I’ve spent most of my life being an observer of other people. I was never much of a trend setter, someone who wanted to stand out in the crowd and lead others. I tend more to watch others and follow their lead once I’ve been convinced it’s the right way to go. In my observance of others, I have noticed a disturbing trend amongst American Christians that needs to be addressed in a way that will most likely be offensive, troubling, and hopefully convicting.
In the past 48 hours, I have seen the Google machine and my Facebook newsfeed just LIGHT UP with talk about Phil Robertson and A&E. In case you don’t know, Phil said some fairly non-PC stuff in an interview with GQ magazine, stuff that would most likely be pretty offensive to the LGBT community as well as African Americans, or any other person who thinks themselves a “tolerant” individual. As a result, he has been suspended from the cash-cow that is “Duck Dynasty”. I myself even made a comment in a status post about the situation, though I believe I did well to not take a definite side one way or the other. I will address that stance a bit later.
The Internet displayed people either taking Phil’s side, or taking A&E’s side. The ones taking Phil’s side say that his 1st Amendment rights for speech are being violated, and that he is being persecuted as a Christian. Those supporting A&E say Phil is an old-fashioned intolerant right winged bigot, and that A&E did the right thing to punish him. The sheer ferocity of those reacting to this situation is what makes me laugh. Frankly, it’s astonishing, and it makes me shake my head and wonder how we got here.
Apparently, in America, persecution for your beliefs means being a millionaire before getting a tv show, then getting fired from that show for making some unsavory remarks and still being a millionaire. Today, “persecution” for being a Christian in America means that we can’t pray in schools, or at least it isn’t sanctioned or led by teachers. “Persecution” means having the Ten Commandments removed from some courthouses. It means abortion or gay marriage being made legal and being more widely practiced. “Persecution” means that my first-amendment right to say what I want or practice the religion I want should not be met with any consequence or repercussion that is unwanted.
Seems to me that people don’t really understand what persecution really is. Honestly, I feel like everyone who lives in America, who has lived here their whole life, has no idea what it means. We have instead done exactly what our Bible warned us not to do: we have let false doctrine into our churches. We have become loyal to a nation other than our Lord’s kingdom. We have confused the Kingdom of Heaven for America.
When I was young until I was an adult, I attended a church where being a Republican, an American, and a Christian were completely synonymous. I’m not kidding, if you voted Democrat at any time EVER, that was grounds for ex-communication. I even had people get mad at me for not voting for Romney, though I didn’t even vote at all. According to them, “It’s your DUTY to vote! We have to vote for Romney, he’s not nearly as bad for us as Obama is!” Some of my friends were downright furious with me for choosing not to get involved with the elections that year, because it was apparently my Christian duty to vote for Republicans every single election. Somehow, growing up, I came to believe that America was one big Church of Christ, that God himself had founded this country, that the penned documents of the forefathers was holy writ. Any time a topic came up in Congress that was controversial, I always heard my Christian friends saying “This country was FOUNDED on Biblical principles, they are ATTACKING the Constitution!” As an extension, by “attacking the Constitution”, those left-wing terrorists were attacking the BIBLE!!! We just can’t tolerate this!
I don’t know when it happened, or why, but somewhere along the way we started believing that American and Christian were the same. The pilgrims came here for their religious freedom, which translated into “the pilgrims came to America to be Church of Christers, and NOTHING ELSE.” And once the terms became synonymous, suddenly any time our Constitutional right to do anything (bear arms, public assembly, speech, religion) came under attack, our Christianity was suddenly being persecuted.
I find it incredibly rare that an American’s Christianity is TRULY persecuted. When you are ostracized at work for being a Christian, to a point where it becomes bullying, I’d say MAYBE that was persecution. Most people say they are persecuted because their teachers teach them evolution in school, or their classmates don’t believe in God… Or because people question why they pray before meals. They are persecuted because people get angry when they share the word of God with them.
I don’t think I’m sharing anything new here, but y’all do realize that people in China get hunted down and murdered for reading Bible’s, right? The Romans sawed Christians in half while they were still alive, burned them, had animals tear their flesh off, killed their babies in front of them. Monks had natives burn down their monasteries and pour molten gold down their throats. Torture, imprisonment, complete exile, and death are what many Christians have to deal with, but nooooo our favorite tv star getting fired from a TV SHOW is just an OUTRAGE. Heaven FORBID that a famous person say something that offends a particular group and have to pay ANY consequences for it. After all, he’s a Christian and he’s FAMOUS, why should HE have to have any tribulation? Phil has the RIGHT to say whatever he wants about his faith and NO ONE should say anything about that, right?
Think about this. What if President Obama got up and did a speech, and he said “I just really hate white people. I love black people, but I don’t think white people are all that great.” Or, maybe he says “Allah has told us that only Muslims will go to Heaven.” How do you think that’d play out? People would be downright FURIOUS, right? How can he say that, he’s the PRESIDENT! People look up to him, he’s got an image that’s seen all over, how could he say something like that even if it’s true? How can he voice his opinion like that? No, he MUST be impeached! Kick that racist out of the WHITE House!
Well guess what. Barack Obama just exercised his 1st Amendment right. He voiced his opinion, and he has every right to do that no matter how offensive it may be. So that means he can just keep going like nothing big just happened, right? No consequences for it, cuz that is his RIGHT, and it would be DISCRIMINATION, it would be PERSECUTION if there WERE consequences!
You see what I’m getting at? People everywhere realize that there are CONSEQUENCES for what they say. No matter how ignorant, bigoted, stupid, offensive, or opinionated it may be. People don’t raise their kids saying “Now I know you told me to go screw myself little Johnny, but that’s ok, that’s your right as an American citizen.” They punish that child! The kid grows up learning that there are consequences to live with, and that they must make their choices with consequences in mind and decide whether that action is worth it. The 1st amendment protects us LEGALLY from being thrown in jail for saying something against a leader, or for exercising a religion different from the rest. Think about the pilgrims writing it. They left Europe to get away from an oppressive king who had them thrown in jail for speaking badly about him or his kingdom (rulers, soldiers, etc), or who had them arrested or whatnot for wanting to worship differently. They wrote the Constitution as a response to the grievances they had at the time. I don’t believe for a SECOND that the first Amendment means “Say whatever you want, whenever you want, however you want, to whoever you want, with no negative consequences EVER.”
I can’t go into a job interview, say a string of curse words, and then cry foul when they don’t hire me. I was just exercising my first amendment right… right? I can’t make threats to the president, say certain key words on an airplane or in the terminal, and then get mad when I’m arrested.
We as Americans, and more importantly as CHRISTIANS, have become spoiled little brats. We think that we should be able to do anything, say anything we want, and get away with it because somehow it’s our God-given right. You know who else had that kind of attitude? The Pharisees. They took it upon themselves to judge and then execute punishment on everyone around them that they thought of as a sinner. Think about the adulterous women. They had caught her in the act, and were getting ready to KILL her.
Let that sink in. They were fully prepared to take this woman’s life, to hurl rocks at her and see the blood rush out, here the bones crush, hear her cries of pain. They were READY.
They brought her to Jesus to test him, to show to everyone that he wasn’t what he said.
Jesus didn’t take the approach most of us take. He neither condemned her to die, nor condoned her actions.
He said something so much WISER, so much more INSIGHTFUL.
“Let the one who is without sin cast the first stone.”
This sentence isn’t telling them they are wrong for condemning this woman, or judging her to be with sin. This sentence is also not condoning their bloodlust. It is simply asking them to look inward, at the many times they deserved death for their actions, and recognize when someone showed them some compassion, some mercy, some grace.
I have a little secret for you.
Phil Robertson showed very little of ANY of those in his statements.
This is not a direct quote, but the gist of what he said was “It’s not normal for a guy to want to sleep with a guy. Sleeping with a girl is so much more normal and better.”
The fact is, Phil was much more graphic than that. I’m not saying his belief (that homosexual behavior is wrong) is unfounded or wrong! Don’t misunderstand me. Jesus didn’t condone adultery, just as Phil doesn’t condone homosexuality. But Jesus didn’t get graphic in describing how horribly unnatural this woman’s acts were. Jesus was wise in his actions, he considered the witnesses to his statement, he considered who he himself was, and he went from there.
I would say that Phil did not bother to use much discretion in expressing his belief. I wonder how they even got on the topic, honestly. So many Christians want to defend Phil and the Robertson’s, like they are champions of our faith and examples of what Christians should be. But they are NOT Jesus. They may be inspiring, but in the end they are horribly flawed, as are we all. They are not a good role model to follow, unless you too manage to become filthy rich and still keep your hands clean. I would say that things have gone well for them, and the fact that they praise God for that is amazing. But you know what I want to see now? I want to them get fired from A&E, and for the Duck Dynasty franchise to come crumbling to the ground. Because if they maintain their faith through all of that…. THAT would be truly inspiring. Maybe it’s nice to see a Christian value be put on a pedestal by our country once in awhile, or to see a good Christian actually win one, but I think it is far more inspiring to see people maintain their faith despite it being unpopular, the minority, politically incorrect.
Now, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not saying that Phil was wrong. He stood up for his beliefs in a public way, which we can all take note of. But I don’t think he did it wisely. More than likely, even if he had been very thoughtful and clean is his expressions of his beliefs, the LGBT and others would STILL have gotten offended and STILL demanded action. Again, that’s the world we live in. But I think the reason Christians are so up in arms about this situation isn’t because we are being persecuted. Oh, we think we are. We act like the world is against us, attacking us at every corner. But honestly, though probably no one would ever admit it, I think the so called “persecution” that we as Christians feel we are receiving is that we might actually have to WORK to convince someone about the Bible.
It would be SO much easier if Phil, or the President, or our preacher could say “Homosexuality is a sin” in a massive forum, and all the sinners who read it would just be BLOWN AWAY by it, and be convicted and change their ways RIGHT then. Oh thank goodness. For a moment there, I thought I might actually have to talk to a homosexual, care about them, befriend them, show them Jesus. It’s so much easier if gay marriage is just illegal, surely then homosexuality won’t exist! After all, murder has always been illegal, so we don’t see it happen, right?
There are many times we see Jesus speak out about the kingdom of Heaven in a large public forum, with hundreds or thousands of people listening. But the fact is, most of the time a large crowd has gathered to listen, he isn’t preaching hellfire and brimstone upon all the sinners present. In fact, most of the time he EVER publicly condemns actions, it’s directed at the Pharisees. Why them? Because they should KNOW BETTER. They know their laws very well, they had the best education, they are the shepherds, and yet they use their power to oppress and subjugate those around them. We American Christians have become Pharisees. Maybe we think we are more loving, but the fact is we rarely befriend anyone we first think of as a sinner. Our terms of friendship seem to be “If you wanna be my friend, clean up your act first. Or you have to come to church with me. At least ACT like you want to be a better person.” Jesus didn’t do that. He went to the sinners, ate with them, made them his brothers and sisters and friends. And it was through that love, that grace and mercy that he showed to the people who had been told all their lives that they did not deserve such a gift, that they changed.
Friends. Brothers and sisters. It’s time we realize. A television show isn’t going to convert the lost. A law isn’t going to change sin. Personal relationships, one on one time, love and compassion despite our beliefs that the person we are talking to is drowning in sin, THAT is how we do things.
My final thought is about the arguments I have been seeing on my Facebook feed, and other places too. There seems to be this anger directed at GLAAD, at the LGBT community, at all those left-wingers who seem to hate God and morality. Some people really don’t care if Duck Dynasty gets cancelled or not, which is fine for them. Others just keep on saying that Phil exercised his right as an American, that he spoke out against sin, and that they stand with him. Personally, I don’t think the basis for which he expressed his belief was wrong. It is hard to argue with the words expressed in those verses, they seem pretty clear to me. I don’t think we need to be tiptoeing around issues and walking on eggshells just to remain PC… But we don’t need to be stomping on toes and dropping bombs either. Jesus didn’t do it that way, not to the lost and oppressed. Oh, he attacked the Pharisees big time, but need I remind you, in our world WE, the Christian community, are the well-educated, the knowledgeable in God’s word, the leaders and shepherds of the sheep. How are we doing with that?
The Christian side keeps saying “The people mad about what Phil said keep forgetting or ignoring what ELSE he said.” The gist of that statement was that Phil doesn’t advocate hate, but love. Everyone is so mad at the “other” side for ignoring that statement, and the Christian side doesn’t realize what we are doing. We are reacting to them… with hate. We are grouping the whole democratic community into one bowl, all the LGBT community into one room, and saying they are all alike, they all ignore the fact that Christians love them. But we aren’t acting like we love them. We are acting like they are oppressing US. You don’t like people making sweeping generalizations about Christians, right? Seeing posts about Christians blowing up abortion clinics, the Crusades, the Inquisition, all these horrible things done in the name of God, and having the people posting them saying Christians are all full of hate, hypocrisy, scorn, and self-righteousness? No one likes to be thrown into the mix and generalized based on the actions of extremists.
Well I’ve got news for you. We are doing the same thing to gays. We are grouping homosexuals together and saying they are all horrible, lawless and immoral, lost in the sins of their flesh, and they are all trying to oppress us and take away our rights. How about we stop attacking each other, stop using politics and silly TV shows to do our evangelism for us? We know for a fact it doesn’t work. How about we start talking to the lost, befriending them despite their flaws, loving them and appreciating them as children of God, and we do what Christ did for all of us?
Romans 5:6-8 “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”