Phil Robertson, the ZZ Top-like, overtly Christian clan leader of the phenomenally popular television series, Duck Dynasty, has been canned. Shot down for making statements about homosexuality in a GQ Magazine interview judged by A&E, the conglomerate that oversees the show, as "disappointing" and "not reflective of the series."
In the interview, Robertson does a fair off-the-cuff rendition of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that says "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God."
He also takes the liberty to graphically point out why men should be attracted to women rather than other men. It's lewd but to the point.
Hundreds of thousands of people across the Duck Nation are signing on-line petitions asking for his return. On the other side, the Human Rights Commission says that to suggest that same-sex attraction is anything but normal is "dangerous." A spokesperson for a prominent gay and lesbian activist organization said that the country is changing and that Robertson needs to "get in line."
OK, let's all grab a big, tall glass of sweet tea and breathe out for a moment.
It's hard to imagine that anyone at A&E was even slightly surprised by Robertson's statement regarding sexuality. We're talking about a Bible believing, Southern religious family that cooked up squirrels and never showed the slightest inclination toward political correctness. Network executives weren't holding out hope that Uncle Si or Willie were ever going to don rainbow camouflage in future episodes.
I'd also bet these executives don't expect most of the nearly 12 million viewers to be offended by Robertson's Biblical view of marriage either. Duck Dynasty viewer demographics probably tend to differ slightly than say, those watching Glee or Modern Family.
This incident was more or less like a mason jar of moonshine leaned up against a wood stove. It was just a matter of time before something exploded.
The real issue is not whether some of the statements that Robertson made were crude. They were.
As Al Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has noted, many Christians will be uncomfortable with how he spoke but "the fact remains that it is the moral judgment he asserted, not the manner of his assertion, that caused such an uproar."
Some are saying this is a First Amendment issue in that A&E let Robertson go because they don't support an individual's right to freedom of speech unless it is in line with the network's view of sexuality. That second part might be true but unless Robertson is thrown in jail, his freedom of speech is still intact. There are simply ramifications for it. A&E, in other words, had every right to let him go. That doesn't make it a good decision. Economically, they are risking enormous losses.
Bigger forces are at work here though. Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that "we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places."
Al Mohler has also rightly stated that "the issue of homosexuality is a 'first order' theological issue as it presents itself in the current cultural debate. Fundamental truths essential to the Christian faith are at stake in this confrontation."
The ultimate purpose of all of history is for the Church, known as the Bride, to be united with Jesus Christ. During this season of Christmas we call him Emmanuel - God with us. This is heady stuff that God's signature revolves around the very essence of marriage but like Robertson did in his clumsy but sincere way, we are to "Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks to give the reason for the hope that you have." As importantly, as the Apostle Peter finishes this scripture, we should do so with "gentleness and respect."
Jim Minnery is president of Alaska Family Action. He lives in Anchorage.