Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ducking the issue

It's been a steady stream of Duck Dynasty talk for the past 24+ hours after one of the reality TV series' stars was placed on hiatus.

A&E has indefinitely suspended "Duck Dynasty" patriarch Phil Robertson after anti-gay comments he made in the January 2014 issue of GQ magazine.

Robertson, outspoken about his Christian faith, equated homosexuality with bestiality and called the lifestyle a sin.

"We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson's comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty'," A&E said in a statement on Wednesday.

"His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely."

 The excerpt of Robertson's interview that got some people in a twist was as follows:

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“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.”

And of course, the obligatory response from GLAAD.

“What’s clear is that such hateful anti-gay comments are unacceptable to fans, viewers, and networks alike,” said GLAAD spokesperson Wilson Cruz. “By taking quick action and removing Robertson from future filming, A&E has sent a strong message that discrimination is neither a Christian nor an American value."

Now GLAAD's response seemed to be based solely on the excerpt of Robertson's quote I cited above. However, many progressive publications seemed to ignore what he said just after that. (emphasis mine). 

As far as Phil is concerned, he was literally born again. Old Phil—the guy with the booze and the pills—died a long time ago, and New Phil sees no need to apologize for him: “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, you see what I’m saying?”

It may not be the most heart-warming way of conveying the gospel, but you get the general idea.

I've never understood this simplistic mentality that being opposed to one's behavior naturally translates to hating that person. You folks with kids probably understand this better than most. You've probably had a child talk back to you or disobey you. Did you condone that behavior? Of course not. But did you hate your child for it? Obviously that's an asinine question.

As I perused social media throughout the day Thursday, one thing that caught my eye was how so many of Robertson's supporters decried the decision by A&E, citing the First Amendment. While I disagreed with A&E's decision myself, the first amendment doesn't apply here. That refers to a government entity suppressing your right to speak freely (Robertson certainly isn't being detained by any government body for his comments). A&E is a private business and made a decision based on what they felt was best for their enterprise. Because one of their "employees" acted in a manner which the TV network felt was a detriment to public relations, A&E was well within their rights as a private business to choose the course of action they did (though it may well backfire).

On Thursday evening, the Robertson family issued an official statement on this controversy.

We want to thank all of you for your prayers and support. The family has spent much time in prayer since learning of A&E's decision. We want you to know that first and foremost we are a family rooted in our faith in God and our belief that the Bible is His word. While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible. Phil is a Godly man who follows what the Bible says are the greatest commandments: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Phil would never incite or encourage hate.We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty. Again, thank you for your continued support of our family.

In the end, the Robertson family will be fine. It's not lost on everybody that only Phil was placed on hiatus but not the entire show. My understanding is the show averages 14 million viewers per episode. To put that in context, one of the most popular TV shows in recent memory, AMC's Breaking Bad, had 10 million viewers for its much anticipated series finale. The bottom line is A&E isn't willing to completely sever ties with the series given that it is such a cash cow. But ultimately it may not be up to them, as Blaze TV founder Glenn Beck would be more than happy to make room for the Robertsons on his network if A&E gets any more skittish.

In the mean time, keep donning that breastplate of righteousness, Robertson family.


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