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Phil Robertson

December 21, 2013

Not that long ago if you had mentioned the name Phil Robertson to me you would have gotten a puzzled “Who?” in response.  I had heard of Duck Dynasty of course, you can’t be even marginally media-aware and not have done so.  I had seen his picture and those of other cast members from Duck Dynasty but had never bothered to either watch the show or distinguish between the cast members.  I knew too that the family said they were Christians but had not stopped to consider that much.

But now I know who he is.  Now I know which one is Phil Robertson.  That identification came first, not from the recent furor over his banishment from the A&E series, but rather from the fact that they introduced a Chia head of him, letting you “grow his beard.”  I briefly considered buying a few but couldn’t think of anyone I liked so little that I’d want to give them one.

As it turns out there was no massive internet outrage over his Chia head; although I suspect that there may well have been a massive internet eye roll.  The outrage came later, when A&E gave him the boot.  In his interview with GQ, and I have to confess that it amazes me that the pairing of GQ and Duck Dynasty in a sentence is something I had not anticipated, Robertson made some remarks about homosexuality that caused outrage.

This outrage led to his dismissal and that dismissal led in turn to yet another outrage in the opposite direction.  I feel a little sympathy for A&E as they had to choose between who they want to outrage.  Because he is a Christian most of the current outrage about his dismissal is coming from Christians.  While some, indeed quite a few, bloggers and commentators have chimed in the primary vehicle for this outrage to be expressed seems to be Twitter; which of course is an ideal vehicle to express cogent and thoughtful responses in 140 characters or less, probably in all caps.

The outrage has a familiar theme, that his religious liberty is being infringed upon.  No, it is not.  He has not been arrested or in any way come into conflict with the government.  He has freedom of speech and he exercised it.  (I do have to wonder how he failed to see that a “gotcha!” question might possibly come from GQ but that is another matter.)  He did however experience consequences in his exercising that freedom.  This is the huge blind spot every time Christians cry about freedom of speech and their religious liberty.  Let me put it simply: In our country you can say anything you want but you may experience consequences from saying it.

Remember the Dixie Chicks?  They were sailing high as queens of country music until they exercised their freedom of speech to criticize President Bush.  Outraged followed, radio stations banned their music, boycotts were organized.  If you think about it, it is funny to compare these two situations as the whole outrage scenarios were almost exactly reversed in terms of when folks got outraged.  People who were outraged about what the Dixie Chicks said were mostly OK with what Roberson said and people who were outraged at the consequences they faced was also reversed.

OK, so the consequences Robertson faced was being thrown off his TV series.  This should not be a shock. There are now calls to boycott A&E, also not shocking.  I think we can assume that A&E, and their parent companies Heart Media and Disney, knew very well that such calls were coming and they made the business decision to deal with them rather than the boycotts that would have come had they not banned him.  Whether this was a wise business decision remains to be seen.

So what do we do?  Well, we evangelicals are known for wanting painless and symbolic expressions of our outrage whenever our religious liberty is infringed upon, or rather we perceive that it is.  Remember “Eat a chicken sandwich for Jesus day.’?  Evangelicals descended en mass to defend the right of Dan Cathy to say whatever he wanted by heroically eating one of his chicken sandwiches.  What we need is an equally painless way to be outraged.  So, if you are prone to do that, here is a suggestion – why not buy one of Robertson’s Chia heads?  If you want, you can even mail it to A&E.  I am sure that being buried in Chia heads will show them they can’t mess with us.


From → Christianity

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