So, it's come to this. With the nonstop news coverage about the fallout from Phil Robertson's “indefinite suspension” from Duck Dynasty, I've decided to write a column to give my thoughts on the matter. The funny thing is that if you asked me about it last week, I'd be the last person who would choose “Duck Dynasty” for an op-ed. Like “The Walking Dead” and “The Fast & the Furious”, I've never watched the TV series Duck Dynasty a single time. Friends of mine keep urging me to at least check out the show. I've promised them I'd view an episode one of these days, but I still haven't gotten around to it. Is that going to change now that Phil Robertson is in trouble and there is an internet blitz to “Stand with Phil”? Sorry, folks. I'm still not interested. Whether the Robertson's are “good Christian men” or not, I just can't get excited about watching a “reality TV show” about a bunch of grubby bearded guys discussing their duck hunting business.
That being said, my lack of enthusiasm for “Duck Dynasty” seems to be a minority viewpoint. The television series is wildly popular across America, and its fourth season premiere drew 11.8 million viewers, making it the most-watched nonfiction cable telecast in history. It also has a huge following among Chicago area viewers, and this week's news story is entirely about the family patriarch being fired for expressing his Christian religious beliefs. Thus, even I have to admit that this is ideal material for me to discuss as Chicago Catholic Examiner.
In short, Robertson is under fire for “anti-gay” remarks. As we learned from the Chick-Fil-A fallout, many social liberals and leading figures in the secular media will claim that some comments are “hateful and homophobic” even if the person who made them never even mentioned gays. In this case, Robertson did indeed mention homosexuality. He stated that he just doesn't understand it, noting that it seems like common sense that a woman’s anatomy is “more desirable” than a man’s for any male. In an interview with CQ Magazine, he noted: “I'm just thinking: There's more there!”, adding “She's got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I'm saying? But hey, sin: It's not logical, my man. It's just not logical." He also quoted a Bible passage about homosexuality, where it mentioned homosexual acts were condemned by God along with drunkenness and various other things.
I can't say I really feel bad that Robertson is being criticized for his opinion. After all, the only news I've heard from “Duck Dynasty” lately is that some fake “Tea Party” candidate who was against repealing Obamacare won an election thanks to an endorsement from Phil and the rest of the “Duck Dynasty” clan. Since I would have preferred the anti-Obamacare candidate to win, I obviously don't agree with their endorsement in that election. Is this latest move an example of bad karma?
Ultimately though, it is problematic that A&E is not only denouncing Robertson's comments, but removing him from his television show. This seems to be the continuation of a trend in America to destroy and ostracize anyone who practices their Christian faith and believes what the Bible teaches about homosexuality. In fact, given the Chick-Fil-A fallout, we can construe that merely being public about your Christian faith and being openly heterosexual is now a “hate crime” according to some powerful figures in America's political establishment. Even if someone sincerely believes that disagreeing with homosexual relationships is “hateful”, the tactics being used to stop this “hate speech” border on fascism.
In that respect, I'm glad people are standing up now and saying A&E has taken things too far – whether or not one cares about Duck Dynasty. In the Robertson's home state of Louisiana, Governor Bobby Jindal (a practicing Catholic), came to Robertson's defense. He noted: “I remember when TV networks believed in the First Amendment. It is a messed up situation when Miley Cyrus gets a laugh, and Phil Robertson gets suspended.” Of course, a common argument of the pro-gay rights crowd is that only “religious” people don't agree with their tactics, so it is refreshing to see many people who have no religious faith – and even people who are in gay and lesbian relationships – are taking sides and saying Phil Robertson has a right to express his opinion. This comment can be found on Duck Dynasty's Unofficial Fan Page: “I am a lesbian, I adore the Robertson family and respect their beliefs. He did not bash, nor harm anyone. He should not have to censor his beliefs or opinions. You ask an honest man a question, be prepared for an honest answer. I don't expect everyone to support my life style, all I ask is that you don't treat me ugly. And he in no way made me feel like he had in his statement. I fully believe that the Robertson family is an amazing, wholesome example of the right kind of American. Gay, straight, crooked whatever lifestyle you live, more people and families should learn these values they represent and live them. It's ridiculous to me that these groups can ask for acceptance, yet get upset with a different opinion then theirs. Embarrassing really. I support you and will continue to watch your show!”
Perhaps the element that is forgotten here is Phil Robertson's comments discussing his personal philosophy on how he treats others: "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together," he said. "However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other."
I have very little in common with the “Duck Dynasty” guys, but it seems to me that Phil's comment above is something that Americans could universally identify with. Whether you agree with his beliefs about homosexuality or not, wouldn't things be much better if we learned to live together in peace and respect each other's differences?
I agree with others who believe that A&E's decision about Phil Robertson was just plain wrong. Of course, I'm still not a “Duck Dynasty” fan, and I doubt I will ever be. For those of you are, if you want to “support the Robertson family”, you're actually better off NOT buying “Duck Dynasty” merchandise for your family and friends, since the material is entirely owed by A&E and goes directly to them. (Rather, your best bet would be to go to the Robertson family website, http://duckcommander.com/, and buy “Duck Commander” products directly from the family-owned company). For those of us who aren't Duck Dynasty fans, I see no reason to start watching the show now just to “Stand with Phil”. Instead, I think the best course of action would be to turn A&E off for the foreseeable future, and you'll be sending a strong message to the media in this country about how you feel about their bullying tactics. Please join me and other Catholics (and many not-so-Catholics!) in avoiding A&E programing until they reverse their policy.