A&E, Duck Dynasty and Kingdom Perspective

The dust is settling in the latest skirmish in America’s culture war. In a surprise reversal, A&E has been successfully pressured to reinstate Phil Robertson to Duck Dynasty. The radical homosexual group GLADD was forced to retreat. An exciting victory has been won for religious freedom. No, wait–it was freedom of speech. Alright then, maybe it was just the right to make $200,000 per episode and get extra publicity when you are the target of a little persecution.

That’s not meant to be cynical. Many came to Robertson’s defense because they were fed up with the gag order on Christian expression that radical homosexual groups have imposed on any Christian who becomes too influential. Homosexual activists seem to want tolerance only for themselves, and only on their terms. It’s terribly indicting that they must silence their critics in order to win “tolerance.”

Christian political activists are excited about the Duck Dynasty triumph. A writer on one major website asserted that A&E has awakened a sleeping giant, that Christians will no longer allow the radical left to bully and silence one of our own. Maybe that’s the most important kind of battle to fight, and maybe not. I am not implying that Christians should roll over and play dead when secularists try to shut them up. We still live in a country that affords legal protections. When it was to the advantage of the Gospel, the apostle Paul did not hesitate to exercise his rights as a Roman citizen. We are in good company to invoke similar protections.

But in this instance, what should we be excited about? It appears that A&E made a purely business decision by reversing its suspension of Robertson from his show. There was certainly no evidence that A&E executives experienced a change of heart or mind. I appreciate Robertson’s boldness. But having read the entire GQ article, (which I don’t recommend), I found his comments to be, on balance, an embarrassment to the Gospel.

And even given GLADD’s previous successes, why was anyone shocked when A&E initially bowed to their demands to punish Robertson? Let’s not forget that he chose to channel his sometimes crude remarks through GQ, a magazine synonymous with metrosexuality. Mark Simpson, who coined that term, has described a metrosexual as “a young man with money to spend, living in or within easy reach of a metropolis — because that’s where all the best shops, clubs, gyms and hairdressers are. He might be officially gay, straight or bisexual, but this is utterly immaterial because he has clearly taken himself as his own love object and pleasure as his sexual preference.” So my point is, when you venture into the viper’s den and start poking, expect to be bitten.

Further, should we be looking to A&E  to support balanced and reasoned discourse on the weighty issues of our day? After all, “A&E” does stand for “arts & ENTERTAINMENT.” This is the same network that makes very large sums of money on programs designed to distract viewers from thinking seriously about anything.

Instead, this might be a good time for American Christians to re-evaluate our place in our culture. Is “culture war” really the way that we want to describe our relationship with the people among whom we are called to give and live the Gospel? Are petitions and boycotts the way Jesus’ kingdom advances? Have we been depending more on economic and political pressure, or on Divine power?

We don’t like to think about it, but there are abundant signs that the protected status that Christians have enjoyed for most of America’s history has ended. In the not-too-distant future, Christianity might well be a minority religion here, as it is in much of the world, where it is actually thriving. This reality could redirect our perspective in a truly productive way.  

Ask the Mormons. Mormonism has always had to struggle against a resistant and often hostile majority to gain a foothold in America. Mormonism is now confident, robust and growing. This is in contrast to American Christianity, which is defensive, flabby and declining.

Whatever Mormons are doing, the good news is that this is an opportune moment for us to rediscover our real citizenship and the real source of our power. Something matters more than our rights as American citizens. It is the kingdom to which we belong. It is no dynasty. It doesn’t depend on our culture for success. We are ambassadors, not combatants. We are given the ministry of reconciliation, not war. And ultimate victory is already assured.

Now that’s worth getting excited about!

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4 Responses to A&E, Duck Dynasty and Kingdom Perspective

  1. Owen says:

    Steve,

    On balance, I agree with you. I think the Robertson family themselves handled the situation well. They acknowledged that Phil’s comments were coarse, but they pointed out that the real issue was his freedom of religious expression (not just any expression, but religious expression). They did cite the constitution, but it was not in a context of threatened litigation. Rather, it was an appeal to the value of fairness that our society (and human society in general) is supposed to espouse.

    The core issue on a human level is one of identity: should we be identified by our sexual choices or values or by where we stand in relation to God? That is going to affect whether we base our choices on human opinion or God’s Word.

    There are two areas where I think I see a lack of understanding on the part of many Christians. One relates to the relative proportion of offenses. Some sins are greater than others, either in themselves or due to aggravating factors. The same is true of social blunders. While the kind of response is essentially the same in each case, the degree of censure, the attention devoted to the issue, and the attention given to the matter of reconciliation should be appropriate to the offense.

    The other area where I think there is a lack of understanding is in recognizing grace where it is to be found in the lives of others. We can find things to criticize in A&E, in Phil Robertson, and in most if not all of the people who have become involved in the controversy. But what about the grace that changes a man from a rebel to a Christian? What about the grace that enables someone to say, “I was wrong”? What about even the common grace that gives values to people that allow them to function in society and sometimes grasp something of spiritual matters? These are things we should look for, and they should inform our responses to people and their issues.

    I do think we ought to have an ongoing interest in the welfare of the persecuted church. There are always things we can do, and there are sometimes moments of crisis when an immediate and vigorous response is needed. The same is true, though, of matters like this that are closer to home. If I lived somewhere else, I might pay little attention to the Robertsons’ matter. Because I live in the United States, though, I think I have an obligation to respond to the moral and religious issues involved.

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  2. Friend,

    Excellent questions! I don’t see a problem with protests per se. But we should not be known by them. Yes, go ahead and let A&E and Cracker Barrel know that we are not happy. But let’s quickly move beyond that and emphasize a positive vision.

    In the short term, we could begin by having constructive kinds of conversations when these kinds of controversies arise. For example, instead of dwelling on how hypocritical homosexual activists are acting, or how unfair A&E was, we could comment on the Scriptural view: that homosexuality is sinful, as is anger, pride, avarice, etc. Explain that we, along with those who have same sex attraction, need not be defined by our sinful desires or actions, but by the new identity that Christ gives us when He cleanses us makes us new people. Scriptures such as II Corinthians 5:17-21 are intensely powerful to share. Peter Hubbard’s book Love into Light. is very helpful in guiding us to speaking winsomely on this topic. Link to my review under the “Book Reviews” tab.

    We could also make a lot more noise and give a lot more attention to standing with our brothers and sisters who experience real persecution in other countries. Check out World Watch Monitor for timely news on this topic. By doing this, and speaking up for them, we are reminding ourselves that we are part of Christ’s Body, that when one member of that Body suffers, we all suffer with her or him. We also witness to the world that Christ cares more about how we are caring for His Body than whether we will see Phil in the next episode of DD.

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  3. Friend says:

    Good points. What exactly (need specifics) do you think American Christians should have done/do in this situation? The only suggestions I’ve read seems to be either/or: protest A&E OR talk among ourselves about how crude Phil’s remarks were (they were; we don’t watch DD at all because of this). What would rediscovering “our real citizenship and the real source of our power” look like here?

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