The Real Issue Behind the Duck Dynasty Flap and What Should Be Learned From It

11174The controversy surrounding the suspension of Phil Robertson by A&E over his comments opposing homosexuality has undoubtedly crowded the newsfeed of just about everyone’s choice of social media.  Sadly, it appears to have brought out the worst of some people on both sides of the controversy.

More than the issue of free speech or the merits of the show itself, the Duck Dynasty dust up signals the significant shift of the moral landscape and perception of biblical authority in this country.  The reality is that 20 years ago comments such as this would not have drawn the firestorm as we see today.  At the heart of this controversy is not Phil Robertson, A&E, or reality TV, but rather the growing intolerance of secularism against a particular Christian conviction: homosexuality.

The subsequent issue becomes how both sides are going to respond to each other over this issue.  The comments Robertson made in the GQ article were crude, but they were not inflammatory (read the article here).  Thus, the whole thing seems to have been blown out of proportion.  And to be fair, I have seen countless comments from conservative Christians that were inappropriate and completely unhelpful in contributing anything to the debate.

My query in all of this is why each side feels the need to silence the other with bullying tactics.  This is absolutely not the way to get someone who believes differently than you to change his or her mind.  The controversy also brings to the fore the completely erroneous mindset that to disagree with someone means you hate them or think them to be backward.  Both sides need to jettison this approach posthaste.  To this end, I came across two quotes that are especially helpful on this point.  Each quote comes from both sides of this controversy.

Here’s the first quote from Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Life Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention and a conservative evangelical:

“Let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.”  (Read Moore’s full article here)

Here’s the second quote from Brandon Ambrosino, a writer and professional dancer based in Baltimore and is gay:

“For the record, I’m undecided on whether or not I think Phil actually is homophobic, although I certainly think his statement was offensive… But I also think that if I were to spend a day calling ducks with Phil, I’d probably end up liking him- even in spite of his position on gay men. It’s quite possible to throw one’s political support behind traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted.  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 sizable 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.  G.K. 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.”  (Read Ambrosino’s full article in Time here)

The best way to convince the other side of your position is through thoughtful engagement, not bullying tactics with the aim of silencing the opposition through pedantic and inflammatory comments.  Christians need to be careful not to shun those with whom they disagree, but rather through our words and actions point people to Christ and the truth of His Word.  After all, is this not how Jesus did it?



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