You’ve no doubt heard about the interview in GQ of Phil Robertson. I certainly hope you’ve read it, because having read it I couldn’t identify many of the quotes I’ve seen in the media.
I’ve never actually watched “Duck Dynasty”. “Reality” shows don’t appeal to me, they typically exploit the subjects so that people can feel better about themselves. At least I’m guessing that’s their purpose. Maybe it’s an exploitation of the audience. Shows like “Real Housewives”, “Jersey Shore” and “Honey Boo Boo” are laden with the worst society has to offer, yet there doesn’t appear to be an educational theme to the programming. It’s just point and laugh at the foibles of people who are different.
It wasn’t until earlier this year that I discovered the lead in Duck Dynasty shares his name with my cousin Phil Robertson.
Both Phils are hunters and devout Christians, although I would have to express my personal prejudice and say my cousin is a better hunter, I believe he has successfully hunted every animal species in North America and many on other continents. How someone is as a Christian is a pass/fail test, and only God grades those papers. I would say that both Phils and I are all on the same level there.
One aspect of Christianity I share with the two Phils is a belief that of all the things we’re supposed to do in life, judging our fellow humans is not one of them. We’ve read the book, and know that God is our judge, and that trying to do his job isn’t a just a bad idea, it’s meaningless. Or, as Duck Phil said, “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
For some reason there are a group of people who think that’s “hate speech”. Because they hate it. It’s not Phil’s judgement that troubles them, he’s quite clearly stated he passes no judgement at all. It’s the idea that they might be judged by anyone other than themselves. They might be held responsible for their behavior, and found lacking in some way. The truly crazy thing about that is many of them say they don’t believe in God, so they don’t believe anyone will be there to judge them anyway. On the other hand, they’re the first to judge other people, throwing around labels like “homophobe” and “racist”, condemning the beliefs of people that think differently than they do. The same people who don’t want to be discriminated against are perfectly comfortable discriminating against other people.
But there’s another story here. A&E, the network that airs Duck Dynasty, is claiming they didn’t know anything about Phil’s beliefs. Heck, they’ve only filmed five seasons of this man, he just came out of left field with this stuff. They’ve conveniently “suspended” him now that filming is over for season five, and made sure the story receives maximum press just weeks before the new season premieres. Not only has A&E exploited the Robertson family for years, now they’re exploiting the Gay community, pitting one against the other for maximum effect.
Once played up in the media, reality took a vacation. Phil’s words have been mangled and edited beyond recognition, even by major news outlets. Asked what is sinful, Phil answers the question. He does not place any weight or equivalence on the various “sins”, but for some reason all these legal scholars judging his words are claiming that he did, which says a lot more about them than Phil.
He did not equate homosexuality with bestiality. He said they were both sins. If I say that helicopters and submarines are both vehicles, am I equating them? He said that he shares God’s word with everyone, including homosexuals, drunks, and terrorists. Did he equate drunks and terrorists? Or did he include them in the larger group of “everyone”? When he says “Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy.” Is he saying black people were happy about segregation, or is he saying they were happy with life, working side by side with white people? Considering that three of his adopted grandchildren are black, I don’t think he’s a racist. Just an aside here, in case you don’t understand race relations in the South. It was far more about wealth and power than race. After the civil rights movement, everything is about race. People who were friends suddenly were divided, it was supposed to be the other way around.
The article was clearly a hatchet job by a publication fading into obscurity. It has been twisted into a controversy that has no doubt tripled GQ’s readership this month, and increased viewership for both A&E and its parent companies ABC/Disney and Hearst, which by the way also owns GQ. Publicity stunt anyone? Who loses? Not the Robertsons, they have their money. Not A&E, if they had truly been “offended” they would have cancelled the series, but now the publicity will make it even more profitable. GQ lost its relevance over a decade ago, they have no credibility to lose.
The loser is the Gay community, which now looks foolish for its reaction to a non-story. One consequence of fostering divisiveness is finding yourself divided from the rest of society. Intolerant people demanding tolerance from others builds walls, not bridges.
I would like to think there’s a winner, that the conversation opens some eyes, people see the media manipulation, perhaps a few people start to understand that a lack of endorsement is not equivalent to hatred. I keep believing that eventually people will figure out that attempting to censor someone because you find them offensive is in itself offensive to other people. Perhaps a little understanding of the meanings of grace and judgement is in order.