The Phil Robertson-A&E Mess

UPDATE: An interesting development, as the Robertson clan offers their response.

In case you’ve been under a rock in the last 24 hours, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, Phil Robertson, gave an interview to GQ in which he was very frank and honest about his belief in Biblical definitions of sin – and that includes the Bible’s treatment of homosexuality.

You might have seen a couple of the quotes from the GQ article which have caused a controversy, but here’s a larger excerpt to show context…

“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he tells me. “You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”

What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview, America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles. (He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“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,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “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.”

And another excerpt…

Oh, and no sinners, too. So here’s where things get a bit uncomfortable. Phil calls himself a Bible-thumper, and holy shit, he thumps that Bible hard enough to ring the bell at a county-fair test of strength. If you watch Duck Dynasty, you can hear plenty of it in the nondenominational supper-table prayer the family recites at the end of every episode, and in the show’s no-cussing, no-blaspheming tone. But there are more things Phil would like to say—“controversial” things, as he puts it to me—that don’t make the cut. (This March, for instance, he told the Christian-oriented Sports Spectrum magazine that he didn’t approve of A&E editing out “in Jesus” from a family prayer scene, even though A&E says that the phrase has been uttered in at least seventeen episodes.)

Out here in these woods, without any cameras around, Phil is free to say what he wants. Maybe a little too free. He’s got lots of thoughts on modern immorality, and there’s no stopping them from rushing out. Like this one:

“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.”

As soon as this was posted online, the gay community went absolutely ballistic

GLAAD on Wednesday condemned his remarks as “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication” and said “his quote was littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.”

“Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,” GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who now need to re-examine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”

And more…

The Human Rights Campaign also slammed Robertson for his statements.

“Phil Robertson’s remarks are not consistent with the values of our faith communities or the scientific findings of leading medical organizations,” president Chad Griffin said in a statement. “We know that being gay is not a choice someone makes, and that to suggest otherwise can be incredibly harmful. We also know that Americans of faith follow the Golden Rule — treating others with the respect and dignity you’d wish to be treated with. As a role model on a show that attracts millions of viewers, Phil Robertson has a responsibility to set a positive example for young Americans — not shame and ridicule them because of who they are. The A+E Network should take immediate action to condemn Phil Robertson’s remarks and make clear they don’t support his views.”

Which led A&E to suspend Robertson from future filming of the show.

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

The fact is – and Robertson noted this in the GQ interview, Duck Dynasty on A&E is likely coming to a close after the season is over. The show – and the celebrity coming out of it – seems to have become a burden on the Robertson family, and since Phil’s vision for his future is to spread Biblical teachings on what he sees as an increasingly heathen national landscape the fact he’s been suspended probably doesn’t break him up a whole lot.

You can pick that up from the statement he released yesterday through A&E…

“I myself am a product of the ’60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Let’s understand something very basic here. Phil Robertson’s views on homosexuality come from a close reading of the Bible. Scripture takes a very dim view of homosexual behavior, and in that view Christianity is in line with every other major religion. Homosexuality has never been considered an acceptable practice in any major successful society in history.

That’s not a value judgement. It’s a fact. Right or wrong, what Phil Robertson says about homosexuality is not deviant, or extreme. It is mainstream, fundamental Christian teaching, regardless of how artfully he might present it or how politically correct he might be in voicing that answer to a question he was asked.

And further, Phil Robertson has no power, even in West Monroe where he lives, to negatively affect the life of any homosexual individual. What’s more he doesn’t suggest any negative consequences befall any homosexuals; he calls it sin and suggests it’s a road which won’t lead to heaven, but he says that about lots of things – including things he’s guilty of before he found God.

Robertson’s message, paraphrased, is that gay people – along with the rest of us sinners – should repent of that behavior which offends God and live their lives according to His laws.

Which is nothing more exotic than missionary Christianity. Agree or disagree, that’s what Phil Robertson is doing. That he does it through the medium of a reality TV show rather than through public appearances – and the Robertson family does scads of public appearances, to huge crowds across the country – merely reflects 21st century society.

But Phil Robertson’s 1st Amendment rights don’t extend to a right to appear on A&E. The network is free to have on its air whoever it chooses, and its decision to suspend Robertson is well within its rights. It judged that the unappeased outrage of the gay community was more important than the 10-15 million viewers Duck Dynasty brings to its channel each week as new episodes air, and that’s a decision it’s entitled to make.

It’s likely that today or sometime soon we’ll hear that the rest of the Robertson family will walk if Phil isn’t reinstated, or that the current season being filmed is the end of the show. If the clan should decide to open the bidding for a new iteration of Duck Dynasty to appear on another network, you can bet GAC, CMT, CBN and a number of other channels will offer the sun and the moon to these people for the right to air future episodes of their exploits.

And if not, the Robertsons still have Duck Commander, the family business of outdoor products which is highly successful.

Phil Robertson was a rich and successful man long before that TV show began, and he’ll be one long after it ends. Which means he has no reason to apologize or backtrack from anything he said.

As for the rest of us, what we have here is a major battle in the cultural war setting this country afire.

GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign are emblematic of the mentality on the secular Left which is no longer interested in a debate with those of traditional or conservative cultural views. They want those views stamped out. A member of that persuasion, in a Facebook thread in which I was involved on this subject last night, said “We have to kill that mindset,” which was about as instructive a statement as you can get.

Here’s another instructive statement. From Alan Colmes’ Liberaland site, which calls Robertson a “homophobe” (did he say he was scared of gay people?)…

Let’s hope that “suspended indefinitely” means “we have unceremoniously fired Phil Robertson, and don’t let the door hitcha where the good Lord splitcha.” There is no place for this kind of vicious, bigoted rhetoric, no matter what your personal religious beliefs happen to be.

And here was Democrat pollster Bernard Whitman, who is openly gay, on a panel on Megyn Kelly’s show last night…


It would have been interesting – and probably more effective – had anyone on the secular Left taken the position of “I disagree with what Phil Robertson says but I’ll fight for his right to say it.”

So far nobody on the Left has said that. So far the response is that Phil Robertson is using his religion to mask his hatred of gays and that real Christianity doesn’t consider homosexuality as sin.

This is reminiscent of another lousy argument about religion; namely, the Bush administration’s post-9/11 outreach campaign in the Muslim world in an attempt to convince its audience that jihadist violence against unbelievers was a perversion of Islam. That failed miserably and probably did more damage than good, mostly because the people the infidel Americans were trying to preach to knew a lot more about Islam than Bush’s people did and were pretty confident that jihadist violence is right there in the Qu’ran and the hadith.

The gay community pretending to be qualified to lecture Christians about how homosexuality stacks up in Scripture is just as arrogant and just as ill-fated as an argument. It might well attract a few people on the sidelines who’d just like everyone to get along, but it certainly won’t tamp down this cultural fight.

And people who carry traditional or conservative values are beginning to recognize that they can’t just disengage from the culture, or seek to escape the culture wars by getting a majority in the state legislature and attempt to pass laws to patch over this problem. This episode proves that either you engage in that culture and promote your values enthusiastically, relentlessly and with content and messaging every bit as valuable as the other side, or you’re going to wake up one day and realize not only are you not a part of the dominant culture, but you’re regarded as deviant, extreme and dangerous.

There’s a great quote from Archbishop Chaput, issued during the Obamacare contraceptive mandate fight, that Erick Erickson referenced last night

Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s weak. When it gains the upper hand, its vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it. So it always has been. So it always will be. And America has no special immunity to becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.

This is not to brand gays as evil. But it is evil to seek to deny a voice to those with whom you disagree, and that’s what GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign are doing.

People who agree with Phil Robertson’s worldview are on notice. They can’t sit on the sidelines. They’re going to have to engage in this fight, even if it means they get called names.

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