Tag Archives: free speech

Rambling of the Day: Why Phil Robertson deserves his suspension from A&E

20 Dec

Phil Robertson

I really was going to stay away from this topic, as I don’t even watch or care about “Duck Dynasty,” but as usual, I have an opinion burning a hole in my brain so here goes.

Here’s one of the statements that’s gotten Phil Robertson, the no-nonsense, self-proclaimed Bible-thumping star of “Duck Dynasty,” into trouble with A&E:

“‘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.’” Phil Robertson, quoted by Drew Magary, GQ Magazine

Alright, alright, let’s all settle back down into our seats and take a deep breath. I’ve done the article about how Christians need to change their mindsets about gay people, and you can read that here if you’d like, so I’m not going to reiterate all that information here. I’m just going to look at this at first from A&E’s perspective as a for-profit business, and then from the viewpoint of a Christian looking at this situation from the outside (as I said, I’m not a fan of the show nor do I know anything about the stars beyond what I read in mainstream news).

The statement released by A&E Wednesday says, “His [Robertson’s] personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supports and champions of the LGBT community.”

Honestly… I don’t see why people are surprised or somehow offended by A&E’s decision. It’s their network, their image and their reputation that’s at stake if they continue to have an affiliation with someone who expresses “anti-gay” sentiments (whether Robertson’s statements are actually anti-gay or just the ranting of someone too ignorant or thoughtless to know better is left up to interpretation).

If A&E has a legitimate issue with the things said by Robertson, then they have every right to suspend him from the show on their network. Because of the show’s popularity, it’s not like this is some kind of profit-making move on their part. They’ll probably lose a good amount of viewers to outrage over the decision. However, it’s their choice to make as a network, and therefore there’s really no good reason to be incensed by their choice. (And really, if you think this guy’s career is over just because one network suspended him, get real. This show is hugely popular and someone else is bound to scoop him up.)

I’ve heard a lot of chatter about how this is all an infringement on freedom of expression, but I find that ridiculous. Robertson is free to make any kind of comments he wants, unless they directly affect national security or the welfare of society. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t real-world consequences for publicly expressing a controversial opinion when you are employed by a company that doesn’t want to be affiliated with that opinion.

So for example, I work for a magazine that is not affiliated with any particular religion or religious organization. They do their best to appeal to everyone regardless of their religious beliefs. So if for some reason I decided to go on a rant about how horrible Jewish people are, and for some reason I decided to do this very openly in a publication I knew my employers at the magazine were sure to read, it is very likely I would lose my job over it. Oh, and I would deserve it. Because it doesn’t matter if I hate Jewish people (I don’t, by the way. This is an example.). Just because I have that opinion doesn’t mean that expressing it publicly—especially in a purposely degrading and lewd manner—isn’t going to cost me my career. It would, and there’s nothing about that fact that infringes upon my freedom of speech. Just because you have the right to say something does not mean that you should. You have to have the discretion to know when you’re crossing a line that might interfere with your professional life.

Moving beyond the freedom of speech argument though—the comments Robertson made are not exactly the shining beacon of Christian love and principle that some people are insinuating they are. The problem is not necessarily that Robertson believes homosexuality is a sin (read that other blog post if you want to read my opinion on that), but it’s the way in which he addresses it that I take issue with.

First of all, Robertson is not a psychologist. He has no evidence whatsoever that homosexuality “morphs out” into things like beastiality and sleeping around with tons of people. And even if he were a psychologist, that evidence does not exist. Being gay doesn’t inherently make you a slut, just as being straight doesn’t inherently make you a devoted partner (I think the divorce rate in this country can attest to that flawed logic). It’s insulting, cruel and just purely ignorant to say this of people who Robertson claims, in later statements, to love and not judge.

Another statement Robertson makes in the GQ story is this:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Oh, okay, so homosexuality is not “logical.” I don’t suppose Robertson would see anything “illogical” about his heterosexual orientation. That’s right, he wouldn’t, because that’s something that’s ingrained within him, so strongly it may as well be DNA. He feels so strongly that heterosexual sex is the only way to go that it’s like second nature to him. Congratulations, Mr. Robertson, you’ve found the secret to human sexuality—it’s second nature, it’s a vital essence of who we are, it’s so much of our identity that we can’t be separated from it. So how do you think a gay person feels when you say that his instinct not to have heterosexual relationships is “illogical”? Probably like he’s somehow less than human than you are. This is why that old ridiculous “love the sinner, hate the sin” adage has just become an eye-roller to the gay community. They don’t want or need that pity-inducing sentiment. And the idea that Robertson can go from making that degrading and unfounded assumption and then go on to say “I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me” is totally hypocritical.

Now, I’m going to let up on Robertson for a minute here to say that I don’t know what’s in his heart. Maybe he just had a moment and didn’t think about the implications of what he was actually saying and how hurtful his words would be to the gay community. And perhaps he really isn’t a judgmental person (although it’s hard to believe considering what he said). But even if he’s actually a great Christian guy, making statements like these that come off as purposely demeaning to gays and in no way show the love of Jesus only does a disservice to the Christian community.

Christians get enough of a hard time that we don’t need people claiming ridiculous things in the name of our Creator that, very simply, Jesus would never have said. Disagree with me? Come on now. Quite frankly, Jesus was never sarcastic, degrading or cruel when he spoke to the broken people he chose as his followers, nor was he condescending to the hurting people who came to him for healing. He would never have said, “Hey, why do you like ass? Vagina is better.” No—Jesus stared in the face of Pharisees who tried to call him out for eating with “tax collectors and sinners,” telling them, “Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

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