Duck, Duck, Goose Egg

December 19, 2013

Despite all the problems in the world, the televised fate of the patriarch on A&E's Duck Dynasty is consuming massive attention. After Phil Robertson made controversial comments in an interview with GQ magazine, A&E suspended him indefinitely. Since the main topic of controversy was homosexuality, many Christian leaders who have never even watched the show quickly announced their support of Robertson and their love for his bearded clan. Most of the pro-Robertson commentary claims he was punished for merely giving the biblical position on homosexuality. As conservative religious-political activist Ralph Reed argued:

He was specifically asked about his views on sin and God’s best plan for humanity and he answered honestly, forthrightly, even directly paraphrasing the Bible (1 Corinthians 6:9).
Directly paraphrasing? As opposed to merely paraphrasing? Regardless of Reed's attempt to make Robertson's comment seem even more biblical than a mere paraphrase, many other conservative Christians defend Robertson's remarks as completely biblical. That only works, however, if one does not read his entire interview (you can read it for yourself as I do not care to repost his crude and graphic remarks that do not paraphrase - directly or otherwise - any biblical passages I have ever read). Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and sudden Duck Dynasty media pundit, at least acknowledged that Robertson said some things he should not have, but still defended Robertson for being biblical:
To be fair, Robertson also offered some comments that were rather crude and graphically anatomical in making the same point. ... Phil Robertson would have served the cause of Christ more faithfully if some of those comments had not rushed out.
Mohler is right on that point but then wrong to claim that Robertson is being punished for merely paraphrasing the Bible. It seems much more likely that it was more extreme, non-biblical comments that actually got him in trouble. Additionally, most of Robertson's defenders like Mohler are ignoring Robertson's troubling remarks on race in the same interview. Robertson suggested life under Jim Crow was not that bad for blacks and that they were happier then than now.

Although I enjoy watching the show, Robertson's crude language and racially-ignorant remarks are not only not biblical they are unChristian. Yet, A&E's suspension makes him a hero for the Christian culture warriors (despite the fact he was giving an interview to GQ). Numerous people have argued that Robertson was punished for merely preaching the gospel, but I thought the gospel ("good news") was Jesus not that homosexuality is a sin. As I argued in my first book (For God's Sake, Shut Up!), we can hurt the cause of Christ with how we talk. Robertson's comments - and those of his defenders claiming he did no wrong - are good examples of such problematic rhetoric. Some of his defenders have even gone so far as to claim that Robertson's free speech rights have been infringed. For instance, Sarah Palin complained:
Free speech is endangered species; those "intolerants" hatin' & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all
As Palin had done on numerous occasions, she demonstrated with her retort that she does not understand constitutional principles or the ideas of our nation's founders. Free speech rights mean the government will not censor one's speech. Robertson was allowed to speak his mind freely - and he is still allowed to do so. However, A&E as a private corporation does not have to pay him for his speech. They also have the right to decide which messages they want to communicate. Robertson has free speech rights but that does not exempt him from the consequences of his speech. Just because we have the right to say something does not make it right to say. That's a fact, Jack!

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