Making Sense of the Duck Dynasty Controversy

This past May, I sat in the National Day of Prayer prayer breakfast here in Monroe, Louisiana.  I, along with the group of pastors who sponsored the event, was delighted to have Phil Robertson, the Duck Commander, as our guest speaker.

The Robertson family is a much-loved and admired staple here in Monroe/West Monroe, Louisiana.  They have been here for years.  Our kids have grown up together.  The incredible success of Duck Dynasty has amazed and thrilled us all. 

While knowing the family, I had not heard Phil speak before that May morning.  I came away knowing two things:  1) Phil Robertson is for real – a straight shooter; he is hard-core in what he believes, and 2) a fire storm is coming.  That storm arrived this past Wednesday.
Two Issues – Two Questions
The entire world now knows about the GQ interview of Phil in their January 2014 issue.  It is not my purpose here to re-hash that article’s merits or demerits.  I will only say that Phil’s description of biblical truth was excellent.  He accurately portrayed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His method of delivering it, on the other hand, is a reflection of his own unique personality and style. 
We must separate two issues here:  1) the message, and 2) the method in which it was delivered.  The method Phil used is distinctively his.  I might have used different language and a different venue.  The message, however, was clearly biblical.  At issue are two questions: 1) Is it acceptable for a public individual to believe that homosexuality is sin?  2) Can an individual express his beliefs publicly without punishment or penalty?
A Tale of Two Franchises
Back in the summer of 2012, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, made statements in support of traditional marriage between a man and a woman.  The obvious context of his remarks was the national discussion toward same-sex marriage.  Mr. Cathy spoke only in support of man/woman marriage. 

As a result, the gay-fueled culture went into uproar.  That controversy was over not just the acceptance but approval of same-sex marriage.
Phil Robertson has carried things to a new level.  Dan Cathy never referenced sexuality or sin.  Phil did. 
Duck Dynasty is not about sexuality any more than Chick-fil-A is about marriage.  What is at issue is the freedom of leaders of these highly popular franchises to HOLD certain biblical views.  Whether making duck calls or selling chicken sandwiches, are the proprietors free to EXPRESS their biblical beliefs?
A Tale of Two Men
A&E network has indefinitely suspended Phil Robertson on the basis of his conservative views.  This comes only one week after Pope Francis I was named by Time magazine as its “Person of the Year.”  We have two events that are surprisingly similar but heading the exact opposite directions.

In July, while returning to the Vatican after a visit to Brazil, Pope Francis held an on-flight visit with reporters in which he said, “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.”  This has been morphed by the media into a new openness by the Catholic Church to homosexuality.  It is not.
Phil Robertson said almost identical words albeit with a redneck flavor, “We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell.  That’s the Almighty’s job.  We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists.  We let God sort ‘em out later.”  This has been morphed by the media to mean Phil hates gays and condemns them.  He does not.
Make no mistake.  Pope Francis remains a Defender of the Catholic Faith.  He is still very much a “son of the Church.”  That means he has in no way changed his views on women’s ordination, abortion, homosexuality, or marriage.  Most astute observers acknowledge this.  Time editor Nancy Gibbs says that Pope Francis has “not changed the words but he has changed the music.” In other words, he sounds softer than his predecessors, but still believes what the Church teaches about homosexuality.
By contrast, Phil Robertson doesn’t sound soft at all.  Perhaps that’s the big deal.  He is now being crucified as a villain while Pope Francis is being transformed into a superstar.  Phil said homosexual activity is sin.  Pope Francis says homosexual activity is sin.  So, why are these two being interpreted so differently?
The Twist is On
Behold the power of the media to twist and spin according to the winds of culture.  The quote by Pope Francis, “I am no one to judge” has taken on a life of its own.  In addition to Time magazine naming him “Person of the Year”, The Advocate, a major gay magazine, also chose him as its “Person of the Year.”  The twist-meisters are at work.
This is evidence of two things: 
1)      The liberal media will use every means possible to sway the masses.  Prepare yourselves for the spin!  In coming days, every bad thing Phil Robertson has ever said or done may be paraded before us.  Similarly, every hint of softness in Pope Francis will be magnified.  Every nuance of kindness will be exaggerated into approval.
2)      The issue is not two men.  The issue is you and me.  The reason there is such a fire storm over these public comments is because of their affect on the average man – the populace.  Another word for this is PUBLIC OPINION.  That frankly, is the very reason I am writing this blog.  Truth is real.  It is possible.  Sanity CAN prevail.
What Shall We Say?
I have elsewhere made a modest proposal for going forward.  I will restate it here in hopes that it can be a guide as we walk through the coming days.
1.      Scripture declares homosexual activity to be sin.  This is a matter of faithfulness to Scripture, not personal preference.  Phil simply quoted Scripture!
2.      Before God, no one sin, including sexual sin, is worse than another.  Homosexual sin is, in this sense, not worse than lying, swearing, or envying. 
3.      Homosexual sin can be forgiven just as any other sin.
4.      The Cross of Jesus provides sufficient power to transform sinful sexual attractions.
5.      It is always the duty of Christians to love and accept the sinner while ministering to the sin.
6.      Disagreement with one’s lifestyle does not constitute hatred of the person.
7.      Freedom of religion means that we are allowed to believe the Bible without having our faith classified as a ‘hate crime.”
8.      Acceptance of homosexuals should not be morphed into mandated approval of homosexuality.
9.      No religious belief may ever be used as basis for brutality.
The gay agenda historically has included three steps: 
The ultimate aim is not simply tolerance.  It is evangelistic in terms of promoting what it thinks should become the new norm of gender identity.
As Christians, we say NO.  But that does not mean that we are full of hate.  We are called to love all men.  That includes anyone who in any way is caught in sin.  We accept people as they are.  That does not mean that we approve of all that they have experienced.  God is a Redeemer.  He loves us as we are, but He never leaves us that way.  He changes us – transforms us – remakes us. 
I know that is the heart of Phil Robertson.  He may be crude and plain-spoken.  But, he at least has the right to be heard.  And, I believe God has raised him up to be a lightening rod in a huge battle over the eternal future of many.
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