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A&E mishandles Duck Dynasty controversy

A&E mishandles LGBTQ controversy with its popular show.
A&E mishandles LGBTQ controversy with its popular show.
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Phil Robertson, star of A&E’s very popular Louisiana based reality show, Duck Dynasty, caused uproar when in an interview the bearded patriarch made disparaging remarks about LGBTQ Americans.

He stood his ground insisting his views were biblically based. A&E announced it would put the family patriarch on an indefinite suspension from the show. The money making reruns, however, didn’t stop. A video surfacing after the interview of Robertson giving an anti-LGBTQ sermon several years ago added fuel to the fire.

Rev. Jesse Jackson wanted Robertson permanently off the air for both his homophobia and his profoundly uninformed remarks regarding the struggles of black Americans.

In regards to his LGBTQ comments, hundreds of thousands came to Robertson’s defense. Petitions circulated blasting A&E for suspending the show. Criticism of the network’s decision included charges of violating his freedom of speech to intolerance about his religious values.

Cracker Barrel also received public scorn when it initially stopped selling Duck Dynasty paraphernalia, but the backlash became too much and it soon resumed selling the show’s products in its gift shops. Once again cha-ching went its registers.

A&E also responded to the clamor and the loss of millions in revenue and announced patriarch Phil would be back to make new shows in spring.

The network attempted to seize the moral high ground after announcing the show would continue by announcing plans to “use this moment” by “promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people" in public service announcements.

Once again, A&E mishandled the situation.

Fostering civility in the discussion about LGBTQ relationships and human rights in general is better served by having another self-identified Christian discuss with Robertson on an upcoming episode, each with their own Bible in hand, what a rather complicated book does and doesn’t say about homosexuality. Let them each read biblical passages and debate them.

The theologian Teilhard de Chardin used the phrase, Second Coming of Fire, and wrote about it in great detail to describe the elegant, unfolding cosmos expanding and yet spiritually coming together to bring about universal human consciousness through love.

If individuals like Robertson aren’t included in the fellowship of human consciousness, then all is for naught. Equally true, if Robertson doesn’t include LGBTQ Americans then the future is bleak.

The First Fire is the awareness and experience of love. The Second Coming of Fire is the consistent embrace and application of love. We seem to know what love is, but it’s not something successfully put into daily practice by most of us. Love includes patience, perseverance, and respect for the personhood of another no matter how different.

If there is to be a Second Coming of Fire to usher in universal human consciousness to unite everyone with one Creator then Robertson must have a place. LGBTQ Americans must also be fully embraced. There can be no Second Coming of Fire without Robertson, millions of people like him, and LGBTQ Americans.

Silencing Robertson or cancelling his show would have done nothing to change his mind or reach his fan base. Doing so could have made many far more committed to what others widely perceive as homophobia.

A&E’s willingness to run public service announcements as its rakes in millions from Duck Dynasty is disingenuous. A sincere, thoughtful approach would have been to have a Christian leader on a Duck Dynasty episode to discuss in a civil manner with Robertson, perhaps over a meal at the family dinner table, matters of faith as they pertain to God’s LGBTQ children.

Ultimately, it’s about dialogue and talking with one another to foster a better understanding of differences. Judging, ignoring, or marginalizing one another is never in anyone’s best interest. There is common ground to be found, but unfortunately A&E missed an opportunity to nurture it.

Paul is an author, attorney, and corporate chaplain in greater Albany, NY. His latest book, The Vampire Benning Wentworth and the End of Times – the War Between Devils and Vampires is now available.