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Winston Churchill is credited with the saying “If you are going through hell – keep going” and the quote might well apply to Australian Rugby’s Israel Folau. After his post on Instagram saying that homosexuals need to repent or they will go to hell, he is going through a hell of his own with community outrage and constant media scrutiny.

Folau’s brand of fire and brimstone evangelism is nothing new – conversion and damnation have gone hand in hand since the year dot. He does need however to make some qualifications following his original post that “God’s plan for gay people was Hell, unless they repent their sins and turn to God.” Whether that applies to the entire LGBTIQ community remains to be explained. The bible, which incidentally makes no condemnation of slavery, has little to say about lesbian relationships let alone anybody wanting to reassign their gender.

Plucking the appropriate quote to support any kind of bigotry or to put the bejesus up somebody is an age old evangelical tool. Folau could well have been more inclusive in his post by quoting Corinthians (6:9-10).

“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”

He still would have copped a bagging but at least he could have made an unintentional reference to the adulterous Prince Of Wales (and future head of the Commonwealth) as well as the  numerous dishonest bankers named in the current Royal Commission. A helluva lot of repenting to do all round!

Whenever the subject of ‘hell’ resurfaces in the public arena, there’s always a great deal of speculation. The Vatican was quick to quash recent rumours that the current Pope had suggested that hell did not exist. We are constantly reminded that ‘heaven’ is a state of eternal bliss, a kind of spiritual heroin hit that never ends. Yet we live in a world that loves the fictional world of drama and the ups and downs of human relationships. I’m not sure whether Shakespeare went to heaven but I am sure he would have found billions of years of ecstasy a kind of living hell.

On the other hand ‘hell’ is defined as an eternal punishment and suffering, with no avenue of appeal. If you thought some of the 200 year prison sentences handed out in the US are over the top, what about a trillion years of being boiled alive or whatever dastardly thermal treats are in store for the unrepentant in that subterranean inferno.

Christianity has always been open to interpretation and much of it entirely perverse, from the appalling Spanish Inquisition of the 15th century to slave owners in 18th and 19th century USA. The latter often pointed to the fact that nowhere in the Bible was slavery considered a sin. Whilst many were happy to convert their slaves to a church going Christianity they believed that the early Afro-Americans would not go to heaven, regardless of how well they behaved.

When it comes to Christian damnation and the utterly pertinacious interpretation of the scriptures nobody surpasses the absurdity and downright nastiness of the Westboro Baptist Church. The subject of numerous documentaries and TV exposés, the Kansas based, cult like ‘church’ is infamous for its “GOD HATES FAGS” slogans, which they often display on huge signs at public demonstrations. Gays are only one target of their insane venom which also includes dead American soldiers (“SOLDIERS DIE GOD LAUGHS”), US school shootings (“GOD SENT THE SHOOTER”) and numerous attacks on Jews (“RABBIS RAPE KIDS”). According to the Westboro ideologues, “GOD BLEW UP THE SPACE SHUTTLE.”

You can either laugh or be genuinely sickened by their hate speech but if anything they highlight what a pile of crap any kind of bigotry is, regardless of whether the message is displayed on a lurid fluoro sign, a Facebook page or an Instagram post.

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