Rugby a broad church but Christians in the scrum better keep schtum

If you’re a Christian rugby player, you’d better shut up about it. That’s the message from Rugby Australia boss Raelene Castle and the Wallabies coach and captain who ditched Israel Folau as if they never knew the bloke.

It’s an all-inclusive organisation which will include Christians who unashamedly parade their faith by drawing the symbol of the cross on their wrist strapping at the World Cup — but they’d better stay quiet and pretend to be people they are not if they want to be paid.

Young Christians catch wind of the mockery, disgust, disdain and looming unemployment thrown Folau’s way and begin to wonder if Jesus is any more real than the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

If Folau is harming young people coming to grips with their sexuality by consigning them to the naughty corner in the afterlife, what is RA doing to teenage Christians? It’s correct to say that Folau’s cumbersome quoting of Corin­thians may fill young gay people with humiliation. It’s also correct that a lot of young people are ­attempting to lead good and clean lives by following the Bible rather than going like sheep with their friends into clubs and pubs and ­alcohol and lust. It’s a shame the message they’re getting from the angry mob is this: you are wrong.

I see more contradictions in RA’s position than Folau’s. Director of rugby Scott Johnson has ­acknowledged the divided dressing room and spoken to Wallabies who have the same faith and Polynesian background as Folau. They’re crucial to the World Cup and will be invited along if they toe the line. The asterisk to their inclusion is clear. You’re welcome to join us, but shut up about the Bible stuff. Shut up about the homosexual stuff. You’re right about the thieves and adulteress and liars — those bastards are doomed. But let’s just pretend the Bible doesn’t mention anything else.

When we see the cross on your strapping and inked on your skin, we’ll look the other way and pretend we don’t know what it stands for. The same things Folau has stood for. Your personal convictions are not as important as ­ensuring we don’t piss off the sponsors and keyboard warriors who have been sticking it to Christian athletes ever since Aaron Baddeley was a prominent golfer.

In four of Johnson’s comments to Fox Sports, I’ve seen four contradictions. “I’ve spoken to a few of them (Christian/Polynesian players) to make sure, first and foremost, that they’re OK, because as I keep saying we’re in a people’s business and you’ve got to get to know people,” Johnson said. The contradiction: If RA is in a people’s business, why has it turned so ­savagely on Folau. Isn’t he one of rugby’s people?

“It’s important and we’re an ­inclusive game and they’re a big part of our culture and our rugby culture, and we don’t want to make it divisive,” Johnson said of the Wallabies players who are siding with Folau.

The contradiction: Hasn’t RA made it divisive by totally and utterly rejecting one of its own?

“But what I’ve come across is that we’re respectful both ways,” Johnson said. The contradiction: Clearly, the respect is going only one way.

Most tellingly, Johnson’s comment: “They’re paid to play rugby and I think they understand that.” The contradiction: They’re paid to play rugby. Folau was being paid $4 million to play rugby. Because he’s a hell of a rugby player. Now RA is desperate to banish him for reasons that have nothing to do with rugby. He should shut up about anything that is not to do with rugby.

When it comes to the sport itself, what has he done wrong? If you start kicking the Christians out of sport, you won’t have anyone left.

When Novak Djokovic won the Australian Open and ripped off his shirt, a miniature wooden cross was hung from his neck.

When Kawhi Leonard knocked Ben Simmons and the Philadelphia 76ers out of the NBA finals on Monday, the cross was tattooed on his right shoulder beneath the word FEAR.

After the last-minute basket that broke Simmons’s heart and provided one of the most electrifying sporting moments of the year, Leonard said in his on-court interview that faith had turned his life around.

“Last year was a very down year for me,” he said. “I was going through a lot. But everything that was going on, God is good. I prayed every day and ended up getting healthy and now I’m able to play basketball. You can see what He does for you.”

Betty Cuthbert’s existence became dominated by her faith. After winning the 400m at the Tokyo Olympics, she said, “Sure, I ran the race — but God took over. He picked them (her feet) up and I put them down.” RA has decided it’s not possible to co-exist with a Christian who posts his biblical stuff on Instagram.

The inability to co-exist reminds me of a Spice Girl and her nuns. Yes, it’s become that ridiculous. Geri Halliwell bought a house next to a nunnery. She felt bad about the paparazzi forever being on the doorstep of her holy neighbours.

She went to apologise to them in person. She sat there in skimpy clothes and asked, “So, none of you have ever had sex?”

The nuns laughed their habits off.

The clumsiness of her words were less important than the ­spirit in which they were ­delivered.

She was basically a peace-loving soul, so those nuns became her greatest protectors.