible verses or snippets of IPCC reports - selectively to warn us that the End Times are near.

And both are surely as deeply sincere as they are monumentally misguided.

Yet on the one hand, Folau's preaching is quickly dismissed by 99 per cent of those who hear it, with only the grumpiest of Twitter atheists suggesting that it is any way an accurate reflection of Christian doctrine

But on the other, the very same people who tell us to "trust the experts" will, when the moment is right, pivot on their heel sand take the word of a teenage media sensation who has never spent a moment crunching temperature data or taking ice core samples or even diving a reef.

This doesn't seem very scientific.

Rather, it suggests that even as we push religion as far to the sidelines as we can, what rushes in to fill the gaps feels an awful lot like, well, religion. And a fairly joyless, Puritanical version of it at that.

Whether it is the online "cancel" culture that seeks to destroy people for something heretical they may have said off hand a few years back when standards were different or the progressive doctrine of "privilege" that sounds an awful lot like Original Sin and divides us all into saints and sinners literally from birth, or the deep-green environmentalism of Thunberg and the like that demands we don the hair shirt and abandon comfort and convenience to save ourselves, the parallels are there.

Certainly it is not a new observation that much of modern environmentalism maps to a pattern that has been part of Western - and even relatively secular Australia's - cultural DNA for nearly 2000 years. What is new is that we are trying to hold on to it, even as we have let much of it slip away.

How else to explain the relentless narrative of humanity's falling away from a pre-industrial Eden into sin, with the only path to salvation being to turn our back on our nasty ways?

Catch James Morrow on Outsiders, Sky News Australia, every Sunday morning from 9-11am

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