Friday, December 20, 2013

Some brief remarks about "Duck Dynasty"

I don't watch "Duck Dynasty" but I get an idea of what the show is about from what I've heard. There are three reasons I think A&E's move to suspend Phil Robertson from the series is highly unfortunate.

First, the whole point of the show, as I understand it, is to showcase what redneck Christian fundamentalists are really like. A&E profits from people's fascination with (and perhaps identification with) the Robertson family. If Phil Robertson makes offensive and ignorant remarks about homosexuality, is this shocking news? What else is a reality TV show for except to give us glimpses of what real people are like? Now A&E is punishing the guy for being exactly the type of person that they are exploiting for profit. Why did they even air the show in the first place?

Second, why not trust the public to decide how they want to take Phil Robertson's remarks? Let the viewers decide if they want to send in fan mail or hate mail, or whether they want to support or pity or have mixed feelings about a guy who compares same-sex relationships with bestiality. I think the general public would not have supported what Phil Robertson said in GQ, and he would have effectively hung himself. But now that the man is being shut down, it creates instant sympathy for him. Even I'm feeling sympathy for him, even though I found his remarks to be offensive and troubling.

Third, GLAAD's successful crusade against the show only plays into the hands of conservative Christians who have been claiming for years that the "homosexual agenda" is all about taking away freedom of speech from people who uphold the belief that homosexual practice is sinful. I, for one, am tired of hearing from Christians who are practically begging to be persecuted by gays and lesbians so that they can justify being even more morally outraged against homosexuality than they already are. Score one for them thanks to this fiasco. As a straight ally who is trying to help my fellow Christians understand gay issues better from within the conservative church, this sure doesn't make my life any easier.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Where does the difference lie?

Recently our family had an opportunity to do some emergency hospitality. A teenage girl needed a place to stay for about a week. She was pregnant and homeless and living on the streets. I found out about the need from my pastor, who found out from another pastor out of state, who found out from one of his congregation members.

For a long time we had been prepared to take someone into our home in an emergency. There were a couple of years when I was regularly corresponding with a gay friend whom I felt certain was going to end up on the street because of a volatile home situation. I always imagined the living room couch and extra bathroom stood ready for the day of his phone call. But this situation of a pregnant teenager was not at all what I had in mind.

To protect the privacy of everyone involved, I'm reluctant to say much more about it except that it turned out to be a tremendous blessing for two reasons. One, our young guest felt like a part of our family and became like a daughter to me. Two, I saw Christians come together to help her in ways that I didn't know was possible. Nobody judged, everyone lent a hand and gave a word of encouragement. The out-of-state congregation member kept in touch with us every day. Someone else was securing a job for the girl and a more permanent living arrangement somewhere across the country. Another person was buying the plane tickets to get her there.

I was on the phone with two doctors' offices and three crisis pregnancy centers, trying to secure an ultrasound appointment. Some of these places, I could tell, were Christian-run organizations. I didn't want the girl to be subjected to high-pressure tactics about what decision she should be making. She was a professing Christian, and I felt she had a better chance of making the right decision if she were given safety, space and the right encouragement. These pregnancy counselors understood that. There were no threats or condemning pronouncements, only helpful medical information, a chance to see the tiny beating heart on the ultrasound screen, and some free gifts like a baby blanket and tiny knit hat that she could take home with her. Nobody told her they were loving her in spite of her sin. Nobody told her that if she made the wrong decision she wasn't a Christian. Nobody told her that if she had an abortion she would be going to hell.

Apparently the Spirit of Jesus Christ still lives in the church. I was--I freely admit--shocked by the graciousness, the generosity, the compassion and the hospitality I saw in the random Christian strangers I came into contact with during those seven days. After years of being immersed in stories of the cruel, heartless, inhumane treatment of gay and lesbian people by their churches, I guess I'd been starving to see the gospel in action. For one week of my life I felt like I was a part of something great, the church of Jesus Christ working together as the hands and feet of a vast spiritual body to serve someone in need.

Now, in the aftermath, I am left wondering when can we transfer that generous, open-hearted love to the gay and lesbian people in our churches? I wonder when can I stop crying myself to sleep over another gay friend who tells me he would rather be dead than face a Christian father's hatred? I wonder when I won't have to go through weeks of torture because I hadn't heard back from a depressed gay friend who has been all but spit upon by his church, and can only imagine that he's lying alone in his apartment with a bullet through his brain?

Would it help Christians to imagine that a lesbian daughter who is contemplating a same-sex relationship is not much different than a pregnant teenage daughter who is contemplating an abortion? As a Christian parent, if your teenage daughter got pregnant, would you kick her out of the house? If you found out she had an abortion, would you tell her she is an abomination and is going to hell? The angry part of you might want to, but the sane part of you knows that she is a sinner, and desperate sinners commit desperate sins and this is why Jesus had to die for us. This is the situation where you most need to preach gospel hope, not drive a stake through her heart and walk away. And as tempting as it may be to point out the differences between the two situations ("My lesbian daughter defends her relationship! She wouldn't defend an abortion!"), isn't the real difference in our own heart attitude? Why is there such a difference? Why does there have to be?