Australian Rugby Player Apologies for Easter Post Praising God
Why would a Christian athlete apologize for an Easter post on social media thanking Jesus Christ for His sacrifice?
An Easter post on Instagram prompted a backlash and an apology from an Australian rugby player. But the backlash wasn’t over the expression of praise to God itself, apparently.
Samu Kerevi of the Queensland Reds rugby team posted a message on his Instagram account during Easter week:
The post quoted John 3:16, then added this: “Thank You Jesus for dying on the cross for me. I love you Jesus #AO1”
The AO1 hashtag likely stands for “audience of one,” a phrase you may recognize from having been promoted for years by Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who launched the Carson Wentz AO1 Foundation. It’s meant to be a phrase used by a deeply-religious person who lives for an audience of just one person: Jesus.
The post seemed perfectly sincere and self-explanatory to me.
But there’s a backstory that prompted the backlash.
Another rugby player, Israel Folau, who played for the New South Wales Waratahs, is in the middle of a legal battle that may result in his being permanently banned from playing professional rugby in Australia.
The Instagram post that led to the trouble for Folau was a text graphic that listed various types of people who are doomed to Hell and the caption included a longer quote from Galatians 5:19-21:
This kind of verse is a favorite of Christians who often come off elevating themselves above others who they feel do not measure up to their level of Christian commitment. They do so while seemingly forgetting that all are sinners by definition and none are “worthy” of salvation.
Reports suggest Folau was warned in April 2018 for allegedly writing in a social media comment that gay people would go to hell unless they repented, “formally and repeatedly about the expectations of him as player.”
Rugby Australia’s Code of Conduct demands its players “treat everyone equally, fairly and with dignity regardless of gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity, cultural or religious background, age or disability.”
Apparently, fans of Kerevi felt the post was more than just one of gratitude to Jesus Christ. To some, it came off as full support of Folau’s post.
Guilt by association?
While a quick scan of Folau’s Instagram post shows a variety of graphic posts with text that seems awfully judgmental, Kerevi’s seems strikingly different. He posts actual photos — imagine that! — on his Instagram page.
In fact, a quick scan of Kerevi’s more recent posts found only one other post that included text and it was a Bible verse about focusing eyes on Jesus from Hebrews. The post had a tone that seemed more inspirational rather than an attempt to condemn others.
Kerevi, however, apologized to anyone he “offended in giving praise to our God on a weekend that we take off to celebrate his Sacrifice for you and I.”
He made it clear he was not apologizing for his faith. But he said he felt things were “taken out of context” because of “recent articles,” adding he felt no obligation to apologize for the situation “with a brother of mine,” a possible reference to Folau.
Kerevi allegedly liked the post that Folau landed in hot water over. Regardless, a like on Instagram isn’t necessarily an endorsement. Even if Kerevi did, through that like, mean to endorse Folau’s point of view, Kerevi hasn’t expressed such attitudes directly, leading some to question why he felt the need to apologize at all.
The difference in tone matters.
All too often, I’ve found the curious focus on homosexuality by Christians is often propagated by a group of believers who have had no direct experience with people who happen to be homosexual. They don’t have friends or family members who’ve faced the discrimination and hatred homosexuals face.
I suspect many of those same people would change their tone a bit if such a condition hit home for them.
But given the choice of the way two different people express their religious views, I tend to ask this question: If you were a gay person who was exploring Christianity, which social media account might prompt you to keep exploring it and which would immediately feel like a door being slammed in your face, thereby turning you away from Christianity altogether?
Take any of the types of people listed in the Folau post, not just homosexuals, and ask the same question.
The answer should count for something for everyone who attempts to be a witness to the world.