The buzz surrounding Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson is growing after it was announced last night that he was being put on “indefinite hiatus” from his incredibly popular show on A&E.
Television executives made the move after Robertson’s quotes during an interview with GQ Magazine were recently published. [Caution: Graphic language] In the course of the wide-ranging discussion, Robertson talked about sin and homosexuality. He also paraphrased a Scripture passage from 1 Corinthians 6 and expressed in rather indelicate terms the anatomical realities of homosexuality.
As believers, one might question the wisdom of stating an opinion with such frankness. One might also wonder if there could be a more productive way to talk about so sensitive a topic.
One area that leaves no doubt, however, is that television executives, happy to exploit and benefit from Robertson’s faith appeal to Christians, are now quick to distance themselves from him – because he was bold enough to speak so openly about his Christian faith.
I get it: A&E is a privately held company that has every right to feature or not feature a character on its top-rated show. It has every right to make 14 million weekly viewers angry and to tinker with a winning formula that has made Duck Dynasty a beloved show – a formula that, incidentally, features Phil Robertson praying at the end of every episode.
But that A&E executives would make such a choice because an outspoken Christian paraphrased biblical passages is both ironic and chilling.
Because make no doubt about it: the uproar doesn’t seem centered on the crudely stated opinion I referenced earlier. Groups like GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) are focusing on Robertson’s faith, saying, among other things, “Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.”
But just saying something doesn’t make it so. GLAAD is incorrect in saying a very accurate paraphrase of Scripture is not what “true Christians believe.”
In fact, if I had thinner skin and worried about such things, I could rightly accuse GLAAD of attacking me. That’s to say by GLAAD’s standard, I’m not a true Christian. In other words, my faith is fraudulent. The same applies for tens of millions of other evangelicals in this country.
Who’s attacking who?
It’s unfortunate no one is noting that Robertson included various other sins, such as adultery, idolatry, greed, drunkenness, and deceit in the paraphrase of those who “won’t inherit the kingdom of God.”
To be clear, his basic reading and interpretation of Scripture is entirely orthodox and consistent with evangelical Christianity.
In the end, though, what really matters is not what Phil Robertson said – or even how he said it. What matters is what God spoke through the writers of the Bible about the subject of sin.
And so setting aside all the noise of this latest news, what did the Ultimate Author of the Bible say? Here are the apostle Paul’s words to the church at Corinth:
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)
Again, those aren’t Robertson’s words. Don’t blame him. They’re directly found in the Word of God. He may have partly fumbled in communicating in a way that the modern-world can digest it, but he’s merely the messenger.
And so as the world continues to redefine morality, when what was once considered evil is now considered good, how are we as Christians to respond? With love and grace and truth, of course, but also with an expectation and understanding that the world may not always agree with God’s perspective. We can either embrace God’s ways – or yield to the ways of the world.
We’re in trouble when we try to bend God’s Word to fit our behavior instead of conforming our behavior to fit God’s Word.
But here’s the bottom line and the best news in the midst of all the bad:
We’re all dead in our sin, and we’re all sinners, “who have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Thankfully, that’s not the end of the story. If we bend our lives to Him, our depravity will be redeemed and our place in Heaven will be secure for all of eternity (John 3:16).
And so, in the end, Phil Robertson isn’t the issue here.
This isn’t really about a reality show but about the ultimate reality:
Is the Bible true? Do I really believe what it says?
Call it controversial. Call it divisive. But that’s the Gospel.
For more reading on this topic from a Christian perspective, I recommend Russell Moore’s balanced piece, “Duck Dynasty?” and Al Mohler’s article, “You Have Been Warned – The ‘Duck Dynasty’ Controversy.”
What are your thoughts on this matter?