Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Duck Dynasty guy and what the Christian Right sees as sound Christian doctrine on gays and racial segregation

We've had some strange expressions of the holiday spirit during this Christmas season. One of the strangest what from Phil Robertson, the Duck Dynasty star who used a GQ interview to blast some of his favorite targets. Or, as he would put it, expressing his Christian love toward them.

I did a Facebook post on it that was more-or-less these next three paragraphs.

On the "Duck Dynasty" blowhard who don't like them thar gays and cain't see what thur wuz so bad about segregation : It's one thing to defend him on some kind of free speech grounds. In my own un-romantic version of Jeffersonian freedom of speech, the basic idea is that everyone should be free to say any dang fool thing they want, as long as everyone else is free to say what a dang fool thing it is they've said. Entertainment figures do take a risk with saying obnoxious things, despite the show-business truism that any publicity is good publicity. Ask the Dixie Chicks. Speaking of the Dixie Chicks, it would be painfully easy to list instances of screaming hypocrisy over the Duck Dynasty guy controversy. (See also: Sarah Palin/Martin Bashir) But since it's the Christmas Season and we're all into putting Christ back into Christmas - or at least keeping "happy holidays" out of the mix (but aren't they supposed to be "holy-days"?) - then I'm wondering what's so "Christian" about comparing gays to people who have sex with animals, which Robertson did.

This article for the conservative evangelical Christian Post (Alex Murashko, Greg Laurie on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, A&E Controversy: What Is Being Asked of Christians Is Not Tolerance, But Acceptance and Endorsement of Sin The Christian Post 12/20/2013) for instance, whines profusely about how poor ole Phil is being picked on by them mean libruls. (Are A&E execs liberals? Beats me.) But anybody old enough to be shooting off their mouths on the subject knows that comparisons like this *do* promote not just contempt and hatred but occasionally violence against gays and lesbians. This article delicately omits the bestiality part. What kind of Christianity is it really that heartily defends this white-trash-talk as being an expression of Christian faith? Again, assuming someone is old enough to be shooting off their mouths about it all, there are a variety of ways to express personal disapproval without being an a*****e. It's actually pretty common knowledge that various Christian churches and denominations disapprove of homosexual conduct. But, you know, if you're going to tell somebody to their face that they are like somebody who has sex with animals, you can expect to be punched in the face. Which is why anyone older than ten or so will assume that someone saying that is being sleazy and hostile. So if your goal is to advertise Christianity, much less proselytize somebody to the faith, how in the world can that be a good way to do it?

And hasn't it struck anyone defending Robertson on the grounds of his being allegedly persecuted for his Christian beliefs that his comment about the Good Ole Days of segregation show somewhat less than, say, the minimal awareness of a sentient American adult, much less any kind of Christian spiritual perspective: "I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."? (Black people weren't "singing the blues"? Maybe this guy really is just an idiot.) I grew up in a Mississippi town that is haunted in meaningful ways to this day by the lynch murders of two 14-year-old African-American boys in 1942. The first public school I attended appeared in the phone book as "Shubuta White Elementary School." And Robertson's comment sounds to me like pretty much what every hardcore segregationist I ever came in contact with would say. And nobody I know that doesn't want to be thought of a hardcore segregationist would express themselves that way. Jonathan Merritt gives a slightly more generous take on it here: The Real Duck Dynasty Scandal: Phil Robertson's Comments on Race The Atlantic Politics 12/19/2013. Ta-hisi Coates, who would not have been allowed to attend my elementary school, does, too: Phil Robertson's America The Atlantic Politics 12/20/2013. But I'm guessing they're both Yankees. And Yankees tend to try to see the best in people over stuff like this. I'm more inclined to think that people who talk to interviewers using expressions normally favored by sorry-ass bigots are probably, well, sorry-ass bigots. And who's to say if they're "real" Christians? But they sure ain't good advertisements for the Christian faith.

Yesterday, the conservative evangelical news outlet The Christian Post published a story by Katherine Weber called, Twitter Blocks '#iStandWithPhil.com' Supporting 'Duck Dynasty's' Phil Robertson Following A&E Suspension 12/23/2013. The claim in the title is described at length in the article, which is apparently based almost exclusively on a group called Faith Driven Consumer, which presents itself as a group that promotes Christian shopping.

They must be singing "I'll be paranoid for Christmas" over at the Christian Post. I saw their story within three hours of its being posted. Being mildly curious, I looked up the hashtag on Twitter and it listed all kinds of tweets there. Including one from the Christian Post! It doesn't make the ".com" part appear in red like the rest of it. But it's there. If it appears in red, it's a hotlink to the website, and I'm pretty sure the hashtag mark "#" at the start of a website address would make any web link not function as a hotspot on Twitter.

I posted a tweet with the hashtag and it popped up there. (Even though I think Patriarch Phil was being a jerk in his now-infamous GQ interview.) If you're going to run a story about how Twitter is censoring a hashtag about Pore Ole Phil, shouldn't you at least check to see if the hashtag appears on Twitter? Or maybe the reporter just doesn't understand how Twitter even works. But if someone need to just make stuff up to get a persecution story, well, maybe they're just blowing smoke.

I'll offer up this clips from The Young Turks to show some examples of what his actual critics are criticizing Pore Ole Phil for. Vagina Better Than Anus Says Duck Dynasty Guy 12/18/2013:

Duck Dynasty Racist Anti-Gay Phil Robertson - Hate Or Ignorance? 12/19/2013:

Duck Dynasty Family Ducks Behind The Bible/Quacking Under Pressure 12/20/2013:

New Video Of Duck Dynasty Phil Robertson Passionately Anti-Gay 12/20/2013:

Roy Edroso applies his usual analytic skills and good humor to the Pore Ole Phil controversy in Rightbloggers Prove They're No Sissies By Supporting Duck Dynasty, Beating Up Pajama Boy Village Voice 12/22/2013.

As of this writing, The Christian Post hasn't added a correction or update to their article, which features this quote from supposedly amiable Mike Huckabbee:

Similarly, former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee said in a Facebook post that the social media network had also blocked him from accessing his pro-Robertson Facebook page, "Stand with Phil And Support Free Speech," which promotes an upcoming event in support of Phil Robertson.

Huckabee wrote on his Facebook page that he believes the social media network is intentionally trying to censor those supporting Phil Robertson. "Phil Robertson of 'Duck Dynasty' isn't the only one censored by the media thought police. When we put up an event page to show support for our pal Phil, FB blocked access to the page! What is happening to free speech for Christians? Have you seen the stuff FB allows when people attack me because of my faith? I allow the attacks on me on my own page. But when we try to show support for a Christian brother FB pulls the entire page! It's time to demand that 'tolerance' includes tolerance for Christians too!"
I'm not sure if Katherine Weber knows the difference between Twitter and Facebook. There is also no indication whether Weber did any actual reporting and checked Huckabbee's claim, either. I'm not going to bother following up on that one, myself. Trying to run down paranoid rightwing rumors can quickly become a fool's errand.

The Christian Right is heavily invested in promoting the notion that Christians are being actively persecuted in the United States. By which they mean fundamentalist Christians. And if you press them a bit, they wouldn't be so sure whether those fundamentalists from other denominations are really Christians, either.

So there will be stories like this popping up as long as they remain invested in that persecution narrative, which in practice is a variation of what I call the whiney white people routine. Because so far, the only evidence I see for the claim is based on very borderline cases of some public school administrator going too far in the restrictions placed on Christmastime celebrations.

But I'm also struck in the Pore Ole Phil case about how insistent his defenders are in defending the whole of his CQ interview as sound Christian religious positions. I don't agree with his position on homosexuality, not with my own Catholic Church's official position on the subject. I'm not committed to a so-called literalist reading of the Christian Scriptures. So the fact that St. Paul seems to have gotten bent out of shape over it, and about pretty much anything related to sex for that matter, doesn't bother me a lot.

But it's also clear to me as a citizen in a democracy that public policy and law need to recognize medical facts and the lack thereof. As Freud came to recognize long ago and the American psychiatric establishment somewhat more recently, there are no medical reasons to consider homosexuality or bisexuality as illnesses. Nor is there any reason based on facts, as opposed to imaginary fears, for law in a contemporary society to ban homosexual conduct or to deny gays and lesbians the right to legal same-sex marriage.

And, no, the routine claim by opponents of same-sex marriage equating it with polygamy does not make any sense. Two-person marriage provide enough complications, both legal and practical, and multiple-partner marriages multiply them. As anyone who ever watched the TV comedy-drama series Big Love will know. In Utah in particular, polygamy is a still a practical issue, if only on the more-or-less cult fringe of society. (Jim Dalrymple II, Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional The Salt Lake Tribune 12/07/2013)

In countries where it's practiced legally, and in cult polygamy arrangements in the US, polygamy (one man, plural wives) is severely discriminatory against women. It's an interesting thought experiment to imagine how formalizing polygamous, polyandrous (one female wife, plural husbands) and polyamorous (multiple partners regardless of sex) marriages would look. But two-partner marriages are complicated enough that it's a miracle legal structures can even handle those!

In reality, of course, love and attraction have never been easy to keep in any institutional boundaries. But that's a longer story.

Getting back to Pore Ole Phil, Roy Odroso characterized his "Christian" message on gays and lesbians this way: " one of the Duck Dynasty guys tells gays they're basically the same as pig-fuckers." Not exactly High Theology.

And, as I said above, his defense of segregation is pretty darn clear. Which is both anti-democracy and anti-any-decent-brand-of-Christianity.

His defenders seem to want us to think those two very obviously obnoxious statements have nothing to do with how anyone regards Pore Ole Phil.

Here's another one from the Alex Murashko, Greg Laurie on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, A&E Controversy: What Is Being Asked of Christians Is Not Tolerance, But Acceptance and Endorsement of Sin The Christian Post 12/20/2013:

Phil Robertson, who mentioned homosexual behavior among a list of other sins, said Christians cannot judge whether someone is going to heaven or hell, and argued Christians should love those with same-sex attraction.

The growing number of Christian leaders and politicians who have publicly expressed outrage – with some not at all surprised by the controversy –over the suspension include: Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal, and Russell Moore.
The article's readers would not learn from it about the gays-are-like-pig-fuckers and blacks-were-happy-with-segregation comments.

The blog's old friend Bro. Al Mohler weighed in on Pore Ole Phil with the ominous-sounding You Have Been Warned—The “Duck Dynasty” Controversy 12/19/2013. Bro. Al describes himself at his webpage as "president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary - the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world." Bro. Al quotes Pore Ole Phil's comment about bestiality and concludes, "Christians will recognize that Robertson was offering a rather accurate paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10." So it's good Christian thankin', in Bro. Al's view. But Bro. Al thought he talked a little to much about anatomy and stuff: "To be fair, Robertson also offered some comments that were rather crude and graphically anatomical in making the same point." Bro. Al is a master at mealy-mouthing. So he can claim he criticized something about Pore Ole Phil's GQ interview. But not anything about Pore Ole Phil's view of gay sex, it seems:

Phil Robertson would have served the cause of Christ more faithfully if some of those comments had not rushed out. This is not because what he said was wrong; he was making the argument that homosexual acts are against nature. The Apostle Paul makes the very same argument in Romans 1:26. The problem is the graphic nature of Robertson’s language and the context of his statements.
Bro. Al also didn't think it was such a great idea to give an interview to GQ anyway: "But GQ magazine? Seriously? ... GQ is a 'lifestyle' magazine for men, a rather sophisticated and worldly platform." It's a lifestyle magazine for men (if you know what he means, and I'm guessing you do).

On the anatomy issue, Pore Ole Phil used the word "vagina," which good Christian white folks of the Bro. Al type think "vagina" is a dirty word. Eyder Peralta, Michigan State Rep Barred From Speaking After 'Vagina' NPR 06/14/2012. In this brand of Christianity, comparing gays to people who have sex with animals: a very "Christian" thing to do. Talking about how blacks were so happy under segregation: a very "Christian" thing to do. Saying "vagina": oh, no, he said a cuss word! Cover the children's ears! He named one of those icky ladyparts out loud!!

Bro. Al also gets in a dig at them thar Catholics, claiming that the Pope says the same thing as Pore Ole Phil. Except for, maybe, you know, the gays-are-like-pig-fuckers and blacks-were-happy-with-segregation stuff. Otherwise Pope Francis I and Duck Dynasty "patriarch" Pore Ole Phil are pretty much just alike! "But Pope Francis is on the cover of TIME magazine and Phil Robertson is on indefinite suspension. Such are the inconsistencies, confusions, and hypocrisies of our cultural moment." Maybe the Catholics are conspiring with The Jews in the War on Christmas that the fundies and FOX News are pleased to imagine is going on.

Here's Bro. Al on CNN holding forth on the topic, Albert Mohler on "Duck Dynasty" Suspension: He's "Unquestionably Faithful to the Scripture 12/20/2013:

Russell Moore, President of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, weighs in with Duck Dynasty? Moore to the Point 12/18/2013, with a bit of mealy-mouthing of his own.

Now, I thought his reported anatomical comparisons were ill-advised and crude. But that doesn't seem to be where the controversy lies.

The comments that seem most offensive to people are his moral assessments of sex outside of conjugal marriage, which were more or less just a recitation of the Apostle Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6. As Christians, we believe that Jesus is lord over sexuality, and he says that sexuality is expressed rightly only in the marriage of a man and a woman. That's not new. We also think we’re all sinners, and that God calls us all to repentance. That's not new either.
I can't help but notice that neither of fine gentlemen and men of God manage to say that it's sleazy or something other than pure Christian doctrine to associate gays with pig-fuckers or to tell propaganda howlers about the virtues of segregation. Only that it is bad PR, maybe a little tacky, to talk like that in front of the heathen. And, of course, decent people just don't say "vagina" for those icky ladyparts down there.

You can watch Bro. Russell on the subject in CNNers Argue Over Whether Duck Dynasty Star's 'Hate Speech' Invites Anti-Gay Bullying 12/19/2013:

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