Phil Robertson didn't say what you heard he said...

I've started to wonder if I'm reading the same interview that everyone else is reading.

Duck Dynasty from Flickr via Wylio
© 2014 Mike Mozart, Flickr | CC-BY
In case you missed it, 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson has been suspended from his "reality show" (whatever that term even means) after the magazine GQ published an interview with him which has made the news because of some controversial comments about homosexuality and the pre-civil rights era.

You can tell that people haven't read the whole article. Some of Robertson's Christian fans would probably have a conniption over the profanity contained therein. Robertson doesn't cuss anymore. God rescued him from that. But sexually graphic language? That he does.

I'm confused by the responses to this situation. 

First of all, some are apparently saying that the network's suspension of Robertson is somehow a violation of his free speech. This confirms some of my own disturbing suspicions about how spoiled we are. The way some talk, you would think Robertson has been arrested, jailed and tortured. None of that happened. Why? Because he DOES have a right to say what he said, and he is still a free man who can work, vote, and drive to the store. This is actually a beautiful, perfect example of what free speech looks like. He is free to say what he wants, and A&E is free to stop paying him.

It's not a religious discrimination issue either, and one blogger aptly explained why: "Phil Robertson’s views are not necessarily what got him in trouble. It is how he said it that got him in trouble. If he would have just said that he felt homosexuality was incompatible with his beliefs, we would have all said, 'Well, duh!' and moved on..."

But I'm even more confused by those who have defended Robertson by saying that he was merely stating a simple, biblical, Christian principle on the issue of human relationships.

I don't want to repost the quote, but I guess should for the sake of clarity about what I'm addressing:

"It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man's anus. That's just me."

I'm having trouble finding the part about human relationships. Where in the quote does he address that subject? What Bible verse does he cite? He didn't address relationships, he addressed copulation. All he did was somewhat graphically describe a sexual act with his only source material being his own subjective aversion to the idea.

Come to think of it, I'm kind of turned off by the idea too. That's what makes me a heterosexual. It's not for Phil, and it's not for me either. Pastors and political figures alike have made news this past year by asking their largely Christian, heterosexual audiences to vividly imagine gay sex and thus spur their revulsion. They successfully reminded heterosexuals that we are heterosexuals.

Robertson didn't say anything about a Christian view of human relationships. At least, not in what the GQ writer chose to quote. He really didn't say anything about same-sex relationships either. He did what too many Christians do: he focused on the bedroom aspect. It's nothing new. He joined many others who seem unable to think of relationships outside the realm of sex. That's kind of revealing, if you ask me. Worse yet, he apparently sees some human relationships as morally comparable to bestiality.

broken dreams, broken heart, broken relationship, broken key from Flickr via Wylio
© 2010 Andreas Wieser, Flickr | CC-BY
I'm married. Am I physically attracted to my wife? Yes. Is that the only reason I married her and the thing that's keeping us together? Obviously not. From the day we met, she has made me a better person. We enjoy each other's company. We pick on each other. We struggle through life and raise our kids together. We worship together. We have memories, family pictures, and a network of family and friends that we share and love together.

That's what a relationship is. That's what a relationship is regardless of your sexual orientation. But Phil Robertson compared some of those relationships to bestiality and reduced them to the tiny box of his own sexual imagination. And for doing so, he is being heralded as a champion of Christian values.

All this in the same interview in which he told the reporter to "put in your article that the Robertson family really believes strongly that if the human race loved each other and they loved God, we would just be better off." Indeed. Which is what led blogger Jerod Clark to observe that Robertson missed a great opportunity.

In the meantime, if you can overlook foul language, you should read the whole GQ article. There are some other fascinating parts in it that I don't address here, such as Robertson implying that African-Americans were in fact not dissatisfied with their circumstances before the civil rights movement, or the reporter challenging him on why his own repentance and conversion did not include apologizing to people he had hurt.

I'm not out to get Robertson and his family. I've heard them say some funny things, and I've heard them say some admirable things. I'd be willing to bet Robertson is good to his family and is an honest businessman. I defend his right to speak, but he doesn't speak for me.

I'd prefer that we have robust, honest conversations about Christian relationships and what keeps them together. Robertson, despite what you've heard, did not address that topic. In the time it took him to do the interview for GQ, dozens of heterosexual marriages ended...and it's not because of what's going on the privacy of your gay neighbor's bedroom.

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