Duck Dynasty Patriarch Phil Robertson, the Good, the Bad & the Ugly
Duck Dynasty is not Brokeback Mountain. Get over it.
Patriarch, Phil Robertson, is the latest in a growing list of outspoken Americans who mistakenly assumed the First Amendment applied to him. On Wednesday, A&E announced that Robertson was given a “hiatus” from the popular A&E series amid reactions to his comments during a recent interview with GQ Magazine. The star’s comments about homosexuality and black life in the segregated south are scheduled to appear GQ’s January 2014 publication. Early snippets have unleashed a firestorm of disputes between Robertson supporters and detractors who took to social media to make their case. The hostility, while not scheduled for a Duck Dynasty episode, would serve well as the backdrop for a remake of Sergio Leone’s 1966 big screen production, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly – shot in a Civil War era setting.
GQ’s Drew Magary asked the millionaire backwoodsman to share his thoughts on sin. In response, Robertson commented, “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… Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Robertson, a born again Christian and member of the Church of Christ, was paraphrasing a passage in 1 Corinthians 6: 9-11 that reads:
9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
He continues by adding, “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.”
While Robertson’s views about homosexuality might offend some, the fact is this individual spoke not of his own moral codes per se, but those prescribed by the Christian faith. The very idea that Magary ventured down the path of sin placed faith at the center of the interview. And in time when fame and greed consumes the vast majority of Americans, we can celebrate that wealth and faith are not mutually exclusive.
What we see in a Paul Robertson is common to people who have discovered the powerful work of the Holy Spirit to transform the dark areas of sin. This is reminiscent to confessions by pastor and gospel singer Donnie McClurkin who once practiced a homosexual lifestyle, but submitted to God’s power to heal from this sin and now encourages others to do the same. Amazingly, the reactions are very similar — don’t talk about it. Recently, groups connected with the 50th anniversary celebration of the March on Washington protested McClurkin’s scheduled performance. This led to event planners rescinding the invitation. And why the protest? Because gay advocate groups felt McClurkin would be, in the words of DC Mayor Vincent Gray, “a distraction”! Does Mayor Gray not realize that the civil rights movement was a distraction, indeed peacefully disruptive, in Selma, Cicero, Memphis, and the nation at-large? God’s will is always a distraction from our evil inclinations.
Had McClurkin still practiced a lifestyle of homosexuality in defiance of the Scriptures, perhaps he would have been welcomed by gays. But his testimony that honors God unsettles the gay community. To dismiss a Christian in the name of an event that honors the work of Dr. King, a Christian pastor, is unconscionable. And yet, this is the environment of our times.
Pastor and gospel singer John P. Kee was discouraged from going on social media to discuss God’s work in his life. Kee, a former drug dealer, now ministers in the very area of his past life of criminal activities. He has long since given his life to Christ and moved on. Here, the Christian establishment concerned itself more with the bold idea of someone of high esteem in its ranks actually confessing that God truly changes misdirected lives. Similarly, Fred Hammond, a gospel singer and leader of the group Radicals for Christ gives witness to the Lord and offers hope to gangbangers, drug dealers, ex-offenders, and the broken in our society. Several years ago, minister and gospel director Kirk Franklin, whose childhood included a number of family dysfunctions, revealed struggles with pornography. former R&B singer Montell Jordan, who sang This Is How We Do It, now speaks of a former life that included womanizing; a witness that now Pastor and gospel singer brings to a generation confronting myriad social pressures. Witnesses like these are bringing the authentic truth of God’s Word in dark places — a hope that is needed in such a time as this.
Following Robertson’s comments with GQ, he shared his own personal journey, “I myself am a product of the ‘60s who indulged in sex and drugs until hitting bottom and accepting Jesus as his savior…” Critics might suggest the embattled star is simply engaging in Monday morning spin. Not so. Consider that Robertson has given this information about himself before in statements that simply reflect his joy in Jesus Christ. A Men’s Journal article in October 2013 summarized disclosures made by Robertson during its interview:
“Phil grew up nearby, with no electricity, no running water, and a toilet 200 feet deep in the woods; went to Louisiana Tech on a football scholarship; was first-string quarterback while future Super Bowl champion Terry Bradshaw sat on the bench; maybe had a future in the game; maybe had a future in education, which he got a master’s degree in; decided he’d rather hunt ducks; smoked a lot of dope; listened to a lot of Hendrix; drank himself silly, mostly whiskey straight from the bottle; hunted out of season and was an outlaw that way; had already married Miss Kay, his high school sweetheart, when he was 17 and she was 16 and pregnant with their first son; made a living selling flathead catfish at 70 cents a pound; started leasing a honky-tonk bar called The Hill; fooled around with women; badly beat up the bar’s owners and went fugitive; returned, only to kick the family out of the trailer home where they all lived; was a part of the evils of the world, until one day he went to Miss Kay and begged her to take him back, which she did, under the condition that he stop drinking, get rid of his old friends, and receive the Lord, which he did.”
Likewise lost in this controversy is Robertson’s vision about the ultimate purpose a God-centered life can play in society:
“We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television. … You put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off. We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.”
Robertson’s comments regarding race found themselves inside the recent public backlash. The Duck Commander founder, who grew up in Louisiana, recalled that blacks were generally happy with their status in the deep south. He states,
“Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash,” he said. “They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
Some try to interject this into the reasons why A&E suspended Robertson. But that observation is a ruse. Misdirection from the real issue — the battle between the Spirit of Christ and the homosexual spirit that is inculcating our nation. Race, once again, is being used as a cover for a group of Americans hell-bent on normalizing perversion. Race is not at-issue, but simply a convenient scapegoat. And without acknowledging how race is being magnified, some who support Duck Dynasty will unfairly point to Robertson’s suspension as a reason to harbor animus towards African Americans.
As for Robertson’s comments, these reflect on times of his childhood. It reflects the words of Paul who said, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” [1 Corinthians 13: 11] Robertson’s reflections on his childhood memories are not the litmus test for his thoughts about life for blacks under jim crow as he might consider this today with the awareness of a grown man.
Indeed, my family came out of the deep south. I would love to hear my parents, aunts, and uncles discuss their childhood. Swimming in open ponds. Riding horses. Fishing. Raising livestock. Playing in the fields. We would travel to the south during my childhood for brief opportunities to experience farm life. And what I recall about those experiences remain some of my best childhood memories. Feeding hogs. Chasing horses. Throwing fire crackers need cows — okay city boy foolishness! Catching turtles. Yes, those were great memories. But as an adult, I can now reflect more broadly. The gas station in the deep country that would not allow us to use the restroom, requiring that we go outside and use leaves to wipe; true story. As a child, the fun overshadowed it. But as an adult, that gas station experience and others were not benign and incidental. They were terrible — despite how we as children brushed them off.
And for blacks who grew up in the segregated south during Robertson childhood years, the happiness coincided with smoldering racial tensions that might or might not have been recognizable by a child. Indeed, those were years witnessed a backdrop of lynchings and cross burnings. KKK rallies and White Citizens Council paraphernalia. Intimidation at voting polls. Police brutality. And a daily grind for large segments of southern blacks. Yes, black parents coming out of the south also told of the bad experiences such as white kids riding the bus to school while black children walked for miles. That some white kids would urinate in cups and throw urine on our parents, their siblings, and their friends as they walked to school. But not even that could completely vanquish their joy in family, church, and education (even in lesser facilities) — each so integral to black life. These are reflections as blacks coming out of the south often share of their lives as children.
Ask what they now feel about conditions in which southern blacks were living 50 and 60 years ago, when filtered through a broader understanding of justice, and the reflections change. The life of the south they saw through the eyes of a child is not the life seen through the eyes of an informed adult. Such is the case with an adult who reflects back on the days of youth, who as a child might have saw fondling by a family friend or priest as an expression of love. But who, as an adult, can now understand those contacts were who fondled them was not doing something out of love. But those inappropriate touches were sexual abuse of minor.
Robertson was not posed the latter question. The interviewer did not ask, “So Phil, based on what you now understand was going on during jim crow, do you believe people were happy?”
While I disagree with this idea that blacks lived a blissful experience in the jim crow deep south, I would not assign to Robertson an expectation that his childhood ideas perceive the political, social, economic, or even faith climate that an adult might have viewed the times then. And hence, the bad. Robertson’s reflections are more of an indictment of a society that would convince him that all was well. For instance, would Robertson have felt that blacks were happy had his school taught the evils of slavery, black codes, and jim crow? Would Robertson had viewed the singing as happiness of a respite from grief had his parents or neighbors explained how sharecropping originated? Would Robertson have seen the seemingly jovial spirit of frustrated blacks had his minister extolled on the fundamental constitutional dignities of integrated drinking fountains, drinking fountains, bathrooms, and schools?
It’s insulting to the centuries of struggles that African Americans have endured for pundits to attempt to join legitimate, faith-based opposition to homosexuality with a disingenuous charge that Robertson also expressed racist views. Society shaped the mind of the child Phil Robertson to believe that all was well. And if there is a bad in Robertson’s comments, that bad must be properly placed in the lap of a country that advocated separate but equal and a lower economic status for blacks were consistent with God’s laws and the founding of this nation. The gay agenda social engineers might recall the candid perspectives that Richard Pryor delivered several years ago if they are so concerned about the black experience. Efforts to manipulate blacks into some collective sense of outrage, as we are seeing in the Robertson controversy, will continue to prove futile. If gay community take issue with racism, consider that in myriad arenas –from film production to banking — where LGBT individuals sit in positions to write contracts, employ, provide capital, and promote black interests in structured and measurable ways. And to be clear, this does not mean to simply promote blacks who have embraced a sinful lifestyle [for personal gain].
Phil Robertson is not the ugly of this situation. The real ugliness is in the hypocrisy of a polarized nation that politicizes free speech. That ugliness cares very little about the Constitution. And it uses market forces to squash free speech. The ugliness is a Christian community that increasingly has no problem misrepresenting Jesus Christ and enjoy the “freedom” to do that, while disparaging individuals such as Phil Robertson. Specifically:
1. A journalist LZ Granderson, suggesting that Christianity (i.e., Biblical teaching) takes no issue with homosexuality. There is not a single text in Scriptures that in the most remote manner supports same-gender sexual relationships. Not a single one. But Granderson, who professes Christianity, can readily misrepresent the faith in a way that offends many Christians, but not a word of reprisal or reprimand. Granderson can misrepresent Christ without concern, but Robertson represents Christ and finds himself on a “hiatus”.
2. Conservatives lamenting A&E’s decision to suspend Robertson. The ugliness here is not one of contradiction. For instance, in March 2003 as the U.S. was headed for war in Iraq, Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines said to a London audience, “Just so you know, we’re on the good side with y’all. We do not want this war, this violence. And we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” Immediately, the political establishment waged war on the Dixie Chicks with an all-out assault on the group’s record sales. Not only did one of the group’s members suffer her home being vandalized, but their music was banned from radio, and public protesters used bulldozers to crush Dixie Chick CDs. A Kansas City, MO radio station sponsored a “chicken toss”. The Dixie Chicks were a voice for peace, having released Travelin Soldier, a song that speaks of the tragedy of a love short-lived in the death that comes out of war. Rush Limbaugh, who sat in his comfortable radio booth, safe from the destruction of war, called for a boycott of the Dixie Chicks. Now Limbaugh suggests, “Phil Robertson never did anything to anybody. And, he still hasn’t done anything to anybody. He’s the only one that’s been really discriminated against here. He lost his gig at the ‘Duck Dynasty’ show… At some point, enough people are going to say, ‘Okay, enough of this.’ And, they’re going to stand up and say, ‘Just shut up.” What’s more, conservatives did not relent in their vitriol after the Dix Chicks made apologies.
Despite the Dixie Chicks’ prophetic voice to oppose war (that many now regret), conservatives either promoted the retaliation or stood-by as silent observers. Years later, some conservatives softened their hostilities. Bill O’Reilly went as far as to encourage that people buy the group’s music, acknowledging the wrong done to the Dixie Chicks who only exercised free speech. But the damage was done. The Dixie Chicks number one hit fell off the charts in March 2003 and the group never returned to the Top 20 Country Music list.
3. Liberal defending corporate power. I find it equally, if not more so, disturbing that someone like Van Jones — Mr. Occupy — who waxes about corporate influence on American life is now beating the drums of understanding regarding A&E’s decision. On one hand, Jones aligns himself with camp-dwelling protesters and he spends time rallying grassroots citizens to take aim on corporate greed. But the liberal leanings towards the gay agenda now find Jones perfectly happy that Robertson is currently suspended from the A&E series. Once again, Jones demonstrates that the left is no more virtuous about corporate power as this is welcomed when it satisfies liberal politics.
4. The gay community that supports Robertson being off the air. The homosexual apparatus in America consistently reveals its hypocrisy. Those who oppose this cultural onslaught are asked to accept every whim that the gay community imposes on society. If gays want to host parades that celebrate perversion on public streets where [confused] children are passing-by, so be it. If gays want the right to cross-dress in the workplace, deal with it. Gays want public school students to believe that a family with two male parents or two female parents is normal. All is free speech. Protected. Constitutional. Speak against this evil and that is where civilized free speech ends. Where pressures are placed on those who speak against dysfunctional behavior. The ugly reality of American contemporary culture is that perversion finds its way into politics, mainstream media, and other influences (e.g., the arts). America welcomes perversion as it does violence, racism, greed, war, and other norms that defy God.
There are no mysteries as to why the Word of God receives the kind of hostility that is immensely greater than any other text known in the history of mankind. It is God’s truth, revealed by inspired men, for a dying world. The stakes are great. The stakes extend beyond the Democratic and Republican parties. These stakes overshadow television ratings, even those of Duck Dynasty. The truth of God’s Word matters long after this blog is ended and my soul returns to be with God. The stakes of the truth in Jesus Christ are numbered by the billions of people who could make this world a better place. People who will leave this world whether either heaven or hell awaits them.
With these stakes, surely the need to crowd the truth in social experiments (e.g., supposed homosexual “rights”) are tools in an ongoing contest for men’s souls. To this end, the Lord desires us to all come to terms with sin. Sin is a reality for each of us, this writer included. And as much as I can address my sometimes impatience with people — a sin. My failures in relationships and marriage — a sin. My periods in life that I hid my witness out of concern for being “accepted” by friends, business associates, former schoolmates, and fraternity brothers — a sin. These and countless other issues where I have struggled. As these are sin, so is the issue of homosexuality. This firestorm over Robertson’s comments is but a cover to conceal the real issue — what do Scriptures actually say on the matter of homosexuality.
The Christian community need not allow the noise to misdirect the truth. We bring this Word of God to all mankind, knowing that God loves us all. And out of his love, God has given instructions for us to follow. God understands our struggles and the constant warring between spirit and flesh. That warring, however, does not excuse us from desiring to satisfy God’s instructions, even as it relates to doing away with homosexuality. This is the beauty of Donnie McClurkin’s response to the wrong done to him. Ironically, he discusses living through the “good, bad, and the ugly”. A beauty that challenges those who claim “hate” in others are not able to point to the words and actions that embody hatred of people. Sin, yes. People, no.
It remains to be seen whether Duck Dynasty will survive the controversy. If the series continues its success, God bless the Robertson family. If the series is canceled, Phil Robertson is storing up treasures in heaven that no one, including A&E can withhold. Treasure far greater than he will ever know in this world.
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