Freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. It allows us as free Americans to express our opinions on a myriad of things without fear of being punished by the government. Sometimes that freedom of speech allows people to say distasteful and debasing things about an entire group of people. Phil Robertson, beloved patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan used his freedom of speech to do just that. His remarks in the January GQ compare homosexuality to bestiality and promiscuity, as well as graphic remarks on “logical” sexual relationships. Does this come as a shock to anyone? Not really.
I have already seen countless links defending him and his right to quote the Bible. (He quotes loosely from 1 Corinthians 6:9, used often to condemn homosexuality. We could spend all day dissecting that verse in the original Greek and setting. For brief context, 1 Corinthians was written by Paul in approximately 55 AD. He was a flawed man, as all prophets have been and either Paul himself or the editors of his writings were deeply sexist. I have no shame in admitting that I choose to omit a lot of the teachings of Paul from my personal canon.)
Phil Robertson is a self-proclaimed “Bible-thumper.” I think it’s great that he expresses his religious beliefs freely. I love how the show itself has not filtered the faith of the family. It is part of their identity. People are allowed religious freedom in America. I think it’s wonderful when the media portrays diverse belief systems. Freedom of speech absolutely allows us to say whatever we want, and use the Bible to back us up. It does not mean that we can do so without fear of being called out on it or facing social consequences. People are infuriated that A&E decided to put him on a hiatus because of his remarks. He is allowed to express his opinion, but while under contract with A&E they have the right to disassociate with him if his views do not reflect their own. He signed a contract. I do not think the First Amendment is being violated. Yet already 32,000 people have sign a petition on Change.org asking to bring him back on this basis.
Again, I am not shocked by any of this. Duck Dynasty is representative of a certain ideal of ‘family values.’ If A&E chooses to bring him back on the show now that he has issued an apology, I would understand because of the fan base. Situations like this draw lines, and ask us to pick one side or the other. In this case the lines have been drawn as Christian and Patriotic vs. Liberal Political Correctness. Personally, I would love to claim Christianity without alienating other people. I also love my country and the freedoms we have here. But when Christianity and Patriotism continue to be synonymous with homophobia and racism (yes, racism, he touched on that too. You can find the article here and read it for yourself)I find myself embarrassed by the association.
The Jesus of Nazareth that I believe in taught us to love one another. He taught by example by associating with the outcasts and those labeled as sinners. He asked us to not judge each other. That is what I try to base my belief system on and how I choose to define my Christianity. So naturally, I get a little worked up when people try to use that same belief system to marginalize a group of people or justify sexism, racism, and homophobia. While everyone has the right to exercise their religion how they see fit, we also all have the responsibility to call out injustice when we see it, however we see it. It’s how everyone learns. But for crying out loud, can people stop claiming the “liberal gay agenda” is trying to steal their rights and silence them? Giving people the same rights as you should not diminish yours. A good rule of thumb is that your rights end where other’s rights begin. Can we acknowledge the difference between privilege and basic human rights? And pretty pretty please, for the future of Christianity, can we stop using it to put down other people?
And because I cannot resist, I am pretty sure there is also something in the Bible that condemns praying in public. (See Matthew chapter 6)