Unaccustomed as I am to writing about current events as they unfold, I can only suggest a few takeaway lessons from the l’affaire Robertson, as he might put it. As I have been able to reconstruct the events, A&E put Phil Robertson on hiatus from the reality show Duck Dynasty for making disparaging comments about homosexuality in GQ magazine. The memorable words of T.S. Eliot in the Four Quartets come to mind — “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” This goes particularly for toney producers of reality shows, who are unaccustomed to having one of the swamp people emerge from the fens to inform them, denizens of a sophisticated and urbane cosmopolis as they are, that the human body was given just one sex organ and the poochute is not it. They got a little too much actual reality from one of their reality stars and so they went all Eliot on him.
Three lessons then. That should be sufficient, at least for the time being.
1. If we want to act like we understand what it means to live in a free country, and if A&E is privately owned and operated, then we have to cheerfully acknowledge that they have every right to refuse to broadcast people they don’t want to broadcast. Not only so, but the flip side of this is that conservative Christians who dislike what they are doing to Robertson have every right to stop watching their stupid shows. If we don’t want a privately owned Hobby Lobby to be forced to act contrary to their conscience, we shouldn’t force A&E to act contrary to what’s left of theirs.
2. Social discipline is inescapable. This is another one of those not whether but which situations. It is not whether there will be enforcement of social norms, but rather which social norms will be enforced. In this case, A&E is defending the tenets of a worldview that wants to posture as though they are champions of diversity while simultaneously cracking down on the first appearance of it on their network. This illustrates, as few other things could, the inescapability of worldview enforcement. Somebody is always going to tell somebody else “no.” As Lenin once put it, in his clear-headed way, “Who? Whom?” We should not fault A&E for defending the doctrinal purity of their denominational network. What we should fault them for is not understanding that this is what they are in fact doing. But, returning to point 1, they do have the constitutional right to remain as muddled as ever.
3. I thank the Lord for the clear-headed and straightforward way Phil Robertson quoted a Bible he was not ashamed of. In this, he puts a lot of Reformed theothinkers with large foreheads into the shade. One redneck out in public just went and said it. He didn’t refer it to a study commission. He didn’t circumlocute the heck of it. He didn’t get well-known authors to blurb the comments he was about to make (for many of them, had they been asked, would have declined to do so). He didn’t check in with the feelings of Rachel Held Evans beforehand. He just went and said it.
Solid. I do wish, however, that someone over there would recognize the inconsistency in the fact that A&E can refuse to do business with someone based on their sexual views, but a baker and photographer cannot. And it’s not because they’re bakers and photographers. But that is very wishful thinking.
Well, we can put Mark Driscoll on the show but he would only confuse matters. Seems neither he nor his wife know what the chute is for either.
Robertson did indeed touch the third rail by talking body parts. Now he must face the media death penalty (the one where the convicted person is not allowed to eat, walk or make a living unmolested ever again, and where his crime will be raised one last time for all to shrink back on horror from on the day of his death).
One of these days, I am expecting a major league sports league to do this sort of discipline and the athlete files a criminal complaint against the league, someone with a backbone. That will be interesting.
The beauty of this? I haven’t read every jot on the blogosphere, but I’m guessing that Phil probably doesn’t give a rip what A&E thinks or that he’s “on hiatus.” He’s probably laughing.
Never fear, Ms. Evans is never at a loss for words and weighed in with a screechy tirade on Facebook invoking the usual “racist” and “homophobic” language. She is nothing if not predictable.
Sigh… Doug, just when I had forgotten about RHE… Thanks a lot.
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Arthur Sido = tribalist!
Wait! Hold on people! I am not done being outraged by the Mark Driscoll controversy! Please let me catch my breath.
Ok, seriously, Doug good points and well-balanced comments! Thanks!
Great points. I was hoping you’d chime in with some clearheadedness. How do you feel about how Christians are criticizing him for using coarse language? I thought you’d say something about the medium he was communicating. You know, he’s being interviewed by GQ not the Baptist Press. He shouldn’t talk that way in Sunday School, but it’s appropriate in an adult men’s magazine. Thanks for reminding us that we’re glad that A&E has the right to air whatever shows they want as much as we’re glad that Christians radio stations don’t have to play explicit songs.
” I do wish, however, that someone over there would recognize the inconsistency in the fact that A&E can refuse to do business with someone based on their sexual views, but a baker and photographer cannot. ”
Kyle B. FTW.
The times have drastically changed. Christianity has become dis-established. While we’ve always had separation of church and state, Christianity existed as something of a cultural glue. Its basic assumptions were felt throughout society and many people paid lip-service to its morality. That is no longer the case and we are having a hard time getting used to it.
Kyle, I tweeted your question. Great way to put it.
I do not understand the “coarse” accusation. How is using the anatomically correct language coarse? I think that what repels some people is the straightforward and direct speech that very plainly places hot white light right onto the issue.
In all the praise of Robertson, I suggest we keep a small but important fact in our minds. This is a man who believes in baptismal regeneration and comes from a Campbellite denomination that historically believes they are THE church of Christ, and that anyone who does not have the same understanding of baptism is not saved, likely including the overwhelming majority of people who praise their Christianity. I’m glad somebody said some biblical truths with simplicity, but I still am not ready to put my man-centered hero worship hat on and point it towards the Robertsons. And I want to be vary wary about giving… Read more »
The wedding baker/photographer issue raises another point. If I were to want to write a book of theology spelling out depravity, and the gracious call of the gospel, and going on at length of our current sexual mess in all its frank details and implications…..well I would need a ghost writer. … Read more »
Great stuff! I think you meant to put an “out” after “heck”: “He didn’t circumlocute the heck of it.”
LOVE the TS Eliot quote…
</b>Do you have any follow up thoughts on <a href=”http://dougwilson.wpengine.com/s8-expository/what-nature-teaches.html”>What Nature Teaches</a> and the godly Mr. Robertson?
Right on, RFB. If that is illicitly “coarse” language then there is simply no way to speak frankly about some matters, since Robertson’s choice of words and the sense of his comments was not coarse in the sense of lewd or degrading (beyond the fact that such things are degrading in themselves.) He was not inviting us to chuckle pruriently at what he was describing; he was describing it quite clinically. While “tidied” up speech is probably the best way to speak about such matters most of the time, I simply don’t believe it’s the case that it is never… Read more »
Larry, when your family is being attacked by savages do you really want to criticize the horses the Calvary rides in on?
It seems more like critiquing the gnats flying around the horses the Calvary rides in on.
And I go to a church in the tradition of the Restoration and Cambellite…and you’d be hard pressed to find someone who truly believes in what the Reformed call baptismal regeneration.
“A&E can refuse to do business with someone based on their sexual views, but a baker and photographer cannot.” My heart’s right there with you. ANYbody should be able to refuse anybody ELSE’S business … and even be free to say why, if they are so inclined … without risking punishment. But your comparisons are not analogous. A&E are Robertson’s employers. The bakers and photogs are the employees. (I’m sure there’s some kind of logical fallacy occurring there …) So I guess it would be more like a straight couple firing the baker of their wedding cake because they find… Read more »
Re. baptismal regeneration and Campbellitism, I suggest you read A.B. Caneday’s chapter in ‘Believer’s Baptism’ ed. Schreiner and Wright. If you are interested I posted a comment relating to this over at Baylyblog:
Why is the baker faced with a moral dilemma? Everyone has to eat. Eat anything sold in the meatmarket, said St. Paul. Let’s apply that to cooking, shall we? I don’t think he has to worry about who’s going to eat this wedding cake. They are not asking him to attend the celebration.
The difference between A&E and the baker, is that A&E doesn’t offer a reality show to anyone who walks in off the street and wants one, unlike the baker, who normally sells baked goods to anyone who walks in off the street and wants them. Offering services to the public is not quite the same thing as selecting who is going to get one of a very few highly competitive and highly coveted television slots. And, there are enough Christians who watch A&E that I suspect a gay performer who made similarly vicious comments about Christians would at least be… Read more »
Eric the Red, what is so insulting about what Phil Robertson said? Moreover, since most of the media is liberal, Christians and conservatives are mocked infinitely more than gays, so let’s be real here. Gosh, the new man in the White House staff, John Podesta, has already equated the GOP with the cult of Jim Jones. This is standard fare on the Left – not to mention the vile things that have been said about Sarah Palin. But according to the Left, of which 90 percent of the media agrees with them, Sarah Palin “deserves” it. But God forbid someone state a… Read more »
Baking a wedding cake is more than “selling a baked good.” There is no existing “baked good” being sold — rather there is the service of making the baked good to certain specifications. The situation is far more analogous to being forced to take a job working for someone in particular simply because you send out resumes indicating that you are interested in certain kinds of jobs. And I’m sure they don’t sell just anything to just anyone who walks in off the street and wants something in particular. They don’t sell, for example, to someone who desires them to… Read more »
Jon, they’re not “worried” about who’s going to eat the cake, they’re “worried” about making that kind of cake. Should they “worry” if someone comes in and wants them to decorate a cake with blasphemous words? If so, there is a line to be drawn somewhere in what involvement in God-mocking celebration they may have, and just because you would not draw the line here does not mean they do not have a legitimate issue of conscience. The meat sacrificed to idols thing does not extend in reverse the way you want it to, because the whole idea there is… Read more »
Dan, I find it interesting that in all of the examples you give, none of them involve the ridicule of Christians as Christians. Sarah Palin is mocked because she, personally, is perceived as an idiot, and the only mocking of her that I’ve heard involves her political views; I don’t remember her ever being mocked for being a Christian. The GOP is compared to Jim Jones, but again, it’s because of their political views, not their religious ones (if indeed the GOP even has religious views). On the other hand, my major network of choice is ABC, whose Dan Harris… Read more »
Jane, fine, they offer the service of creating a baked good that doesn’t already exist to the specifications of pretty much anyone who walks in off the street and wants it. Whether you categorize it as selling baked goods or selling services, the point is that whatever they’re selling, they’re selling to the public, unlike A&E which has only a few competitive slots to fill. And whatever it is they’re selling to the public, including the service of creating something that doesn’t already exist, they can’t refuse to sell it to minorities. By the way, it would be just as… Read more »
Eric, We Christians refuse to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar. Our ruler is God, not the state and not other men. You are witnessing the flocking of God’s people to their own kind in defiance of the spirit of the age–your spirit, actually. Your reasoning will not work and cannot work. Our God who made Reason speaks from premises that are foolishness you. So, instead of trying to tell us what we must do, you may want to try understanding why we do as we do. Pastor Wilson is quite good at that sort of stuff. It’s… Read more »
I will figure out the formatting one of these days. (:
Eric, the point is they’re being hired to do a job for someone, not merely hand them something that’s already produced. Do you really think that offering yourself out for hire requires working for anyone who demands it? Isn’t there a 13th amendment about that?
Timothy, I’d be far more persuaded by your argument if Christians weren’t so willing to accept all the benefits from Caesar that they do. If a Christian bakery, or a church, gets burglarized or catches fire, you call Caesar’s police or fire department (and in the case of the church, it doesn’t even pay taxes to support Caesar’s police and fire departments). You use Caesar’s infrastructure — highways, bridges, the postal service. Your children get guaranteed student loans from Caesar to get an education, and that bakery may very well have gotten its start with the help of an SBA… Read more »
Jane, they are free to refuse to work for anyone, and they are free to refuse to hire anyone, so long as their reason for doing so isn’t based on prejudice against minorities. I have an opening right now for a secretary. I’m not required to fill it; I can leave the position vacant forever if I want. And if I don’t think any of the applicants I get would be a good match, I’m not required to hire any of them. But what I am legally forbidden to do is to treat minorities differently than I treat non-minorities. Whatever… Read more »
The commenting system must of chopped off the “Hail Caesar” at the end of your reply to me.
Timothy, I think “hail, Caesar” was what Brutus used to say whenever Caesar would ask him what the weather was like outside. (The Blessed Virgin got a similar response from Joseph when she asked him what the weather was like outside.) The bottom line, though, is that Caesar comes as a package deal. You don’t get to pick and choose those parts of Caesar that you like, and ignore those you don’t. And if you’re going to take benefits from Caesar, you can’t then be heard to complain when Caesar passes a law you find objectionable. I’m an atheist, which… Read more »
Jane, I see your point. If it involves decorating the cake in some way that is offensive and tailoring it to a ‘gay wedding’, then certainly it would affect one’s conscience. But don’t businesses have the right to refuse service? I see signs like that in restaurants all the time. Is there a law that says you must provide the service to each and every individual that requests it? If discrimination were an issue, the signs reserving the right to refuse service to ANYONE would be invalid, no?
Eric, you seem to be saying that the government and religion are two completely separate spheres, but they are not. Certainly, the government and any notion of an Established Church are two separate spheres. But the notion of God and religion in public life were intended by the founders to be “compatible” (which is why church services were held in the House Chamber for many years, as well as other government buildings). It is the secularists who have tried to convince us that this is not the case, but they are wrong. Our founders were informed by a Judeo-Christian worldview,… Read more »
Dan, nobody’s telling you to shut up about being a Christian, or that you can’t advocate, agitate, or engage in civil disobedience over laws you find morally objectionable. If a law bothers my conscience, I sometimes quietly ignore it and try not to draw attention to the fact that I’m ignoring it. But if I get caught, as I once did, I don’t pretend that Caesar is supposed to say, “Oh, you don’t agree with the law, that’s fine, you don’t have to obey it.” Sometimes the price of civil disobedience is getting sued, paying a fine, going to jail.… Read more »
Jon, business owners can put up whatever signs they like, but that doesn’t change the law. Many a business owner has discovered that just because a sign says “we are not responsible” doesn’t mean a court won’t hold them responsible if something goes wrong.
Your first point was excellent! Actually all your points were. I’m glad you said it. In a discussion with my roommate the other day about the whole “l’affaire,” I mentioned the same thing. We really need to recognize they’re a private institution and are under the 1st amendment also. Christian’s or anyone can’t pull out that against them. Now if the government stepped in, then we might have a discussion.
OK, I thought I already said this, but I don’t see it, so my apologies if this turns out to be a duplicate comment. In today’s news I see that Uganda, at the behest of Western Christians, has passed a law providing life imprisonment for homosexuals, and lengthy prison terms for those who know that someone is homosexual but fail to report it. Back in the days when this country had a Christian culture, homosexuals were routinely jailed, sent to psychiatric facilities, lost custody of their children, were unemployable at most jobs, and otherwise suffered truly vicious harassment. In light… Read more »
Eric, I’m pretty sure they’d refuse to make same-sex wedding cakes for heterosexual customers and they’re happy to bake birthday cakes for whomever asks. This is about discriminating against people, it’s about choosing which services they wish to provide.
Sorry, this *isn’t* about discriminating against people.
Jane, given that Christians have just succeeded in passing a bill in Uganda that carries a life prison sentence for being gay, I’m having trouble caring about a Christian baker over here who has to bake a cake. They can decide for themselves which services to provide (which in this case is decorated cakes) but having made that decision, they can’t then discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Which is what they’re doing, whether you frame it as discriminating against people or against events.
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