By JAMES K. FITZPATRICK
I think it safe to assume that there is no need to recap the brouhaha that developed over the comments of Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson on homosexuality. Egads: The man got more coverage than Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber combined during the last weeks of 2013. Everyone knows how he was suspended from the show by the executives at the A&E Network, but then brought back after an avalanche of support for him fell upon the network and the program’s advertisers.
The statement that led to Robertson’s suspension was his paraphrasing of a passage from Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. 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.”
Robertson also made some coarse comments expressing his disbelief that there are men who would prefer to be intimate with other men than with women. The comments were vulgar. I would not reproduce them in this publication.
But the vulgarity is irrelevant. Robertson’s suspension was not because of vulgarity. A&E regularly features programs with dialogue far more coarse than anything Robertson said. He was suspended because he expressed his belief that homosexuality was a sin, along with the other sins listed by Paul in Corinthians. That is what aroused the ire of the homosexual activists; that is what the executives at A&E found inappropriate. He offended the gods of political correctness.
I do not pretend to be an expert on Duck Dynasty. But I have seen the show, more than once. I come across it as I switch channels from the evening talk shows to the Bruins and Rangers games. I frequently get “hooked.” I don’t know why, but the show is captivating. The wisecracks around the warehouse where the men work, their hunting and fishing escapades, the scenes at family picnics and social gatherings are, well, fun. The Robertsons may be playing a role for the cameras, but they don’t come across that way. They come across as good family folk with a love of God and country. One of the Robertson brothers — the one without a scraggly beard and long hair — is a full-time pastor at the Robertsons’ local church.
There were two things that first caught my attention when the fur began to fly over Robertson’s comments. The first was the flip-flop between the left and the right over censorship. The usual cast of secular left-wing characters who take to the barricades to attack censorship when the issue is sexually explicit movies and rap songs, were demanding that Duck Dynasty to be taken off the air because they found Robertson’s comments “offensive.” This from the folks who find nothing wrong with Bill Maher and Jon Stewart using the coarsest of language to describe Sarah Palin and Catholic priests on their talk shows.
But folks on the right were not consistent either. Conservative commentators, who can usually be heard calling for a vigorous enforcement of obscenity laws and the enforcement of traditional standards, were telling those who found Robertson’s words vulgar to “simply turn the channel.” There is a lesson to be learned here. Arguments about process are usually bogus. People want what they want; they come up with the political principles to achieve that end after the fact.
The other lesson was about where things stand in the culture wars. Phil Robertson made it clear that the secular left has not yet carried the day. He showed us that the homosexual activists and the politically correct Hollywood crowd can be beaten back if we stand our ground. He did not offer the usual apologies and mealy-mouthed protests about how he was “taken out of context.” He and his family threatened to walk, to cut their ties with A&E and leave the network without the millions of dollars their show generates if Phil was removed from the cast. A&E caved. So will many of the other politically correct forces in society who organize against us if we, too, stand up for our beliefs.
But then a third thing popped up on the radar screen, something even more significant than the above two, in my opinion. David Masciotra, a columnist for The Indianapolis Star, spilled the beans. He made explicit what many of us suspect is the endgame for the secular left. He stated openly what the politically correct liberals usually disguise in code language. In a column on the web site Splice Today (splicetoday.com/politics-and-media/duck-dynasty-christians-gays-and-the-bible) on January 1, he stated flatly that “if Phil Robertson is homophobic, it is only because the book that he, along with millions of Christians, believe is ‘holy’ and ‘divinely inspired’ is also homophobic.”
We all have heard homosexual activists insist that they are not “anti-Christian,” that their goal is only tolerance and a live-and-let-live, nonjudgmental society. Masciotra pulled back the veil. He told us that Phil Robertson is not some “knuckle dragger,” but a “truthful and accurate representative of Christianity’s position on homosexuality,” and that society must find some way to greatly diminish the influence of the “recitation of medieval superstition and bigotry” known as the Bible.
Masciotra chides liberal Christians who “try to have their wafer and eat it too,” by treating the Bible as the word of God, “except for the parts that conflict with their politics.” He calls upon liberal Christians to admit that their “religion survives, socially and politically, only because secular forces and values succeed in civilizing it.” For Masciotra, it is not fundamentalists and rednecks who are the problem, but the Christianity itself. The “scriptures say what they say, and like Robertson, they say it without confusion or apology.” It “is impossible to reject Robertson without rejecting the Bible.” A good society will be achieved in Masciotra’s view only when those “who believe that the Bible is the ‘word of the Lord’ — infallible and inalterable” lose power to “those who see it for what it is, a collection of mythology, genealogical history, poetry, and philosophy, that, despite occasional flashes and phrases of brilliance, reflects the ignorance of the men who wrote it, and the age of its publication.”
Masciotra longs for the day when “the fight for freedom for gays” becomes “another chapter in the same story” through which “women and Jews gained fully human status in Western culture,” as “secular society” moved forward and left “Christianity limping behind” and trying “to catch up.”
If that is not an attack on religion, I don’t know what is. The culture wars are real.
Keep in mind that it is not just fundamentalist Protestants and biblical literalists that Masciotra and those who think as he does hope to drive to the periphery of society. They see Catholics, from the Pope to the folks in the pew, as different in degree, not in kind, from “knuckle draggers” such as the Robertsons.
That is what his line about those who want “to have their wafer and eat it too” was all about.