Words Hugh Kaye
The ugly side of religion has reared its head again recently. We had parents at Parkfield School, in Birmingham, using it as a reason to protest against their children learning about LGBTQ life and now we’ve had a professional rugby player lecturing us.
Billy Vunipola, who was educated (seemingly not terribly well) at Harrow School liked a social media posting by fellow rugby star Israel Folau, who wrote that “hell waits for gay people.” (Save me a seat, stupid).
Well, anyone can think anything they want, but history has shown us where speeches full of hate can lead. That said, I have no hesitation in calling Vunipola a bigot, a homophobe and a hypocrite.
Why a hypocrite? Tell me I’m wrong, but hasn’t he played rugby on a Sunday? I’m pretty sure the Bible bans working on the Sabbath. Just checked, and the punishment, according to Leviticus, is being stoned to death.
And although I can’t speak for all women, the ones I know see themselves as rather more than just baby-making machines, and I notice Vunipola moved in with one without being married to her. And they had a son outside of marriage. What would the Bible say?
Furthermore, not that long ago, other church-going, Bible-reading people in America’s Deep South found it perfectly acceptable to treat men and women with the same skin colour as Vunipola and Folau as nothing more than useful bits of farm equipment. Does Vunipola, who has played more than 40 times for England, think that was OK?
Of course, Vunipola and 30-year-old Folau, who played rugby league for Melbourne Storm and Brisbane Broncos before switching to rugby union to play for New South Wales Waratahs and going on to represent Australia, do what all Bible-bashers do.
They pick the bits they like and conveniently forget the other bits. Leviticus, which is where you’ll find the verse that bans gay sex, also forbids the touching of a pig’s carcass -want to guess what rugby balls used to be made of?
It’s also not OK, according to Leviticus, to bear a grudge (presumably against gays as well as anyone else), trim your beard, or get a tattoo, inflict an injury (that’s a tough one for rugby players), sell land, reap to the edge of a field (you naughty famers), wear mixed fabrics in clothing, cut your hair at the sides (oh dear, Billy, you are going to hell), or eat fat.
Leviticus also insists on people standing in the presence of the elderly (I’m on my way round to Vunipola’s house after I’ve written this).
Meanwhile, I wonder if either of these two geniuses are circumcised – you have to be according to Genesis.
Has either ever cursed their parents? Prohibited by both Exodus and Leviticus. Oh, and then there’s the bit in Deuteronomy about not being a drunken son. In 2017, Vunipola, now 26, was pictured being helped out of a Dublin nightclub looking rather the worse for wear.
Turning to the New Testament, Corinthians doesn’t allow women to talk in church. That would make life a bit difficult for Libby Lane, the Church of England’s first female bishop. Ephesians doesn’t allow slaves to be disobedient – while not actually banning slavery.
The Gospel of Matthew says looking at a woman with lustful intent is in fact adultery (we’re OK on this one, guys), James calls for prayer – rather than medicine – when you’re sick, and of course, there’s the famous one bout “turning the other cheek.”
According to the gospels, Jesus warned people not to plan for the future but to give away all their possessions.
I’m guessing Vunipola doesn’t keep to all these laws. The one I’m sure about is that he doesn’t pray in secret as we are told to in Matthew. He has let us know regularly that he goes to church for that.
Of course, some of these laws are at best impractical, at worse plain stupid, today. And Vunipola and Folau’s views on gay sex are as archaic as the regulations.
I’d like to dismiss the pair as small-minded, pea-brained and ignorant or, as a friend of mine used to say: “If they had a third brain cell to rub together, they’d be dangerous.”
But none of this is funny and none of it should be dismissed or swept under the carpet.
At the basis of what they said is hatred. And from the religious studies which formed part of my degree course, I remember Jesus’ main message being about love.
Given that, Vunipola and Folau are far from what I was taught Christians should be.