Friday, December 20, 2013

Duck Dynasty & Throwing the Baby Out With the Bath Water

The way I see it, the gist of the Duck Dynasty fiasco is this:  Phil Robertson, patriarch of a very successful family in Louisiana, recently gave an interview to GQ Magazine.  Some of his responses were very, uh, colorful.  His remarks on homosexuality (among other things) are getting a lot of press, especially in light of his indefinite suspension from production on his A&E show Duck Dynasty.

Here are my two cents:

Phil Robertson is a self-proclaimed born-again Christian.  He believes that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God.  The inerrant Word of God (compiled as the Bible) teaches that homosexual acts are sinful.  (Notice how I underlined the word acts?)  Therefore, as a Christian, Phil Robertson believes that homosexual acts are sinful.  He said so very coarsely in his interview.

He sure didn't say it how I would have.  He sure didn't say it how Pope Francis did.  Yet, they both said the same thing.  They preached the same message that it's the mission of the Christian to condemn the sin (homosexual acts) and love the sinner.  The content of their messages is the same, but one is Time Magazine's person of the year, and the other is being crucified in the public square.  As Brandon Ambrosino's article in Time says, "The 'Duck Dynasty' Fiasco Says More About Our Bigotry Than Phil's."  

This isn't a first amendment issue.  As a Christian, I'm not up in arms over the issue of free speech.  Phil Robertson can (and likely will) continue saying whatever he chooses.  However, he can't say whatever he chooses without consequence so long as he's in contract with a kowtowing network. 

The biggest issue in my eyes is that our culture's knee-jerk response to these scenarios is to throw the baby out with the bath water.  Remember Paula Deen?  We couldn't handle what she said, so we made her go away.  It looks like Phil is experiencing the same fate.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I agree with Bill Maher's assessment of the Paula Deen fiasco, and I see history repeating itself with Phil Robertson.  Bill Maher is quoted in the above Brandon Ambrosino article as saying, "Do we always have to make people go away?"  It seems we're incapable of doing anything else.  

Our culture is incapable of actually engaging the issues.  Rather than take Phil to task on the claims that he made, they are putting Phil away.  Instead of discussing what the Bible and the Church teach on homosexuality, the answer is to reject everything that Phil stands for--including Jesus Christ.  

If that sounds like an exaggeration,  I'd point you to an article from the blog Rage Against the Minivan titled "Duck Dynasty, first amendment rights, and Christian values." It is all over my Facebook newsfeed.  The core message of the post is summed up in this image from the blog:

Because some people think Phil Robertson is a backwater know nothing hick who proclaims to be Christian, they are going to "have another look at the life of Jesus."  I don't think this second look means a thorough study of Scripture and the Church.  Instead, I think this means that Christ is being declared guilty by association with Phil Robertson.  Because Phil Robertson coarsely proclaimed that homosexual acts are sinful, some are rethinking this whole Jesus and Christianity thing.  Again, I repeat:  People are walking away from God because of something one man said.  

We need to get something straight.  Jesus is God.  The rest of us are sinners.  So long as sinners make up the Body of Christ, Christ is gonna have some ugly cleaning up to do.  We're all imperfect, and we're going to keep imperfectly representing Christ and His Church.   That GQ interview is creating some ugly clean-up, but  Phil Robertson was right on the money when he called sin sin.  Period.  He was also right on the money when he said this:

“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?”  

Phil knows it's not his job to do the judging.  Pope Francis knows it's not his job to judge either.  They just said it differently.  Like Pope Francis?  You'll love Jesus.  Love Jesus?  If Jesus had it His way, we'd learn to love Phil--even if we don't like him.  If we're Christian, we're not going to abandon Christ and His Teaching because of the way one of his disciples articulated his beliefs.  I don't particularly like the way Phil Robertson talked about homosexuality or blacks in his GQ interview, but that doesn't mean I'm going to abandon Christ or try to throw Phil away.  

Let's talk about that whole judging business, too.  We can talk about actions as being morally bad, good, or neutral.  That's not judging.  What we can't judge is where another person is going to spend their eternity.  All we can do is learn everything we can about what Christ and His Church teaches, and then do our best to actually do it.  We have to know what's good, bad, or neutral in order to learn how we ought to live our lives.  

The trouble is, our country likes to divorce individuals from their religious beliefs.  Freedom of Religion has been reduced to Freedom of Worship.  We can do whatever we like within the four walls of our worship spaces, but we better not act like a Christian in the public square if we don't want any trouble.   

While I admire Phil Robertson for being unapologetic in his Christian beliefs, the reality is that much of our country won't embrace his abrasive delivery.  Phil's Christian brothers and sisters need to recognize this problem and help him to understand why his words were hurtful to those with same sex attraction.  Christians always need to share Truth in love.  Without love, sharing the Gospel is fruitless.  

If Christianity teaches that homosexual acts are sinful (and it does), then the problem wasn't Phil's core message.  The problem was his delivery.  We don't need to make Christ's message palatable to the world, but we need to find a way to get the world to hear it.  Pope Francis is catching more flies with honey than his predecessors, and Phil Robertson should take notice.  Pope Francis isn't changing anything in the Teaching of the Catholic Church; he's just tweaking the delivery so that the world will hear it.  

The trouble with the dictatorship of relativism is that the people that buy in walk around like individual tyrants.  "Everyone is right until they disagree with me."  The solution to opposition is to keep "throwing away" people like Phil Robertson for articulating something other than the belief de jour.  The choices seem to be: jump on the bandwagon or persist in silence.  I'd like to propose a third way: engage the world with Love and share Truth whenever possible, following in the footsteps of Pope Francis.  The world might still try to throw you away, but at least they'll be more likely to hear you when you lead with love.  There is always Love in Truth.  

Jesus wasn't interested in making His Word palatable.  (Remember the whole table-turning scene in the Temple?)  Yet, He led with love.  Heck, He is Love.  The world tried to throw Him away by crucifying Him, but Love prevailed, and Love continues to prevail more than 2000 years later.  

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