The comments on homosexuality by Duck Dynasty patriarch (and Osama Bin Laden doppleganger) Phil Robertson have caused quite a ripple. I came across it on yahoo.com and reddit a few days ago. The shitstorm brewing on Facebook and elsewhere seems a little late to me, but I am not always on top of news. This is hardly news, and frankly I would rather follow updates on Miley Cyrus’ shorts or Toronto Mayor Rob Ford’s crack-fueled adventures (can someone make this into a movie?)
What burns me up about the Robertson drama is near and dear to my annoyed heart. I believe, for reasons explained in my book, that the Bible is filled with socially repugnant ideas. Some of these ideas get tossed into larger conversations on shows like Piers Morgan or Jon Stewart. The jokes are predictable now. They go something like “yeah, the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin but it also says bacon-wrapped scallops are a sin.” Cue the big laughs. Har har. The Bible says a lot of silly outdated things in the Old Testament and millions if not hundreds of millions of people still revere the Bible and profess a faith in its terrible God.
There is a casual understanding that some things in the Old Testament are simply done away with. There are so many posts on Facebook right now with some humorous renditions of these sentiments but only scathing comments about Phil. The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has done some terrific things for the LGBT community but their response to Phil Robertson’s GQ comments about gays really left me disappointed and wanting more.
The response from GLAAD included not one but two phrases about how Christianity was being disgraced by crazy old Phil. Christianity is pro gay and always has been, was the implication I got. GLAAD is delusional about Christianity because the anti gay material in the Bible Phil quoted was from the New Testament–NOT THE OLD.
It makes me feel a little sick inside when the good guys, like GLAAD, shoot the messenger but fail to address that Christianity is the main opposition to gay rights in the world. Islam treats gays a tad worse in places where they are hanged or shot for being effeminate. Still, Christianity is rife with sentiments that are not only anti-gay but also disparage pre-marital sex (referred to as fornication) and even asks men and women to be abstinent if humanly possible. The Apostle Paul asks this early and often in his letters. Other letters written attributed to Peter ask us to “put to death the desires of the flesh.”
Hell, Paul was against women wearing jewelry for Christ’s sake. What would he think of Adam Lambert or Elton John? Think on that for a second.
I said earlier that Christianity floods the culture with repugnant ideas, but they come in two categories. One of these is the failure of interpretation. Perhaps there is some political issue boiling over in America and a Pat Robertson starts quoting verses about what America should do. This is an opportunity to either hit the nail on the head with some spot on Biblical commentary but because our cultures are so different–this could more likely be a disaster waiting to happen. It’s a chance to misinterpret God’s word because of the vast culture anachronisms and language evolution.
Now forget about that category and never invoke its lessons when discussing Kirk Cameron or any other celebrity who dishes on our naughty bits and how they fit. The other category, is fair game however. That category relates to Biblical precepts which are integral to Christian living. Christianity is about forgiveness and tolerance, yes, but you can’t have forgiveness without an offence to forgive. What’s to tolerate?
Since I am fairly straight at the moment, I asked my gay friend Christopher for his opinions on Christian tolerance. He was brilliant in his quick response. “I don’t speak for everyone here, but I know I don’t like the word tolerance, because the goal of any civil rights mission is to gain equality. I don’t want to be merely tolerated, like a nuisance. We tolerate things that we don’t like for a greater good. That is not what LGBT people are asking for.” While liberal, weak-tea Christians will make the right headlines for their pro-gay messages (which I applaud) they would be hard pressed to provide Biblical justification for those ideas. Jesus’ call to forgive and love people never negated the laws of God’s word. Jesus even said in Matthew 5 that the slightest, most trivial expectations of God’s word were not to be negated. As for the funny references to bacon wrapped scallops? Those laws for Jews during the Old Testament time and Jesus’ death ushered in a new covenant with mankind in which Jews and Gentiles would stand judged on the same grounds. Homosexuality was never one of these dietary rules or rituals. Women were told to stay in a separate camp during their menstrual periods during the Wilderness time (as read in Exodus.) This rule is not for today. Joel Osteen might want his scary wife and her scary eyebrows to stay away from him if she has PMS but he wouldn’t invoke Biblical authority to exile her from the house.
Homosexuality is called an abomination to God in numerous places, whereas murder is only called that in Proverbs, which is a book of, you know, not laws. The evils of homosexuality are explained in Romans chapter one, which is strictly New Testament ground. I am as pro LGBT as they, er, come. Don’t get the wrong idea, I don’t want the United States to toss gay people in jail but I do want a revival of intellectual honesty. I want the liberals of the GLAAD to see the light. The Bible is not the victim. The Bible is the problem. It isn’t being misused, it isn’t being manipulated. The liberals need to stop saving the Bible and putting words in its hateful mouth. The Bible can be used by liberal faith groups claiming to be Christians but when they edit the supposed “very words of God” out to make God more 21st Century and more politically correct, they risk damnation described in the book of Revelation. Editing the Bible is serious business.
Feelings about editing the Bible divide Christians who approach the Bible from a place of humble obedience to the “Vice President God” who wants to help God out. This Christian wants to work as as a PR consultant for God and help him out like a handler combing Paul McCartney’s hair before he goes on Ellen. The Christians defending Phil Robertson are not in that group, surprise! They believe that God is God and he knows better.
WHY ARE PEOPLE DEFENDING PHIL ON SOCIAL MEDIA?
We live in a world of fakes. Like Bruce Jenner smiling at Khloe kind of fake. And then some. Millions of fundie Christians who do read the Bible and defend its atrocities are not offended by Phil’s views on homosexuality, because Phil is the messenger. People who worship the Bible like an idol on their coffee table are not going to take offense when a celebrity quotes it in the godless GQ magazine. They see Phil as being a true Christian.
Everyone from Eminem to Michael Vick thank Christ for their gifts when the microphones are nearby. Phil Robertson looks like the real deal. Maybe he is a hateful, real deal.
IS PHIL HATEFUL?
We can’t know for sure. As a former fundie myself, I hated homosexuality but loved the homosexual. I lived a very compartmentalized life enabled by years of indoctrination and religious experience. It is possible to live with high levels of cognitive dissonance. It is possible for Phil to think he loves homosexuals and he might be convinced of that. He might get anal (pun intended) about the syntax of his interview and the word order. He might argue he didn’t even compare homosexuality to bestiality. What he actually wrote was a suggestion that homosexuality was like a domino falling. In the future, because of the popularity of LGBT rights, he believes sexually aberrant and abhorrent behaviors will gain traction.
THE BOTTOM (pun) LINE
Christians who believe the Bible is true and are not offended by its views on sex are naturally upset that “perverts” like Lady GaGa have a platform to be controversial and build trust with her fans while Phil is unable to do so. Christians will feel that A&E is biased towards liberal agenda activism and knee jerk discipline. These same Christians (not many, but some) feel like they love gays and would give them the shirt off their backs. They simply don’t want to condone sin. And homosexuality is a sin in the Bible. It’s inarguable, to any rational reading of the Bible. Forgiveness? Yes. But as an atheist humanist, I don’t think homosexuality is something that NEEDS to be forgiven.
The insincere love of modern, liberal Christians sounds a lot like, “I don’t have the right to judge gays because I am a sinner too. My sin is just as bad.” Ouch. It probably comes from a good place in their heart but a terrible place in the brain. It hasn’t been thought through.
So this Christmas, my wish is that GLAAD and Christians motivated by superficial gains in popularity will stop muddying the waters. Mark Twain, Voltaire, Christopher Hitchens and thousands more have pointed out that the Bible is a mess, so let’s stop crucifying Phil Robertson for a moment and remember that he is only the messenger. The message hasn’t changed. I refuse to live in a world where Piers Morgan kisses Rick Warren’s ass and wants to kick Phil Robertson’s. Phil Robertson risked this public shame by being a genuine follower of the Bible. Other Christian leaders and celebs like Tim Tebow should side with him or publicly state that their approach to the Bible is like a trip to the buffet salad bar.
It takes no courage to pile on the criticism of a shamed star. Phil is done. Stick a fork in him. It does take courage to stand by one. Robert Downey Jr. asked the world to forgive Mel Gibson. That took some big won tons. Again, I am asking for Tebow and the rest of the Christian darlings of the media to come out and admit they carry the same book to church on Sunday that informs the Robertson family values. Like the sharks on facebook, I am pretty passionate about this debacle. Unlike them, I am not being overly simplistic. If anyone thinks I am being too cut and dry on this, please feel free to write a comment as long as you please.
To me, it appears Phil Robertson doesn’t just pick and choose which precepts and integral teachings of his faith to follow. He may never recover the fame he had, but he has the respect of die hard Christians–and if only for his misguided loyalty–this hard core atheist. Fuck Duck Dynasty and A&E. I wouldn’t watch the show if it were hosted by a naked Megan Fox. The point is, your buddies on Facebook are wrong and the Bible is coming out of this shit show smelling like roses. That’s what makes me sad.
And here’s a final note to people who are in the LGBT community. Christianity and its influence has contributed to more hate towards your past, present and future than anything else. Much of this has stemmed from cultural influence and ignorance, but those things are like a fine layer of snow over ice-covered stairs. We can brush it away and there is still a very slippery hazard.
And remember, nothing makes a good stocking stuffer like a copy of Preacher Boy, that great book everyone is talking about.