Yielding To Temptation

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Star rugby player Israel Folau has again burst forth with his religious fervour: but not just online.

A report in today’s SMH fills out the background to rugby’s troublesome Christian zealots latest anti-LGBTI outburst. Apparently his religious fervour has been ramping up in recent times: trying to convert his teammates; preaching fire and brimstone sermons at his Assemblies of God church; conducting backyard baptisms. Why?

In my experience all male sports teams always have a strong homosexual undercurrent. In fact, male “team building” relies on simultaneously arousing and suppressing strong homosexual feelings (aka ‘male bonding’). The resulting frustration and aggression is then directed against opponents. Military training uses the same psychological manipulation.

I have known many straight rugby players who are openly sexual with their teammates, and anyone else lucky enough to be around at the time. It is a normal and natural consequence of closeting together tightly bonded groups of extremely fit young men at the peak of their sexual capacity. It is little to do with sexual orientation.

Most well-balanced mentally healthy rugby players, gay and straight, just shrug their impressive shoulders and see it as no big deal – so long as it doesn’t damage the team. But if a young man from a narrow, closed, fanatically religious background comes into such an environment, and finds himself experiencing homosexual arousal, then trouble is inevitable.

His faith allows no such feelings. They are sin. They are temptation. The answer, according to his religion, is pray harder. Be ever more fanatical in your faith.

Trapped between, on one side, his natural desires, and on the other, the fierce condemnation of such feelings by his religion, he comes under immense pressure. Something has to give.

The religious prescription does not work. Suppressed desires grow stronger, not weaker. The religiosity becomes ever more fanatical in response. The desperation increases. This is a circle that can never be squared.

The best way to deal with temptation is not, as religion demands, to fight it, but as the Divine Oscar said, to yield to it.

If Israel Folau were such a man, caught in this dangerous spiral, he would be dangerous, unstable, a threat not just to his team, and to young LGBTI people who idolise him, but above all, to himself: in serious danger of a mental breakdown, and urgently in need of help.

I hope, for his sake, Israel Folau is not that young man.

About the author

Veteran gay writer and speaker, Doug was one of the founders of the UKs pioneering GLBTI newspaper Gay News (1972) , and of the second, Gay Week, and is a former Features Editor of Him International. He presented news and current affairs on JOY 94.9 FM Melbourne for more than ten years. "Doug is revered, feared and reviled in equal quantities, at times dividing people with his journalistic wrath. Yet there is no doubt this grandpa-esque bear keeps everyone abreast of anything and everything LGBT across the globe." (Daniel Witthaus, "Beyond Priscilla", Clouds of Magellan, Melbourne, 2014)