So it sounds like all is well with the world (well, in the reality television world anyway), now that Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family has been restored to the A&E family. However, something changed. The controversy sparked a national discussion in a way about which the Ivy League educated writers from The New York Times could only dream. Who knew a scruffy hunter from Louisiana could capture the attention of the nation so intensely.
Why is that? Well, it certainly wasn't due to eloquence. In fact, some of what Phil said, especially about his experience with African Americans before the civil rights movement seemed at the least naive if not much worse. Jessie Jackson's last minute interest in getting a piece of the action only muddied those waters. We are all due a more intense and honest conversation on the fact that racism still exists in America and our Christian duty to challenge it. I welcome that.
But it wasn't those remarks that landed Phil Robertson in hot water. No GLAAD wrote that his comments showed, "public disdain for LGBT people and families." They were especially upset that he dared quote 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and commented on a list of sins including homosexuality. It is important to note, as I did recently on CNN's Crossfire, that those verses have something to offend everyone. They specifically address adultery, drunkenness, greed, and sex outside of marriage. To his credit Phil quoted it fairly accurately and mentioned many of these behaviors that the Bible specifically calls sin. But only one of those got him in trouble.
The left has until now been very successful in shutting down debate on this issue by spewing the words "bigot", "hate speech" and other less savory terms. It is their goal that any whose religious beliefs conflict with their own should be stigmatized and silenced. That's a tall order considering that it's not only Christians but also Muslims, Orthodox Jews, and even the Dali Lama whose religious beliefs offend them.
Mike Gerson recently wrote in The Washington Post, "Tolerance is the virtue of permitting speech we think is wrong." I agree. Nothing makes my blood boil more than the people from Westboro Baptist who go to the funerals of our fallen service members and spout truly hateful words under the phony auspices of Christianity. Do they have the right to speak? Sure they do. Do my Concerned Women for America women also have a right to go to those funerals, as they often do, and physically block their access to the families? You betcha! Get 'em, girls.
But here's the thing, we all hear opinions that offend us, and we all probably hold opinions that offend. But as Christians we are called to love. That doesn't mean we shrink back from speaking truth. But it does mean we acknowledge our own brokenness. Back to 1 Corinthians, we must acknowledge that the Bible offends because it calls each of us to account for our sin and points us to redemption and restoration through Christ. As a Christian, if you can't see your own sin, then you had better just sit this one out and instead spend time reading your Bible. Sexual purity goes not just to behavior. It extends to what we watch on TV or at the movies, what books we read and even our thought life. Turns out Jimmy Carter had one thing right.
The point is this. The Bible sets boundaries that our modern culture doesn't accept. Our faith calls us to holiness, and it is a very difficult path on which all of us stumble in some form or fashion. As Christians we must honestly answer with truth and love, and as Americans we have a right to exercise our faith according to the dictates of our own consciences. Our beliefs may offend, but I would suggest that we have no other choice because the Gospel offends. We do have a choice of whether to be a gonging cymbal that no one can hear for our lack of love. (Also 1 Corinthians 13:1) For my part, I hope to learn this lesson well.
Unlike the people of Westboro Baptist, God doesn't hate homosexuals. He died for their sin just like He died for mine. For that Grace, I am eternally in need and grateful. I am also grateful to finally have this conversation. Yep, a bearded hunter from Louisiana made us have a conversation that the intelligentsia could never have sparked. Let's keep having it.