We All Lost The Duck Dynasty Debate

Last week, news reports, talk shows, and social networks were saturated with updates from the great Duck Dynasty debate of 2013. I logged onto Facebook to see comments from both sides—from conservative friends lamenting the persecution of Phil Robertson to queer friends suffering from the hurtful debates circling their news feed. 

After only a week, Robertson's suspension was lifted.

While many rejoice at this news, it is clear that neither side emerged as a winner.

LGBTQ people lost when our social networks lit up with homophobic and hurtful dialogue over our identity and rights. Non-affirming Christians lost when their faith was mocked by our increasingly LGBTQ-affirming society. 

And most upsetting to me, LGBTQ-affirming Christians lost when our theology was erased in yet another false depiction of the "gays vs. Christians" debate.

The only winners in this debate seem to be news outlets, who undoubtedly benefitted from an increased amount of web traffic. Come to think of it, retailers who stacked Duck Dynasty gear in the front of their stores the week before Christmas probably weren't hurting either. 

And though the long-term effects of this scandal on A&E's reputation are uncertain, the network's decision to launch a marathon of Duck Dynasty last week—during Robertson's suspension—says something of their priorities. 

These gains came at the cost of authentic dialogue and respectful conversations.

To be clear—Robertson's comments were crude and offensive, and they represent a form of religious-based homophobia that is present around the United States and across the world. When a public figure like Robertson shares these views, he perpetuates stereotypes and hatred of LGBTQ people. This is a problem.

But last week, this story was sensationalized in a narrative convenient to the media. The perfect villain was created, and both sides took the bait.

Unfortunately, turning Robertson into a villain served no purpose. It distracted us from authentic dialogue and fueled the fires of an already hot, already hurtful conversation. 

In a recent, moving essay, a gay student in Louisiana illustrates how sensationalizing this debate made him unsafe in his own town. His words and his reality are heartbreaking. 

Pointing fingers creates caricatures instead of conversation, and it stunts our collective capacity for empathy.

We all lost when this debate was sensationalized, and most involved emerged feeling mocked and misunderstood. 

In truth, I think our Christian beliefs on LGBTQ identity and equality exist on a wide spectrum. There certainly are Christians who agree with Robertson, but other believe just as firmly in a God who welcomes and affirms LGBTQ people. 

Next time, maybe we can create space for that kind of nuance. Maybe we can sit down and have the hard conversations. 

When LGBTQ people are pitted against Christians, I mourn the losses on both sides. 

When we fail to have compassion for our enemies, I mourn the loss of something human in each of us.

Photo via flickr user Michael McCarthy

Comments (6)

Thanks for this analysis, Alison....I've been thinking how the whole debacle might have turned productive if A & E had interspersed their Duck Dynasty re-runs with some thoughtful LGBTQ positive films like Seventh Gay Adventists, Call Me Malcolm and the like. Sigh. I hope in the new year, A & E will consider the power they have to shift the dynamic from combative sound bite to honest conversation.

Dear Alison,

You are clearly an articulate well spoken educated young lady. Unfortunately, while agreeing with your statement that Mr. Robertson's comments were "crude and offensive", I do differ with you on the premise that God "welcomes and affirms LGBTQ people." This is simply contrary to the plain simple literal text of the Bible. But before you think I am "gay bashing" please permit me to take this thought further; God does not welcome any sin; homosexuality or any other, all sins are offensive to God.

Unfortunately, the gospel is offensive to many people; after all no one wants to admit they are wrong, let alone be told they are wrong. In the rush to be tolerant, society in general (and sadly even some who profess to be Christian) has ignored the fact that God has established what constitutes sin; the wrong things that we all do in the eyes of God.

To suggest a permissive acceptance of sin on the part of God is tantamount to giving a false gospel which, if believed, will cause the lost to remain lost and still in the condemnation which their sins and they deserve.

It is not a Christian's responsibility to redefine sin. Rather it is our responsibility to proclaim the love of Jesus Christ who died to redeem the lost. We must share the gospel in such a way that lost men, women, boys and girls (regardless of their sinful predilections) will repent of their sins, accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and follow Him.

Respectfully,
Pastor Alan

Pastor could you please provide me with the book/verse where Jesus/God condemns a person born gay? If you wanted to argue biblical interpretations of same gender sex that's an entirely different conversation however please give me a verse on ones innate orientation being against God. Thank you in advance

I was looking forward to reading your religious based intolerant standpoint on the whole debacle so that I could rip into you for your religious based oppression of others. You didn't afford me that opportunity and wrote in a fair way that, while it doesn't support my slight non religious bias, helped remind me of what a level headed and considerate opinion sounds like and that just because someone has faith in the unseen, they aren't necessarily crazy. Good Job!

I think a huge problem is that people take these publicity stunts seriously - and make no mistake this was a planned publicity stunt. They want to secure their Tea Party marketshare going into the next season, and nothing does that quite like, well, us - The Gay. The GQ article was bait dangled and taken, with the usual histrionics in abundance.
This man, his family, and their scripted tv show mean nothing to me, have no bearing on my life or my sense of self-worth - they are utterly irrelevant. His idiotic opinion doesn't injure or affect me. Nor, for that matter, do I believe that it injures anyone else.

A&E decided to reinstate Phil Robertson. I get it! We live in a money over morals world and Duck Dynasty brings the network money. I am however grateful to hear A&E is going to work with Phil and the family to educate them on inclusion and the gay community. I pray that Phil continues to spiritually grow and we see a more Christ-like love-motivated Christian and less of a judgmental (comparing gay people to everything horrible in the world) Christian. In the meantime I encourage Phil to be more observant of his literalist interpretation of the Word. He too can be on the other end of biblical cherry-picking, finger-pointing and condemnation; ”Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him.” 1 Corinthians 11:14

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