Here in the United States, the end of the year "Great Controversy" has been the remarks of the head of a family featured on a popular American "reality show". Reality Show, what a concept! I mean, REALLY??! I've never seen one yet that had anything to do with reality.
The most popular show of this genre in the U.S. is called Duck Dynasty. It is run on a network known as A&E. Its about a family in Louisiana who is passionate about duck hunting and they make their living through a family owned business that makes high quality duck calls.
The present crisis du jour began when the patriarch of the family, Phil Robertson, was interviewed by a widely followed men's magazine here in the U.S. called GQ (Gentleman's Quarterly as it was formerly known). Mr. Robertson is a fundamentalist Christian and he voiced the opinion that homosexual behavior is sinful. He did not state in anyway that gay people should be persecuted, victimized or harmed in any way. The worst that could be said, in my opinion was that he might have been less graphic about sexual acts that homosexual men engage in, but he never advocated any mistreatment or abuse of homosexuals because of their sexual orientation.
His understanding of Christianity is quite literal. He publically endorses a literal interpretation of the Bible and it's proclamation of law. In my opinion, it is the interpretation of an immature Christian. Here is why I believe this: Jesus came to bring us the New Law and the covenant that he brought is a new covenant, much different from the one brought to us in the Old Testament. Mr. Robertson's comments give no indication to any appreciation of the history of the tribe of Israel and the cultural context in which Old Testament scripture was written. Some of what was written had to do with preserving and strengthening the tribe of Israel. Some of what was written had to do with health and hygiene in a time with little understanding of what caused disease. People of that time often thought of states of illness as being the result of sin and Devine retribution.
Some of my comments will address in a cursory manner some of the insights that Mr. Robertson does not seem to understand.
Jesus never made a comment about homosexuals that was recorded in the Bible. (Paul did). However we are told in the New Testament by Paul that eunuchs (the term used for transsexual people, among others who castrated themselves either voluntarily or involuntarily, had a place in Heaven.
In the Old Testament in the same book of law (Deuteronomy), besides a proscription against homosexual relationships and wearing the clothing of the other gender, one must not eat shellfish (Sorry Phil, there go your crawdads (crayfish)!! You must have a rail around your roof (Don't think I saw one on yours, Phil). One must not wear garments of two different fabrics combined among others that I don't think he follows, nor do I. I'm pretty certain that Phil enjoys a good pulled pork bar b que, as well do I. Strictly forbidden in the Old Testament.
Mr. Robertson's shortcoming, in my opinion is this literal interpretation of the Bible. There is no insight into why these scriptures were written. In those days, homosexual sex was frequently associated with sexually transmitted diseases. Today we have more hygienic conditions that allow us to prevent those diseases if people are responsible enough to take the precautions to do so.
The same was true of the proscriptions of certain kinds of foods. Pork carried trichinosis and can anybody really believe that eating shellfish in the middle of the desert after having no source of refrigeration to be anything but a prescription for disaster?
Why did you need to have a rail around your roof? Because it was common for visitors or itinerant people to have been offered a place to sleep on the roof of the house, particularly during the hot summers.
The proscription of wearing garments of the other gender had to do with the customs of worship of the tribes that worshipped Baal. In their fertility rites, priests and priestesses exchanged garments as a part of their religious services in the spring.
The tribe of Israel was small and surrounded by enemies. They did not want people of their tribe wandering over to become worshippers of Baal and they needed their members to have many children to build the numbers and the strength of the tribe of Israel. Gay couples were not going to be able to contribute to that effort. These legalisms have nothing to do with our world today.
Recently GLAAD labeled what Mr. Robertson said about homosexual behavior as hate speech and demanded that he be censored for his remarks. The network A&E made a predictable knee jerk response making a gesture of "suspending" Phil Robertson from the show while recording was on hiatus for the holidays. Then they chose to run a marathon of episodes that included him over the holidays and when filming begins again in January, he will continue to be featured on the show.
I find fault with GLAAD for trying to label what I consider free speech to be hate speech. If what he said was to be considered hate speech, I believe he would have had to advocated violence or advocated some form of violence or deprivation of individual civil rights because of someone's sexual orientation and in fact this was not the case.
One could make the argument that GLAAD engaged in hate speech against Phil Robertson if one wanted to use the same logic that GLAAD did in their attack on Mr. Robertson. In truth, I believe neither case to be true. Mr. Robertson has his opinion (I think he is wrong) and GLAAD has their opinion ( I think they are wrong, too).
If we continue in this climate, I think each side will continue to further alienate the other. Responding to people we don't agree with by inflammatory attacks will do nothing to improve acceptance between people who have differences. It would have been much more helpful for GLAAD to say that they disagreed with Mr. Robertson and lay out a factual argument based on their disagreement, rather than lay out an attack on him as a person. It is always better to win with a persuasive argument than by attacking your opponent. All GLAAD managed to do was to emotionally entrench Evangelical Christians in their beliefs due to an ill advised strategy to respond to Mr. Robertson's personal beliefs.
Now I have no illusions that Mr. Robertson would be accepting of me as a transsexual from his religious views. I'm sure that he would believe that I am living a sinful life for simply being who I am. That is no consequence to me for two reasons. I don't believe that Mr. Robertson means me any personal harm, wants to deprive me of my civil liberties or would in any other way wish to see anything bad happen to me. He espouses the doctrine of "hate the sin, but love the sinner".
Secondly, In my own Christian walk, I don't believe that I am sinning. He and I both believe that salvation rests between each person and God. It is not for someone else to judge. While I am sure Mr. Robertson thinks my life is sinful, I have not heard him presume to judge the status of my salvation.
A&E, however, is the real villain in this whole sad and sorry episode. They initially pandered to the militant gay community. Then they sold them out for the almighty dollar. They have no courage of their conviction. They only want to make money. I doubt they ever had any intention rather than to placate the militant gay community and ensure they didn't lose their #1 money making show. How sad is that? Rather pathetic, I think.