I enjoy catching up with friends who live at distances on Facebook. It is nice to be able to do that especially when the holiday season rolls around. Most posts are typical: here’s my Christmas tree, here’s 100 pictures (half of which are blurry) of a Christmas party, here’s yet another picture of a mischievous shelf elf, here’s a selfie (posed impromptu, of course), laments over an imagined “war on Christmas” (keep the “Christ” in it, folks), and finally the support/opposition for Mr. Duck Dynasty for his remarks on homosexuality.
What? Now the screen is split between cutesy, mischievous elves, blurry Christmas trees, and a grizzled, bearded old guy under provocative headlines and enough hot-headed, shot-from-the-hip comments to make for a Fox News audition reel.
There are what seems to be two warring factions on the final recurring post about Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty. First, there is the outcry of my “Christian” friends who seem to feel that Phil Robertson is being persecuted unjustly for speaking his mind about the Bible and homosexuality. He is being persecuted so badly that he has been dismissed from his hit television show and that his first amendment rights have been stripped away. Next, there is the group that points the finger at Christian groups and gives a big “I told you so.” They feel that Christians are all the same: judgmental, homophobic, intolerant, narrow-minded, hate-filled, self-righteous bigots.
What is wild is that my Christian friends are all posting basically the same sentiments in support of Mr. Duck Dynasty independently of each other. It’s as if they all emailed each other prior to posting their “stand up for the truth,” “I support the first amendment,” “one side gets more free speech than the other” posts. I would not find this so uncanny if they didn’t do THE EXACT same thing with those silly shelf elves.
My Facebook news feed is one big, not-so-spirit-of-Christmas, hijacked mess.
(insert long, deep sigh)
There’s a problem in this. The Duck Dynasty/homosexual/homophobic posts are acts of provocation rather than acts to make peace. The posts contain more condemnation than goodwill. The posts contain more of a “I dare you to not like my beliefs” attitude that are more off-putting than welcoming. These posts are not an act of love. They aren’t posts of loving a neighbor as oneself. I’m slowly realizing that those who want “a Christian nation” the most are usually the ones who are the most counterproductive to such an idea. It’s there that I realize most of my christian friends don’t really have what they like to call the “Christmas spirit” (despite tree and elves) nor do they maintain the practice of faith as is detailed so explicitly in the Bible when it comes to teaching, practicing, or professing beliefs in a public forum.
Furthermore, there is an outcry over free speech as politics are dragged into the discussion. The Constitution is pulled through the mud in the same way it is every time there is some sort of social/political offense taken by Christians. These ingredients are mixed together into a tasteless, boiling stew that repulses both those who long for peace, truth, and justice as well as those who wish to point the finger at the Christian faith and show how worthless that religion is in their eyes. It tends to burn everyone who takes part in it.
Let’s look at the Duck Dynasty fiasco truthfully.
1. No one has had their free speech rights taken away from them.
It has not happened and it will not happen. Mr. Duck Dynasty had freedom of speech and said exactly what he wanted to say during his interview with GQ magazine. Anyone who reads the article (link below), watches the show, or has attended one of his speaking engagements/fundraisers/church lectures knows that he has these opinions. No one expects differently. Neither the government nor his cable TV benefactors prevented him from saying anything. Even though he has been suspended from the show he still has the right to say anything he wants. He will not be silenced unless he chooses to silence himself. He still has his website, social media, more interview offers than he can honk a duck call at according to the infamous article, and any number of people with which to speak his mind. He’s free to do so as guaranteed by The Constitution and the Lord who gave him a mouth (speaking of male body parts, Mr. Robertson).
2. He is not free from the consequences of exercising free speech.
That’s in the law as well. He not free from others having a free speech opinion on the matter. He is also not free from the consequences of having exercised free speech. There is no one in this nation exempt from the consequences of his/her own actions. A citizen’s actions can result in being hired, fired, making/losing friends, developing relationships, developing talents, earning grades, etc. Free speech does not excuse actions. Free speech does not prevent the opinion of others. Free speech is not a free pass to act as one pleases, free from the legal actions of others. Free speech can propel one to success or insure certain failure. In either result, the choice is yours as it is for Robertson.
3. It is alarming that Christians are rallying behind a man that quoted the Bible and spoke so blatantly and crudely about sex in the same interview. They are rallying behind a man who publicly claimed faith while simultaneously condemning and stereotyping groups of people.
This is strange. Mr. Duck Dynasty is being held up as being persecuted for being a Christian as a result of exercising his first amendment rights. This simply isn’t so. Robertson calls out the homosexual community first and foremost when asked “what is sinful?” Read the interview here:
He lumps homosexuals into a group with terrorists, those who practice bestiality, prostitutes, and those who “sleep with this woman and that woman.” This isn’t normal or Christian, folks. Sin doesn’t start with homosexuality – that’s not found in the Bible. Ministry doesn’t start by identifying a sin and then saying something like, “you have a problem with alcohol? You’re just like the terrorists who are ruining our nation.” He then goes on to point out that those who have not had Jesus are the equivalent of “Nazis…Shintos…Communists…and Islamists.” The neighbors we love as ourselves aren’t lumped together or stereotyped as he proposes. They certainly aren’t compared to sects from history that he conveniently omitted who have committed such heinous acts as, say for instance the Crusades, the Ku Klux Klan, Jonestown, or others who have claimed acts in the name of a Christian God. Robertson’s proof-in-the-pudding, Jesus-less cultures list comes across as hypocritical on behalf of Christian culture. It certainly is neither effective ministry nor a statement of personal faith – it’s a declaration of worldview and an unbiblical, personal judgment of groups of people.
Furthermore, the way he describes the male and female anatomy in regard to his own sexual preference is crude and obscene (again, read the interview for the exact list of body parts and wording). This wouldn’t be accepted in a church sermon or on the Duck Dynasty show and it shouldn’t be accepted by those who profess faith. It is obscene to publicly describe such sexual practices in the presence of anyone who searches for Duck Dynasty on a computer (just give it a try – his remarks weren’t private) as many younger and adolescent hunters/fans probably do. It is profane for those who believe the marriage bed to be undefiled.
4. It is business. It is not religion. It is not a free speech issue. It is not a “who’s right/who’s wrong” issue.
A&E suspended Phil Robertson for speaking with hostility toward the viewers to which they market their shows. It’s business, not religion. It’s business, not free speech. It’s business, not “who’s right/who’s wrong.” A&E could have suspended him without him having said anything at all. It’s A&E’s show, not Phil Robertson’s show. There is nothing wrong with his suspension. It’s all perfectly legal and has nothing to do with his religion. It has to do with the way he offended a group of people.
Let’s be frank here. The group he offended isn’t simply “homosexuals,” “liberals,” or “sinners.” As a Christian I am offended at his public description of the male and female anatomy as he describes one as sexually preferable and the other as “illogical.” I am offended that he has reduced what I believe in as the intimate physical relationship of marriage to nothing more than the preference of female and male anatomy. I am offended that he chose to sell his Duck Dynasty brand with provocative sexual discussion (in this manner he is no different from any “real housewife” or “Kardashian” or “Miley Cyrus publicity stunt” on TV). I am offended that he alienates me as a christian from a group of people that have the same right to Christ’s gift as I do or as he does in such a public manner. I am offended that he makes it more difficult for me to minister to people that I am called to serve. I am offended that he lumps people together and feels that one sinful behavior is the root of other behaviors. I am offended that he paraphrases the Bible to justify his statements. I’m still a little stunned that most Christians find this kind of speech acceptable from the mouth of one professing faith. However offensive his statements are he is still by law entitled to them and to all the benefits and backlash that result.
Still, his interview is the result of business and his suspension is a business, not a religious or constitutional, decision. Even in being suspended from the show, Duck Dynasty will continue to air as of the date of this blog. None of the Duck Dynasty hats, Halloween costumes, cups, key chains, or merchandise ad infinitum/ad nauseum have been pulled from the shelves before the Christmas holiday. There is peace in the world of consumer capitalism despite one less character on a reality show.
5. Christians aren’t being persecuted.
You aren’t Phil Robertson. Even if you agree with him you aren’t being persecuted. Shoot (pun intended), Phil Robertson isn’t even being persecuted. He’s simply receiving the just consequences of his actions. If you talk about the human anatomy publicly as a grocery clerk, a banker, a school teacher, or a cosmetologist, then you would more than likely be reprimanded or suspended from your job as well. This was the case before “the ten commandments were taken from court houses” and “prayer was taken out of schools” and “everything became so politically correct” and will be the case as long as a media company markets a product to the public for profit. Persecution would have been if you, not Phil Robertson, were punished for having said nothing at all. When an action receives the expected reaction or just consequences, then there is no such persecution.
6. It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
Mr. Duck Dynasty didn’t say he disagrees with homosexuality as detailed in the Bible. He gave his own opinion (or camouflaged the truth, again – pun intended) on what he finds more sexually desirable using the names of body parts as well as stereotyping groups of people and casting sinners into groups with other sinners. He did so in an interview while riding the fame of a worldwide television hit show, one of the most public, widespread platforms a person can hold. I’m guessing that those who are homosexual don’t appreciate being publicly cast into a group with those who practice bestiality no more than those who practice religion (say for instance Christians) like to be cast into a group with other sincere religious practitioners (say for instance Muslims). He also placed homosexuals (and “morphed out from there”) into the same group as Nazis, Shintos (really? “shintos?!”), etc. What manner of ministry or faith is that? It’s puzzling. How he said what he said was wrong, therefore what he said was wrong. Let me restate that: If you say the right thing the wrong way, then what you say is wrong (that’s a biblical principle, for all non-Christians who wonder why I restate this). I’ve said it before in other blog articles but it bears repeating: lovingkindness, goodness, or purity that is wrapped in hate is still hate.
7. Don’t confuse being American with being Christian.
They aren’t synonymous. The more one tries to make them one and the same, the more one will find that one identity no longer exists. They can exist together but they are not the same things. This Duck Dynasty fiasco isn’t a constitutional issue. This isn’t an issue where someone was cheated of their rights and should therefore “take all the way to the Supreme Court.” This isn’t an issue of “if prayer were in schools, then we’d have nothing like this happen, ever.” That ridiculous mode of thought makes Christians appear ignorant of the law. It makes Christians look like they do not respect the law as well – and this is not what the bible teaches in regard our faith. Don’t pull “freedom of religion” by citing the Constitution or exercising free speech. In this case, exercise freedom of religion by exercising the two commands on which all of Christianity is based: love your God; love your neighbor – no more, no less.
8. Embrace the Christmas spirit (be good, for goodness’ sake!).
Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men. It’s hard to be a peacemaker when posting a picture of an elf at one moment and posting the support of a commercially-driven star exiled for an obscene, public opinion (no matter that he quoted the Bible in the same article). Don’t provoke bad feelings and expect peace or goodwill. Hold your tongue. Love your neighbor. Do good things. Count it blessed if you are persecuted. Bless and do not curse. Make peace. Bring peace as far as it is up to you. Make friends. Bring peace with your homosexual and heterosexual neighbor. Bring peace with someone who is angered or embittered. Bring peace within yourselves and with others whomever they may be. One will have a better forum for differences of opinion if this there is a strong, meaningful relationship in place from the beginning. The beginning of understanding and meaningful discussion is guaranteed with the assurance of peace.
Be good, for goodness’ sake. Remember that Santa is watching. If that does nothing for you, then remember that your children, other Christians, potential Christians, and your neighbors are watching. Make peace for them.
I must go and make peace with an elf who has spread marshmallows all over the kitchen floor. Those pictures aren’t going to take themselves.
Here’s to a Merry Christmas.