The Gospel According to Phil

Phil RobertsonDuck Dynasty has become a hard-to-explain American phenomenon. Plus nothing. People who have never even shot a gun or hunted anything find themselves glued to the television to listen in on the raw antics of the Robertson family… 14 million of us. That’s right, I said us. Before we downgraded our cable package I was one of the faithful.

This post is in response to some recent “hot water” (I’m sure he doesn’t feel the heat) into which the patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, has stepped squarely. My main audience is composed of people who believe in Jesus… not all… but most. Like no other, this post is mainly for those of us who already believe. Perhaps to your sadness, I don’t really think there is a whole lot to talk about here. Did any of us really expect a backwoods, old school, child of the 60’s who throws his grandkid’s cell phone into the lake to have left-leaning views on homosexuality? Instead I would like to challenge our reaction to such events. Let’s do this.

Stop Expecting People Who Do Not Believe to Act Like Believers
Seriously. Why are we surprised when people who do not believe act in ways that are appropriate to their own system of belief? Do you really think that a network who, by its own admission, has been a strong supporter of the gay community would not take offense to Phil’s statement? This very simple principle has been the highest value as I have learned to have genuine friendships with people who do not subscribe to my beliefs. Please for their sake, for the sake of the gospel stop expecting people who do not believe to act like believers.

Start Educating Yourself
We have become such a soundbyte culture that we sit around waiting for the next news story to drop so that we can react to it on Facebook or Twitter or better yet, on someone’s site that we do not even know. This kind of reacting is detrimental to the cause of Christ and does not exemplify the spirit of Jesus. How many who have commented even took the time to read the initial lengthy interview? I’ll make it easy for you. You can click HERE to find it. I have said it before, but I’ll say it again here because it fits. It is my strong opinion that you should not even comment on something about which you have not first educated yourself. Responding secondarily via someone else’s opinion has a lessening and demeaning legal title… hearsay.

Stop Pretending You Know Phil Robertson
Unless you do, but I’m going to guess that would be an underwhelmingly small minority of us. You can only read about his story and his life. That gets you in the door, but not on the stage. You don’t know his family or him or what God has asked of him and/or them.

Start Practicing the Great Commandment
You know… the one that Phil paraphrased. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that the biggest way we can demonstrate our faith to those who do not share it is to love each other (those of us who do follow Jesus). We suck at this. Am I angry with some Christians right now? Yes, I am. More about that in a minute. But the answer is not for me to dig my heels in and win an argument. My command is to love. My desire is to mirror what I find in Philippians 2:5-8. I want to…

have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

You want to keep Christ in Christmas? It happens in moments like these.

Stop Being Mean-Spirited
There are moments when people that call themselves Christians embarrass me. And, for the record, it is not just people who may have a more conservative position than my own. It goes the other way too. In this particular conversation I have heard angry pro-gay Christians say horrible things about Phil and his family. There have been equally hideous words and sentiments coming from those to the right. Christianity is not an argument to be won. It is not a debate in which you are to be the victor. Christianity is a person and his name is Jesus. And his attitude is made clear as referenced in the text above and throughout the New Testament. Are there end-of-the-discussion realities that will in an ultimate sense separate us from those who do not yet believe? Absolutely. Does that fact give us the right to fly off the handle about ____________… whatever the issue? Absolutely not.

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16 thoughts on “The Gospel According to Phil

  1. Nice piece, Rob. I would add that I get frustrated when this comes down to a conclusion that it is an attack on free speech and Christianity.

    If my daughter were to espouse to a group of people her views on sin and eternal damnation when she knows that group contains those very specific sinners, we would be having a talk about sensitivity, following Jesus’ example, leading to Christ as opposed to bullying with the Buble, etc.

    I DO think we as a Nation overreact to some of these hot button issues, and given what Mr. Robertson could have said (and perhaps what I expected), I think his comments were pretty tame, but what did he expect would happen? When someone asks you what is considered sin, do you start off with gays and beastiality?

    1. Cindy, I totally agree. Despite the stereotypes believed by many, Phil is a very smart man. He was an English major. He understands words. It would seem (because we really don’t have the advantage of knowing context as the interview is an edited piece) that Phil is asked an open-ended question about defining sin and he heads straight (no pun intended) to a list of biggies. Personally I think it would have been more powerful had he started with a list of his own sins and continued on from there, but as I mentioned, I’m not him and I don’t have to answer for his approach.

  2. Thanks Rob,
    Although not explicitly Christian, the Four-Way Test is used in Rotary Clubs and elsewhere to help remind us all of right character. “Of the things we think, say, or do … 1) Is it the truth? 2) Is it fair to all concerned? 3) Will it be beneficial to all concerned? 4) Will it build goodwill and better friendships?” Would our conversation pass this test?

  3. Nice job Rob! I did read the entire article yesterday and have drawn my own conclusions. I hold the Bible to be the final authority as I have gathered that Mr. Robertson does. To me, the main issue that a lot of over-reacting Christians are not addressing is that the GQ writer most likely had a pre-existing slant and agenda. He conveniently wrote the parts of the interview that he wanted to portray and it was clear throughout the article that he was there, at least in a backhanded way, to make fun of their lifestyle. We do not know from the article the leading questions that were asked of Phil before he made these statements. Of course, knowing all of this, as you pointed out, requires educating yourself on the subject.

    Thanks also for pointing out that we don’t know this family and what has been asked of them. I have been thinking that they have been placed in a unique position to wield Christian influence in our culture. They had to know something big was coming at some point – they have been clashing with producers since the beginning about displaying their faith so openly. I believe more than anything, we need to be praying for this family to use their influence wisely and to impact the most people possible.

  4. Hey Man. Totally enjoyed our coffee the other day. Awesome food for thought in this post. You have challenged me to “rethink” a lot of things and this is one I have given much thought to. I have the added “advantage” of being able to see this through cultural eyes last year when we were in Costa Rica.

    America is a justice-oriented, outspoken culture. Our political system is very much structure this way. If we don’t like something we simply boycott, or protest, or put on a sandwich board to express our views or even on some levels our “rights”. The problem is as believers our expressions of free speech can sometimes get in the way with the opportunities to share Christ. I can hear some people already labeling me a compromiser and light on standing up for what is right. Not the case at all. To the best of my ability I try to not let my method obscure my message. By embracing my cultural American rights of free speech, I might hinder the message of Christ to an unbeliever. Unfortunately we have culturized “standing up for Jesus” to the point that you must have serious spiritual problems if you don’t outspokenly stand up for truth when you are presented with a situation.

    My primary occupation on this earth is being a child of the King. My free-speech rights and cultural correctness should all fall in line with the former. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a bit of righteous indignation in our hearts over issues like this. The problem comes in when we express it in a way that is detrimental to the gospel.

    Those with deeply embedded cultural mores will only see a quieted response as a weakness and a lost opportunity to speak truth. Those who see beyond culture will see that if my response affects my opportunity to share Christ then I have lost in the end! Thanks for an awesome post Rob. Always good to “rethink” issues like this instead of retreating to default programming.

  5. My problem is not with GQ, A&E, or Phil R.. My problem is with the desire to defend, pro-gay “christians”. Is that even possible? Phil has nothing to lose here. So he was bold (and crass). But we confuse the issue when we are ambiguous about what scripture plainly states. Truth in love is absolutely necessary, but it still has to be the truth.

  6. Rob, I came across your post via Facbook, and I’m so glad I did. I feel like you are in my head, speaking my thoughts. First of all, I detest when people speak out against things that they know nothing about. For example, people who defile our nations leaders when they are indeed politically ignorant. I will go on record to say that I am overall “politically ignorant”, meaning I am not up to date on current events and politics. Therefore, I don’t speak my mind. I don’t have an opinion because I am not educated enough to have one. Right, wrong, or indifferent, that’s how it is with me. I get tired of people “jumping on the bandwagon” and doing things like bashing our President when they simply don’t know about him… or the issues that they are complaining about. Moreover, whether Obama is wonderful or not so wonderful, we are called to give reference and respect to our leaders. Instead of complaining about them, making fun of them, and downright slandering them we ought to be PRAYING for them.

    Next, I agree with you about the fact that our greatest commandment is to LOVE I detest Pharisaical, hateful Christians because they give the rest of us a really, really bad name. The Bible says, “Let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God. Whoever does not does not know God, because God IS love.” -1 John 4:7-8.

    We simply will not win over our non-believing friends and loved ones by being hateful, hypocritical, and/or judgmental. LOVE.. that’s what it’s really all about.

    Thank you for this incredible piece my friend.

    Ava Elizabeth Wisdom 🙂

  7. Hi Rob:

    I agree with a lot of this, especially educating yourself before flying off the handle. As a scientist, many of the times I bite my tongue and pull my hair out comes from people who don’t get the facts from reliable sources. But that’s neither here nor there.

    One thing that I’m struggling with: some of the language used here implies that there are only extremes. HUGE asterisk: I could be reading this with a bias because so many of my friends have offended my viewpoint on this issue already. Here are some examples that I would like some clarification on (instead of assuming I know the intention and jumping into battle mode like some of our Christian friends are doing):

    * “Why are we surprised when people who do not believe act in ways that are appropriate to their own system of belief?” – For me, this kind of implied that the folks at A&E and the LGBT community are not believers. I do not agree that that is true in all cases.

    * “Jesus said that the biggest way we can demonstrate our faith to those who do not share it is to love each other (those of us who do follow Jesus).” – This seems to say that we’re only called to love other Christians as a way of showing the love of Christ to non-believers. I believe that we are called to love EVERYONE regardless of their beliefs or lifestyle. That unconditional love is what God has given us, and we should strive to extend to everyone we come in contact with. This acceptance and love is what can bring others into a relationship with Christ.

    * “There have been equally hideous words and sentiments coming from those to the right.” This seemed to imply that you can’t be pro-LGBT and a political conservative. Again, this could be coming from my bias – the lens I see the world through. Too many times, we try to say “you’re either here or there” on an issue or in other factors like politics, religion, and so much more. We live in a gray world. But we demand people to look at it in black and white.

    I just thought that instead of bottling it up this time, I’d give an opportunity for clarification. Thanks for writing this article. I think that it’s one of those topics where we can learn more about what it means to be Christian in today’s world. Merry Christmas!

    1. Kristie,

      I’m sure Rob will jump in once the Christmas rush is over, but I had some thoughts on your very good questions.

      First, I interpret the “true believer” premise as being from the perspective of someone like Phil who believes that a gay person will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If someone cannot or will not inherit the Kingdom of God, it logically follows that the person stating that belief cannot believe the person or persons they are talking about are “believers”.

      I interpreted “those of us who do follow Jesus” to mean that followers of Jesus are supposed to love everyone (not just other Christians). Perhaps the intent would have been clearer if the parenthetical phrase was placed after the word we, but the whole gist of the post would not make sense if interpreted to mean we only show our love to other Christians. Given that I know that Rob has probably forgotten more about scripture than I know, I’m sure that he also understands we are to love our enemies.

      As for your third asterisk, I believe most political Christian conservatives believe you cannot be a pro-gay Christian (I think one of the commenters even eluded to this); therefore, it stands to reason that they would also think that the term pro-gay conservative is an oxymoron. In any event, being a pro-gay (or gay rights) conservative hasn’t been very successful, politically speaking; though I know there are pro-gay conservatives.

      Just my two cents.

  8. Good job, Rob! I chant “You can’t expect Christian reactions from Non-Christian people” often. It’s a good reminder to me. I miss chatting with you about deep subjects and good books. A blessed Christmas to you all.

  9. I really just want to say one thing , don’t ask questions if you probably won’t like answers ..as for insulting Mr. Robertson, ifi were him when they want him back it would say no. Just my opinion, everybody’s got one,

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