Thoughts on “Phil Robertson Suspended”

Phil Robertson, patriarch on A&E’s hit TV sensation “Duck Dynasty” is being suspended from the show indefinitely for making inappropriate comments that do not align with A&E’s own view. This morning Christians began rallying behind Phil Robertson and “took a stand with Phil.” To me this is utterly perplexing. For the most part, it seems that Christians are confused about what actually happened. Just to clarify, Phil Robertson is not being suspended for a belief that is contrary to A&E’s, he is being suspended for making crude comments. He is not being suspended for being a Christian, for quoting scripture, for proclaiming truth. No, far from it. Phil Robertson is being suspended because in a magazine interview he was asked, “What is sinful?” Phil Robertson responds: 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.”and goes on to say: “it seems like, to me, a woman’s 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?”

This is fascinating as an insight into the modern American Christian conception of what sin is: “Start with homosexuality”–as if to say that everything else comes after that or moves out from this point of inertia. This flies in the face of a Biblical view of sin which locates depravity and idolatry as the root, not homosexuality. Why do American Christians have such a fetish with homosexuality? It is hardly mentioned in the New Testament compared with sins like divorce, greed, lust in general, etc. Homosexuality as a great evil is an American Christian agenda, not an agenda of Jesus or Paul.

Next his statement makes horrible implications about how some Christians view homosexuality. Seeming to suggest that a gay man could just “wake up” to the attraction of the female body. That’s the whole thing about sexual attraction, though: you don’t choose it, and you can’t find something attractive that you don’t. If you tell me to wake up to the sexual attractiveness of a cardboard box, my feelings will not just change. Likewise, Phil’s statement implies that gay people can choose what they are attracted to. The room to debate this issue is becoming much smaller. See John Piper, Al Mohler and a host of others on this issue. It isn’t “just a lifestyle choice.” See what I’ve said elsewhere on this issue:

It should be noted that some of Phil’s response in regard to this explosion of controversy have been more decent. But all of those comment have been lost in the sea of Christians that have begun to speak out and voice their support for what Phil said and did, which in case you’ve forgotten, see his comments above. This move to position Phil as a figure head and martyr absolutely boggles my mind on several counts.

1.) If you really do care about the issue of homosexuality as it’s found in scripture, wouldn’t you want your opinion to be articulated humbly, lovingly, and well? The caricature we find in Phil’s statements doesn’t seem very well thought out, and certainly isn’t gracious.

2.) Homosexuality is an absolutely massive issue and opportunity for the Church to engage with culture in dialogue. But expressing polarizing views and using the “shock jock” rhetoric that Phil employs is not a way to get conversation going. In fact it does the opposite, solidifying the view of most gays that Christians are hateful bigots and then also making Christians bewilderingly passionate about a skewed issue. This is a mess all around.

3.) The Robertson’s are not living a life that is harmonious with the New Testament vision of Christian living. Their multimillionaire lifestyle combined with the large amount of money they seemingly spend on luxury and foolery might be entertaining, but it’s not Christian. IN fact, I would dare to say that their lifestyle is totally contradictory in a fundamental way to Paul’s idea of Christian life. Phil might want to see what the Bible says to the Christian about money, fading glory, and suffering.

4.) And for me this is the most irritating point. For two years now I have been wrestling with the question, “What is the Gospel?” I have lots of formulations in answer to this and an infinite amount still to read. But in his response, Phil at one point says he was just “standing for the gospel.” Homosexuality as a sin has Zero to do with the Gospel. Zero.

So much more can and should and will be said, but here’s a starting point. Please comment back and let’s flesh this out! Also, thanks to Adam Wagner for his contributions to this post and the much larger conversation about homosexuality. He has been a longtime friend and ally to me in the trenches for this fight! Cheers!