I won’t mince my words: Duck Dynasty‘s Phil Robertson is a bigot — a “forgiving” and “tolerant” one or not — and A&E is reprehensible for not taking his offenses more seriously and for kowtowing to its Phil-supporting viewership. I know this issue is months old at this point, but it seems to have washed out of the news cycle — and every day that Phil remains gainfully employed by A&E only adds to the injustice.
Then again, Phil would likely surmise that I’m only commenting now because I’ve been too busy with acts of terror, hostility, and murder.
Before continuing my “rage spiral,” I’ll back up and provide a little context.
In an article published in the January 2014 issue of GQ, Phil defined sin: “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men … Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers — they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right … We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus — whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later, you see what I’m saying?”
Drunks and terrorists — into such fine company he groups us! Then he comments on how “desirable” certain naughty bits are — on the basis of sheer speculation, mind you. “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 just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”
By doing so, Phil reduces the wide-reaching and complex span of sex and sexuality into a narrow-minded binary choice between anatomical parts. Then again, perhaps the dude is only with his wife because of her vagina and not because of any other aspects of her womanhood or personality.
Oh, and he also claimed that black people were “godly” and “happy” before the Civil Rights Movement. “No one was singing the blues.”
Soon after the GQ article, the Internet lit upon a video, purportedly from Berean Bible Church’s Wild Game Supper in 2010, in which Phil says, “Women with women, men with men — they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions. They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.”
A&E initially suspended Phil from the show, writing, “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely”
But after a deluge of petitions and criticisms, A&E reversed its decision about a week later, releasing this statement: “While Phil’s comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the ‘coarse language’ he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would ‘never incite or encourage hate.’”
The statement continues: “But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man’s views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family … a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance, and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A+E Networks also feel strongly about.”
Oh, no, you di’nt, girlfriend. How exactly are we misinterpreting Phil’s beliefs? And are we supposed to believe he’s forgiving and tolerant? I believe that he thinks he believes in forgiveness and tolerance. But what have we done that needs his forgiveness? And in what warped world does calling us murderous, heartless, and evil qualify as “tolerance”?
And speaking of which, “tolerance” is such a low bar to clear — it’s the bare minimum. “Tolerance” implies bearing with something unpleasant. I tolerate security checkpoints at airports. I tolerate cramped subway cars. I tolerate ads for ABC’s Resurrection. We could shoot for “co-existence,” which surely has the same meaning as “tolerance,” but at least it doesn’t imply that judgment or disapproval is happening.
Also, “tolerance” implies that we gays have a choice — that we’re choosing to be gay instead of simply choosing to be. It’s assuming a lifestyle and not an identity.
All of that said, I’m not blaming Phil’s entire family just for his actions. Unlike Phil, I don’t generalize. The rest of the fam seems nice enough — they’re probably hard-working people who deserve their success and happiness — and who hopefully don’t share the beliefs of the family patriarch.
Yes, Phil has the freedom of speech. But A&E has the freedom to take Phil off its payroll — to let him “speak freely” as a layperson and not as a celebrated and richly-compensated TV star. He has been and continues to be an ambassador for its brand. I’m no TV executive, but if I were, I would try to distance my network from such unabashed hatefulness.
There have been and will continue to be programs I enjoy on A&E. But I can’t imagine ever watching any of those shows now and not wishing they weren’t on another network — one that doesn’t pay millions to an outspoken bigot.
If the “Kingdom of God” is filled with people like Phil Robertson, I’m happy that he doesn’t think I’ll “inherit” it. I’d much rather roast in the warm embrace of Hell’s Kitchen.