What We Can Learn From Phil Robertson (according to Stephen Bedard)

First of all, I need to say that I have never watched an episode of Duck Dynasty, nor do I intend to. However, the web is ablaze with the controversy over what Phil Robertson said in an interview in GQ. You can find CNN’s coverage of it here. Basically, Robertson made some critical comments about homosexuality and now A&E has suspended him from the show. The LGBT community is outraged over Robertson’s comments and the Christian community is outraged over A&E’s response. Rather than taking sides, I would like to reflect on what we can learn from this controversy.

1. It is true that tolerance is not a tolerance of anything. Those who are loudest about tolerance are not willing to tolerate those with different views. What people really mean when they call for tolerance is that they want everyone else to tolerate what they appreciate. It is not consistent with the meaning of the word, but that is the world we live in.

2. Homosexuality has been given a special place in our society. While it was not that long ago that homosexuals were shunned (it was that way even when I was in my teens), it has shifted to the point that they have special protection agains criticism. It is no longer socially acceptable to be critical of the homosexual lifestyle and there are those who are willing to punish those who are critical.

3. There are limits to freedom of expression. In a way, we are free to express what we want, but other people are free to punish those who express something they do not like. When a person chooses to express what they believe, they must be prepared to receive the consequences of that expression.

4. Having read Robertson’s comments, it probably was not the most carefully worded statement, especially for a forum such as GQ. Robertson could have expressed his disagreement with the homosexual lifestyle in a less controversial way. The fact is that we live in a society where homosexuality is strongly accepted. We must choose our words carefully when engaged with our secular culture. It is a difficult skill to master and yet as time goes on, it will be essential. This is not about conforming to non-Christian values but rather following the example of the Apostle Paul who was always adapting to his audience.

5. We must be careful not to give up our opportunities with non-Christians for the sake of controversy, even if it raises support by Christians. Duck Dynasty was a great platform for some Christians to have a large non-Christian fan base. While many Christians are rallying around Robertson, is it worth it to lose their non-Christian fans? Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that Robertson should have avoided a biblical view of homosexuality or that he should have lied about his beliefs. I am only saying that he could have been more careful in his comments and less inflammatory.

I understand that many people will not like this post. Those in the LGBT community will not like what I say about the lack of tolerance toward conservative Christians. Conservative Christians will not like that I suggest that Robertson could have done better in his interview. However, my point is to get beyond this specific controversy and to look at the principles that we can apply to other situations.

1 comment: