Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, Gays & Gracious Speech

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!

 


Comments

Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, Gays & Gracious Speech — 11 Comments

  1. Again, you’re right on the money, Howell. It seems that too many believers are determined to stand against sin, but not as determined to stand for the Savior. I am afraid that Mr. Robertson, though probably well intended, didn’t use much wisdom in how he addressed the issue. Not long ago, Rick Warren made a strong stand on the issue, and no one was calling for his head! Which goes to show that believers CAN present the truth in a way that is wise in how they relate to outsiders.

    • Dave,

      Thanks for reading and for the feedback. I think this whole Phil Robertson/Duck Dynasty mess has tapped into the cultural Christianity vein that runs deep in our nation. For many cultural Christians, Phil Robertson not only speaks for them, but he speaks their language. They are not so concerned with the grace aspect of the Gospel as they are the truth (telling it like it is) of what they perceive to be the Gospel. While I didn’t mention this in the post, Phil’s quote of 1 Corinthians 6 about those who will not inherit the kingdom of God apparently did not include the Good News that “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” If we are going to say we are about the Gospel, then it should include not just the condemnation, but the way of salvation for all sinners, including homosexuals. Although I didn’t see Rick Warren’s interview, I imagine that may be how he handled the issue. Thanks again and hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year! God bless,

      Howell

  2. Howell,
    I always enjoy reading your articles and comments. You have an art for bringing the focus back to the important “truths” of God’s Word. It is so easy to get caught up in the rants of many speakers-Christian or non-Christian and we often lose spiritual insight. Kind of reminds me of the adulterous woman caught in the act (where was the adulterous man???). I do find myself, at times, getting “caught up” in the act of stoning. We are a fickle people-”Hosanna” one day and “Crucify Him” the next! How quickly we can be deceived and lose focus. And, more importantly, how quickly we forget grace. We gladly receive grace, but too often (for me anyway) give away judgment and condemnation. Thanks for your perspective.
    Merry Christmas to you, Brenda, and the boys!
    Kathy

    • Kathy,

      Thanks so much for stopping by. We think of you and Eddie often. Lots of wonderful memories in Grundy :-) I think you are right about our tendency to want to preach judgment to others while gladly wanting grace for our own failures and shortcomings. Of course, with the issue of homosexuality, it’s something that most Christians do not have to deal with on a personal level. They do not know any homosexuals personally and therefore find it easy to cast stones. However, when it comes to the sins of people we know and like, we are much more willing to give people a pass, even though their sins are just as offensive to God. I’m glad that God gives us grace when we do not deserve it. That’s how we should be with others. Thanks again for the comment. Hope you and Eddie and the family have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year! God bless,

      Howell

  3. Great blog post,

    I’m going to quote a few sections and respond at length–

    “First, this simply is not a First Amendment issue.” I think this simple point has been lost in all this rancor about Phil Robertson’s remarks and it illustrates, to me, just how misunderstood the First Amendment of the Constitution is in our country.

    “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.” Great point. I’ll add, too, that these overstatements by gay advocacy groups like GLAAD, makes it difficult to address the some of the psychological, social, and spiritual concerns Christians have with homosexual practice.

    “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…”

    This is probably the most powerful point in the blog, and this is where I’ll offer my take on Mr. Robertson’s words. I thought his commentary was biblically accurate, but perhaps he should consider another way to say it. He could have began, for example, by pointing out God’s created intent for human sexuality, drawing from key biblical texts in Genesis. Then he could have demonstrated how any view of human sexuality that falls short of what God instituted is ultimately sinful. Too often, I think, believers forget that it isn’t just what you say; it’s how you say it. In our apologetic discourse, we can do more harm to the gospel by how we say things, and unfortunately our responses can often betray the very truth that we proclaim. Pastor, I’m talking about Ephesians 4:15! LOL

    Finally, I think it is a bit ironic that Mr. Robertson’s comments come on the day our state, New Mexico, becomes the 16th in the nation to approve gay marriage.

    Merry Christmas and Lord willing, I’ll see you Sunday.

    • Milton,

      It’s been a while since I blogged, but this whole Duck Dynasty kerfuffle inspired me to write. When it comes to the issue of homosexuality, which most Christians do not have to deal with on a personal level because they do not know anyone struggling with this sin, it becomes far easier to use inappropriate language and chalk it up to “speaking our mind.” We are called to speak the truth in love. However, when we do not have a personal stake in the matter, our love rings hollow and we stand ramrod straight, convinced that what we say is right (which it is on this issue), but that how we say it is also right (which it is not, so many times on this particular issue). I’m not surprised by the reactions that many have had. But, we need to always be aware that what we say and do (even on Facebook and a blog) may be preaching to someone who is not in the choir. If we want to try to influence them and reach them with the Good News of the Gospel, we should want to say it in a way that doesn’t intentionally offend. The Gospel will always be offensive and a stumbling block, but we are not given license to “speak our mind and let the chips fall where they may” just because we are right on the issue. That is a recipe for disaster, as Phil Robertson is quickly finding out. Thanks again for stopping by. Always good to hear your thoughts on these matters. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas and a blessed New Year! God bless,

      Howell

  4. Just wanted you to know that in preparing for teaching sunday school on what proverbs teaches about the tongue, I googled “gracious speech” and found your article. I too, have seen a lot of the buzz about the whole duck dynasty thing, and yours is the first truly Biblical approach that I have seen.
    As believers we have very responsibilities that rise above standing up for our rights. The bible is clear that we are to be gentle and kind with our words.
    I usually don’t comment, but I wanted to send you a little encouragement from new jersey.

    • David,

      Thanks for the kind comments. I appreciate you reading my post and taking the time to reply. Hope that you have a great Lord’s Day and that God uses your Sunday School lesson to speak to those present. Thanks and God bless,

      Howell

  5. Good thoughts, Howell. I completely agree many of the words spoken and written about homosexuality by conservative evangelical Christians have been sorely lacking in grace.

    But, having read the quotes attributed to Phil in the GQ article, I am a bit confused as to what exactly was ungracious about Phil’s words. Some of what he said was crude and perhaps blunt, but we don’t know for sure that he didn’t include with qualifications that might have set a softer tone, as the GQ writer likely selected specific quotes rather than detailing every word that was said. But even if not, what exactly did he say that you see as being less than gracious? Seems to me that most of his words were quotes or paraphrases of Scripture, and I’m pretty sure the God who inspired the Bible can’t be accused of lacking grace in His words.

    Also, one sentence in your post puzzles me: ” If A&E believes it will lose money by firing Robertson, then that’s what they will do.” Is this a typo? Otherwise I don’t get the meaning. A&E isn’t likely to fire someone in order to lose money, but they might fire someone in order to keep from losing money.

    • Tom,

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. As to your last question, yes that is a typo. I just noticed it myself a few minutes ago. It should have read, “If A&E believes it will lose money by keeping Robertson, then that’s what they will do.”

      As to Phil Robertson’s grace or lack thereof, I think that some people could have misconstrued his comments about homosexuality as ungracious, particularly when he moved from homosexuality immediately to bestiality. Given that he was giving an interview in GQ Magazine, he could have been more self-aware of the likely audience he was communicating with. Also, he is reported to have quoted 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, which includes homosexuality among a list of sins that will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God. However, it was not reported that he also quoted verse 11, which is a fairly important verse if one wanted to give a more well-rounded presentation of the Good News of the Gospel: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” Perhaps Phil spoke the truth about the sinfulness and condemnation of homosexuality (and other sins) while also speaking about God’s grace for all types of sinners. If it wasn’t reported, then that would be a major omission. My guess is that he did not, but I could be wrong. God most certainly does not lack grace in dealing with sinful humanity (including yours truly). We just need to make sure that we are not only sharing both truth and grace. Not always easy to do. I do think that A&E has made a mistake in suspending Phil, although if they are able to work all this out with the Robertsons, their mistake could turn into an even bigger pot of gold for the network. Thanks again for stopping by. God bless,

      Howell

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