I Support Phil Robertson—with One Reservation

David Stokes

12/23/2013 12:01:00 AM - David Stokes

At the risk of having at least some of what I am about to share misunderstood, I venture a few thoughts on the current Phil Robertson-Duck Dynasty -A&E story.

First, it strikes me that framing it primarily as a freedom of speech issue falls short of what is really happening. The censoring of Phil Robertson is more than an attack on any man’s right to speak his mind—it is a matter of religious discrimination. It is part of a broad-brush attempt by some to delegitimize opinions and values rooted in a traditional view of scripture—the historical-grammatical method of interpreting and applying what the Bible says.

Second, it is important for us to understand the difference between sinful behavior and criminal behavior. For a person to be drunk and then operate a motor vehicle would be a crime. For that same person to be drunk at home would just be bad behavior—not a crime. However, Bible-oriented Christians would certainly mark even solitary intoxication, with no potential for anyone else to get hurt, as sinful.

Many things can be categorized as sins that are not necessarily illegal. Conservative Christians believe premarital and extramarital heterosexual sex is sinful, but it’s not criminal behavior. Serious Christians believe it is a sin to neglect prayer and Bible reading, but would never want those activities to be mandated as the law of the land.

My point is that it is wrong to ask a person his personal religious views and then make the leap to suggest that holding certain views means he wants all sin to be outlawed. Christians may want to see basic moral values held and practiced as a healthy part of our social contract, but I doubt there are many who want to replace the Constitution with the Bible. That’s more of an Islamist-Sharia thing than a Christ-follower thing.

Third, there are numerous New Testament precepts that are related to God’s call for His people to live godly, even holy, lives. These directives are not really designed for the world at large, because they are only possible when the heart has been transformed by God’s love and power. It’s not a double standard, but it is a different one—a higher one. It would be wrong for Christians to try to impose those “insider” standards on the larger culture. And it wouldn’t work.

This is not to say that God’s absolute and righteous law has nothing to do with the world at large. In fact, history bears witness that the Judeo-Christian ethic informs the kind of morality needed for a free society to function.

Beyond that, Christians have a responsibility to proclaim the righteous standards of God to the world as part of the presentation of the Gospel. The idea is that people need to understand what sin is before they can grasp and appreciate grace. But the proclamation of the law of God by followers of Christ is not about trying to reform the world, it’s about holding up a standard designed to convince people of their need of a Savior.

Fourth, and finally, while I support Mr. Robertson’s right to say what he said, and I abhor the kind of politically correct blackballing we are currently witnessing, I do have a reservation.

Phil Robertson’s particular grouping of the sins he listed along with homosexuality in the GQ article was drawn from St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter six. That is clear and unambiguous. But there is another scripture he needs to review before he gets drawn in to such a public discussion again.

That one is found in St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, chapter five, verses eleven and twelve: “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret.” (New International Version)

In other words, there is no need to go into graphic detail. And I suspect that if Mr. Robertson had avoided a few of his more “colorful” characterizations, he could have made his larger point without some (though probably not all) of the subsequent polarization.