Sometimes in an argument we say outrageous things so as not to give up a bit of ground, rather than having an honest conversation about an issue.
Unless you’ve been on some other planet the last few days, you know that Phil Robertson was indefinitely suspended by A&E from the reality show Duck Dynasty, after Robertson’s honest and at times graphic interview with GQ magazine. I’ve read more about this than necessary in the last few days and from many perspectives. Russell Moore argued in his response that no one should flip out when someone says or does something they disagree with. Our country is supposed to be about an honest and free exchange of ideas. It is evidence of a weak argument when we resort to fear and intimidation to get people to do what we want. A good friend of mine calls this arm waving, saying figuratively, “It’s bad, it’s bad, it’s really, really bad,” with no substance to our argument. Rather, Jesus disciples need to be those who think well and argue fairly showing love and respect for those with whom we disagree.
What troubles me about those who seem to want to shut down the Phil Robertson’s of the world is the unfair argument that portrays anyone who does not believe that homosexuality is normal, and does not support gay marriage, is ignorant and bigoted. Those arguments are not honest. They are emotionally charged arm waving without real substance. Those who make these arguments must rely on a form of bullying to attempt to silence the arguments of those with whom they disagree.
Those who make those arguments imply that my position is impossible. My position is that God’s word provokes me to love and I do love. I don’t always love well. It’s true I have no idea what it feels like to grow up believing that I am fundamentally different than most other people on the core issue of what gender I am attracted to. But I’ve worked hard to understand this in conversations with persons all over the map on this subject. I’ve also done a fair amount of reading from those arguing from a position of a full embrace of everything for which the LGBT community is arguing.
I believe that a fair reading of the Bible demands that homosexual behavior (but perhaps not the attraction) be placed alongside many other things that the Bible calls sin. It is not a worse sin than the kinds of sin I am more susceptible to, but it is sin. Others obviously disagree, but it’s not fair to call this position hate. Our country desperately needs to calm down the rhetoric on all sides and talk about these subjects with grace.
That is made far more difficult because these are painfully personal and delicate issues. We must proceed with grace, love, compassion, and acceptance as friends and coworkers and neighbors and fellow citizens. We don’t require of any other person that we agree on everything to be able to be friends, good neighbors, and respectful coworkers. Let’s work as God’s people to become known as those sorts of folks.
Phil Robertson perhaps should have known better. As Al Mohler said in his remarks on this issue, all publicity is not good publicity. Giving an interview to GQ was likely going to put him in an awkward position to say the least. But that’s easier to see in hindsight. Our family has enjoyed watching several episodes of the show, and I’m grateful for the simple expression of faith in Jesus they express.
What does any of that have to do with Christmas? Not much. But there is a character in the Christmas story who demonstrates himself to have become, long before we meet him in Matthew’s gospel, the kind of person who will say or do anything to get what he wants. That’s the approach used by people at times on both sides of many such arguments as discussed above. All of us are tempted and have been guilty at one time or another of exaggerating our position to get people to see things our way, but persisting in that leads ultimately to a person becoming a shriveled up human being toxic to everyone around them. The path to being a fully alive moves in a very different direction. We will explore that path Sunday at Bethany Place.