In the last 24 hours, the kerfuffle over Duck Dynasty and Phil Robertson’s GQ interview seems to have sparked two widely divergent, yet tenaciously held, opinions. The first, held by Sarah Palin (here), Mike Huckabee (here), and other conservatives, seems to believe that The First Amendment is being trampled on by the godless Hollywood/Media complex that seeks to destroy every last vestige of Christianity in our nation. The second opinion, held by the Gay Rights Lobby and their supporters in the government and media, seems to think that Phil Robertson has committed the unpardonable sin that will lead to unspeakable acts of evil being perpetrated against the homosexual community. For this, he must not only be punished by losing his job on Duck Dynasty, his own family’s reality show, but also be swiftly re-educated or else silenced altogether.
Neither of these opinions is entirely correct. First, this simply is not a First Amendment issue. The Government, to my knowledge, has neither restrained Mr. Robertson from speaking his mind nor have they punished him for sharing his opinions on homosexuality (and other issues) in GQ magazine. In fact, I would wager that this particular GQ will be one of the highest selling issues of all time. After all, no publicity is bad publicity. If the Government were to confiscate the magazine because of Robertson’s controversial remarks, then one might have a rather strong case that both Robertson’s and GQ’s First Amendment Rights were being violated. That simply is not the case.
Neither is it a case of A&E violating Mr. Robertson’s First Amendment Rights. A&E is not a governmental entity. It is, rather, an entertainment venture jointly owned by both the Hearst Corporation and Disney-ABC Television Group. As such, the powers that be at A&E are free to exercise their own rights in suspending Phil Robertson and/or terminating his employment entirely (according to the terms of their contract with the Robertson family). If people do not like the decisions that A&E makes, then they are free to stop watching that channel. When it comes to the business decisions of television networks, money speaks loudest of all. If A&E believes it will lose money by firing Robertson, then that’s what they will do. If the network suits believe that more money can be made with Phil Robertson’s participation in Duck Dynasty, then they will issue statements of support for the LBGT community, but will eventually find a way to work around this mess so A&E can continue to profit from (off of) the Duck Dynasty franchise.
As to Phil Robertson’s statements in GQ being “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication,” GLAAD, a well-known Gay Rights Advocacy group, likewise misses the mark. First off, I’m not sure how mainstream GQ magazine really is. Which begs the question, “Why was Phil Robertson even giving an interview to GQ in the first place?” Secondly, while Mr. Robertson’s comments could — rightly or wrongly — be perceived by some to be offensive, his sentiments are neither vile nor extreme. They are most certainly politically incorrect in our rapidly changing culture, but a large number of Americans, both Christians and non-Christians, would wholeheartedly agree with not only what Robertson said, but how he said it.
And, for Christians, herein lies the problem. Do I believe, like most conservative Christians, that sex outside of marriage, including homosexual acts and heterosexual fornication and adultery, are sinful behaviors? As one who believes that the Bible is my sole authority for faith and practice, I can come to no other conclusion but that these actions — as opposed to struggles, temptations, inclinations, or desires — are indeed sinful. Of course, these are by no means the only sins that one can commit nor are they the most condemned sins in Scripture. That would be idolatry, but, as it’s still football season, I shall refrain from elaborating on that particular sin.
In all of the commentary on the Duck Dynasty kerfuffle, I have seen scant evidence from my fellow Christian conservatives that seeks to rebuke — even mildly — the words that Phil Robertson used to condemn homosexuals. Now, he and his many defenders will be quick to point out that he is not one to judge anyone else and that Christians are to “love the sinner, but hate the sin.” I’m afraid that when it comes to homosexuality, our words and our actions convey, whether we realize it or not, not only a hatred of the sin, but a deep-seated hatred of homosexuals themselves. Even though many people will be offended by the mildest criticism of the homosexual agenda, we are nevertheless called to be gracious communicators, seasoning our conversations (whether in GQ or at work) with Truth:
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders (unbelievers). Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt (truth), so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and the fallout over the GQ interview have become a flashpoint for the latest battle in the ongoing culture wars. Too many Christians, understandably so, are angry about A&E’s suspension of Phil Robertson. The war drums are beating louder by the hour. Our communication is becoming less gracious and more harsh (and that’s on the Christian side). If we are trying to win culture wars, then we don’t really need to be worried about communicating graciously with unbelievers. We can, like Phil Robertson, speak our mind and let the chips fall where they may. However, if we want to be engaged in the spiritual battle for the hearts and minds of the lost, we are commanded to speak the truth with grace and love. Too many Christians want to pour out an entire canister of salt on certain issues (especially homosexuality), but only lightly sprinkle those same issues with grace. The above verses tell us that it should be the other way around — lots of grace, sprinkled or seasoned with truth. It’s a lesson that none of us are beyond learning — even Phil Robertson!