This morning I woke up to an internet full of push-back against an interview Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame gave in GQ. He came out pretty strongly anti-LGBT and even recalled the Jim Crow days of his youth fondly.
I didn’t agree with him at all, but I also wasn’t outraged because I wasn’t surprised. That doesn’t mean other people shouldn’t put their own opinions and reasons for believing them out there, of course, but speaking personally, I couldn’t think of a way to respond without giving Robertson’s remarks more respect than they deserved. I said as much over at FB, and thought I would then leave the responses to other hearts and minds. I’ve said quite a bit on why I don’t think of homosexuality as sinful in other contexts, and the other bits being passed around are the kind of thing I’ve never felt the need to clarify. Of course homosexuality doesn’t lead to bestiality. Of course Jim Crow was bad. And so on.
Then I read the actual interview rather than just the bits being passed around, and I found something substantive that is worth addressing, because it is entirely, entirely too widespread in certain corners of Christianity. I’ll quote a fair bit of the GQ article, but put the part that really caught my attention in bold.
“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.”
What does repentance entail? Well, in Robertson’s worldview, America was a country founded upon Christian values (Thou shalt not kill, etc.), and he believes that the gradual removal of Christian symbolism from public spaces has diluted those founding principles. (He and Si take turns going on about why the Ten Commandments ought to be displayed outside courthouses.) He sees the popularity of Duck Dynasty as a small corrective to all that we have lost.
“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”
What, in your mind, is sinful?
“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,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “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.”
During Phil’s darkest days, in the early 1970s, he had to flee the state of Arkansas after he badly beat up a bar owner and the guy’s wife. Kay Robertson persuaded the bar owner not to press charges in exchange for most of the Robertsons’ life savings. (“A hefty price,” he notes in his memoir.) I ask Phil if he ever repented for that, as he wants America to repent—if he ever tracked down the bar owner and his wife to apologize for the assault. He shakes his head.
“I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.”
So when figuring out what sin is, we’re supposed to “start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there”? Really, I can’t put it better than Sherlock already did: