Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christian's Response to the Duck Dynasty Fiasco

Duck Dynasty has flooded social media over the last couple of days.  Facebook, Twitter, email, and dinner conversations are consumed with discussions about Phil Robertson, his statements about homosexuality, and his indefinite suspension by A&E from his television show Duck Dynasty

In an interview with GQ, Phil Robertson made some controversial remarks about homosexuality and race.  If you have somehow escaped reading what Phil had to say, his suspension, and his family's response, this shorter article pretty much sums it all up. 

When I first read the GQ interview, I honestly cringed at Phil Robertson's comments.  I may not agree with the delivery of Phil's message, but I also was not really surprised by what he said.  He is a 67-year-old conservative from Louisiana with a history of speaking his mind.

However, I am appalled by my Christian community's fiery reaction to Phil's suspension from Duck Dynasty.  I've seen a whole lot of status updates from my conservative friends and relatives, most of them stating things like: "Freedom of speech is dead."  "If Miley Cyrus can twerk on television, why can't Phil Robertson share his faith?"  "This is yet another example of how badly Christians are being persecuted in America today!"

Why is this such an explosive issue?

For one, freedom of speech isn't even the problem here.  Phil had total freedom of speech when he made those comments to a journalist for a popular secular magazine, which brought realistic consequences from his secular employers.  Phil may no longer have freedom to speak out on A&E, but he is a rich and famous man; he will have many opportunities to publicly speak his mind via other outlets.

Two, this is a reality TV showAs Christians, our goal should not be to stay popular on television.  Duck Dynasty portrays godly morals, but the show has very little meaning in and of itself.  It's about a family of wealthy duck hunters who love Jesus.  Entertaining, family-friendly, but does it have eternal value?  Not really.

If you have lapsed into a public rage over Duck Dynasty today, then I encourage you to check your heart right now.  Why have you not become this angry over the 21,000 people who will die today from malnutrition-related causes?  Or the 153 million orphans worldwide?  Or the 633,000 homeless people in the United States? 

Why is the outcome of a reality TV show more upsetting than issues that break the heart of our Creator?  Colossians 3:2 says, "Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things."

In the Bible, God calls us to share the Gospel, to love people, not to judge, to serve the needy.  We are never asked to rage against our government or to have heated arguments over Facebook.  Rather, we are commanded to respect our authority (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13, Titus 3:1) and not to engage in quarrels (Proverbs 17:19). 

One of my favorite passages from the Bible is 1 Peter 3:14-15, which says:
"But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed.  'Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.'  But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect."  
Let me also include 2 Timothy 2:23-25: 
"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.  Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth."
Christians, go back and look over your conversations, online and in person, and see if they follow the two Scripture passages above.  Were you gentle?  Were you respectful?  Were you kind?  Were you not resentful?  

Personally, I wouldn't consider Phil's suspension persecution.  There are Christians in other countries who are being killed and jailed for their faith, and Phil Robertson will certainly continue a very successful career until the end of his life.  But even if you view his suspension from Duck Dynasty as persecution, why is the Christian community displaying so much indignation and defiance?

The disciples and early church did not react with anger when freedom was torn away from them.  They endured persecution with thankfulness and rejoicing because they were counted worthy to receive the same treatment as that of Jesus (Acts 5:41, Luke 6:22-23).

We should not come to expect the freedom of sharing our faith and preaching God's Word without persecution, whether or not we are American.  As long as we live on this broken earth, we will receive opposition in return for our faith in Christ.  If we are being embraced by the world, something is wrong.  In John 15:19, Jesus says: 
"If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." 
Christians, our response to the Duck Dynasty fiasco is being observed by the entire nation.  And they are laughing at us.

So let's turn down the drama when it comes to Phil Robertson and his reality TV show.  Instead, let's focus our passion and energy on things of eternal value, like loving people like Christ, extending grace, and feeding the hungry.  

One year ago: It's okay to ask why.
Two years ago: The Chilly Winter Air
Three years ago: Curious George put me to bed.


  1. You kind of imply that being a Christian in a foreign country where they are persecuted for their faith physically has more value than being a Christian in the US.... We are ALL equal instruments in the hands of God. Also almost all of the Disciples died simply for standing up for what they believe in, as do missionaries in foreign countries, Stephen literally stood up for Gods Truth and got stoned to death for arguing with the pharisees. We are blessed enough to be able to believe and be free about it though! You are right it is not an issue of free speech, its an issue of intolerance and hate that Jesus tells us we will face! You have to admit its pretty crazy that so much drama is stirred up for simply a few "offensive" words that are said. But yes you are right we should rejoice because we GET to take part in a small amount of the sufferings of Christ! Completely agree that people have been overly dramatic and need to move on, because arguing and making big deals about it wont accomplish anything!

    1. I don't believe Christians in foreign countries are more valuable at all! We are certainly of equal value, which is why foolish and explosive reactions of anger in this situation only hurts our message of love and grace as we share the Gospel in our nation.

      Robertson's ignorant remarks about the pre-civil-rights era, as well as comparing homosexuality to bestiality and terrorism were not effective or graceful ways to share the Gospel or stand for truth in this country. I do not believe his suspension from a secular TV network as a consequence for those remarks is really persecution, although even if it is, there is no benefit from becoming indignant at the very small amounts of persecution that we face. Christians have been extremely blessed when it comes to the level of persecution we experience in the United States compared to both the early church and other countries who have far less freedom.

      There is a huge difference between standing up for the truth of the Gospel with gentleness and respect, as the Bible commands us to do, and standing up for the case of our religion and political viewpoints on social media because we want to appear "right." And those watching us for the Gospel can see this difference very clearly.

    2. Emily, although I was enlightened by the above article/blog, I was just as taken back as I read your response/replay to the anonymous statements. When you used 'ignorant, not effect or graceful' in response to anyone, its hard not to compare it to judging someone. In this case, you are calling Mr Robertson those things when maybe they could have been left out considering you yourself stated 'In the Bible, God calls us to share the Gospel, to love people, not to judge'. Didnt you just judge him by using those words? I am just asking not judging as Ill leave that to God. I also know that no one who walks this earth is perfect but please be careful with words. If you want the respect and the title of a Christian, lets try and be a role model for all.

  2. Understood and agreed!! but even then, I bet no one was too happy about Jesus comparing and equating anger to murder, lustful looks to adultery, and so on! it def wasn't the most effective way of sharing the Gospel but I know I myself have been many times ignorant and ineffective when it comes to sharing the Gospel! Maybe the point he wanted to get across is that sin is sin, there is no preference in Gods love for us. The reason I see it as persecution is because no one would get suspended off of television for saying that Christians are a bunch of crazy, close minded evil thieves, who only want to brainwash and use religion as a means of political power or just power in general. Yes its secular tv, but non-secular opinion is not tolerated. I get that its secular, and that it goes both ways i.e. a Christian channel wouldn't allow someone to come talk about Satan hahah, but for people who advocate tolerance its really ironic that they dont have any for people who believe differently than they do!! Of course, defending the Gospel, has nothing to do with being right or wrong, just simply being zealous for God and His word, HOWEVER, its also vain to try and argue that we are right, since the Bible says that those who aren't believers are blinded to the Truth! Haha I just like a good balance of critiques and think we should be gracious and not quick to judge as believers as well! After all, the central point of our faith is that we can never be perfect and HE is

  3. Can we not do both? Can we not be upset about this persecution and the persecution overseas? Can we not fight for Phil Robertson and for unborn babies?
    Also, as far as I know, Phil is not throwing a fit, it's the rest of us. I would like to know what his reaction is to all this.

  4. This is a very thoughtful piece and I want to commend you for writing
    it. Will you consider my thoughts below that might spur more thought
    in the issue?

    You say, "The disciples and early church did not react with anger when
    freedom was torn away from them." In Acts 4, Peter and John were
    arrested and tried in a kangaroo court, yet there were no charges to
    bring. The Jewish Council rejected what the men were preaching, and
    after charging them to cease, the men proclaimed they would not be
    silenced regarding God's word. Instead they asserted their rights to
    speak over the authorities and did just that.

    Later in Acts, Paul asserted his right to be heard by Caesar after
    being arrested for what he spoke. Paul could have simply adopted this
    attitude of not speaking out and loving those around him, but he
    didn't. He appealed to his rights to be heard in his country, and to
    be heard by his government all the way to Caesar.

    Most convincingly, in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were jailed and beaten
    for their preaching. As citizens they, like us, had the right to
    speak. Once the officials found out Paul and Silas were Roman
    citizens, they told them they could go. Paul refused to go quietly and
    just continue to love. He CAUSED a scene, claiming he would not go
    unless the magistrates came down themselves to apologize and turn them
    out. Paul expected NOT to be persecuted for asserting his right as a
    citizen, like MLK who wouldn't just let it go and was content for the
    nation to laugh at him. Instead of a roadblock to acceptance, Paul
    viewed this assertion as conducive to his missionary and
    church-building work among a society as hostile as ours to

    We are not called to be passive, which is why we take the lead in
    feeding people and restoring their necessities when disaster strikes.
    Have you considered that upholding the dialogue in this country (and
    the world) about what constitutes hate speech, bigotry, and tolerance
    in order to keep an unbelieving mind open to considering the teaching
    of Christ might just have eternal value?

    No one I know of who is upset over this fiasco is upset over the
    danger of the reality show people not being famous, nor do they
    consider this of greater weight than world hunger, orphans, or
    homeless, nor do they believe Christians are above persecution. The
    next time you have a boyfriend break up with you or your husband (if
    married) get you upset in an argument, then evaluate whether your
    heart really cares about world hunger. That isn't a fair dagger to
    lodge into the heart of the people upset over the nations reaction to
    what Jesus says sin is, even it comes in crude, backwoods redneck
    lingo. Also, be careful asserting what God cares more or less about,
    lest you create a God in your own image.

    Sent from my iPhone

    1. Thank you for your perspective, as well as the fact that you backed up your opinions with Scripture. I agree with you on much of what you said! This will likely be my final comment on this article, as I would not want any of these discussions to become an argument, although that would be kind of ironic, wouldn't it? :)

      I agree with you that we are not called to be passive. What I was warning against in this article were foolish quarrels, explosive arguments, and reactions of uninformed and emotion-based anger, which I have seen quite a bit. Paul and the early church did not back down from sharing the Gospel, and I would be disappointed if the Robertsons did! However, the delivery of Phil's message was poor, and his remarks about race I do not stand behind at all. "Standing with Phil" as the trending twitter topic goes may not be the best way to stand up for truth.

      My comments about poverty were simply meant to serve as perspective. So many times during college I have become upset over things like grades, and when I overreact and sin in my anger, I want to be given perspective. Should I broadcast my in-the-moment, over-emotional, angry response about a breakup, for instance, publicly online? No, that would not be wise. Unfortunately, many responses to this fiasco that I have seen do not serve to further the Gospel. You are right that there are good and eternal ways to approach the intolerance and challenges Christians receive within the American media, but we need to expect to be hated by the world, as well as tread carefully and speak in wisdom and love as we stand up for the Gospel.

      My article was not meant to talk about whether or not we should stand up for Biblical truth and the Gospel, but rather a reminder of Biblically how we should respond.

      Again, thank you for your response! I appreciate your perspective.

  5. Frankly I found this to be a well written and well thought out article. I agree with it completely and have said the same since this fiasco began. I have even seen some ministers carrying on about this in a way I felt from day one was not a good representation of Christianity. Phil will survive to state his views over and over, the world will not be lost because Duck Dynasty changes or gets took off the air and meanwhile there are better ways for Christians to proclaim their faith than arguing pointless arguments with people on social media.

  6. Michele I respect your view. I do, however, believe this is an argument on social media (blogger), so I am not certain it is wise to cast stones at those on Facebook from here. Nonetheless, as the accounts in Acts show, and the current persecutions in Syria also demonstrate, Christians have regularly raised hell against governments who cause or allow their children to be murdered. So, though Emily clearly thought through her article, it still remains historically inaccurate and reaching, though still appreciated and well done where it is cogent.

  7. Emily, I'm blessed by your perspective here. I love sharing our lives with college students who are far more mature than I was when I was in college! Thank you for sharing.

  8. This was a good read with a lot of thoughtfulness behind it. I do however, wish you would consider that Phil Robertson is more than a 67 year old conservative from Louisiana with a history of speaking his mind. I wish you also to consider that that this Family agreed to participate in this reality show portraying as you say "a bunch of duck hunters that love Jesus" not to make money but to spread the gospel. They were using the television show as a means to an end. Standing with the Robertson's shouldn't be condemned. There is a lot more information on the Robertson's available on youtube that has no connection to the Duck Dynasty Reality Show/Franchise. One should also be careful not to ascertain that because Christians are taking this stand that they are neglecting other suffering in the world. The Robertson's could care less about the television series and they were speaking publicly long before it ever evolved. If he is going to be persecuted for his religious beliefs my family will stand with them. This was never about a television show. I understand and concur with your views on the hostile debates. We are all sinners. If you take nothing else from my comments I hope you will go to youtube and see the Robertson's for who they truly are.

  9. What makes you think I am not heartbroken over people starving and being persecuted for their faith? Is it incompatible to agree with a brother in the Lord AND to grieve AND pray for the world? For your information, I have two television sets; both are broken and have been for some time. I have never ever watched Duck Dynasty, nor do I have any interest in the show. Yes, it is about free speech and a double standard. We are supposed to be able to voice our opinion without fear of backlash from an employer. I do stand with Phil Robertson, not just in his right to have an opinion, but also in his opinion. Am I interested in his show? Nope.

    1. There are consequences for anything that you say. Just because you have freedom of speech does not mean that you should be saying certain things. And Phil did have freedom of speech. He was freely able to express his opinions. Afterwards there were consequences for what he said, but nobody stopped him from saying what he wanted to. Also the way in which Phil expressed his beliefs was basically asking for criticism and disapproval.

  10. The issue of A&E having the right to fire Phil isn't the question. A&E isn't a government entity, but would you argue a private citizen or corporation has the right to silence those they disagree with. Of course not. The question is should they fire him - because they disagree with him. Should media companies, of all people, be in the business of using coercive tactics to compel a particular mode of belief and expression? Does anyone believe if Phil would have said something particularly nasty about Republicans, other Christians, or any other class that isn't PC protected that this would be an issue? Sure they can fire him. Should they, is it the right thing to do?
    Now, to compare this type of intimidation to the actual persecution resulting in loss of life or property that many Christians face is silly. I haven't heard anyone say that this is the case. It is however, a form of persecution and intimidation. The lesser degree of infliction isn't the point. The standard in the public arena for gay marriage and homosexuality over the last thirty years has evolved. It started as a plea for tolerance, then acceptance, and now it is, you will agree or be silent...or face the consequences. Don't you think Christians should expect the same tolerance the rest of the world demands, or should we hang our heads and stare at our shoes when one of us messes up. Yes we give ourselves black eyes, but should we shoot our wounded too? So Phil didn't have the right to speak freely if it is conditional upon A&E's approval. There is now ample evidence that A&E had the opportunity to get out in front of this to minimize the damage, but didn't.
    For the Christian community; certainly there is much damage that has been done by hateful, unloving, people who claim to be Christ followers. But as Christ followers and Americans, the idea that if you disagree with any idea, that disagreement is a hateful act, should be rejected with respectful engagement. We continue to surrender our voice in the public arena that was founded so that we can publicly disagree. I keep reading "I don't like how he said it" or "he was asking for it". That's not the point. There have been public figures (Kirk Cameron) who have been as gentile as they could be in their opposition to gay marriage and they still lost jobs and endorsements. Bottom line, you can't disagree.
    As Christ followers we are to be salt and light. Don't hide the light, engage the culture respectfully lovingly, and truthfully. In a country that was founded to give us the opportunity to speak freely, we should never concede the public arena.