It has happened again. The social media world has blown up, dividing the country between those standing with Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame, and those backing up A&E in their disciplining of him for his comments on homosexuality. It all started when GQ made public part of an interview with the reality TV star in which he was questioned on his beliefs about sin. Robertson, in his answer, mentioned homosexuality, paraphrased Corinthians, made a crass comment about the anatomy of the sexes, then tried to cover himself by clarifying that he really does love all people like Jesus would. When word got out, A&E quickly moved to place him on indefinite suspension from the show, on the grounds that his comments were offensive. Christians, many being ardent fans, rallied to his defense on social media with the call of “Stand with Phil Robertson”, making his cause into a bulwark for free speech and Christian values.
These defenders conveniently overlooking, of course, the fact that his comments actually were offensive.
I would like to preface the rest of my comments with the fact that I am a Bible-believing Christian who professes the Gospel and Name of Jesus Christ. I believe that it is Christ’s example that we must look to in how we Christians ought live our lives. I also believe that the Scriptures are clear that homosexuality is a sin, just as adultery, lying, greed and a number of other vices are. I believe that Christ can cover all these sins with grace, and that His gift is open to all who would receive it, regardless of what lifestyle they might live.
I also believe that Christians are called to be the “salt and light” of the world. As we share our faith and convictions with others, we must “let [our] speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that [we] may know how [we] ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6 ESV). It is here where I take exception with Phil Robertson, why I hesitate to stand with him, and why I caution my fellow Christians against leaping too hastily and vigorously to his defense.
It seems that many Christians have rallied behind Robertson solely based on the fact that he spoke out against homosexuality and is facing consequences for his words. This whole situation is similar to the controversy surrounding Dan Cathy’s personal beliefs on homosexuality. But whereas Cathy spoke without defaming homosexuals, simply sharing his own personal convictions, Robertson has engaged in vulgar and degrading humor directed at homosexuals. He may have started his remarks grounded in Scripture, and closed them with a half-hearted attempt to cover himself by saying that “we just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus”, but these bookends cannot sponge away the bomb he dropped right in the middle of the conversation.
“It seems to me,” Robertson said, “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.”
I ask the Christians so eagerly standing with Robertson how this speech is either gracious, seasoned with salt, or even remotely a good answer to a person living with homosexual desires. Is this “loving ‘em” or “giving ‘em the good news about Jesus”? No. This is base mockery, a remark that will only drive a homosexual further from the redeeming power of Jesus Christ. Let us turn the tables. Imagine you are having a discussion with a homosexual friend. Over the course of the discussion, the topic of sexual attraction comes up. Your friend insults your attraction to the opposite gender, making crude references to anatomy and calling you “illogical”. Will this bring you any closer to understanding your friend’s viewpoint? Of course not! If anything, it will either burn or weaken the bridges of friendship between you both. Is it not true that “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1 ESV)?
Robertson’s comments were ill-advised and un-Christ-like, and thus I cannot support him. In fact, I find myself sympathizing with A&E for disciplining him for his comments. (Also, as an aside, under freedom of speech, A&E has just as much the right to keep Robertson off their channel as he does to state his opinions.) If Robertson had expressed his opinions on homosexuality concisely and respectfully, I would probably be supporting him right now. If he had paraphrased Scripture and left it at that, I might have applauded him. But he did not. When Christians rally in defense of an entertainer speaking disrespectfully and derisively of others, we are saying to the world “look at us, we are no different than the hateful and bigoted masses”. Perhaps, in so vehemently defending offensive behavior under the guise of supporting “free speech”, we are pushing fellow sinners who desperately need the cleansing blood of Christ further from that blessed fountain.
When Christ visited and ate with the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the adulterers and the rejected of society, He certainly did tell them to “sin no more”. But did He ever vulgarly mock their behavior, belittle them as “illogical”? Surely, if we look to His example, the example of the Son of God, we can find a better way to reach the homosexual community with the light of the Gospel. If anything, there has to be a more effective method than loudly supporting a reality TV star who spoke in such an unbridled and offensive manner.
In light of the massive and unexpected response to this article, I have written a follow-up concerning some of the issues raised in the comments section. You can read this follow-up here.
[Note from author: my own perspectives on gender, sexuality, and the LGBT community’s relationship with the church have continued to evolve since I wrote this, but I still wish to keep it up for posterity. Though I was not completely at the place where I am today (my adding an addendum here is prompted by the so-called “Nashville Statement”) I believe that the impetus of what I was trying to articulate here is the same, but more developed. On the off-chance that you are an LGBT person and reading this now, know that you are loved, accepted, and that your experiences are valid, heard, and must be respected. I am still learning, struggling, and trying to live the love that Jesus preached. – Eric Marcy, 0/2/2017]