By Bob Allen
Southern Baptist Convention leaders termed “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, suspended by A&E for controversial anti-gay statements in a magazine interview, the latest casualty in America’s culture war.
“[T]he controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life,” Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, commented in a blog Dec. 19. “Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.”
“This is ridiculous,” SBC Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission head Russell Moore said in a comment on Twitter linking to a Variety story headlined “‘Duck Dynasty’: Phil Robertson Suspended Indefinitely Following Anti-Gay Remarks.”
Robertson, patriarch of the Louisiana clan featured in the most popular reality show on cable TV, sparked controversy with an interview in GQ Magazine offering his definition of what is sinful.
From the magazine: “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.”
GLAAD, formed in 1985 as the “Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation” to pressure media to stop promoting anti-gay stereotypes, called Robertson’s comments “some of the vilest and most extreme statements uttered against LGBT people in a mainstream publication” and said they were “littered with outdated stereotypes and blatant misinformation.”
“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,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. “He clearly knows nothing about gay people or the majority of Louisianans — and Americans — who support legal recognition for loving and committed gay and lesbian couples. Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors who now need to re-examine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families.”
The network released a statement Nov. 18 reading: “We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series ‘Duck Dynasty.’ His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”
A&E released a statement from Robertson saying in part: “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.”
Moore, who took over as the Southern Baptist Convention’s top expert on moral and religious liberty concerns this summer, appeared in a story about the controversy on CNN.
“Suggesting that people who hold to what every branch of the Christian faith has held to for 2,000 years is somehow bigoted or hateful is not productive for speech,” Moore said in an interview for CNN OutFront with Erin Burnett.
Moore elaborated in a blog posted on the ERLC website, saying if a person disagrees with what someone says on a television program, he or she is free to change the channel.
“Let’s have genuine diversity, meaning let’s talk honestly with one another about what we believe and why,” Moore said. “Muting one another isn’t what debate is for in a free society. It’s what remote controls are for.”
Mohler said he would have preferred that Robertson had been less graphic in using anatomical terms to argue that that being with a woman “would be more desirable” for a man, but his point that homosexual acts are against nature is the same argument used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:26.
Mohler described Robertson’s comments as “a rather accurate paraphrase” of First Corinthians 6:9-10: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
Denny Burk, associate professor at Boyce College, Southern Seminary’s undergraduate arm, said on his blog he predicted privately months ago “that it would only be a matter of time before the media sniffed out the views of the ‘Duck Dynasty’ guys about sexuality.”
“So here’s my second prediction,” Burk wrote. “This won’t end with Phil Robertson’s suspension. His remarks will end ‘Duck Dynasty.’ The other guys on the program will be dogged in every interview from here on out until they give their opinions as well. And as soon as they do, the entire cast will be branded heretical by the sexual revolutionaries that dominate popular culture. When that happens, that will be the end.”
Burk said he hopes he is wrong, but if the controversy brings about ‘Duck Dynasty’s’ demise: “It means that A&E is yet another sector of popular culture in which Christian views about sexual norms are not allowed. The cultural space for our views is shrinking rapidly, and there are people who won’t stop shrinking the space until there’s no space left at all.”
The GQ article describes the Robertsons, who end their program with the family gathered around the table in prayer, as “ideal Christian icons: beloved for staking out a bit of holy ground within the mostly secular, often downright sinful, pop culture of America.”
Kelly Boggs, editor of the Baptist Message in Louisiana and a columnist for Baptist Press, wrote in August: “’Duck Dynasty’ proves there is a market for wholesome entertainment that features authentic people who embrace traditional, even Christian, values. What is amazing is the fact that much of Hollywood continues to ignore this market.”
Joe Carter, who later joined the ERLC staff, praised the show in a blog titled “9 Things You Should Know About ‘Duck Dynasty‘” on the Gospel Coalition website in March.
Some Southern Baptists were unhappy with such blanket affirmation, claiming it implied endorsement of the family’s membership at White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, which holds views on baptism contrary to those espoused by Southern Baptists in the Baptist Faith and Message.