Duck Dynasty and the Scourge of Fundamentalist Intolerance

The recent suspension of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson is the latest high profile instance of the ironic phenomenon of left wing fundamentalism in the guise of tolerance.

So-called fundamentalist Christians have long been the object of scorn for their narrow minded attitudes and self-righteous treatment of those with whom they disagree.  It is the deepest of ironies that those on the left who detest fundamentalists mimic them so exactly when they have the power to do so.

Robertson was suspended for expressing in an interview with GQ his view that homosexual behavior is sinful and is the sort of thing that will keep you out of the Kingdom of God. Robertson, of course, was merely paraphrasing what St Paul said in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 when he stated: “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.”

Granted, Robertson is not the most theologically or intellectually sophisticated spokesman for conservative Christianity.  He did not nuance his views in the interview the way a theologian or philosopher might.  Still, the fact remains that it is a common view among orthodox Christians and other traditional theistic religions that homosexual behavior is sinful, and like any sin, if not repented of, will keep us out of the Kingdom of God.

Now here is one layer of the irony.  In their statement about Robertson, A+E said the following: “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community.”

So notice:  it is perfectly fine to be a “strong supporter” of a behavior that traditional religious believers have held to be sinful for millennia.  One can express this view forthrightly and with conviction, with no fear of reprisal or negative consequences.   But if you affirm traditional Christian morality, you will be silenced, suspended, forced to apologize and perhaps lose your job.

That’s liberal tolerance in power.

But there is more than irony here.  There is something bordering on incoherence.  There is an absolute sort of intolerance for anyone who does not subscribe to the liberal view of tolerance.   No place is allowed for dissent or agreeing to disagree.  No place is allowed to let Robertson express his convictions and let viewers of his show decide if they want to continue to watch it.  No, the fundamentalists in power will not tolerate that.  They have decided that his convictions amount to “gay bashing” and their convictions are absolute.

So it is fine for liberal fundamentalists to make strong moral judgments against the strong moral judgments of others.  Sadly, they seem not even to notice the glaring inconsistency since they are in power and have the authority to execute their convictions.

One might think we are at least owed an explanation of the rationale for issuing the strong moral judgments they do while denying others the right to express their moral judgments.  They might at least produce the credentials for the moral judgments they issue with such authority.

Traditional religious believers can appeal to the fact that the behaviors they view as sinful have been believed to be so by the vast majority of people in our cultural history for millennia on the grounds of what has been taken to be divine revelation.  Contemporary fundamentalists of the left might at least offer us a rationale for their strong moral judgments they level against those who affirm more traditional moral judgments.

This leads us to an even more troubling aspect of this episode. Gay and lesbian rights organization GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz made this claim:  “Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe.”

Now it is one thing to exercise intolerance in the name of tolerance.  It is another matter when you even presume to tell those with whom you disagree what they truly believe.  It is one thing for fundamentalists of the left to dispute orthodox Christian teaching about sexuality, but it is another level of arrogance and presumption for them to re-define Christianity in terms they find acceptable and then to lecture Christians about “what true Christians believe.”

I saw this same phenomenon on a news show where a gay Jewish news analyst was condemning Robertson, and repeatedly suggesting he was not truly a Christian, since Christianity is really about tolerance, accepting other people and so on.

This is telling indeed.  Perhaps sensing the arbitrary nature of their own moral judgments, fundamentalists of the left resort to appealing to their own version of Christianity in order to bolster the authority of those judgments.

To be sure, Christians can, and should, be challenged to be true to the convictions they claim to hold.  Indeed, it is worth noting that Robertson also said the following to clarify his views:  “However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

Christians are clearly required by their own faith to love and respect those with whom they disagree.  Those who do not share their faith have every right to appeal to what Christians themselves claim as their commitments and to challenge them to be consistent with their convictions.  But Christians have never believed that loving and respecting another person requires us to affirm all of his choices, or to deny that those choices may be sinful and can even lead to damnation.

So the issues at stake in the Duck Dynasty episode are at the heart of our current cultural conflict and confusion.   Shall those who hold the worldview that has been held by the vast majority of Americans throughout its history continue to have the freedom not only to believe that worldview, but also to articulate and defend it in the public square?   Indeed, shall they have the freedom to define their own beliefs in keeping with historic biblical and confessional standards?

Or shall traditional morality become a taboo subject in the public arena?  And shall the Christian faith itself be given over for redefinition to those who do not share its commitments and convictions to promote their own moral and political agenda?   All in the name of tolerance.

24 responses

  1. Pingback: Duck! They’re Shooting At Us! | Thomistic Bent

    • Debbie – it’s a hard claim to make: saying you know what another person was thinking. That’s exactly what your statement is: a claim that you knew Phil’s thoughts. You may or may not be right, but neither you nor I can know. So your statement is a non-starter.

  2. Do you think maybe the gays and lesbians are angry about Phil’s comitt ,for they know their guilt. Their guilt shows their shame.

  3. Robertson’s words could have been different , the truth remains the same.
    I challenge all – try opposing sodomy in a loving way. Use any words you can think will show love. You will be attacked and declared “homophobe”,hateful, intolerant and bigoted. So to all those who say love the sinner – hate the sin …. let me know when you figure out the way to voice opposition to sodomy/ homosexual behavior when these same attackers say oh you are so loving. .

    • I figured out a way to do it in Christian love: stop opposing sodomy. Consider that your interpretation of scripture might be incomplete. The Pharisees were so convinced they had the scriptures right on the whole honor the sabbath thing, but they were so focused on the letter of the law that they lost sight of the heart of God.

      Consider that God is more concerned about caring for orphans and widows than arguing over cultural customs and social norms. Christ’s entire ministry was about loving and caring for the marginalized, meeting the needs of the sick and the hungry, and loving those in need of love. Let’s focus on THOSE things instead of arguing about calling names and pointing fingers and dying on hills that may be completely irrelevant.

      The arrogance to think we have it all figured out may be more of a concern than trying to convince the world that we must not work on Sunday, or that tattoos are an abomination, or that slaves must submit to their masters, or that sodomy is wrong.

      I just wonder if there are better ways to spend our efforts–on things of eternal significance– rather than fighting about something to which Christ may very well come along and say, “you’re missing the heart of God.”

      • Very lovely sentiment. Perfect, actually. I wish everyone who is reading this article – would read down to your comments. No matter your position or leaning sexually…

  4. Of course GLAAD and their media allies have no interest in fairness. Their claim is that Phil was “hateful”, etc. However Louis Giglio and Dan Cathy were both gracious and non condemning but the response was the same.

  5. So basically the TLDR version of this article…”the left wing fundamentalists are intolerant of fundamentalist Christianity’s intolerance, and we should be intolerant of the intolerance of our intolerance.” Take a step back, look at the situation, and just stop caring so much about things that don’t matter all that much. Displaying your view that homosexuality is sinful is not the way you would ever reach the hearts of those that commit this sin. Instead, love your neighbor as yourself. Peace and love are key to human flourishing.

    • Patrick, I get the just of what you are saying. However, when I think about my own life I have to admit that my decision to follow Christ was inextricably tied up in some understanding that my life was a mess before Him. Some of these sinful or misguided patterns of life were I was convicted of through the still small voice of the Holy Spirit; but a number were also pointed out to me by caring Christians. So, I think it might be a little overstated to say, “Displaying your view that homosexuality is sinful is not the way you would ever reach the hearts of those that commit this sin.”

      • I understand where you are coming from. But given your experience, your personal convictions are resultant of the voice of the Holy Spirit as well as guidance of fellow Christians. Typically, people don’t change their personal convictions based on what celebrities say, especially if they are seemingly repulsive comments. This is especially true when people are not Christian at all. What I’m saying is that if you truly believe homosexuality is a sin and want to convince someone of this, the Duck Dynasty route is not an effective route. This is such a delicate topic. Build a loving relationship with that person first, then you can share your concerns on the topic. Celebrities and duck call makers shouldn’t make sweeping statements about homosexuality (true or false) if they are not rooted in love. Clearly, the stigmatized state of homosexuality has creeped into nearly everyone’s perception, limiting our ability to respond righteously. I’m not a Christian, so I know that homosexuality is not a sin. I do respect that many people share the same conviction that homosexuality is wrong and I think it best if the topic is approached with only love, never criticism.

  6. Being intolerant of a bigot is not even close to the same as the bigot being intolerant toward a group of people simply because they were born with a different sexual preference.

  7. There are a lot of messages flying around, and both sides seem to be SURE they are right. Which stance comes from love and acceptance, and which comes from oppression and judgment? If it’s not our place to judge or condemn, then what’s the issue? We are all called to love, not to judge or condemn (even in the name of God). But, how can Christians accept something that they believe God opposes? First off again, it’s not your place to judge, it’s your place to love. Second, let God will deal with everyone, even you. And lastly, study and educate yourself on scripture that talks about homosexuality. After reading the few verses that merely touch on the subject (if you can even call it that – here’s a good link that decodes homosexuality and the Bible: http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php), look up what the Bible says about slavery and women and a slew of other social issues we (most all of us) wouldn’t even blink at today. It’s okay to be uncomfortable about homosexuality and that you don’t understand it, but don’t do it in the name of God. He would not be proud. Those are not His teachings.

    Gay people exist. It is a normal human condition that has been along for a very long time and has been a part of every culture. If your goal is to abolish homosexuals, and have them change, well, that’s never going to happen. When you say that homosexuality is wrong, or that you, or a group of people, don’t accept them in the name of God, what you are really saying is that somehow a homosexual’s love has no value, or doesn’t have the same value as your love. Somehow homosexuals are not free to love or be loved, unless of course they change. And how cruel that is to expect or suggest. How would you feel if people told you you shouldn’t be able to love, and that you should bottle it up and change your identity? It would drive you insane. It would drive you to make poor decisions out of frustration and inability to connect with God because the church is telling you are somehow inept human beings not worthy of God’s love (“unless you change” – that mind frame needs to die). Would you rather create a brick wall outside of your church to keep out the homosexuals, or love and accept them for who they are, and invite them to experience the “same” loving God you worship?

    Everyone has a different spectrum of sexuality; we are all human and all exceptionally different. We all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and love others. If you can’t do this, them please keep to yourself because you are harming society. There are kids right now who are in your churches, schools and communities that are hearing “homosexuality is a sin.” And if they don’t change who their identity is, they will never enter the kingdom of God. If you are one of these people spewing slurs like this, you are breeding a future of insanity for these innocent kids. What if you started to love and support homosexuals? What would happen? Think about it. Keep in mind, healthy God-centered homosexual relationships exist and people actually do strive for them (actually it’s more like fight like hell for them).

    If you are a homosexual who loves God, please be silent no more. If you are condemning homosexuality, please take your blinders off for a second and really ask God how you should be treating these humans. It took me 27 years to accept my sexuality, and that is my only shame. For some it’s much longer, and for some it never happens.

    Homosexuality has to do with human rights, not religion. And above all, love your neighbor as yourself, for that is what we are really called to do as humans.

  8. There are a lot of messages flying around, and both sides seem to be SURE they are right. Which stance comes from love and acceptance, and which comes from oppression and judgment? If it’s not our place to judge or condemn, then what’s the issue? We are all called to love, not to judge or condemn (even in the name of God). But, how can Christians accept something that they believe God opposes? First off again, it’s not your place to judge, it’s your place to love. Second, let God will deal with everyone, even you. And lastly, study and educate yourself on scripture that talks about homosexuality. After reading the few verses that merely touch on the subject (if you can even call it that – here’s a good link that decodes homosexuality and the Bible: http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php), look up what the Bible says about slavery and women and a slew of other social issues we (most all of us) wouldn’t even blink at today. It’s okay to be uncomfortable about homosexuality and that you don’t understand it, but don’t do it in the name of God. He would not be proud. Those are not His teachings.

    Gay people exist. It is a normal human condition that has been along for a very long time and has been a part of every culture. If your goal is to abolish homosexuals, and have them change, well, that’s never going to happen. When you say that homosexuality is wrong, or that you, or a group of people, don’t accept them in the name of God, what you are really saying is that somehow a homosexual’s love has no value, or doesn’t have the same value as your love. Somehow homosexuals are not free to love or be loved, unless of course they change. And how cruel that is to expect or suggest. How would you feel if people told you you shouldn’t be able to love, and that you should bottle it up and change your identity? It would drive you insane. It would drive you to make poor decisions out of frustration and inability to connect with God because the church is telling you are somehow inept human beings not worthy of God’s love (“unless you change” – that mind frame needs to die). Would you rather create a brick wall outside of your church to keep out the homosexuals, or love and accept them for who they are, and invite them to experience the “same” loving God you worship?

    Everyone has a different spectrum of sexuality; we are all human and all exceptionally different. We all have a responsibility to take care of ourselves and love others. If you can’t do this, them please keep to yourself because you are harming society. There are kids right now who are in your churches, schools and communities that are hearing “homosexuality is a sin.” And if they don’t change who their identity is, they will never enter the kingdom of God. If you are one of these people spewing slurs like this, you are breeding a future of insanity for these innocent kids. What if you started to love and support homosexuals? What would happen? Think about it. Keep in mind, healthy God-centered homosexual relationships exist and people actually do strive for them (actually it’s more like fight like hell for them).

    If you are a homosexual who loves God, please be silent no more. If you are condemning homosexuality, please take your blinders off for a second and really ask God how you should be treating these humans. It took me 27 years to accept my sexuality, and that is my only shame. For some it’s much longer, and for some it never happens.

    Homosexuality has to do with human rights, not religion. And above all, love your neighbor as yourself, for that is what we are really called to do as humans.

  9. Don’t listen to the ignorant and/or perverse liars who say that it is unloving to tell humans that one of their preferred sins is not one. Don’t listen when they tell Christians that they are not to judge, for Jesus says that we are (e.g., “judge with righteous judgment” [John 7:24]; “take the speck out of your brother’s eye” [Matt 7:5; cf. Luke 6:42], etc.).

    And this is an outflow from the very law of love, the Second Great Commandment to love neighbours (who only are fellow covenant members), found in the Holiness Code in Leviticus 19:17-18. There it is plain that we are commanded as an act of love to rebuke our neighbour when they sin: “You must surely reprove your fellow citizen . . . you must love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:17-18). Jesus directly follows this understanding: “If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3).

    It is not loving but instead an act of great hate to do like these hypocrites advise and ignore someone’s sin without trying to help them be delivered from it (which is loving). The love of such an act is not erased by the hate-mongers who react against it with misstatements and/or lies.

    • I am offended at your lack of integrity and scholarship for my holy scriptures-The Sovereign Word of God. How dare you claim with any degree of confidence when you approach the scriptures as you have in this comment with so little regard for truth. Even the tiniest bit of critical reading and context would alert that both passages you site regarding Jesus’ teachings on judgment are the EXACT OPPOSITE of authorial intent. And yet you have the audacity to call those who don’t agree with you “ignorant” and “perverse liars.” I am not sure if YOU are the “perverse liar” or are you simply “ignorant” yourself. (Even your language contradicts yourself as you cannot be both an intentional liar AND ignorant. It’s one or the other, but I digress.)

      Christ’s entire message in both passages you site are to NOT judge. Any Bible scholar would agree one of the primary themes of the New Testament is that there are none righteous. Not one. The passage from John 7 you cited without context speaks to the exact opposite of your claim. Christ is rebuking the Pharisees for judging as he was healing on the Sabbath. If you reference a work, you must reference the entire phrase at least. You conveniently left out the first breath of Christ’s sentence: “DO NOT JUDGE according to appearance, but judge with righteousness.” News flash, people. Christ’s entire message is that all of us have sinned and need HIS righteousness. Lest you were confused by this teaching, he re-emphasized the point with your other reference.

      In Matthew 7, the entire passage (if you care to read it, rather than taking one part of one verse out of context) demands we “JUDGE NOT lest we be judged.” Christ’s illustration of the speck in a brother’s eye is precisely the point; we cannot take planks out of others’ eyes because we all have specks in our own eyes. To claim that “Well, Christ SAID we should judge as long as we take out the speck in our own eye first” is a lack of subtlety and understanding the nuance of Christ’s entire style of communication–something that was done over and over again in the Gospels by…the Pharisees: The people who didn’t get the heart of God.

      I apologize if I am coming off too strong in my language, but I am passionate about the Word of God, and when I see Christ’s teachings being misrepresented, I take it quite seriously.

      I understand your basic argument that pointing out sin CAN be loving, but you have to realize that while you may perceive it as done out of love, to the person toward which the judgment is aimed, in this case, it will never be received. Because the point you are missing is it’s not about getting them to agree what is and isn’t sin; the point is to get them to understand that they are in need of a savior. In the instance of sodomy, you are spinning your wheels trying to get someone to acknowledge something as sin when they are convinced it is not a sin. Why not appeal instead to something within themselves which they DO recognize as sin. How about something like pride? Or arrogance? Or selfishness? Or greed? There are a number of things that a lost person in need of Christ’s redeeming love will acknowledge as something they need. Why not start the conversation there instead of going to a politically-charged topic that is only certain to divide? And for what? The need to “win an argument” against an “enemy”? THAT is the pride I’d be more concerned about addressing, because when non-believers see professed Christians up in arms over political fights scratching and clawing for a religious win against the enemy, that is all they see: pride.

  10. Jesus was a socialist, or near enough. That much is clear even from the translations of the Bible that ya’ll claim to the word of God. Now, it seems bizarre that ya’ll happy to uphold the bits about homosexuality being bad, yet when it comes to Jesus’s politics ya’ll just seem to put fingers ya’lls ears. Redistribute the wealth, yo, just like THE SON OF GOD DID.

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