Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Nine Times Out of Ten

Nine times out of ten when someone says something, give them the benefit of the doubt. There’s nothing so sensational as comments taken out of context, which is why those mined quotes are the comments we hear so often. A friend of mine who is a journalist recently pontificated on the decline of journalistic standards with the advent of the internet (apparently ad revenue isn’t making up for the loss in subscribership and the demand for free media). After reading GQ’s recent interview with Phil Robertson, I can’t say that his assertation is too far off the mark. Although low in journalistic quality, Phil managed to start a national controversy. Why? He repeated the Bible’s stance on homosexuality, a viciously polarizing subject in popular culture. Specifically, when asked about what was sinful he replied: 

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

So Phil doesn’t agree with homosexual behavior, this shouldn’t surprise us. I mean, have you ever seen a picture of the guy? Would you expect backwoods Louisiana to be a bastion of liberal thinkers? The question still begs, if Phil said exactly what we would expect him to, why the national controversy? Maybe it was the way he said it. I’ve heard comments on social media that Phil was drawing a comparative analogy between bestiality and homosexuality. I’m not going to lie, I don’t see it. A recent article in The Atlantic agrees with me and explains Robertson’s comments best: 

He did not actually equate homosexual behavior with bestiality, as many have been saying, and tellingly, his catalog of sinful sexual behavior also included heterosexual promiscuity.

In other words, if you were to ask me what a soda is I’d probably list for you some of the more popularized ones, like Coke, Pepsi, maybe Sprite. But in only listing those items I’d say it was safe to say that I did not intend the reader to be able to do a comparative analysis of my views on Coke’s relationship to Pepsi (as the Huffington Post Suggested). 

Now, where did all of those horrible quotes of Phil’s come from that I’ve seen all over social media condemning blacks and homosexuals? They came from a 2010 speech that Phil gave at Berean Bible Church in Pennsylvania. The whole sermon is on youtube if you’re so inclined, and is quite long. Mined from his speech is an exerpt:

They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant God-haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are truthless. They invent ways of doing evil.”

 If you watch it you will see that Phil is making a popular connection between the Church of Corinth and modern day America. In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians he urges the citizens to put away their lingering pagan leanings, sexual immorality among them. The “they’re” that Phil refers to in his speech is American culture at large. Not homosexuals and blacks. I have yet to track down where that came from.

And he’s right. All you have to do is flip through the channels on the tube to see a former Disney Channel acolyte swinging “naked” from a wrecking ball, JT deblousing MJ’s sister on the halftime show of the most watched event in America, and if you go to the GQ online article to read of Phil’s crazy rants you’ll be peppered with links to other “articles” such as “The 15 hottest Sports Broadcasters” or “Five Minutes with Kate Upton” (complete with a topless picture of her), and “30 Hottest Jewish Women Under 40 Will SHOCK YOU”. Yes, exactly the type of world I want my daughter to grow up in. We all pervert the glorious gift of sex, homo and heterosexuals alike. Our means are different but our end is the same.

Phil Robertson’s proselytical style may not resonate with me, but he is right and I’ll proudly stand beside him. 

But becoming hypersensitive to such a specific sin has its own dangers. Consider Pope Francis’ assertion that we get back to the gospel, what’s important, and stop obsessing over specific sins like homosexuality. Focus on the real gospel, the gospel of Christ, and the gospel of love. We could all learn a lot from the example of Pope Francis. Let’s focus on loving our neighbors instead of judging them, Phil Robertson included. It’s all too easy for the right to judge the left and the left the right. Another quote I’ve seen making it’s rounds on social media is a photo of the polarizing self-proclaimed bible thumper with the following words of mega-church pastor Rick Warren inscribed on it: 

“Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”

… right on the head. Love your neighbor, leave the judging to the Almighty, speak the good news and the truth in the Bible, argue less, and accomplish more.


P.S. Thanks to Jessica for letting me post here!


  1. make several excellent points in your posting...especially related to taking comments out of context. I was particularly interested in your paraphrasing of Pope Francis' words. I have read the entire interview several times and have come to understand the meaning of his exact words. I offer the following insights for consideration.

    In this interview which you are eluding to, Pope Francis states "A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation." I would offer that Phil Robertson could learn from the Pope on this point.

    In this same interview, the Pope referred to the changing face of Christianity and how important it is for all of us to see that a hard stance on our particular view of Christianity gets us nothing. He stated “If the Christian is a restorationist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists­—they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life." Again, I would offer that Phil Robertson could learn from the Pope on this point.

    My opinion: When a public person makes a comment to the public (including church members or magazine readers), they must also be accountable for their comments. If those comments are judgmental or hurtful.....they sound (and in fact are) quite hurtful to others. Whether Phil Robertson, Pope Francis or a member of the Roth clan, let's make sure we quote people correctly and let's hope we do not offend others "in the name of Christianity". For me, I pray that God guides me in love for all regardless of their choices and gives me the humility never to judge another.

    1. Excellent insights Kathy, thanks for taking the time to read the post and share your thoughts. Also, sorry it isn't a little clearer (I'm not sure how to include it as I'm new to google's blogger), but I wrote this (John) as a guest post on Jessica's blog.