My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
I’m sure that you’ve heard by now about Phil Robertson’s indefinite hiatus from A&E’s hit show ‘Duck Dynasty’ and if your social media circle-of-friends is anything like mine your news feeds have been conquered by an endless parade of comments either deriding the Duck Dynasty patriarch or backing him “Spartacus” style.
I should start by saying that I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen of Duck Dynasty (my schedule makes most TV watching difficult), and for the most part I have a lot of respect for the way they’ve managed to be a scripted version of themselves and make it self evident that they hold certain values. With that said, whether tied to his personal beliefs or not, Mr. Robertson’s comments in GQ weren’t exactly tactful. But this post isn’t about him. It’s about the rest of us who call ourselves Christians and living on planet earth in a country with basic human rights.
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Aside from his colourful word selection Mr. Roberston, GLAAD and A&E each acted out the logical conclusions of their world view and this highlights a much deeper issue that goes far beyond the perceived ‘culture wars’. We’ve (all) lost sight of the difference between criticism and intolerance acting like an like wild ‘interest group’ animals backed into a corner. Fight! Flee!
It’s beginning to feel as though every public discourse involving Christians is akin to Miley or Bieber’s twitter feed, dismissing “haters” and acting as though using a deeply personal word is the same as being apathetic. We take every disagreement personally. Now, there’s a crass element to some of Phil’s interview that makes this issue a little more complicated but I do at least appreciate that one voice is noticeably silent so far in making a martyr out of Phil Robertson: Phil Robertson’s.
I don’t know him personally but I doubt Phil feels victimized here and as a man of his convictions he may well be comfortable with the consequences of his words. He’s a smart man: I’m guessing he knew exactly what the result would be. Either way, the outcome is kind of no surprise, and here’s why: the same ‘liberty’ that allows Phil to speak his mind allows GLAAD to make a stink about it. It goes both ways. Which highlights another problem: the irony of constant outrage.
If we Christians want to continue to believe what we do and practice our faith as we believe is right (as I do) we can’t then spend all our energy demanding that everybody agree with us or be outraged when they make ample use of their freedoms too. The freedom that allows us to hold to our beliefs and live by them is the very same freedom that allows others to believe otherwise and act on that. Opposing worldviews are bound to collide. If we’re outraged by this, it’s more than a little bit outrageous – it’s perfectly ironic. The real problem is that we Christians are bound to behave a certain way about it, and we don’t seem to be playing by our own rules.
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it.”
– Thomas Paine
So what do we do about it? Surely our faith has political implications but is it possible that we’ve allowed camps and categories to come before gospel truth? Because according to the gospels the answer is pretty simple – whatever your position in any argument, your responsibility as a Christian is to love the other person and treat them with respect as image bearers of God — just like Phil said himself. We’d all be better off. Jesus taught us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves and if for some reason you disagree with them or even feel tempted to hate them, well, He taught us to love our enemy too, and there’s nothing loving about constantly playing civil war.
If we want to live in anything like a Christian society we Christians ought to throw our energies into actually living like Christ (including on Facebook and Twitter, whatever that looks like) rather than exhausting ourselves (and everyone else) in an endless ‘us’ and ‘them’. I’m pretty sure Jesus was clear about what to do with stones, specks and logs. And if you really believe that a public figure receiving consequences (however right or wrong they are) means that you’re being persecuted, Jesus gave us some direction there too:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
– Matthew 5:44
We’re doing it wrong.