Phil Robertson has been indefinitely suspended from a show centered on his family and his life’s work. Millions fume with anger and frustration – some because he suffers for orthodox Christianity and others because he believes orthodox Christianity. I imagine the only person not bothered by this is probably the centerpiece of this whole ordeal – Phil Robertson.
I want to give you three points about how you should respond to this as you both talk with friends and post virulent rants on Facebook. Then I want to give you two points about the broader issue of living as a Christian in our culture.
Responding to this Controversy:
- It is silly to take offense on behalf of someone who is not offended. Even though I have watched every episode and even a sermon by Phil, I don’t know him (neither do you). Therefore, my next statement is pure conjecture, but I would bet I am correct. Phil never expected to die as a cultural icon. I am betting he never cared to be one in the first place. He is a simple man who has lived long enough to know that fame comes and it goes, popularity is as brief as our attention span, and you can never keep everyone happy, happy, happy forever. As we hash out this controversy online, note that Phil is probably sitting in the woods with paint on his face, a gun in his lap, and a Bible passage on his mind. He is not disturbed. He might even be meditating on John 15; when we are rejected for His name’s sake, it is not we who are being rejected, but Christ who is rejected. Jesus bears not just the shame of our sin, but the shame of our rejection as well. Jesus took on Phil’s offense, and He doesn’t need your help to carry the load.
- You should not take up Phil’s offense, because some day soon it will be your offense. Phil’s anatomically graphic language in describing homosexuality did not offend the producers at A&E. GQ magazine is no stranger to male and female anatomy. The issue here is that Phil dared to use the holy roller “S” word in its biblical context referring to homosexuality. He called it sin. For that he is being despised and censored. It was not how he said it but what he said that upset everyone. We are dealing with a culture that wants to bully dissident voices into silence. I am reminded of Albert Mohler’s assessment following Louie Giglio’s removal from the Presidential Inauguration earlier this year because of a sermon preached 20 years ago: acceptance of homosexuality is modern day McCarthyism. One day you will be brought into the court of public opinion and asked to give an answer about homosexuality, and if you uphold orthodox Christianity you will be the new Phil Robertson.
- Being removed from celebrity status is pretty mild persecution. Hearing the outcry about Phil’s persecution made me think about a video making its rounds on facebook in which poverty stricken, third world citizens recite tweets with the hash tag “first world problems”. It puts into perspective the inconveniences we call problems in America. The same could be said of what Western Christians consider to be persecution. Imagine a young girl with an acid scars on her face complaining about the millionaire Christian with a multi-million dollar company, who was barred from appearing on a comedic reality television show with his likewise Christian, millionaire family. Imagine the Christian pastor on his knees before a camera complaining about being greeted with a cheerful “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” while a Muslim extremist prepares to decapitate him with a machete. Western Christian, you are called to suffer for the glory of Christ, and our suffering with Him brings comfort from him according to Paul’s experience (2 Corinthians 1:3-7). Even our suffering is glorifying.
Two thoughts about Christians in culture:
1. Be prepared for vehement and vitriolic rejection. I read an article by Carl Trueman over a year ago, and I have borne it in my mind since that time. Here is an excerpt:
“You really do kid only yourselves if you think you can be an orthodox Christian and be at the same time cool enough and hip enough to cut it in the wider world. Frankly, in a couple of years it will not matter how much urban ink you sport, how much fair trade coffee you drink, how many craft brews you can name, how much urban gibberish you spout, how many art house movies you can find that redeemer figure in, and how much money you divert from gospel preaching to social justice: maintaining biblical sexual ethics will be the equivalent in our culture of being a white supremacist.”
2. This fight is about the authority of the Bible. Do not be deceived. This is not about hurting someone’s feelings. This is not about tolerance. This is about whether the Bible has the authority to speak to what is and is not sin. God has spoken through his Word, and the truth is rejected in unrighteousness. Now, here is a very important point: nonbelievers, by definition, do not believe the authority of the Bible. The only way to win this argument is to pray for God to change the hearts of those with whom we argue. He is the one who gives life to the spiritually dead. Our arguments will never accomplish that miracle.
Keep the main thing the main thing (and believe it or not, religious liberty is not the main thing). Talk about this issue as you should talk about any issue; speak with winsome joy, pointing everyone to Christ, your redeemer.