Saturday, December 21, 2013

Why are we surprised? A reaction to the Duck Dynasty Controversy

It's been a few months since I've hit the blogging trail, so just when I started thinking I wanted to make my way back into the fray, Phil Robertson and his comments are plastered everywhere on the internet.  When I first saw it, I must admit I had no idea who this guy was or why he was important.  I quickly learned that he is one of the stars of one of the biggest shows of 2013 in "Duck Dynasty."

The reactions to the GQ interview have been all over the map, most of which are pretty typical.  (The best I've found is an article by Al Mohler, click here to see it).  Most folks bash him and label him as a bigot, homo-phobe, and closed-minded imbecile, the conservative Christian crowd rushes to his aid and says that he has the rights to freedom of speech, and then you have another group who basically preaches, "no one should preach their worldview."  (Which ironically is preaching their own worldview). 

My goal of this blog entry isn't to understand or to judge the character of Phil.  From reading some of the things he's said, he seems like he knows good theology, at least when it comes to sin, holding fast to the scriptures, and our need for Jesus as Lord and Savior from sin.  He also seems to hold his own sin in view, what I mean is that he doesn't make the error of elevating the sin of others (in this case, same sex activity) over his own sin.  He holds to the truth of Romans 3:10-11, which states,

"None is righteous, no, not one 
 no one understands; no one seeks for God,"

As well as the truths of John 14:6,

"Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

In short, he's getting the shaft to some degree.  Again, I don't watch the show, but from those I've talked to who are avid fans, Phil and his family tend to be pretty free with how they talk on the show.  How can A&E justify suspending a man for an opinionated, somewhat crude interview, when that's the type of thing they are making money off of?  Why are people outraged by this when this is the same type of persona that's portrayed on television?   And why is it when people speak out in support of homosexual lifestyles and Christians speak out against it, it's either disregarded or we're called bigots?  But when someone speaks out against homosexuality, it's ok to pile on them and their views?  On a big picture scale, there is a bit of a double-standard, and it's been that way for a while now.   

But, before all the Conservative Christians get excited about reading this, let me challenge our thinking for a minute.  Exactly why are we upset about the outrage?  More importantly, why are we surprised?  Did we forget that we live in a world which is hostile towards Christians?  That we live in a place where sin and death are still present, and that the devil is still prowling?  Did not Jesus say,

"Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."  (Matthew 10:16-22)

First off, look at the first verse of the passage.  Be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Phil, while he was faithful in preaching truth to a liberal, secular audience, spoke in a way that was unwise.  He didn't demonstrate wisdom and how to be winsome in the arena that is GQ and a secular readership.  Though he spoke words of truth, which is good, He didn't have great care with how he spoke.  

We shouldn't be surprised when people get upset because we misuse our words. That's not persecution, it's the fruit of foolishness.   Paul warns in multiple letters to put away crude joking and unwholesome talk.  Proverbs and James both have stern warning about the use of the tongue.  Regardless of how much I agree with Phil and his seemingly firm belief in the Gospel, he should have been more careful.  

Second, even if he did speak with perfect wisdom and winsomeness, why are we surprised by any of the repercussions and backlash?  Why do we expect that he'll (or we) get a fair shake, when Jesus, who IS perfect, got nothing but the most horrific, corrupted, back-stabbing trial and execution recorded in human history.   Those who genuinely follow Christ will be offensive to others.  We'll be persecuted.  And while it's ok for us to fight for the God-given rights we've been given in this country, it feels that far too often instead of looking and pressing into our perfect Savior, we look for sympathy from a country and world that has yet to yield it's hatred (or worse yet, apathy) of the real Jesus found in the bible.  

So how should we respond?

Remember that God is in Control:  Is God surprised that this is stirring up all sorts of controversy?  Is God surprised by the idea that gay marriage is the key hot topic of our generation?  No.  He's not surprised.  If we trust the scriptures to be true, we can even know that He has allowed this to happen.  It's still all part of His grand redemptive plan to rescue His people from sin and death through Christ.  The Gospel is far more powerful than this blip on the radar.  We should act out of that belief.  God can and will use this some way for the good of His Kingdom.

Take advantage of Opportunities to share the Gospel:  Instead of arguing about free speech, let's instead take opportunities to understand why people feel the way they do, and then share the Gospel.  Instead of fighting for our rights, let's be like Jesus and give up our right to be understood and be treated as equals for the sake of sharing our deep love for people that they would know their heavenly Father through Christ.  We can do this by asking good questions, gently exposing lies and sharing truth, and ultimately giving people access to Jesus.   If we really want the culture to shift, we need to make disciples, not political statements.  (Note: by no means am I saying we shouldn't graciously speak up when our rights are being violated.  But I think too often we spend time fighting to be comfortable rather than fighting for lost souls)

Understand the baggage between those who proclaim Christ and those who identify as gay:  One thing I think we need to remember as we engage with folks is to remember the history of the evangelical church.  I can understand the snap judgments people make against evangelicals, because there has been a level of oppression that has occurred from the church onto the homosexual community.  There were movements like "Pray the Gay away" and other non-biblical methods in how Christians handled this particular issue.  I think some of the results is what people now call "gay-friendly" churches, and there is a clear divide that one church is "right" (the one that accepts all people), vs. the one that is "wrong" (churches that hate gays).  I don't think that perception depicts what's actually true of the church, but we need to recognize that if we want to share our thoughts, we are the ones who must work through the baggage to share that the church was never intended to be this divide of acceptance and non-acceptance, but rather that all are called to belief in Jesus and repentance.  

Press into Christ, both privately and publicly:  Phil was right in what he said.  Same sex activity and lust is sinful.  So is heterosexual lust and adultery.  So is disobedience to parents, greed, murder, etc.  If you want more of a concrete list, look at Romans 1:18-32.   But, as you look closer at the passage, you'll notice the main point is not "hey, let's stop these things, that's not Christian or moral."  The main point is that all of these sin patterns are evidences that we do not honor God as God.  And we are ALL guilty of that.  So, press into Christ.  Be in the word and speak to your heavenly father as you both see the sin of others, and as you are confronted and grieved by your own sin.  Be willing to walk with others in the midst of their sin, pointing them to a God who loves them and proved it by dying on the cross for them.  Be willing to share your brokenness with others.  That's the beauty of the church:  it's a hospital for the weak, broken, sin-sick souls who know they can be healed by Christ, and help each other towards Him.  It's a group of people who know they're messed up but have confidence that Jesus is always stronger than their obscenely long list of mess-ups, shame, and brokenness.   And know, that if you aren't a Christian, you're welcome to partake of Jesus too.  But he'll radically change you, you won't be the same, and it will be for your eternal best. 

In His Grace,