Just when the paranoia over the so-called War on Christmas was cooling down, here comes Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family stirring things up all over again.
By now you know that Phil gave an interview to GQ in which he said some not-so-kind things about gays. A&E, the network that airs Duck Dynasty – the most popular reality show on television – suspended him, proving what we already know: that in Hollywood the gay lobby has a lot more clout than the conservative Christian lobby. However, in that sliver of America between Manhattan and Malibu, it’s the other way around. And so, the backlash kicked in. Conservatives — especially conservative Christians — are mad as hell and they’re telling us they’re not going to take it anymore. They say they’ll boycott A&E if Phil isn’t brought back. (He will be. Tens of millions of dollars, maybe hundreds of millions, are on the line. Have no fear Duck Dynasty fans: Phil will return.)
All Phil did, many on the right have been telling us, is say what he believed. That seems to be enough for conservatives. If you say what you honestly believe then the thought police should back off. This might be a good time to note that all Martin Bashir did was say what he believes, specifically that Sarah Palin is an idiot and that someone should take a crap and urinate in her mouth.
That was too much even for liberals who normally like Bashir’s far left politics. He lost his job at the most liberal news network on cable TV. I don’t recall conservatives telling us that he was being persecuted for nothing more than saying what he honestly believed.
What both sides understood in the Bashir case is that there are limits. There are lines that no one should cross. Bashir’s vulgar, vile comments crossed more than a few lines and just about no one was sorry to see him go. But bashing gays, if your inspiration is the Bible, is something else altogether, at least as far as conservative Christians are concerned.
So now we hear that Phil Robertson’s constitutional free speech rights are being violated. Sorry. They’re not. No one has a right to be on TV. When Bill O’Reilly asked me what I thought about the brouhaha I said that Phil had every right to say that “gay behavior,” as he put it, might lead to sex with animals. I said he had every right to paraphrase the Bible and say that gays were in the same group as swindlers and slanderers and drunkards and male prostitutes – which is what Paul told the Corinthians 2000 years ago.
After making clear that Phil could say whatever he wants about gays I added that I had the right to say that Phil is an ignoramus. I went on to say that A&E could suspend him, fire him, or do absolutely nothing about his remarks. And for good measure I said that conservative Christians (or anybody else) could watch the show or boycott the show.
And then I added one more thought, the one that was most important to me. I said that too often liberals reflexively defend trash, like Miley Cyrus – and too often conservatives reflexively defend ignorance.
Just because Phil got his ideas about gays from the Holy Bible doesn’t mean they’re not ugly and mean spirited. But to a lot of conservative Christians the Bible can never be ugly or mean spirited or wrong about anything. It’s simply impossible. So I don’t expect my conservative Christian friends to understand when I say that while in many cases religion can make people noble, sometimes it can make people stupid.
I think what Phil Robertson said was just plain ignorant. How might “gay behavior” lead to having sex with a goat anymore than “straight behavior” would lead to the same thing? Why is being gay like being a slanderer or a swindler or a drunkard? Because Paul thought so Christians are supposed to believe this garbage two thousand years later?
I’ve always been honest with you, my readers. We have disagreed over the years but I’ve always respected you enough not to pander. So let me be honest with you again: I’m growing more and more weary of the culture war. I’m growing more and more tired of liberals defending the indefensible and conservatives yelling about double standards because we’re not all circling the wagons for Phil Robertson. I’m getting sick of both sides.
O’Reilly asked me what I would do with Phil if I had been running A&E. I said I would have taken him off the show, but only for a while. I’ve been thinking about that and I’d like to amend my answer. I would not have suspended Phil Robertson. I would not have fired him. Instead, I would have issued a statement saying that in America everyone should have the right to be an ignoramus once in a while.