Duck Dynasty and the Culture Wars or, Sir, your religion is too close to me



The inevitably finally happened; a culturally conservative Christian on a popular television show said something deemed insensitive by others and now the Culture Wars™ are back in full swing. I guess there wasn’t enough War on Christmas™, so we had to settle for another “Christians vs. homosexuals” debate.

For those who haven’t heard, Phil Robertson was removed by A&E indefinitely for speaking out against homosexuals. Of course, no sooner had he said it than GLAAD and other LGBTQ groups were condemning his views. Robertson’s first evaluation was nothing short of a summation of Corinthians. His later comments, however, were quite grotesque by stating that (and I’m paraphrasing), “vaginas are just better than anuses, amiright?” Of course, such a thing is more personal preference and has quite a bit to do with biological conditioning more than a decision in taste.

Regardless, I really don’t care about the show as I’ve never watched it, never intended to watch it, and probably never will watch it. I hate America’s love affair with all things redneck and homey and personally wish the show would have gone the way of the dinosaur long ago. If anything, the Christian love-affair with the show is going to betray that people support Phil Robertson more than they support Christ, that they’re upset at the supposed persecution (this isn’t persecution), but are unwilling to do anything to actually further the Gospel. After all, speaking out against homosexual rights doesn’t really do much in terms of promoting the Gospel.

Yet, what is going on at A&E reflects a bigger problem within our society, something that transcends the show. While A&E will be met with a counter-boycott and people will argue over the legality of A&E’s actions (is this an act of religious discrimination, or is it an act of protecting people against sexual discrimination?), the bigger point of this event will continue to remain lost. There’s two big truths at play here that no one is covering: (1) We’ve lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable and (2) Christianity is forcibly losing its public voice.

There once was a saying that went, “I might disagree with you, but I’ll fight for your right to say it.” I remember hearing this said one time when the KKK was protesting and marching in some city. While there were counter-protests and counter-marches, the cities allowed the bile of the KKK to roam their streets. The reason for this allowance is because this is the United States where even morons and the ignorant can still speak. While the First Amendment applies to government-to-civilian relations, the unwritten rule has been that citizens ought to respect another’s beliefs and opinions within reason.

Instead, today if one speaks on a hot issue, one runs the potential for backlash, to the point that some will do all they can to shut up the opposition. This desire to shut up the opposition does tend to run both ways. Both liberals and conservatives have called for boycotts on the most mundane of issues, typically over disagreements that have little impact on how the world actually functions. Boycotts were originally intended as an extreme action used against oppressive company policies (such as forcing black people to sit on the back of the bus, or give up seats to white people). They were not intended to silence discussion or personal opinions, such as Glenn Beck stating that Obama was a racist and liberal groups boycotting any sponsor on his show (or alternatively, the threat of boycotts by conservatives against Disney because they allowed a “homosexual day” at their park, something that wasn’t even supported by Disney).

We live in a free society (supposedly), and living in a free society means there are going to be people who disagree with you. While you have every right to boycott those who disagree with you, the adult thing to do is simply to recognize there is a disagreement and move on. Or engage in a civil discussion. Instead, we treat every little disagreement as some moral crusade we need to embark upon, but of course it is a facade meant to cover up the insecurity of our existence. We act like brave culture warriors for our causes because deep down, we feel guilty that we really haven’t done anything to further the cause of justice in this world. Our parent’s generation came in toward the end of the Civil Rights era, the generation before defeated Hitler, the generation before that worked on women’s rights, and two generations before that fought a civil war over slavery. The current generation of young people all the way up to 40 year olds haven’t really done much in the ways of social change. Perhaps we explode over disagreements because we haven’t learned to be mature and we feel like this is our way to contribute to social change. Sadly, it’s the wrong type of change.

The second issue that this whole Duck Dynasty fiasco betrays is that Christians in America are forcibly being shut up, not through government intrusion, but through public outcry. What Phil Robertson said, mostly, fits in line with traditional Christian teachings on homosexuality (again, his comments about the “yuck factor” of homosexuality never enter into theological discussions, or at least ought not to). Regardless, he essentially paraphrased 1 Corinthians and stated what Christians have always taught; homosexual actions are a sin because they go against the economy of God. This is not to say people with homosexual predispositions are sinful or ought to go find the first woman out there; the Orthodox have Fr. Seraphim Rose, who had a male lover before entering into the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholics have many homosexual priests (or at least allow it). Fr. Pavel Florensky even speaks about how love between men is a noble type of love. Even early Christian monastic communities recognized same-sex attraction and dealt with it; they simply encouraged celibacy.

Of course, celibacy is akin to a curse in the modern world where sex is worshipped. We think that if one cannot engage in sexual activity, then one is denied the right to self-expression. Of course, they forget that at its most basic level (from a Christian understanding), sex is a tool for creating human beings. As with many other things in this world, there is a multi-layered view of sex, but at its base sex is to make babies. That is, at least, the Christian understanding. However, there is this strong desire by many to silence all Christian beliefs within the public sphere. We are told, “You have your right to worship, but not your right to promote your religion.” In other words, we don’t care if you worship on Sundays, but just keep it within the church walls on Sundays and don’t let it leave Monday through Saturday.

Such a teaching misconstrues what it means to have religious liberty. Religious liberty means that my religious ideas can and will impact my public decisions. It means that I can’t deny God six days a week, but suddenly worship Him on Sunday. Such an idea forces the Christian (or the Muslim, or the Jew, or the Hindu, and so on) to go against their religious practices. Would it be right to condemn Hindus for their implicit condemnation of those who eat meat? What about Muslims who have an implicit condemnation for anyone who drinks alcohol? While we can disagree with these views, there’s no reason to silence them or speak out against networks that give these views a platform.

I can think of the quote by the Christian philosopher-theologian Vladimir Solovyov, who wrote, “But if the faith communicated by the Church to Christian humanity is a living faith, and if the grace of the sacraments is an effectual grace, the resultant union of the divine and the human cannot be limited to the special domain of religion, but must extend to all Man’s common relationships and must regenerate and transform his social and political life.” In other words, if one is truly a Christian then it’s going to impact every aspect of who that person is.

Why, then, is there a public outcry over a man’s Christian opinion? Why did GLAAD go so far as to question Phil Robertson’s Christianity, and to do so in a laughable way (since Phil was essentially paraphrasing 1 Corinthians, apparently GLAAD thinks it can remake Christianity in its own image). Why aren’t Christians allowed to contribute to any conversation, even if there is disagreement? Such an attitude is incredibly unhealthy to a nation as it seeks to drive out all opposing views; that is not the foundation of liberty, but the first signs of the cancer of tyranny.