Does it need to be said?
Does it need to be said by me?
Does it need to be said by me right now?
Three questions I ask myself before I write about controversy or anything that is outside the blog’s normal focus of cycling, weight loss, or my current life experiences. I try to project a fairly positive and supporting vibe and I tend to answer at least one of the three questions with a resounding “no” when I ask them about any political, controversial, or pop cultural topic. I think that my regular readers would rather hear about something else, this blog isn’t built on commentary about any of those topics, but this is different.
I’m mad as hell and I really have to say something. I’m mad that Phil Robertson said some blatantly false statements to GQ Magazine. I’m mad that most of the people defending him either need a U.S. Civics lesson or a basic explanation of the New Testament of the Bible. I am mad that Phil Robertson is presenting himself as a huge hypocrite. I’m mad that the whole Robertson clan has let me down.
Before I go too far I would like to offer a type of full disclosure. I am a fan of Duck Dynasty. My son and I watch it together all the time. There are parts that I have to explain, mostly about hunting, but for the most part I am comfortable with him watching the show. Even though some of the situations are cringe-worthy, I like that they end with a life lesson. I am also a Christian. I have read the Bible and I do believe in God. I have also grown up around guns and hunting. I am a straight, conservative, white guy who is married with a kid. I offer all of this so you can see that anything I write is without political agenda or prejudice. Phil Robertson offers me no easy target to attack something I do not like. Quite the contrary, I am saying this as a fan of the show, a person who sits squarely in their target demographic.
I won’t re-quote what Phil Robertson said here. I am sure that you have seen enough about it to know that he basically said that he believed that homosexuality was a sin and that it wasn’t logical. You can read a quote here, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-gay_n_4465564.html. Phil also seems to have made some disparaging comments about racism, documented here http://www.christianpost.com/news/phil-robertsons-racial-remarks-overlooked-says-reformed-african-american-network-head-111299/.
The reaction to Phil’s statements and his employer A&E placing him on hiatus from promoting the show is frightening and amazing at the same time. The fan base seems to have exploded, creating Facebook pages, posts, and tweets supporting Phil and his right to express his views. Most claim that he is being punished for his religious beliefs, going so far as to claim a violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution. Very few of his supports seem to couch this support by disagreeing with anything he said or even questioning it. This could be a case of the vocal minority overshadowing the rest of the population, but I am not sure. His Facebook page has almost two million likes and one of the Support Phil Robertson page is closing in on one million likes. Fox News has spent a lot of air time on claiming discrimination and violation of his First Amendment rights.
I am no Constitutional lawyer, but I am fairly certain that none of that is correct. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech as well as freedom to practice any religion. We are allowed to say anything we want and believe anything we want to believe. We are also free to accept the consequences of that belief. GQ Magazine did not censor Phil when he made the statements. A&E didn’t try to censor him either. No one has put Phil in jail for making any of his statements, past or present. No government agency has attempted to silence him for his beliefs. A&E placed him on hiatus from the show because he violated his contract. This is a contract that he willingly signed. The contract that has a clause in it allowing A&E to do exactly that if there is an issue creating negative publicity for the show or network. A clause that Phil agreed to when he signed the contract. I do not see the First Amendment violation here that many are claiming, but I strongly suggest that we all find our Civics textbooks to check facts before going live on Fox News or taking the time to construct Facebook posts. The bottom line is that Phil wasn’t placed on hiatus for believing in God, but for making statements in an interview that are false and hateful. There is no defense for that. Even if there were the possibility that anything that has happened because Phil gave an interview with an opinion that was hateful (which there isn’t) there is still the matter of hate speech not being protected by the First Amendment.
To be clear, I am disgusted by Phil Robertson’s statements on homosexuality as well as race. I disagree with what he said, but I am more saddened by what he implied. He called being a homosexual a sin against God and illogical. Even in his later apology and the Robertson Family’s response he claimed that he was just being a good Christian and believing what was written in the Bible, thus really claiming that he was sorry that his truth didn’t coincide with mine, not that he regretted his statements. Phil Robertson and other’s use of religion to explain their bias angers me. I am tired of people coopting religion to fit their bigotry. Phil claims that he is Christian and uses quotes from the Bible to make his points about sins. He leaves out most of the New Testament and what Jesus actually taught. Love everyone. Jesus didn’t offer any exceptions. He used his actions as words. He surrounded himself with the lowest of the low, the untouchables, the sick, the dying, the prostitutes and sinners. He didn’t say love everyone but the gays and non-believers. He said love everyone. He taught us not to judge or deny anyone, but to love everyone.
Phil Robertson claims that the Bible is his guiding light. Does that mean that he is a creationist? Does he truly believe that the earth is only a few thousand years old? What does Phil feel about the guidance Jesus gave his followers about giving up all of your worldly possessions to follow him? I feel that if you are going to hide behind the Bible to excuse your bigotry, you really should have to follow all of the guidance to the letter. If you believe that there is no picking and choosing what you believe, then adhere to every part of it, not just what is convenient to your beliefs.
I am mad because his statements show something ugly about the way that some still manage to view gay people. By claiming that being homosexual is illogical, Phil shows that he believes that it is a choice. It is not. This has been scientifically proven. Sexuality is a genetic trait. It is no more a choice than hair color or height. I am mad because Phil Robertson demands to be accepted for who he is. He expects people to deal with him on his terms. I actually like that as a lesson. People should be allowed to be who they are, but now I have to look at Phil and say “You first”. Accept people for who they are born as. It’s easy to complain that people don’t allow you to be who you are when you have the option to change. Phil can shave. He can wear something other than camouflage. He won’t because that is not who he is, but he feels that others are sinning because their genes are different that his.
I am mad that the show that helps me teach my son positive lessons about life is now forcing me to teach him a negative one. I am let down that my faith in humanity was unfounded. My wife wonders why I am surprised. Her view is that he is a Southern man who grew up being taught to think like that. She thinks I should have just assumed that he hates gays and minorities. I looked at the values preached on the show and the inclusion apparent in the extended family and never really thought it would be a problem. Now I know it is. Now I look at some of my son’s Duck Dynasty Christmas gifts and wonder if I should take them back.
So where does this leave me? Well, the first thing I am doing is reaffirming my faith in humanity. I am taking my son shopping to donate food to the local shelter. I can’t think of a better lesson to teach him than our family has enough to give something back to those who are struggling. I want to teach him that part of Jesus’ lesson is to take care of your fellow man. I also will pray for Phil. None of what is coming will be easy for him to deal with. I will hope and pray that Phil can spend some time and open his heart and meet few gay people that will do the same for him. Maybe when he sees that we are all just people he will move past his hate or fear or whatever it is that causes him to speak out against homosexuals. I will hope that he is heartfelt when he says that he isn’t really judging people, but I will also hope that he will have experiences to open his eyes to what he is saying. If you spend time speaking out against something you aren’t loving the people involved. You are judging them. I know that it isn’t my place to judge him, even when I am angry with him, so I hope he learns something from this. We are all fighting some type of battle, and no one has it easy. We all need to give each other a little room and a lot of encouragement. I hope Phil sees this.
I am done with this now, and next week we will return to our normally scheduled cycle-centric programing with a side of a fat guy trying to do better. Until then, Merry Christmas and let’s all try to take care of each other out there, okay?