BREAKING NEWS: The Christian Dynasty in America is angry today! In fact, they are really really angry!
No, they’re not angry about the number of homeless people roaming our city streets. And no, they’re not angry about the number of children dying everyday from malnutrition. And no, their anger isn’t about President Obama (though give them some time, they’ll connect the dots soon enough).
So why are so many members of America’s Church up in arms today, filling up our Facebook and Twitter feeds with complaints, threats, and demands?
Because one of their beloved, Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson, is being persecuted y’all. Yes, PERSECUTED! No, he’s not being held hostage by Bible-haters somewhere in Southeast Asia. It’s worse than that. The eldest member of America’s favorite reality TV family has been suspended indefinitely by A&E! I know, right? This is some serious prayer chain fodder for sure.
Now, why did A&E suspend Robertson? Well, because of comments the star made during an interview with GQ writer, Drew Magary. What did he say? Here are a few quotes…
On the topic of homosexuality: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men. Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
On why he believes vaginas are better than anuses: “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
On growing up with African Americans “pre-entitlement”: “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. 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. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
A few hours after GQ posted that interview online, A&E suspended Phil. And that’s when a plethora of Christians began erupting into boisterous protest. My Facebook feed turned into a Duck Dynasty lament, a chaotic display of fury. Some Christians offered prayers. Some bemoaned that, in America, “freedom of speech” was officially dead. Some Christians offered phone numbers, links, and addresses, encouraging their friends to voice their disgust to A&E. Some Christians updated their statuses with opinions that bordered on insane.
Can we–members of the American Church–all just calm down for a moment and look at ourselves? Because we look ridiculous. We look foolish. And worst of all, some of us sound downright ignorant. Because how we respond to events like this matters—ducking matters!
First of all, stop making this about freedom of speech. This isn’t a freedom of speech issue. Trust me, read Phil’s interview. The Dynasty patriarch possessed all the freedom in the world to say exactly what he wanted to say. But sometimes, depending on who’s offering the paycheck, there are consequences to what we say. That’s been true since America’s beginning, while you have the freedom to say nearly anything you want to say in America. Sometimes saying whatever you feel like saying comes with a backlash. This isn’t about Phil’s freedom of speech; it’s about what—and more specifically—how Phil expressed his opinions that caused A&E to push the pause button. So please, if you’re going to complain, complain with wisdom. Have your facts straight. Understand the real issue here. Don’t stoop to Sarah Palin’s level.
Secondly, remember this is about a reality TV show, a meaningless TV show about a family of outspoken rich hunters. It’s just entertainment, people! Some Christians seem to believe this is a really important thing to be angry about. But it’s not. Did you know that 500 people were killed in Sudan yesterday? Did you voice your grievance about that? Because that’s actually important. Whether or not Phil ever appears on Duck Dynasty is completely meaningless in comparison. So let’s get our priorities in order here. There are much more important events happening in the world.
Thirdly, we the Church need to remember that, regardless if you agree 100 percent with every single comment Phil said in the interview, some people were deeply offended by his comments regarding homosexuality and race. Your support of Phil and Phil’s messages, whether you mean it this way or not, is hurtful toward other people. And that should matter to us. Why? Because we are the ones who proclaim the grace and mercy and love of Christ. And Christ cares about those who are offended by Phil’s speech. Some people call Phil’s words homophobic. Others seem to believe his comments about the African American community are racist. It doesn’t matter if you don’t agree. It doesn’t matter that Phil didn’t mean it that way. That’s what happens when we speak our minds in the media. We end up saying things that hurt or offend other people. And we, those who declare the way of Jesus, need to care about that. So please, before you support one rich celebrity hunter with your opinion, remember that your affections for DD might be deeply offending a large group of people. And if that doesn’t matter to you, that’s your problem, not theirs. Because as followers of Jesus, that should matter.
Fourthly, as you’re raging against A&E for putting Phil on suspension, it might behoove you to consider whether or not your own church would welcome Phil in all of his ‘Duck’ glory in their congregation or on their stage without some major edits to his lifestyle, speech, or overall image. Maybe you go to one of the few churches that accepts people–all people–just as they are. And perhaps your church would welcome Phil as he is to your congregation. But how long would it last? How many times would he get away with saying the words “vagina” or “anus” in public without getting a talking to from the pastor? How many churches would allow somebody to stand up in their congregations and say what Phil said regarding black Americans? Maybe some. But in many churches, those words would raise much concern. So really, do any of us have any room to judge A&E’s decision when most of us go to churches that tend to try and micromanage people like Phil? Would Phil be able to teach Sunday School at your church? Would you allow him to be a deacon? And remember, it wasn’t too long ago that a church/ministry canceled an appearance by the Duck Dynasty crew because they have their own brand of wine. So before you lash out at A&E for “being closed minded liberal Hollywood elite,” remember that America’s “rightwing conservative elitist” Church has a lengthy record for putting people on “hiatus” for a myriad of reasons. Let’s not be hypocrites on this.
And lastly, remember that it is we who, every single Sunday, proclaim the values of kindness, love, humility, hope, grace, and mercy. While these virtues are not exclusively “Christian values,” as America’s biggest religion, most Americans, regardless of their spiritual creeds, are well aware that it is Christianity that preaches these values of Christ as the best standards for living. A&E does not preach these values. Some of their directors might love Jesus, but the Beatitudes are not their brand. GLAAD does not promote on a weekly basis the values of Christ. They might LOVE Jesus, but it’s not something they proclaim on a regular basis as their mantra. But we do. Christians do promote the Beatitudes as their creed. So while it’s fine and necessary for us to look in the mirror and judge how we are adhering to Jesus’s teachings against hate, pride, calamity, and the like, we do not have the right to cast judgment on other groups of people or individuals who do not share our beliefs. Hatred or unkindness from other people or groups is no excuse for us to return hate with hate. Regardless what A&E ultimately decides, we are the ones who should respond with humility, grace, and mercy. Because that’s our creed. That’s what we preach every damn Sunday. That’s the message that we believe speaks louder than protest, anger, and hate. So remember that as your tweeting your frustrations about Phil and Phil’s messaging.
And in the end, Church, Phil will survive this. He might not be on TV. But he’ll survive. But to us, the Church–those of us who lift up the values of Christ–how we respond to these kinds of situations, whether they are meaningless or of great importance, will be remembered long after the controversy is over. Why? Because when we act like fools, we are adding our foolishness to a legacy of foolishness that America’s Church has become well-known for.
So let’s be wise.
Let’s be careful.
Let’s get our priorities in order.
And for God’s sake, let’s all calm the duck down.