When I first saw the “I stand with Phil Robertson” posts popping up in my Facebook feed, I must admit my first reaction was “Phil who?” But once I looked at his picture and saw his trademark Old Testament-length beard, I knew the posts were either referring to the star of the A&E series “Duck Dynasty” or one of the guys from ZZ Top.
Turns out it was the duck guy, and by now I’m sure you’ve heard about the controversial interview the “Duck Commander” did with GQ magazine recently. He made a few provocative statements in that interview, including:
Saying that black people seemed perfectly happy and had no discernible enmity towards whites as they worked in the fields for white farmers in the pre-civil rights era. (Seems it may not have occurred to him that black people could be lynched with impunity back then if they stepped out of line and thus their apparent satisfaction with life as second- class human beings might not have been completely genuine.)
Suggesting that nations that are not explicitly Christian are responsible for all the evil done on the world stage. He cited Nazi Germany, their WWII ally Japan, and unnamed Communist and Islamic states as cautionary tales on how things always go wrong if countries are not populated primarily by Christians. (Not sure how he accounts for a place like Ireland, where Christians who attend different churches have been killing each other for centuries)
Making some very coarse statements about homosexuality that I don’t feel comfortable repeating or even summarizing in a family newspaper. Suffice it to say that he painted homosexuality as a most grievous sin that leads inevitably to increasingly disturbing forms of perversion.
Since the GQ interview was published a video of a sermon Phil gave in 2010 has surfaced in which he lights into homosexuals even more fiercely, saying they are “insolent, arrogant God-haters.”
Gay rights supporters quickly excoriated Robertson when the interview came out and A&E suspended him over his remarks. Fans of “Duck Dynasty” and some conservative talking heads went ballistic, contending that Phil’s right to freedom of speech has been attacked because of his religious beliefs.
One Republican congressional candidate in Illinois even characterized Phil as a modern Rosa Parks who is “taking a stand against the persecution of Christians.” That seems like a bit of a stretch, but fans of the show have every right to protest to the network and urge them to change their decision.
I think that they have a legitimate point, too -- the entertainment business seems to be quite tolerant of “free expression” as long as what is expressed is sympathetic to a liberal viewpoint. Miley Cyrus can twerk and curse and speak freely of her increasingly debauched lifestyle and no one is talking about banning her from any network, but the stuff Phil said is apparently much worse and deserving of immediate censure? Doesn’t quite add up for me.
I’d like to say that the people who have contacted A&E to protest Phil’s suspension have been polite and reasonable in making that point, but sadly not all of them have. Some of the protests have been laced with profanity and even included death threats.
That’s very disappointing. I do not believe that the answer to “What Would Jesus Do?” would ever be “make some anonymous death threats.”
Christians are supposed to be primarily concerned with spreading the good news. How many spiritual seekers do you think are going to be inclined to look deeper into Christianity after reading Phil’s interview or hearing how some of his fans threatened to kill the people who run A&E for suspending him from his show?
I’m reminded of what Ghandi said about Christianity after he got turned away from the door of a Christian church because they only admitted white people and higher caste Indians -- “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.