Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

No ducking this controversy. It seems like everyone, including over a million Facebook users, is weighing in on A&E‘s decision to suspect Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson following perceived anti-gay comments made to GQ Magazine. Here’s a sampling. Then I’ll throw in my two cents.

A&E: “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…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.”

Richard Land, President of the Southern Evangelical Seminary: This confirms what I and others have said all along – this debate about homosexuality has never been about tolerance or ‘live and let live.’  It’s always been about the GLBT community wanting their lifestyles affirmed as healthy, normal, and moral, and ostracizing anyone who disagrees with them as the equivalent of supporters of the KKK. Now we have the gay thought and speech police attacking the star of a reality show for essentially paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6.  This is an assault on everyone with traditional religious beliefs whether they realize it yet or not. It is vital that everyone who holds traditional Christian beliefs about this subject, and everyone who believes in freedom of speech, and particularly religious speech, stands up and is counted.

Bill O’Reilly (via Mediaite): Mr. Robertson, I believe, made a mistake by the condemnation line. And here’s why. It’s not about the Bible, or believing or not believing in the Bible. It’s singling out a group, it could be anyone, and saying to that group, ‘Hey, you’re not worthy in the eyes of the lord… because of who you are. (Mr. O’Reilly also criticized the A&E suspension as an attempt to “marginalize a Christian who has a big platform.”)

Glenn Beck wants it known that if A&E loses the show, he wants it on his network: We’d like you at TheBlaze. We’re not ashamed, we won’t fold… Duck Dynasty, we would be proud to have you.

Richard Ambrosino, a well-regarded gay writer, has this interesting perspective: Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them? One of the biggest pop-culture icons of today just took center stage to “educate” us about sexuality. I see this as an opportunity to further the discussion, to challenge his limited understanding of human desire, to engage with him and his rather sizable audience — most of whom, by the way, probably share his views — and to rise above the endless sea of tweet-hate to help move our LGBT conversations to where they need to go. G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” If he is right — and he usually is — then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.

Meanwhile, the gay rights-advocacy group GLAAD seems taken aback by all this. Rich Ferraro, the organization’s vice president of communications, told The Wrap: In the five-and-a-half years I’ve worked at GLAAD, I’ve never received so many violently angry phone calls and social media posts attacking GLAAD for us speaking out against these comments…I don’t think this is about the first amendment…I feel it’s more about the America we live in today. That is one where Americans, gay and straight, are able to speak out when people in the public eye make anti-gay and racist remarks.

The Parents Television Council made this excellent point (reported by Deadline): No matter your feeling on Mr. Robertson’s comments and A&E subsequent decision to suspend him, there is no doubt that millions of fans of the show are upset with A&E’s decision on this case,” PTC said. “Now imagine if those consumers had the ability to make a free market-based economic decision to no longer subscribe to A&E today. In a free market, consumers can ‘vote with their wallets’ rather than have to resort to postings on social media to make their feelings known. Conversely, in a free market, those who agree with A&E’s decision could actively seek out more of their programming and pay for it.

IMHO: Count me in agreement with Bill O’Reilly, Richard Ambrosino and the PTC. Christians, I believe, would be wise to avoid the appearance of attempting to judge who’s going to hell. In my understanding of The Bible, judging people is one thing we definitely shouldn’t be about. Mercy, compassion and humility should be our calling cards. That said, I don’t think it was Mr. Robertson’s intention to judge any person — but simply enunciate his beliefs about sinful behavior (which also, BTW, included heterosexual promiscuity).

I really have to respect Mr. Ambrosino’s decision to sidestep the current cultural trap of “He who is most offended wins.” It is possible, as I believe even Mr. Robertson stated in the GQ article that started the brouhaha, for people to care about and love each other even if they vehemently disagree about fundamental issues. There are people who I believe care deeply about me who, nonetheless, think the Catholic Church is a haven for all sorts of twisted control freakiness and priestly perversions. They can think that.  It doesn’t make them “haters.” I understand they have their perspectives and I have mine. We can all be good people — and by listening to, and not condemning, those with whom we disagree maybe we can even become better people.

Basically, I don’t like bullying — whether they come from the right or the left, from believers or non-believers. I will say that the right and believers, in my view, tend to get called on it more than those on the other side of the spectrum — which tends, I think, to keep them a little more in check.  GLAAD has enjoyed its place atop the PC Pyramid for some time now and has, IMHO, unfortunately, become the type of bully it was organized to combat. They’re certainly free to call out anyone for what they say. But it seems like they’re too often out to get someone fired — and that’s just uncool.

Finally, I think the PTC makes an excellent point about how the controversy relates to the issue of cable bundling (a sort of consumer bullying by media giants). Let individuals in the marketplace decide issues of who really crosses the line in public discourse. But, to do that, you need an actual free market. The current system is anything but.

One more thing: A&E is partially owned by Disney which owns (the (struggling) ABC. If A&E execs really are so committed to their stand, maybe they can let ABC take it. It’s high-rated show would work great leading off Wednesday night. Imagine this lineup: 8:00 – Duck Dynasty, 8:30 – The Middle, 9:00 – Modern Family. The slogan for the night could be “There’s room for everyone.”

Anyway, I’ve received this press release from a group called Faith Driven Consumer: Petition Drive Calls for Phil Robertson’s Immediate Return to Duck Dynasty

Petitioners ask A&E to cease its discriminatory censorship of Mr. Robertson and to treat people of faith with equality, fairness, and true tolerance

(Raleigh, NC – December 19, 2013) — Faith Driven Consumer, an organization connecting Christian consumers with faith-compatible companies, has launched the  petition drive, which calls for The A&E Network to immediately reinstate Mr. Phil Robertson to its #1 hit show, Duck is garnering strong support from Faith Driven Consumers with its call for tolerance, fairness, and respect for differing viewpoints in America’s rainbow of diversity.

“Simply put, Phil Robertson is being censored and punished for quoting the Bible, and A&E’s treatment of him is punitive and highly discriminatory, ” said Chris Stone, founder of Faith Driven Consumer. “Everyday people will not stand for this, they know bullying and violation of religious freedom when they see it. A&E’s actions are censoring Faith Driven Consumers and eliminating them from an entertainment choice that they have overwhelmingly supported.” is leading the charge in the call for fairness and equality as we defend the fundamental American right to free speech and tradition of tolerance.”

The online petition drive cites the A&E network’s “intolerant, discriminatory, and punitive treatment” of the Duck Dynasty star, noting that “A&E’s position, which in your own words is ‘championing’ the gay and lesbian community…excludes the views of Faith Driven Consumers and effectively censors a legitimate viewpoint held by the majority of Americans.”  calls for respect for the millions of viewers of the show, and demands that the network immediately reinstate Mr. Robertson and “formally apologize to him, his family, and the millions of viewers who tune in every week, stand by him, and share his worldview.”

The complete petition can be seen here:

The 46 million strong Faith Driven Consumer market segment, which spends 1.75 trillion dollars annually, is rallying in support of Mr. Robertson and is closely watching the network’s response. In addition to breaking nearly every cable TV record and bringing in huge dollars for A&E, Duck Dynasty’s product tie-ins are projected to bring in more than $400 million dollars in revenue by the end of 2013. There are more than 75 licensing deals in effect and more than 1,200 Robertson-related products currently available in stores nationwide this Christmas shopping season.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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