Phil Robertson-Duck Dynasty

The more I try to figure out what to say about the whole “Duck Dynasty” flap, the more I wish everybody on all sides would just shut up and go away. It’s just another idiotic battle in a war between two groups of people who seem to wake up every morning looking for a reason to be offended.

If Phil Robertson is the standard-bearer for your religious faith, you might want to rethink your theology. And if the religious beliefs of this eccentric clown threaten you, then you need to get out more and discover how many other people disagree with you in more serious ways. It’s insane that this “nobody” has become a celebrity and that people are yelling profanity at each other over his views.

I’ve never seen “Duck Dynasty,” and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have seen it even if I still watched television. It’s a “reality” show on A&E centered around a strange Louisiana swamp family that makes duck calls. Or something like that. Doesn’t it sound like something worth wasting your time on?

Robertson is widely known as a social conservative and he talks openly about his religious beliefs. In an interview with GQ magazine this week, Robertson asserted that homosexuality is wrong. He didn’t advocate legal consequences for being gay or lesbian. He just expressed the belief that it’s sin and he said he thought men should be more attracted to a woman’s vagina than a man’s anus.

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” Robertson said. “That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! 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.”

Is anyone honestly surprised that a 67-year-old religious social conservative from the rural Deep South would hold that view and say something that unthinking to a reporter? Is it really so threatening that he believes something different than you do about sin? Is it so threatening that he doesn’t understand how a man could be attracted to another man?

I’m frustrated with the positions of almost everybody involved in this exploding controversy. I’m irritated with the people who act as though the guy should be lynched. I’m irritated at the spineless network for making a star out of a buffoon and then pretending that they didn’t know what he was. And I’m irritated at the social conservatives who are pushing back and making Robertson into a Christian hero.

There’s enough idiocy to go around.

Let’s start with the network. A&E suspended Robertson from the show, saying, “His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong support[er]s and champions of the LGBT community.”

Robertson wasn’t suspended because he’s a Christian, as some religious people are claiming. He was suspended for saying things that offended a lot of the potential viewing audience of his employer. A&E doesn’t care whether he’s a Christian, a Buddhist or an atheist. If it would attract ratings, the network would put on a show starring a family of Satanists. It’s all about the money to them, not about theology. They can’t afford to offend too many people.

But it’s been clear to anyone paying attention who Robertson is. Can anybody at A&E pretend to be shocked by his views? Of course not. They simply can’t have him openly saying what they already knew he believed. Why? Because they can’t tolerate an admitted “heretic” on the air whose beliefs offend the viewers of their other shows. So they’re forced by public sentiment to pretend to care.

But social conservatives have responded with rage, claiming that Robertson has been attacked and suspended for being a Christian. If you’ve spent any time on Facebook and have any conservative friends, you’ve seen all sorts of posts supporting Robertson and you might have seen pages set up to support him.

I keep hearing from many of my conservative friends that this is a “free speech” issue. They seem to believe that the First Amendment says, “Congress shall make no law that stops anyone who I agree with from saying anything he pleases without consequences and this prohibition shall be extended to all others from infringing upon said right. Furthermore, this right shall not extend to those commie pinkos who disagree with me about anything.”

This has nothing to do with free speech or the First Amendment. Robertson has the right to say whatever he wants to say without the government punishing him, but A&E has the right to do business with anyone that it chooses. Just because you have a legal right to say something doesn’t mean that other people aren’t allowed to change the way they view you and change their relationships with you. (Were these conservatives upset when Martin Bashir was forced out at MSNBC recently after he made insulting comments about Sarah Palin? Were his “free speech” rights violated?)

What’s even worse for conservatives is the fact that some of them are claiming this guy as some paragon of their faith anyway. The truth is that there’s a huge difference between the message that Jesus preached and the message promoted by social conservatives. Robertson represents what might be termed as cultural Christianity, not biblical Christianity.

He’s not a theologian and I see no indication that he represents anything other than the socially conservative culture in which he grew up. He just happens to slap a Christian label on it. He’s not someone to hitch a theological wagon to. (And I’m not even getting into his absolutely idiotic statement in the same interview about black people having been happier before they finally achieved equal civil rights.)

Sadly, the people opposing Robertson aren’t making themselves look any better. If you look at posts and comments coming from the “tolerant” progressives — websites and comments both — you’ll see a complete misunderstanding of the issue, as well as pure hatred for those who disagree with them. For instance, the progressive left site DailyKos has a headline, “Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson makes vile homophobic comments about LGBTQ rights.”

Which “LGBTQ rights” did Robertson speak of? Please tell me. Unless gay people have the right to insist that everyone agree with them, there are no rights involved in this case.

And that’s one of the keys. Is it OK for someone to disagree with you about what’s sinful and what’s not? Part of tolerance is accepting that people are going to disagree with us. Don’t you demonstrate a lot more about your dedication to tolerance by calmly explaining why you disagree with someone than by shrilly trying to shut him up?

This argument isn’t ultimately about theology or free speech or anything like that. This is about two groups of people — social conservatives and the progressive left — each pointing to the other side and saying, “See? They won’t tolerate us.”

It’s another battle in the long-running (and ever-more-idiotic) culture war. It’s a war that I refuse to fight. And I’m sick of people acting as though people in public life need to be shouted down when they don’t agree with the enlightened elites — on either side.

Oddly, one of the most enlightened quotes about this whole mess comes from Robertson himself in the interview that got him into trouble.

“However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me,” Robertson said in the GQ interview. “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.”

But since the warring parties are engaged in a dishonest culture war, they’re not interested in loving each other. They’re just interested in winning a war against people they hate.

I refuse to take either side in that war.