I’m reminded of something Bill Maher said during the height of the Paula Deen controversy: “Do we always have to make people go away?” I think the question applies in this situation, too.
Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them? One of the biggest pop culture icons of today just took center stage to “educate” us about sexuality. I see this as an opportunity to further the discussion, to challenge his limited understanding of human desire, to engage with him and his rather sizeable audience—most of whom, by the way, probably share his views—and to rise above the endless sea of tweet-hate to help move our LGBT conversations to where they need to go.
GK Chesterton said that bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” If he is right—and he usually is—then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.
Andrew Sullivan, who raked urban liberal Alec Baldwin over the coals for his even more crude anti-gay slurs, has a fairly nuanced position on Phil Robertson:
Robertson is a character in a reality show. He’s not a spokesman for A&E any more than some soul-sucking social x-ray from the Real Housewives series is a spokeswoman for Bravo. Is he being fired for being out of character? Nah. He’s being fired for staying in character – a character A&E have nurtured and promoted and benefited from. Turning around and demanding a Duck Dynasty star suddenly become the equivalent of a Rachel Maddow guest is preposterous and unfair.
What Phil Robertson has given A&E is a dose of redneck reality. Why on earth would they fire him for giving some more?
I liked too what the gay Christian writer Ron Belgau, who is celibate, said on the Spiritual Friendship blog, in which he agreed with me that A&E is behaving ridiculously, but added this, which I did not know:
More than one of the bloggers at Spiritual Friendship has, in fact, lost a job in a Christian institution, solely because he disclosed his sexual orientation. In each case, the Christian bosses agreed that the person they were terminating was not guilty of any sin, nor did he hold any belief about sexuality at odds with Christian orthodoxy. It was simply that they were unwilling to have an employee with same-sex attraction, even if he was completely committed to orthodox belief and obedient to orthodox teaching.
This is not to say that this prejudice is everywhere: most of us, including those who have at one point lost a job over our sexuality, have also been welcomed in other Christian circles. But the fact that discrimination is not ubiquitous does not mean it is not still a real problem in Christian institutions.
I think social conservatives are right to be upset at the double standard which A&E has applied to Phil Robertson. But we can’t do much but complain about the prejudice at A&E. On the other hand, we actually can do something about the prejudice and double standards in the Christian world.
I didn’t know this was happening, but it doesn’t entirely surprise me. Ron is right. If a gay Christian who supports Christian orthodoxy and who tries his or her best to live it out wants to work at a Christian institution, we orthodox Christians must welcome them and defend them. We orthodox Christians don’t do much to advance the principle that there’s more to the human person than his or her sexuality when we act like a gay Christian’s orthodoxy and orthopraxy counts for nothing.