If you haven't yet heard about the Duck Dynasty controversy, you likely haven't spent much time on the internet in the past 24 hours. The guilty parties are A&E and Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame. After an interview with GQ, A&E put Phil Robertson on an indefinite hiatus from the show. A&E responded to the interview by saying, "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.'" There are people fuming in anger that A&E would censor a man's Christian beliefs and see this as an attack on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. And there are others who applaud A&E for what they've done, finding Phil's comments offensive to LGBT people.
In the midst of all this, I thought I'd share a few thoughts that have been helpful for me as I've thought through and read about the controversy. As with any controversy, a lot of people are quick to speak and attack all kinds of people - I''m less interested in attacking and more in talking about what can we, as Christians, learn from this and be reminded of. I hope Duck Dynasty continues for many more seasons. I hope Phil Robertson returns and continues doing what he's doing on the show. And I hope that Christians always speak the truth in love.
The way we talk about homosexuality matters.
If I said what Phil Robertson said in his GQ interview, I would have gotten in big trouble by my employer. And I work in a church - a church that is full of passionate conservatives and a church theologically opposed to a homosexual lifestyle. There are a couple of areas in the article in which homosexuality has come up. Most quoted by those who are upset when referencing the GQ article is Phil referencing Corinthians when asked "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.” - from GQ interview with Phil Robertson
But that's not all he said about homosexuality. If he simply said this, I would completely understand the anger and say it is justified. It'd be justified because while a lot of people wouldn't agree with him, he's simply paraphrasing the Bible. And this is a belief that A&E already knew about - there is no way in all the seasons of Duck Dynasty that A&E just now figured out that the Robertson are biblically opposed to a homosexual lifestyle.
Phil also said this:
“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.” - from GQ interview with Phil Robertson
Homosexuality may be illogical, in fact I would argue it is. It is sin. In fact, I would even say that what Phil said was accurate - and probably puts words to what many people have thought. But what he said in GQ is not the way I would go about describing it. Phil Robertson should have probably kept that statement between him and the friends he hunts with and not said in an interview that would be broadcast to the world... but Phil may also not be concerned with that.
Christians absolutely need to find ways to talk about their faith - but there will always be certain things that we should say and other things that we shouldn't say. I'm not sure that this issue for A&E was about Phil being a Christian who is opposed to homosexuality, but more of he is a star on A&E's network who spoke about his issue with homosexuality in a way that was perceived as crude.
As a youth worker, if I want to talk to my students about what the Bible teaches about homosexuality - saying what Phil Robertson said does not open the door for conversations with students who struggle with homosexuality. I don't believe Phil was intending to be crude or stir up controversy - but I wouldn't say it the way he said it. If we truly believe a homosexual lifestyle is sinful, we also need to approach it in a way that allows for us to have conversations with people who struggle - and this won't happen by ridiculing or making fun of their struggle.
A&E is a business and will respond in a way that they think is good for business
Some have argued that A&E is not allowing for Christians to have free speech. This may in fact be the case, which would be a shame. But I think it is far more likely is that A&E is trying to protect their brand. A&E wants to sell products, keep viewers, and attract other successful TV shows. A&E likely made the call they did to prevent backlash from a LGBT supporters who would be very vocal about the things that Phil Robertson said. A&E now is feeling backlash from passionate fans of Duck Dynasty. Whatever A&E decides long term is probably not going to be rooted in a moral agenda - they are not going to change their mind about Phil Robertson because they feel they were wrong and they are not going to stick to their guns because they believe in gay marriage - they are going to do what they think will make them the most money.
And that decision may mean bringing back Phil. And it might mean Phil Robertson doesn't return.
GQ was clearly looking to stir up controversy
Read the GQ interview. GQ is loving every minute of this controversy because people are flocking to their website and buying issues of their magazine. And that's exactly what they wanted. It's actually a very interesting article, but it also very clearly trying to stir up some drama. Phil was asked about politics, his faith, civil rights, and more. The interview is obviously shaped by the author's own beliefs (as would happen with any journalist):
It’s the direction he would like to point everyone: back to the woods. Back to the pioneer spirit. Back to God. “Why don’t we go back to the old days?” he asked me at one point. But now, I’m afraid, I must get out of the ATV and go back to where I belong, back to the godless part of America that Phil is determined to save. - from GQ interview with Phil Robertson
GQ interviewed Phil Robertson and asked questions just hoping for the perfect sound bit that would spread like wildfire on the internet. In fact, if you read the article you will see the potential for several of those, not to mention the same kind of language that people are upset with by the author. The homosexuality one took and GQ is reaping the rewards of the controversy. A&E is suffering in this fiasco. Duck Dynasty and Phil Robertson will have consequences because of this. GQ will make a bunch of money.