What Phil Robertson Got Right…


This morning, the world was rocked, and the news filled our Facebook feeds.  The world was in an uproar.   Over our morning cup of joe, we kept asking… could it indeed be true?   Silently, we pleaded;  “Please God say it ain’t so”.

Ever so slowly…as the trembling came to a soft close, a scary new world emerged.   Together we are faced with a painful new morning, where we must come to grips with a very sad reality; Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty fame had been put on indefinite hiatus after his anti-gay comments to GQ Magazine.   Welcome to our new Normal.

Amidst the heartbreak and the bellowing of “say it ain’t so”, you cannot help but demand answers.   “What did he do”, is the continued plea from our lips.

Sure…some of his comments to GQ were ugly.  He told GQ, in that duck dynasty kind of way, “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? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”   

Certainly his words have leaped that nice line from simply ugly to vulgar.   I wouldn’t want these sentiments to be uttered by my daughters, but I have heard them before, and this is only Phil Robertson.  This is a man made famous simply because of his redneckiness.  He is not a politician or statesman.   Some would argue that he is no more than part of a glorious traffic accident that leads millions to the act of television rubbernecking each week.    His words are ugly and may be wrong… but really, so what?

I started to think, that perhaps… just perhaps.. his words revealed something harsher, more sinister.  Maybe A&E sees it, and I don’t.  Maybe his words revealed something that should cause great fear, and ever greater trembling for the likes of good folk like you and me…    Maybe we are angry with Phil Robertson for more…

Maybe it’s his theology that has got us shook up.    Yet,… surprise surprise (in my best Gomer Pyle impression) much to my astonishment (sarcasm of course), his biblical interpretation is indeed up to great question.

First, he argues that the Bible condemns the homosexual.  Well, poor Phil is only part right.    He did miss a much needed disclaimer.   He should’ve said that the Bible “appears” to condemn the homosexual.    There is an important distinction that he has missed and that distinction makes a difference.  There are many mainline, academically responsible, and theologically astute students of the Bible, who believe that behaviors outlined in a handful of Biblical passages,  refer to something other than the loving, monogamous same gender relationship.    (You can check this link for one place where that discussion is occurring)

A comment for Phil,… Those ugly words… they incite a response…and that response may or may not be over the top… but… consider…just for a moment…. if you are wrong.

Without a doubt, there are numerous places where this debate is raging in full force.  Many will point and say that yes he is wrong.   Others will say he is spot on.   Many of my closest friends and colleagues will be standing proudly in opposed worlds.  While the general church going population is hovering around 60% in favor of gender equality and wider inclusion in the church, our church leaders, theologians and pastors continue to fight this ugly fight.    As we do the church slowly bleeds to death, as a casualty of war.

Let me be clear on framing my thoughts by adding that I believe Phil Robertson is wrong.

I believe he is (or may be)  missing out.    By the apparent way he understands and views his neighbors, all I can see is bigger walls.   I feel sorry that he just may be missing out on the joy of questioning, testing, and challenging scripture.  I feel bad that he may be missing out on the discernment available in others who will turn their back on him because of his statements.   I feel bad when I see a God of love argued via broken argument of “hating the sin-loving the sinner”. Through my experience of this type of argument, is that they prove – in the end – to be covers for hard, personal battles related to the struggles or faith of those who use it.

Yet…At the same time, this is his faith journey, not mine.  He can travel this mountain his way.  His faith is his own and I could be just as wrong.

For the church to be fully inclusive – which I know it can be – there needs to be a place for everyone to  work out their faith; even those I think may be vulgar and ugly.*    There needs to be a place in the church for the Phil Robertsons and the Scott Masters to challenge, question and seek; on their own time and in their own way.     We need to be a church that figures out a way to stand together in our theological differences, hold each other accountable in love, and demand better of each other.    If we shut the door on either of these two men, they become wanderers and in the end, the whole church begins to wobble.   Wait… Do you feel that?   Its wobbling already.

What Phil Robertson got right was that Homosexuals are sinners.   Yes,   We all miss the mark and fall short; including heterosexuals, the drunk, the sober, republicans, democrats, Jets fans and Patriot Fanatics, Left handed artists, and right handed accountants, mechanics, surgeons, dentists, dog walkers, poets, cops, addicts, priests, pastors, and duck call makers;   we are all fall short.   In the shadow of this reality, and as people of faith, instead of pointing out what we believe are the flaws in others; we need to figure out a way to challenge and make each man accountable, but also create a place where comments can be made, and together we can find a way to address them, and learn from each other.  We need to find a place where people think twice before speaking, and then think twice before reacting.   We need to create a world where someone feels free to speak with Love about faith (noting that I don’t believe Phil did this), and the world can respond in kind (and I don’t believe we have either).

In the end…   For Phil Roberston…  I offer the final words…   A long time ago, I chose to be the Acts 10:28 man (“God has shown me that I should never call a person impure or unclean”).   I also chose to make it my goal to respond to all things like a  John 13:34 Christian (Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other).   This alone has made all the difference.  Let us pray, worship, and talk together, my brother.

12-19-2013 12-05-32 PM

(* This argument brings with it so much wrath – from both sides of the argument – that I imagine, simply by the scope of the angst it leads to – that I have got to be onto something…)

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