What We Have Learned From The Duck Dynasty Controversy

Duck_Dynasty_PromoIt seems that the A&E Duck Dynasty controversy has come to a conclusion. In the aftermath of this dispute, after all the words exchanged have been reviewed, what can we learn? I believe that the public responses surrounding this recent chain of events reveal several observable trends and ideologies about us as a society. Thus, the following theses presented below are based upon what I believe is the trending American ideology and ethos towards scripture, ethics, and what it values.

Thesis #1: Society is unable to apply the simple rules of grammar to scripture.
In the debated GQ Interview, it is interesting to note that Phil’s Robertson’s controversial comments were basically a paraphrase of a passage in 1 Corinthians. In response to Robertson’s paraphrase, many commentators online and on television reacted with a scholarly Biblical disposition giving critique to Robertson and the contents of his comments; individuals who most likely had not even bothered to read the scriptures with the basic rules of grammar. Let me explain. As previously mentioned, the main part of Robertson’s quote in the GQ interview that caused offense was from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Paul says that wrongdoers such as the effeminate (μαλακoι) and the homosexuals (απσεvoκoιται) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Now, using the rules of grammar, we must note that homosexuality is not the only sin listed in the Apostle Paul’s list; homosexuality is listed with the sins of idolatry, adultery, thieving, greed, drunkenness, swindling, etc… In other words, it is important to remember that homosexuality need not be singled out in this vast sea of sin in the world. Rather, homosexuals need to join contrite: heterosexuals, males, females, children, elderly, rebels, self-righteous narcissists, Democrats, Republicans, greedy executives, church goers, thieves, teachers, plumbers, adulterers, IRS agents, white collar workers, blue collar workers, uncompassionate jerks, truth compromisers, North Americans, Africans, Europeans, Asians, and so forth, who are confessing that, “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; that we are by nature sinful and unclean and we are in need of forgiveness and the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood.” Really there are not different classifications of people; rather there are sinners who confess sin and sinners who don’t confess. Indeed, homosexuality need not be singled out in the list resulting in the de-emphasis and/or exclusion of the other items in the list. Conversely though homosexuality should also not be removed from the list, for by removing homosexuality from Paul’s list and stripping it from the category of sin we are compelled to be grammatically faithful and do the same to the other items listed in the passage of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Otherwise stated, if homosexuality is endorsed, supported, and normalized should we not keep grammatical consistency and do the same for theft, greed, adultery, drunkenness, fraud, extortion, etc…

Thesis #2: Society is relatively ignorant of what scripture says on the issue of homosexuality, especially within its historical context
If homosexuality is not to be singled out and/or removed from this list, could it be that Paul isn’t talking about homosexuality; maybe the passage isn’t interpreted or translated correctly? Examining the usage of the words μαλακoι and απσεvoκoιται are extremely valuable to the discussion and questions at hand for it reveals an important historical context for us to assess. You see, in the Romans Empire during the time of Paul ‘active’ homosexuality conducted by a Roman Citizen was tolerated when the ‘passive’ recipient was not a Roman Citizen. In other words, homosexual acts were not tolerated when the passive recipient was a Roman Citizen (i.e., it was not appropriate for a Roman Citizen to be penetrated in a homosexual way, but a Roman Citizen could penetrate a non-Roman Citizen). Thus, it could be said that the Roman Empire in the first-century had moral restraint on the ethics of homosexual activities. Indeed, it was inappropriate for a Roman Citizen to engage passively in homosexual activity, but not actively. Why is this important to understand? It is important to understand because Paul, knowing the Roman Empire’s homosexual ethics, uses two distinct words in talking about and condemning homosexuality; he uses both the words μαλακoι and απσεvoκoιται in his 1 Corinthian list. In other words, Paul not only condemns passive homosexuality (μαλακoι) as the Romans did, but he also uses the word απσεvoκoιται to condemn active homosexuality. Thus, Paul irrefutably rejects both the passive and active acts of homosexuality in his letter to Corinth.

In summary of both Thesis #1 and Thesis #2, Paul’s clear usage of the words μαλακoι and απσεvoκoιται within the culture of the first-century Roman Empire shows us undoubtedly that the Holy Scriptures stand against the acts of passive and active homosexuality as well as a plethora of other sins. This is not a matter of interpretation, personal bias, hate, or a lack of tolerance. Rather, using the basic rules of grammar and historical context, it is frankly the reality of the Bible; a reality that many people discoursing about these Biblical passages have failed to acknowledge and/or understand.

Thesis #3: Society is not yet ready to label the Bible intolerant
The third thing that we have learned from the Duck Dynasty controversy is that individuals are not yet willing to label the Bible as intolerant. In watching a debate on a news channel, it was interesting to note that one of the participating persons in the debate stated that Phil Robertson’s statement to GQ was simply his paraphrase of 1 Corinthians. In other words, the person in the debate attempted to remove Phil Robertson from the equation and pitted the LGBT supporter against the Bible. The follow up question was, “If Phil was intolerant, unloving, and insensitive while simply quoting the Bible, what do you believe about the Bible? Is the Bible intolerant, unloving, and insensitive?” To my amazement, there was a great deal of back peddling done by the LGBT supporter in the debate. Interestingly though the back peddling continued until the issue of ‘interpretation’ was brought forth. In other words, the LGBT supporter in this television debate was not willing to apply the same labels placed upon Phil, upon the Bible. Generally speaking, I believe that society is not yet ready to label the Bible intolerant. In order to resolve the tension though, individuals who are offended by the message of Christians quoting the Bible will maintain that the offensive message is one of illogical interpretation of the Bible and not the plain and clear message of the Bible. How long will this tactic last? I am not sure. Could there be a time in the future where these rationales will no longer work and the Bible is categorized as intolerant? Maybe this will happen. If it does, then at least society will be taking the Bible at face value.

Thesis #4: Tolerance is not the chief god in our culture, the dollar is
The final thing that we have learned from the Duck Dynasty controversy is that, even though loudly acclaimed, tolerance is not the chief god in our culture, but rather loses out to the all-important dollar. Yes, we are inundated with the message that tolerance in America is the highest ideal and virtue, while intolerance is the mark of evil. This is especially evident when discussing homosexuality. Over the last several years we have witnessed the public retribution towards those in the media who have criticized homosexuality by affirming the Bible’s message. The vengeance towards Chris Broussard and Craig James, ESPN Sport commentators who critiqued homosexuality, are two simple examples of the result of violating America’s worship of tolerance. However, is tolerance the chief god of America at this time? The Duck Dynasty controversy has revealed that this is not the case; there is another god that trumps tolerance and that is ‘the dollar’. Yes, through the Duck Dynasty controversy we have learned that while tolerance may be Queen, American culture bows in worship at the ‘King’s’ throne—the almighty dollar. What is more important than being politically correct and tolerant? Answer, $500 million dollars (Note: Bloomberg has recently reported that the Duck Dynasty Empire amounts to some $500 million). Indeed, A&E reinstated Phil Robertson and Cracker Barrel put Duck Dynasty items back on the shelves because America’s capitalistic system responded poorly to the network’s initial response and indeed we see that when ‘money talks’ the servants listen. Thus, the ideology of tolerance is surely a powerful force in society, but it is simply not as powerful as the influence of ‘the dollar’.

Even though I confess that I have not watched the Duck Dynasty show and probably won’t ever get around to watching it any time in the future, I am grateful for the individuals on this reality show, for through their convictions and Phil Robertson’s interview with GQ we have learned more about our society and its ideology towards scripture, ethics, and what it values.


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About Pastor Matt Richard

Rev. Dr. Matthew Richard is the pastor at Zion Lutheran Church of Gwinner, ND. He was previously a Senior Pastor in Sidney, Montana, an Associate Pastor of Spiritual Care and Youth Ministries in Williston, North Dakota, and an Associate Pastor of Children and Youth in Rancho Cucamonga, California. He received his undergraduate degree from Minot State University, ND and his M.Div. from Lutheran Brethren Seminary, MN. His doctor of ministry thesis, from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, was on exploring the journey of American Evangelicals into Confessional Lutheran thought. Pastor Richard is married to Serenity and they have two children. He enjoys fishing, pheasant hunting, watching movies, blogging, golfing, spending time with his family and a good book with a warm latte! To check out more articles by Pastor Matt you can visit his personal blog at: www.pastormattrichard.com.


What We Have Learned From The Duck Dynasty Controversy — 6 Comments

  1. Pastor Richard –

    Nice article. However, I have to quibble with you on a small part of your last point (#4). While it may be true that for some people the “dollar” (money or mammon) may be “king” for them personally in their lives (maybe the A & E executives who get paid bonuses for higher profits; but since we don’t know them as individuals I would counsel restrait from this type of condemnation by stereotype), in the sense of a the larger economy and the business firm the flow of dollars better know as the “price” of goods and services simply serves as an indicator of social or public preference. In a free market economy, consumer choice thus “community opinion” speaks by flow of the dollars and indicates (by resulting profitability) which firms business conduct is better serving peoples needs and desires. Thus the FACT that the Duck Dynasty generates such huge “dollar” amounts indicates a large amount of public support for the PRODUCT and SERVICE that is provided by the Robinson family. Since, in fact, Phil and the rest of his family IS the product this indicates large public support for the Robinson family (and their values) and conversely little support for the “false god” of tolerance. In other words, the market AND money functioned EXACTLY as they should in a free society and a free market – as a voice of public sentiment and preference which forces firms (business) to SERVE PEOPLE and their values and not dictate or decide them for people. Now, lets consider something else. Lets assume that, hypothetically because we do not know what is in their soul, is true that the EXECS at A & E may be full promoters of “tolerance”, biblical truth haters and greedy mammon obsessed sinners. In a free market, they could in fact choose to “stick to their gun” and fire Phil, but they do so only to their ultimate self-detriment as they would lose all the things they profess to love (politcal correctness, money, etc) as people would “vote” against their selfish choices by moving to another firm who can provide what they want (in this case quirky, duck hunting bible quoters who have reality tv shows). The can persist in “doing what they think is right” and go broke – or they can choose to serve the wishes of their fellow man. So, again, what the flow of “money” indicates in this case is not that “society” does or does not “love” money or have it as their “god” but that a huge mass of the population of the U.S. IS NOT in supporters of supposed PC authoritrian “tolerance” or bible trash-talking.

    In contrast, in a monopolistic government-run economy (communism, socialism, national socialism/NAZI or facsisim) the issue would be dictated by the political whims of the authoritarian political and business leadership – the sentiments of the vast majority of people would never be considered. Doubtful a Phil Robinson would even be allowed to enter into the larger media market in such system. In other words, political and market freedom works as force for social and gospel good if allowed to function properly.

  2. GLAAD whiffs again. As it discovered with its petulant snit against Chick-fil-A [ see “Chick-fil-A, One Year Later” — http://media.focusonthefamily.com/fotf/pdf/channels/social-issues/pp23-25-june-july-cz-cfa-1yrlater.pdf ], GLAAD’s hectoring gets it nowhere.

    It took about a week for A&E to sober up and realize that none of its programs (Rodeo Girls, anyone?) would come close to filling a 10-million-viewer hole that a departing Duck Dynasty would leave. Absent a come-to-mammon moment, cable-TV obscurity was again knocking at A&E’s door.

    From the Family Research Council’s “Ad-vantage Duck Dynasty”:

    “America’s favorite duck hunters didn’t just survive the attack on their values — they’re thriving under it! According to the trade publication Variety, liberals may be skittish about the brand, but advertisers certainly aren’t, as money comes pouring in to the show that GLAAD so desperately wanted to destroy. The Robertsons and the entire “Duck Dynasty” franchise have emerged stronger — and even more financially viable — than before.

    Conflict or no, writes Brian Steinberg, advertisers “are willing to pay more for a package of ads in A&E’s reality series ‘Duck Dynasty’ than they are for a 30-second spot in plenty of other popular programs” — including CBS’s “NCIS,” ABC’s “Nashville,” and both editions of Fox’s “The X-Factor.” After star Phil Robertson went public with his biblical beliefs on homosexuality, companies are still flocking to “Duck Dynasty,” forking over as much as $180,000 for a flight of commercials on the hit show. And they don’t plan on leaving any time soon. “Across our client base, it didn’t really reach the level of a reason to remove advertising,” said one buyer.”

  3. Very well put. I am a fan of the show, but fail to really see this as a pure “christian” issue. The Robertsons belong to a church that is not in communion or fellowship with the LCMS and so I give them a little less of a pass than you seem to. Phil Robertson is not a voice for me as a Christian.

    This whole issue really underscored the intolerance of the homosexual agenda. Immediately upon hearing that Mr. Robertson may not openly embrace, celebrate, endorse and love homosexuality, there was a groundswell of intolerance and hate toward him. His employer, A&E immediately took action against him, various groups and organizations called for his dismissal and a boycott of the network he’s affiliated with if they didn’t dismiss him. Many individuals labled him a “hater” and called for others to do the same and that he should lose his job and everyone should boycott his products–all in the name of tolerance. Once again, the messenger was the focus, and lost was Christ’s message.

    What this issue emphasized for me is how our society is and will always be sinful. This world is against Christ and I do not think that one goofy family of beards remaining on TV is a victory for Christ. Who cares what popular opinion is? The secular view is always against Christ.

    Honestly, I did enjoy the fact that the Robertson family pulled together as families should. They supported Phil, which was the most heart-warming part of the story, for me. It would have been greatly dismaying to me (about society) had the show continued without him.

    The secular war of acceptance of homosexuality has been fought and won. The “world” has spoken. I’m just glad I am simply in this world, and not of it. I will admit to a chuckle or two thinking about the reaction of a truely intolerant sharia nation to the gay agenda.

  4. Never seen the show.

    That being said, Mr. Robertson spoke the truth, and was castigated for it.

    But there is another issue that needs to be raised about this: there seems to be a strange sense of shock that comes from Christians whenever the world balks against the Scriptures.

    Why are we so surprised by this, particularly in light of Scripture’s warnings that the world isn’t going to like us?

    It’s like when people try doing evangelism and get indifferent or hostile responses and are stunned by it. Why is that so surprising, when the same thing happened to Jesus Himself as well as the apostles?

  5. Your aeticle forgot to mention Romans 1 which The Word of God is very clear.
    (Rom 1:26 NKJV) For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.

    (Rom 1:27 NKJV) Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.

    (Rom 1:28 NKJV) And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

    (Rom 1:29 NKJV) being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers,

    (Rom 1:30 NKJV) backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,

    (Rom 1:31 NKJV) undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful;

    (Rom 1:32 NKJV) who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.

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