Of Bullies and Saviors
Text: Matthew 2:13-23
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
December 29, 2013
I have to confess. I was a fan of Duck Dynasty. I watched it and found it funny. To me, it’s sort of a cross between The Beverly Hillbillies and The Three Stooges. I also saw Willie as something of a Jacob trying to run a major business with the rest of the family being a bunch of Esaus. And, yes, I liked the family coming together and having grace before the meal. I appreciated the fact that they were obviously people of faith but did not use the show as a harsh bully pulpit in reference to people they would disagree.
I know that Phil Robertson wanted the show to be more overtly religious. A&E was being cautious. It seemed that they believed that for the show to maintain its appeal to a wide span of people, people like me, for example, they had to keep it toned down. Mr. Robertson said a lot of harsh things about A&E but he remained with the show. Between the Robertson family and A&E this was a $500,000,000.00 dollar adventure. Mr. Robertson, is struck me, enjoyed the money and so he remained on the show. I’m fine with that.
I don’t know enough about Phil Robertson to say what kind of a person he is. He is something of a curmudgeon on the show but it’s a show and he’s playing a character that may or may not be based very much in reality. In reference to his wife, Kay, on the show, he makes a lot of references to getting some good loving from her and that she’s a good cook. In real life they’ve had some trials and tribulations but are together and appear to be strong in their commitment to one another.
There was a lot to like, for me, about Duck Dynasty. While my world is very different from their world, they seemed to be a very decent group of people who loved each other, had a sense of humor, and were a people of great faith. Best of all, in a day and age when so many people have demonstrated a type of mean spirited with their faith, they were not.
People who know Phi Robertson well say he’s not a bigot and he is very honest when he says he really doesn’t judge people and that he loves everyone. Perhaps this is so. Mr. Robertson may, in fact, be a wonderful man.
His recent interview offended me as a Christian.
There were a bunch of people who began to talk about his 1st Amendment right. Please.
The 1st Amendment to the Constitution reads thus:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
For this to have been an issue, Congress would have had to create a law prohibiting the statements that Phil Robertson made and the President would have had to sign the bill. The law would then be appealed and the Supreme Court would have to uphold the law. If you believe that either branch of the Congress would pass this, the President would sign it, and the Supreme Court would uphold it, you are sadly and tragically mistaken. Phil Robertson was free to say what he said without worry of arrest.
Was he free to say it in terms of being a character on an A&E show? Television networks do have a right to oust people who say offensive things. Martin Bashir stated something dreadfully offensive about Sarah Palin and lost his job for it. Did he have a right to say what he said? Legally, yes. Professionally, what he said was repulsive and unprofessional and losing his job was a natural consequence of what he said. I am not a fan of Sarah Palin but what he said was beyond offensive and he paid the price for it.
What Phil Robertson said was legal. A&E’s response was legal. They chose to suspend him for, it seems, two hours or so. There was $500,000,000.00 on the table between the Robertson family and A&E. With that much money on the table it should surprise no one that a speedy resolution was sure to follow. A&E reinstated him. The Robertson family is going to stay. A& E is willing to overlook statements; the Robertson family is willing to overlook the A&E reaction. The decisions were made and the resolution was created because of love. They all love the almighty dollar enough to overlook everything.
Many people in Christianity have stepped forward to defend Phil Robertson for defending traditional Christian values. I am offended because he did not do so.
Here are a couple of things he said:
"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?"
Human sexuality is complex. Sexual orientation is complex. People making lifelong commitments to one another is complex. Boiling everything down, as a man, to the choice of where one wants to place one’s self is not the central point of life and relationships and even of sexuality.
He is basing his statement, in part, based on a premise that sexual orientation is not an orientation but a preference. Whenever I hear people use the phrase ‘sexual preference’ in lieu of sexual orientation, I know we are having a problem. Whenever I hear the phrase ‘gay lifestyle,’ I know we are having a problem. People do not choose sexual orientation any more than they choose their own gender or eye color.
Secondly, Robertson said this:
"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."
Mr. Robertson is giving, what appears to be a glancing, personal, paraphrase of a passage in 1 Corinthians 6. His reference is wildly out of context and even more wildly a personal paraphrase.
Again, he shows a remarkable indifference to sexual orientation and goes further. He seems to be indicating that homosexual behavior can lead to things such as bestiality. A consensual sexual relationship between two adults who are loving and have made a lifetime commitment to one another is equated to bestiality. It’s okay because he’s merely stating traditional Christian values. Seriously? We have to defend him because he’s a good Christian and takes the Bible as inspired. Seriously? It’s Biblical and if you don’t believe this you are picking and choosing what you believe. Seriously?
Funny thing is that I see a lot of churches that say other churches pick and choose, pick and choose. I’ll give a very simple example. Many churches deny women the right to preach because it is Biblical and they are not going to deny the Bible. (They actually DO deny the Bible because the first Christian message was that Jesus had been raised from the dead and this message was preached by, ahem, women….)
But going back to my point. Many churches do not allow women to preach because it says women are not supposed to preach in the writings of St. Paul. I’ve sat in churches where this is so and I’ve sat next to women listening to sermons and bowing their heads in prayer and their heads were uncovered. Most churches ignore that one, even the churches that choose to not allow women to preach.
So, taking Paul out of context, paraphrasing him, and stating this is traditional Christian doctrine is a good thing?
Here is why I’m offended by Phil Robertson’s comments. People are taking him seriously. People, Christians, are defending him saying he is promoting traditional Christian values. In doing so, we are turning our back on people and, frankly, spitting on them and treating them like they are children of a lesser deity.
Phil Robertson equated the loving relationship two gay people have with one another to bestiality. He delved into theological ‘truth’ by talking about how much more vaginas have to offer than anuses and assured us all this is what traditional Christianity is.
He demeaned people because of their sexual orientation. I know straight people, gay people, and bisexual people. They are friends who I love. They Worship God with me. They share blood with me. Their lives and my life is intertwined and I am greatly blessed by them. It is not because they are gay. It is not in spite of the fact they are gay. They are people I love. Period. End of story. He demeaned people I know and love and he demeaned really, really fine people who have demonstrated the love of Christ to other people over and over again.
Phil Robertson has told us that he has baptized a large number of people and brought a lot of people to Christ. That’s nice. I’ve baptized a lot of people as well. It’s a pretty easy thing to do.
The great challenge as Christians isn’t always bringing people to Christ, but bringing Christ to people. Did his comments bring the peace of God which passes all understanding to anyone? Did his comments bring the words of Paul that tell us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ to anyone?
What offended me, as a Christian about Phil Robertson’s words were that he demeaned people and frankly, attempted to take Christ away from people. He did so for good reasons, however. He thinks vaginas have a lot more to offer him than an anus does.
Phil Robertson, in my opinion, has just devastated the efforts of so many people trying to preach, teach, and promote the love of God to people’s lives. Instead of promoting Christianity, he just invited people to stay in bed on Sunday morning or read the paper or watch television. He did nothing to promote the goodness of Jesus to anyone.
Ultimately this will do him no harm. The show is popular and so A&E wants to keep it on the air because it is making them a lot of money. The Robertson family will remain on the air because it is making them a lot of money.
Off to the side of the road are people who were told, once again, they are children of a lesser deity.
Off to the side of the road are so many Christians diligently and faithfully attempting to bring the love of Christ to people who just watched their efforts shattered.
Off to the side of the road are so many good things so many Christians have done, their efforts overshadowed by a man who sees vaginas having more to offer him than anuses.
Phil Robertson is being promoted as a great Christian these days. Many Christians have lined up behind him to celebrate his upholding of what they call their traditional values. He got their backing and he’s making a lot of money. Meanwhile, people will see all Christians like Phil Robertson and say, “I’m done with church.”
As for me, I’m going to try and continue to bring Christ to people.
And I’m no longer going to watch Duck Dynasty.