A Duck Dynasty Christmas

It’s only days until Christmas, and I, like many LGBT people, spent much of the day alternately dodging and engaging yet another "gays vs. Christians" media firestorm.

Even if you’ve never heard of him before, by now you’ve probably heard about Phil Robertson.

Robertson is the patriarch of A&E’s hit show Duck Dynasty, and he recently gave an interview to a major magazine detailing his disgust at homosexuality. Robertson was subsequently disciplined by his show’s network and, like Chick-fil-A before him, has since been lionized by certain Christians eager for a champion willing to fight back against “the gay lobby,” which took offense at his crass paraphrase of Romans 1.

By midnight the Facebook group “Stand With Phil Robertson” had reached 1.2 million likes, and fury flowed with the trending Twitter hashtag #standwithPhil. Yesterday, on CNN, FOX and MSNBC, the Duck Dynasty debate was the public face of Christianity at the height of what should be the holy season of Advent. 

It makes me sad. But more than that, the thought that this mess will probably find its way into many family conversations this Christmas is profoundly disheartening.

The holidays are already tough enough for so many LGBT folks; the last thing we need is something like this to provide both fuel for the fire and a spark.

At some point, I couldn’t take it anymore. I’ve recently joined my church’s worship band, and so part of how I chose to spend my time instead was in rehearsing for this Sunday’s service. Over and over I strummed the chords for “O Holy Night,” losing myself in the delicate melody and the traditional lyrics filled with hope and promise.

Truly He taught us to love one another
His law is love and His gospel is peace
Chains He shall break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name all oppression shall cease…

At some point in this meditation it occurred to me; this, this is enough. 

If all I knew of Christianity were the stories faithfully told and the songs sung on the two days that more people find their way to church than any other—Christmas and Easter—then I would know nothing of the long list of people Robertson and so many others today have said are unable to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

I’d never know that many of my brothers and sisters in Christ consider my love to be an abomination. I’d never have cowered in a closet, trembling at the thought of hellfire and damnation. All I’d know was that God, Emanuel, chose to be with us, shining like a star in the darkest night, and that He loved us so much that He died for us and even death couldn’t keep Him away.

A faith built on that alone would be enough for a peace beyond anything else I’ve ever known.

And while some might say that such a limited knowledge would be incomplete, that every word of scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness—which is why Christians have coined so many derisive terms for people whose church attendance is limited to those two holidays: CEO, the C&E crowd, Chreasters, and so on.

On a day like today, when scripture has once again been used as a scourge on our backs and loveless words have deafened our ears with the ringing of gongs and cymbals, I have to give these folks praise.

When there is so much out there claiming to represent Christianity and to speak for our God, these Christmas and Easter Christians somehow manage to tune out the static, clinging to what is essential and letting go of so much that isn’t. Despite all of the noise, the annual proclamations of a “war on Christmas,” the sirens’ call of holiday shopping jingles and the exhaustion of stress and worry, they can still find their way to church to hear the old familiar stories and to join their voices in the old familiar songs. 

They’ve come to understand, perhaps instinctively, what I realized today. With Christmas and Easter, the beginning and the end that is not an end, but a beginning yet again, what else do you really need? And why risk letting our human narratives, the obsessions with sex and conflict and judgment, find a way to get in the way?

Maybe that’s why Christmas and Easter Christians don’t come any other day.

I wish they would. I suspect our churches would be better for it. But even if we only ever see them those two days of the year, I’m glad they’re there, to remind us of what we should already know: God’s love is enough.

Photo via Casey Pick

Comments (14)

Thank you so very much for sharing these thoughts. You've just articulated my sorrow at this latest "Christians are anti-LGBT" narrative that has dominated the news cycle. And what a profoundly hopeful perspective and reminder of what is most important.

Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. It is unfortunate that so many Christians just don't get it, Love all is primary objective all else is Fluff! I am a Christian, and I love Jesus and my faith. I stand by my believe that all are created equal regardless of your orientation or belief system, and that Jesus Love for all of us concurs all

what do You make of romans 1?

Indeed! Let's purge the Bible of all those texts that we find offensive, and stick to those that affirm us without qualification. I, for one, wish the Bible didn't say anything about greed or covetousness-- 'God's love is enough! What else do you really need?' Get out those scissors.

"...clinging to what is essential and letting go of so much that isn’t...what else do you really need? And why risk letting our human narratives, the obsessions with sex and conflict and judgment, find a way to get in the way?"

So is sex essential to life and faith or is it not? If not, then why all the attention to LGBT concerns? You can't have it both ways!

Phil Robertson misquoted the mistranslated version of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, not Romans1. The King James Version (which is one of the most accurate English translations) reads:

9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate (malokois), nor abusers of themselves with mankind (arsenokoitai)
10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

The English Standard Version, which is probably the mistranslation that Phil was quoting from, reads:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

I could go into greater detail about the meanings of malokois and arsenokoitai in the verses above, but i wrote about this on my own blog and if you'd like, you can check it out.

Joe, just the fact that you think the KJV is "one of the most accurate English translations" is reason enough to doubt your exegesis.

Thanks for the kind words, folks - and good to hear from you again, too, Andy. I was wondering where you were.

Isidore, the question of how I and other Christians who believe as I do reconcile Romans 1 has been ably addressed by many authors and scholars (one of my favorite being Justin Lee, here: https://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php) but when it all boils down to it, I read Romans 1 through Romans 13, specifically: "Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law."

The story told in Romans 1, of people who willfully turned from God to worship idols and then lost all sense of self, of right or wrong, has nothing to do with me, or with any gay Christian. The idea that somebody who clings to the cross as hard as this community does, anybody who is willing to walk into a church despite the kind of abuse heaped on them by people like Phil Robertson and his supporters... that somebody could equate that kind of faith with the behavior described in Romans 1, well, when you really think about it, it makes no sense at all. All it takes is the eyes to look lovingly on your gay neighbors and see the truth of who they are.

Casey, you are right that there are some people who make the case that Rom 1 has nothing to do with some forms of homosexuality. However, you also have to admit that by far the overwhelming historic understanding of that passage makes exactly the case that you dismiss as making "no sense at all." The biblical, theological and historic case against all forms of homosexual expression is simply massive. This doesn't excuse abuse, but neither does it condone clear sin.

I response to a few of the well-meaning but unfortunate comments:

Cut up the Bible? If your primary purpose and effort as a Christian is NOT loving people and caring for the poor amongst us... but pointing out people's sins and mocking their stories... than you have already cut out most of the essence of scripture. Bravo! We are called to make it EASIER for people to meet God, not more difficult. We don't put qualifications, God does. God doesn't need our help. Unless you have been invited into the intimate spaces of someone's life... calling out sin or making assumptions about how God feels about others is incredibly ABUSIVE - SO: STOP IT!

As to all the scriptural mentions of homosexuality in scripture... there aren't that many. And there are many other perspectives on them, that you can easily google if you care to have a more educated perspective. Or not. Your choice. If you take the Bible literally but have not asked the question: Since the word "homosexual" didn't appear in any vernacular or common usage prior to the 19th Century, than what word was Paul actually using in his sin lists? Than my contention is very simply: you DO NOT take the Bible literally or seriously enough to do a proper study of it. What DOES Romans 1 refer to? Excellent question! If you are just asking that NOW and haven't done any other study of the intricacies of much of the theology in the book of Romans (for example: do you "baptize for the dead?" - if not, why not?): I also contend you do NOT take the Bible literally. But what I will say again about scripture is that: it says much more about love, caring for the poor, leading people to GOD... than it says about how we should point out people's sex lives and shame them "in the name of the Lord"

The Gospel means GOOD NEWS. The essence of the Gospel is being like JESUS. Jesus life, work and words pointed to God. I wish that at Christmas we would also find the courage to love people the way Jesus did... that in the messiness of life... like in the messiness of the place of Jesus' birth... we are reminded that GOD CAME NEAR! And also remember that God keeps coming near to us... again... and again... and again...

I am an ordained pastor, student of scripture, MDiv graduate, and slave of the Gospel of Jesus Christ... and I approve of this message!

I could kiss you for this article, you are able to sum my thoughts into written word.

As a former gay basher and very failed Christian, my heart and sinks when I see popular Christian public figures use their status to do something other than "Love your Neighbor."

emwyma, there are so many non sequiturs, red herrings and straw men in your post that I simply don't have time to address them all. In brief, Jesus loved people outrageously AND called them to repent and leave their lives of sin (see the woman caught in adultery as a prime example). One of the ways we show tat we love God is by following his commands. Same sex relationships are clearly and pervasively described as sinful in the Bible. I recommend you read Robert Gagnon's work before you make simplistic claims about what the Bible does or doesn't say about homosexuality.

"the overwhelming historic understanding"... ah, and now you appeal to the crowd of history. The mob has said it is so, and thus it must be so, regardless of the evidence of guilt or innocence. And thus Barabbas walked free.

casey, that you misrepresent my remarks reflects poorly on you and demonstrates the paucity of your argument. Yes, tradition and history are important, and I appealed to the "the biblical, theological and historic case."

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