Lessons from the Phil Robertson / A&E Controversy

philUnless you’ve been living under a rock the last few days, you’ve probably heard about the “indefinite suspension” of Phil Robertson from A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” television show over comments he made about homosexuals in an interview with GQ Magazine. Duck Dynasty supporters flooded social media sites with calls to boycott A&E. Cracker Barrel Restaurants began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from its shelves, then reversed their decision following backlash from Duck Dynasty supporters. The saga continues as I write this.

Regardless of what Christians think about Duck Dynasty or Phil Robertson’s suspension, there are several things we can learn from the incident.

Christians should expect opposition when they stand up for Biblical Christianity.

“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me.”

John 15:18-21

It really should come as no surprise that when a highly visible Christian publicly stands up for his or her faith in Jesus Christ, and takes a stand on Biblical values, that they will face intense opposition. Those who hate God also hate anyone who publicly proclaims the Gospel. They will watch for Christians to slip up, then pounce at the opportunity to attack. Phil Robertson is a godly man who takes God’s Word seriously, and is unashamed to bluntly speak his mind about his beliefs. Although his comments in the GQ article were rather crudely stated, they were based on his belief in the Bible. The truth is offensive to those who oppose it. Christians have been persecuted for their faith since Biblical times, and are increasingly persecuted today. This is precisely what Jesus told us would happen.

Christians should speak the truth despite opposition

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matthew 5:10-12

When Christians proclaim God’s Word despite opposition, they are blessed by God. This does not necessarily mean they will be rewarded with material blessings in this life, however. As Christians, we understand that many – if not most – of God’s blessings will ultimately be received in Heaven. As Peter wrote:

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed.

1 Peter 3:14-16

Phil Robertson is a self-proclaimed redneck. He lacks the background and knowledge to make eloquent theological statements or carefully devised arguments. However, he does not let this prevent him from proclaiming the Gospel. His redneck language is sometimes a bit crass, but Phil is sold out for Jesus, and shares the Gospel to the best of his ability at every opportunity. And, he knows his Bible, quoting or paraphrasing to answer those who ask about his faith. This is exactly what all Christians are called to do.

Those who speak of “tolerance” are often the most intolerant of all.

It strikes me as sadly ironic that those who demand tolerance of their views are often the least tolerant of opposing views. According to the Oxford Dictionary, to tolerate means to “allow the existence, occurrence, or practice of (something that one does not necessarily like or agree with) without interference.” Much of the LGBT community actively demands tolerance for their views and acceptance of their lifestyle, yet vehemently opposes anyone who disagrees with them. Christians are expected to tolerate homosexuality; yet, our belief – based on the clear teaching of the Bible – that homosexuality is sin cannot be tolerated. Disagreement is labeled “hateful,” and Christians are hated because they are alleged to be “haters.” The hypocrisy of those who preach “tolerance” is appalling, although Christians shouldn’t be surprised. Those who oppose God cannot have a logically consistent worldview, because their foundational beliefs do no correspond with reality.

Taking a stand for righteousness can make a difference in this world

crackerbarrelOne interesting side story revolves around Cracker Barrel restaurants. Shortly after A&E announced that Phil Robertson had been kicked off of Duck Dynasty, Cracker Barrel began removing Duck Dynasty merchandise from their stores. The backlash from Christians supporting Duck Dynasty was immediate and overwhelming. As a result, Cracker Barrel reversed their position, apologized, and restocked Duck Dynasty products, citing the letters, emails, and comments on social media as the reason. When Christians unite, we can make a difference. However, we also need to keep in mind that the battle is God’s, not ours, and that we need to focus on leading people to Christ, not on temporary issues like a television show. Christians need to have the same passion for sharing Jesus and defending the Gospel as we did for defending Phil Robertson. It is only by changing individuals’ hearts that we can turn the culture back to God.

5 Responses

  1. Look, I’ve been a believer all my life, and this guy in no way speaks for me! I think being so impolite and judgmental is akin to acting like a Pharisee. You simply can not successfully spread the Gospel by pointing out the sins of others. Compassion and invitation toward all must come first, last and always. God alone gets to point to the Exit doors. Jesus explained that clearly enough for even Phil to understand it, and the current Pope has too. And what Phil said about black people being happier under Jim Crow laws, it’s just indefensible.

    • Thanks for commenting. Some questions:

      1. If you can’t spread the Gospel by pointing out the sins of others, then what is the Gospel? The Gospel in a nutshell is that Jesus Christ died to take away our sin. No sin, no need for the Gospel.

      2. Where did Phil say anything about “black people being happier under Jim Crow laws?” It’s not in the GQ article – maybe you should actually read it.

      3. if being judgmental is “akin to acting like a Pharisee,” then why are you being judgmental of Phil?

      • Phil On Growing Up in Pre-Civil-Rights-Era Louisiana

        “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. 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. We’re going across the field…. 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.”

        That’s directly from the interview. Pre-civil rights. That’s Louisiana under the Jim Crow laws.

        Jesus’ direct quote from Matthew 7: 3-5 —
        “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

        This is Jesus’ explicit view of those who bother to point out the sins of others. It’s not the only verse of this kind, but if you don’t know the Bible, I recommend you take a course.

        This is from one of Jesus’ encounters with Pharisees, from Matthew chapter 23:

        13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to. [14] [b]

        15 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

        16 “Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is greater: the gold, or the temple that makes the gold sacred? 18 You also say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gift on the altar is bound by that oath.’ 19 You blind men! Which is greater: the gift, or the altar that makes the gift sacred? 20 Therefore, anyone who swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. 21 And anyone who swears by the temple swears by it and by the one who dwells in it. 22 And anyone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and by the one who sits on it.

        23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.

        25 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.

        27 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean. 28 In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.

        Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin from Acts is a typical one illustrating how the Bible after Jesus’ death views Pharisees (those who pursue the letter of the law, and not the spirit of it):

        “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

        My judgment of Phil is in regards only to the hypocrisy of his behavior, in comparison to the Bible’s recommendations. I have no jurisdiction over his standing with God.

      • “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. 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. We’re going across the field…. 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.”

        Where does he mention Jim Crow Laws? Where does he say they were happier then? All he says is that, from his perspective as a poor, white farmer, he never observed mistreatment of blacks, and that they were happy people. Phil identifies himself with the blacks – “I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash.” Notice how the author of the article, Drew Magary, pulls the statement out of context? I’d love to know what the specific question was that Phil responded to.

        All of the verses you quote deal with hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is basically having a double standard. If you read the article, or have read other articles about Phil, Phil readily admits he is a sinner. His past was full of drinking, drugs, sexual immorality, and violence. From the article: “And they are remarkably honest both with one another and with the viewing audience: Phil’s old hell-raising, Si’s traumatic stint in Vietnam, the intervention that the family staged for Jep when he was boozing and doing drugs in college (Phil placed him under house arrest for three months)—all of it is out in the open.” But, by the grace of God, he was saved, and God changed his life. There is no double standard. Phil puts himself in the same boat as the homosexual – “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.” Phil admits he was an adulterer, a drunkard, a swindler – and worse. Phil also offers the same grace to gays as he himself received:

        “We’re Bible-thumpers who just happened to end up on television,” he tells me. “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.”

        “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus—whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ’em out later, you see what I’m saying?”

        Notice how he put himself (drunks) into the statement?

        How is Phil hypocritical? Where is the double standard?

        You never answered two of my questions:

        1. If you can’t spread the Gospel by pointing out the sins of others, then what is the Gospel? The Gospel in a nutshell is that Jesus Christ died to take away our sin. No sin, no need for the Gospel.

        2. answered, but not really answered.

        3. if being judgmental is “akin to acting like a Pharisee,” then why are you being judgmental of Phil?

  2. Just a reminder to my readers: If you post anything distasteful, argumentative, or just plain annoying, it will be deleted.

    http://richwendling.wordpress.com/disclaimer/

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