Is it too much to hope that in our multicultural society there might still be found space for the culture that gave us Notre Dame, Bach, free speech and Izzy Folau?
On Good Friday I heard Bach’s Toccata and Fugue played on the Notre Dame organ. J. S. Bach, who said of this 12th century cathedral,’Our debt to you remains eternal’. For it was the Notre Dame School in the late 1100s that invented polyphony, the harmonisation of voices, which made possible everything from Beethoven’s Fifth to the Wiggles.
Being immersed in a monumental polyphonic work like Bach’s B minor Mass is like being immersed in the vast harmony of a Gothic cathedral. Both are expressions of a toweringly confident, albeit humble, worldview, expounded most comprehensively by Thomas Aquinas who was professor at Paris while Notre Dame was being built, and most poetically by Dante Alighieri, who wrote the Divine Comedy as Notre Dame reached completion.
That worldview has long been under attack by cultural arsonists, at least since the days of the French Revolution with its wholesale massacre of priests and seizing of church property. In 1793 the Paris Commune set the mob onto Notre Dame: religious imagery was stripped and the Cult of Reason declared, complete with a seductively dressed actress atop the high altar worshipped as the Goddess of Reason.
This Holy Week, while Notre Dame burned, we watched another firestorm around the monumental Izzy Folau, but we wondered if this was more a case of self-immolation than arson.
Folau is a keen Christian of Tongan heritage, a culture that is fairly ‘out there’ with its faith. Folau’s offence was to cite the Bible, which he has done many times on social media, but this time he posted Paul’s words to the church at Corinth (1Cor.6:9-11). Paul exhorts his flock not to fall back into the moral and spiritual decadence from which they had emerged – a reasonable concern, given that this was the Empire of the monstrous Nero, whom the contemporary historian Tacitus described as ‘corrupted by every lust, natural and unnatural’. Hence Paul’s urgent words:
‘Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you…’
‘Warning: Drunks, homosexuals, adulterers, liars, fornicators, thieves, atheists, idolaters. Hell awaits you. Repent!’
Clumsy, Izzy, clumsy! Yes, you showed your sincerity with the pastoral comment, ‘Jesus Christ loves you and is giving you time to turn away from your sin and come to him’.
But a meme on Instagram does not allow for nuance or the necessary distinction between homosexual orientation (which is nobody’s choice, nobody’s fault and carries no moral blame at all) and homosexual acts, which are a choice like any other.
To the local mob, raging against religion like it was still 1793, the meme was clearly ‘hate speech’ which had to be banned and Folau, our rugby superstar, had to be sacked. Which is a proxy for banning the words of the Bible and sacking St Paul, one of the founding geniuses of Western civilisation.
And while we’re at it, we must ban that great classic of the Western canon, the Divine Comedy, because Dante puts men who have sex with men in the 7th circle of hell – along with corrupt bankers from the recent Royal Commission (the thieves and swindlers in Izzy’s / Paul’s list).
In this epic poem, unlike on Instagram, there is room for nuance and Dante’s deep sorrow is evident for those languishing in the Inferno for their ‘crime against nature’. These were men he had known and respected, and he grieved for their suffering on the burning sands and under the sulphurous rain of the 7th circle.
But there’s no point pleading nuance: onto the PC bonfire goes Dante’s Inferno. And the culture-shaping Summa Theologica by the above-mentioned Aquinas must be added to the book-burning, since Aquinas classifies ‘the unnatural vice’ as ‘the greatest sin among the species of lust’.
The point being that Folau’s position on homosexual relations is two thousand years old and is not for changing. By all means, let atheists and CEOs and Human Rights Commissions ridicule the notions of sin and hell, but don’t issue threats against simple-hearted believers like Folau.
Instead, adopt the attitude of that cheerful tweeter, @MickJacksonNSW, who declared, ‘As a drunk atheist fornicator I‘m certainly not offended by @IzzyFolau’s remarks and don’t think he should be sacked. He’s captured a majority of society in one or more of his 8 groups. It’s called free speech and freedom of religion.’
Strangely, only one of his eight groups captured the attention of Rugby Australia. Only one category of mortal sin raised the ire and the Gothic eyebrows of its CEO, Raelene Castle. Let the drunk atheist fornicators go to hell, says she, but Rugby Australia will defend to the death the right of gays not to have an evangelical from a devout Tongan family quote the Bible at them.
This, it would appear, is the one core ‘value of the game’ and the sacking of Folau is Rugby Australia’s one core duty if they are to placate the ire of the management team of their main sponsor, Qantas.
Izzy is the tip of the iceberg. Christian parents wait in dread of a Labor-Greens Canberra commune that will set a mob of lawyers onto any Christian school that upholds biblical values of sexual right and wrong, or that defies the gnostic heresy that a boy can become a girl, or that persists in the notion that marriage can only, in truth, be between a man and a woman.
With this sense of being aliens in a now hostile culture, we watched Notre Dame burn.
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