In my sermon last Sunday I made reference to the controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson. How could I not? I’ve never seen the show, but many people in my congregation watch it. I asked, “Did anything happen in the news last week?” and there was much laughter. I said:
Unless you were living under a rock, you heard that the A&E Network suspended Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Duck Dynasty clan, for the interview he gave to GQ. While I wouldn’t have said it the way Phil said it—and even the family admitted that his comments were “unfiltered” and “coarse”—I strongly agree with the point he was making regarding marriage and intimacy. They reflect the doctrine of our United Methodist Church. I’ve blogged about this issue, and I’d be happy to talk with you if you have concerns. But when I was ordained a few years ago, I stood up and told the bishop, the annual conference, and God that I agreed with the doctrines of our church. And I wasn’t kidding.
My point is, I don’t believe that Phil Robertson has been treated fairly… [And then I found a way to tie it into the scripture I was preaching.]
While I was saying this, I posted this note onscreen: “United Methodist doctrine on this subject agrees with most of the universal church, including Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, as well as evangelicals and Pentecostals.”
If you were anywhere around social media last week, I’d forgive you for being surprised that Phil Robertson’s opinion regarding homosexuality doesn’t represent some redneck fringe, but is in keeping with the teaching of about 95 percent of the universal church. (Let’s remember what a tiny percentage of global Christendom that mainline Protestants now represent.) Among my social media “friends” and followers who are fellow clergy, no one who commented on the topic voiced support for Robertson. How is that possible?
One fellow pastor even characterized Robertson’s comments as “vile—literally vile… They were nearly pornographic.”
Really? Robertson even used the correct anatomical names! Regardless, I wish I didn’t know that if he thought Robertson’s words were nearly pornographic, he doesn’t know what pornography is! Good for him, I guess.
The best commentary I read about the controversy came from this sympathetic piece in The Atlantic:
Or maybe they want to avoid an uncomfortable truth: that Robertson wasn’t expressing “his personal views,” but principles that are intrinsic to his religion. You see, Robertson didn’t simply attack and disparage the sexual preferences of a minority… No, Robertson’s opinion—couched as it was in scriptural references that suggest he not only owns a Bible, but also reads it—reflects the teaching and practice of historic Christianity and, by extension, the opinion of a sizable portion of the American public. Indeed, according to a June 2013 Pew Research Center survey, roughly half (45 percent) of Americans polled said they believe homosexual actions are a “sin.”
In an apparent effort to convince this demographic that homosexual actions are not sinful, GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz said Robertson’s views are not Christian. The strategy here seems to be “divide and conquer”—separate Robertson from his religion and let public opinion do the rest. The theologians at GLAAD will have to do better, because what Robertson said is not inconsistent with a Christianity that sees the Bible as a source of Divine authority and inspiration—and Louisiana gun-toting evangelicals are not the only ones who embrace that Christianity. On the contrary, Cruz’s statement appears naive when one considers that Pope Francis, Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013, has previously called gay marriage the work of the devil and “a total rejection of God’s law engraved on our hearts.” Judging by Thursday’s precedent, A&E would fire the pope. And if his public statements on the subject are to be believed, the President of the United States would also receive a pink slip prior to his change of heart in May of last year…
One difference is that Dan Cathy, like Phil Robertson, is from the South. I discern an anti-southern bias—these people are from the South, so they must be bigots. Please!
Meanwhile, I sense that another bad argument is catching on among my colleagues who support changing church doctrine on this issue. At least a few of them linked to or “liked” this blog post, in which the blogger, a United Methodist youth pastor, said that he no longer has patience for theological arguments on the topic of homosexuality:
The fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter whether or not you think homosexuality is a sin. Let me say that again. It does not matter if you think homosexuality is a sin, or if you think it is simply another expression of human love. It doesn’t matter. Why doesn’t it matter? Because people are dying. Kids are literally killing themselves because they are so tired of being rejected and dehumanized that they feel their only option left is to end their life. As a Youth Pastor, this makes me physically ill. And as a human, it should make you feel the same way. So, I’m through with the debate.