Update: I would be remiss if I did not make some corrections and additions, in addition to correcting the careless assumption about Robertson’s education.
I still think that what he said wasn’t terribly nuanced, but I should give his full response here (which was obviously edited by CNN and other news sources to omit his explicit references to the Gospel):
I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.
Excellent response, and I’m glad he stuck to biblical truth. It is my mistake to gloss over his response because CNN completely edited out any reference to Christ in it. I should know better than to trust them on that.
I should be writing a paper right now, but I’ll take a break to address this.
A few years ago, D.A. Carson wrote a book titled The Intolerance of Tolerance, where he discusses the irony of the so-called “liberals” and “tolerant” people who go out of their way to bully, censor, and silence people who disagree with them, mostly notably conservative Christians. In their eyes, “tolerance” equals “agreement,” even though that is absurd because the very concept of tolerance implies some underlying disagreement. That does not stop the allegedly open-minded tolerant folks from freaking out over every perceived slight and disagreement. In essence, it is the self-proclaimed “tolerant” people who refuse to tolerate opposing viewpoints.
Enter in Phil Robertson, patriarch of the family in the TV show Duck Dynasty, who recently said some controversial things about homosexuality and African Americans. I don’t watch Duck Dynasty and really couldn’t care less if it stays on the air or not, nor do I think Robertson said things in a particularly nuanced and careful manner. That being said, it is both amusing and concerning how quickly the media and special interest groups rushed to label him a “bigot” and attempt to crush him.
I’ll go through his quotes as well as some responses by others:
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.
Not exactly a compelling argument here and it certainly doesn’t sound educated, but this only shows his lack of affinity with homosexual men’s desires, not any hatred.
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.
Another sloppy statement. It is true that sin can lead to more sin, but it’s very unclear what he’s trying to say. If he is trying to say that all homosexual men will eventually turn to animals or lots of different women for sex (women?), then that is pretty silly. If he’s trying to say that, as a society, if we normalize homosexual relationships then we run the risk of accepting bestiality and promiscuity, then perhaps one could make an argument (but he doesn’t). Besides, promiscuity is already fairly normal in our society anyway, and the acceptance of that long preceded the acceptance of homosexual unions.
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.
This is a reference to 1 Corinthians 6. Here, I’d be in agreement with Robertson: Homosexuality is listed as a sin by Scripture. I’m not sure if he presented the Bible all that well contextually, but all he did here was express his belief, shared by all Bible-believing Christians, that homosexuality is outside of God’s standard for sexual relations.
Not only that, he turned to talking about African-Americans:
I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!
Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy?
They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.
Robertson can be
excused (whoops) accused for some historical ignorance, but it is entirely possible that this was his personal experience. Nowhere in here is a hint of racism; in fact, he is claiming that he worked side-by-side with blacks in the south. If anything, his fault here is universalizing his experience and assuming that that was the kind of relationship between all whites and blacks during the Civil Rights/post-Civil Rights era, which is faulty logic. But faulty logic does not equal bigotry or racism.
So what do we have here? Some offhand, not-very-nuanced remarks that can certainly be criticized but merely express someone’s belief. He did not state hatred towards homosexuals or African-Americans; he disagreed with the former’s lifestyle and made too much of his experience with the latter. And really, there’s not much more to see than that:
some seemingly low-educated (correction: He has a master’s degree in education, though his comments could still be characterized as simple, if not a tad careless) but sincere dude expressing his beliefs (but not his hatred, which there is no evidence of any).
Did people take it that way? Nope.
First, let’s look at A&E’s response:
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. His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.
Gee whiz, a known Christian disagrees with homosexuality? What a surprise, A&E. And of course smart people know that his beliefs don’t necessarily reflect the views of the network, just as they don’t think that all of Bryan Cranston’s personal beliefs reflect A&E’s or the views of Bill Simmons reflect all of ESPN’s. The network certainly has every right to manage their shows as they see fit, but it is strange that he cannot even express his personal viewpoints off the air to an unaffiliated magazine.
Then there was a joint letter from the NAACP and the Human Rights Campaign:
Mr. Robertson claims that, from what he saw, African Americans were happier under Jim Crow. What he didn’t see were lynching and beatings of black men and women for attempting to vote or simply walking down the street.
Fair enough; as I said above, Robertson seems to have improperly universalized his experience. Maybe he was nice to African-Americans during that era and so was his family, but that doesn’t mean every white person was.
And his offensive claims about gay people fly in the face of science. In fact, it’s important to note that every single leading medical organization in the country has said that there is absolutely nothing wrong with being LGBT — it’s not a choice, and to suggest otherwise is dangerous.
Eh? What science? What is their evidence? What is their argument? Are you saying that rational people can’t disagree with the so-called leading medical organizations? No gay gene has been found, and even if it were found, why are we automatically left with some sort of natural determinism? And why is it dangerous to suggest that, in at least some measure, being LGBT is a choice (at the very least, becoming transexual is clearly a choice for most, unless you hold to such a thoroughgoing determinism that you argue that their “choice” to undergo a sex change was an inevitable carrying out of their genes, which there is zero scientific evidence for nor philosophical argument for). I’ve heard some homosexuals proudly proclaim that their lifestyle is their choice and it’s their right to make it. I would agree it’s their choice, and while I disagree with it, that doesn’t mean I want them thrown in jail or attacked. Why exactly is that dangerous to hold? Because then we can criticize it in a way that we cannot criticize race without being called a bigot? Ah… I think that’s it.
What we have here is another example of how homosexual rights activists are trying to silence and censor opposition, and it’s going to continue to run up against matters of free speech and religious freedom. Ironically, while religious freedom is expressly guaranteed by the constitution, it is only a stretched interpretation of the 14th amendment that protects the so-called “right” of homosexual marriage. Phil Robertson isn’t exactly the right spokesman for the Christian view of sexual ethics, but nothing he said was racist or hateful towards gays. However, simply because he disagrees with the lifestyle, he is labeled as a bigot and social media explodes with all sorts of overreactions. “Tolerant” indeed.