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From Around the Internet

I was up at the Bluegreen resort at Boyne Falls with my family for a vacation when the Duck Dynasty flap hit.

Suddenly everything in the social media was all about some foolish remarks that Phil Robertson, head of the clan featured on the reality TV show Duck Dynasty, had made in an interview for GQ magazine. He said that black people were better off during the Jim Crow era. He spoke of homosexuality as a sin, saying it was a matter of choice between how inviting male and female body parts are, and likening it to other sexual acts denounced in the Bible: including bestiality and sexual promiscuity. The NAACP and the Human Rights campaign both objected to Robertson’s remarks, A&E suspended the man from appearing in future episodes — and the internet lit up with outrage — as our ongoing American Culture War kicked in. (1.) Some people were outraged that (in their view) free speech was curtailed. Among them was: Jerry Walls, currently professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University. He posted twice on this issue: Duck Dynasty and the Scourge of Fundamentalist Intolerance and Duck Dynasty, Bestiality and Ultimate Reality. You can find a lot of other posts expressing outrage on the Internet — I scanned several but I will not link to them. Notice that these focus solely on Robertson’s remarks about homosexuality. Shane Raynor blogging at Ministry Matters says this is not a free speech issue, and that Robertson’s views about the sinfulness of same gender sex is mainstream Christianity: Duck Dynasty, Defrockings, and Free Speech. (Again, the article focuses on Robertson’s remarks on sexual behavior, not on race.) (2.) Some people are outraged by the remarks themselves. There is plenty in Robertson’s foolish, offhand remarks about which to be outraged. And, plenty of examples of this can be found among various Internet bloggers. For example, here is Fred Clark’s characteristically sanctimonious rant: ‘Duck Dynasty’: White evangelicals rallying for racism. Not that he doesn’t have a point. Are Robertson’s foolish remarks really something conservatives and Christians should rally around? I don’t think so.

The following brief item reminds us of the everyday reality of Phil Robertson’s Christian faith:
The Unsurprising Thing Phil Robertson Did After Getting Suspended From ‘Duck Dynasty’. Derek Ouellette reminds all Christians to be careful what they say in public: A Bible Verse For Phil Robertson (and the rest of us). (“I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak.” — Matthew 12:36.) Misty Irons makes some brief remarks about the controversy here: Some brief remarks about "Duck Dynasty.” She says:

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?

Brandan Robertson (no relation) at the Revangelical Blog says to his fellow evangelical Christians “Shame On Us…” for making this such an issue. He writes:

But what’s worse is the fact that over the last 24 hours while many Evangelicals have been screaming “Persecution!” over the fact that A&E exercised their constitutional right to suspend Phil Robertson for sharing his (un)”biblical” perspective on homosexuality and slavery (?), news reports of real, horrendous Christian persecution have been completely overlooked. One of the largest Christian massacres in recent history just took place in Syria, leaving hundreds of men and women raped, beaten, and killed. Just three days ago, Prince Charles announced at a Press Conference that Christian Persecution by radical “Islamists” has continued to increase in Egypt and Syria with no end in sight. This news of these monstrous attacks has been coming to the surface during the same time that we have been so caught up in defending our favorite “Christian” reality TV star and we have said nothing. Done nothing. Prayed nothing. What a damn shame.Beyond even this terrible news we are all well aware that there are millions of children starving in the world today. There is a booming sex trafficking industry that is taking the lives of thousands of young women. The global AIDS crisis is still out of control. And so many other radically important issues that Christians have been commanded to take action over and raise awareness of. The fundamental call to be a disciple of Christ is, as Pope Francis recently said, to “stoop down low.” To heal the sick, feed the poor, care for the widow and the orphan, and to stand up for the marginalized. And yet here we are, wasting millions of hours, dollars, and prayers standing up for what? One of the wealthiest Christian dynasties in America’s right to say offensive crap in the name of the Lord? We really have our priorities out of whack. There is only one word that I sense to Spirit of God saying to the American Church right now- “Repent.“

Personally, I think this incident illustrates once again how stupid it is for us to be constantly waging a Culture War. It plays to our fears and anxieties. It elicits our outrage. And it, keeps us from hearing one another. Let me suggest a process of reflection by which we can learn from the controversies instead of being swept into them. In this case it goes like this: (1.) Why would someone say that? (2.) Why would someone be outraged that someone said that? (3.) What can be learned? So, think about Robertson’s comments on race. Why would someone say something like that? Because they are sadly ignorant of the kind of oppression their black friends and neighbors are experiencing. I think it is a good illustration of the kind of crazy ideas white people can entertain about black people and their experience of life. Us white folks can easily get out-of-touch. Why would people be outraged at this? Because it is not true and it trivializes the unfair discrimination, the lynchings, the various forms of oppression black people have experienced in America. And, think about his comments on homosexuality. Why would someone say that? Because they assume it’s all a matter of choice. A sin is something you do. Sins are defined by reference to the Bible. One sin is as much a sin as another. It is not about what people are, but about what they do. Why would people get outraged about that? To gay people it is a matter of who they are, not simply what they do. So, the comparison to bestiality is offensive, since they are not the same at all. What can be learned? We are out of touch with one another. We need to listen.

In that regard, Brandon Ambrosino at TIME writes that:
The 'Duck Dynasty' Fiasco Says More About Our Bigotry Than Phil’s. He writes:

Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them? One of the biggest pop-culture icons of today just took center stage to “educate” us about sexuality. I see this as an opportunity to further the discussion, to challenge his limited understanding of human desire, to engage with him and his rather sizable audience — most of whom, by the way, probably share his views — and to rise above the endless sea of tweet-hate to help move our LGBT conversations to where they need to go.

G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” If he is right — and he usually is — then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.

Here in America people have the right to make foolish, ill-informed remarks in public. And, other people have the right to object to this — saying that they have been misrepresented. It is all a part of our public discourse. And, by the grace of God, may we learn something from it!

Here are some great thoughts as we move toward Christmas.

Adam Lorenz in
Hoping for Home reminds us that “[t]here is this beautiful downward movement we find in Scripture. Where we see a God who is continually moving towards His creation, tirelessly seeking and searching for us.”

Allan R. Bevere says
The God of Christmas Is an Embarrassment:

This is the God who comes to us in Jesus; the God who refuses to remain above the muck and the mire, the God who will not avoid the mess of the human situation. It's all so earthy, so scandalous. And yes, there are those who are scandalized by such a deity, even those who claim to follow this Jesus and who celebrate this Christmas season. But we must understand this-- the God who comes to us in Jesus will not be domesticated by those who seek to tame him and make him palatable to those who claim him as their Lord as well as by Christianity's cultured despisers. The God who comes to us in Jesus will not be boxed into some cultured notions of respectability, but will instead throw his honor to the ground, as he, like the waiting father casts aside his dignity running down the road to his wayward son who has finally returned home. The God who comes to us in Jesus will not be protected by his admirers who seek to insulate him from his scandalous doings in this world by trying to explain away his unexpected ways in this world and smoothing over the quirks in his character with a systematic account of his divine attributes. The God who comes to us in Jesus will not be relegated to the heavens looking down on his creation in aloof and Enlightened fashion, hoping we will use the reason given to us to make our way, offering us charity but not himself. This God refuses to leave us to our own devices. The God who comes to us in Jesus Christ will not apologize for getting his hands dirty as he reaches out to those who are soiled, those who need his help. The God who comes to us in Jesus Christ does not need advocates or PR consultants to advise him on how to improve his image in the world. The God who comes to us in Jesus needs no apologists to defend his reputation.

And I was moved by these remarks from Krista Tippett, even though, as she says, they are some of the reasons Why I Don't Do Christmas:

Here’s what I take seriously. There is something audacious and mysterious and reality-affirming in the assertion that has stayed alive for two thousand years that God took on eyes and ears and hands and feet, hunger and tears and laughter and the flu, joy and pain and gratitude and our terrible, redemptive human need for each other. It’s not provable, but it’s profoundly humanizing and concretely and spiritually exacting. And it’s no less rational — no more crazy — than economic and political myths to which we routinely deliver over our fates in this culture, to our individual and collective detriment.

So here’s what I’m thinking about this Christmas. Recently I followed up on a promise I’ve been making myself for years: to wash and sort and give away all the good clothing my kids have outgrown as they’ve left childhood behind. It’s embarrassing that I never took the time to do this all along. In the course of digging around for where to donate, I stumbled on the site of a charity that works with homeless teenagers. It turns out that they’re not asking in the first instance for all these Levis and good-as-new, cool t-shirts. They’re asking for donations of socks and coats. They’re asking for newly purchased underwear, noting that most of us take for granted our ever-renewable supplies of clean underwear that fits.

I’m not going to buy any presents this year. We will go shopping as a family for these homeless teenagers, and I’ll try to be honest about the equivalent I would spend on my own children on the commercial holy days if I believed in them. I report this in some hope of feeding a little rebellion I sense many of us are quietly tending. But I also make it public to be sure I follow through.

As I said, we need each other. And that impulse, surely, is deep in the original heart even of the most secular things like Santa Claus and surrounding your home with lights: examining what we are to each other and experiencing that, sometimes when we do this, something transcendent happens.

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