I am going to try my very best to stay out of the ongoing Duck Dynasty controversy. I have never seen a single episode of the reality TV show and I figure plenty of other people will have plenty of things to say. I do believe there are primarily two reactions circulating around the world of social media and I might highlight those in a separate post. But for now I want to briefly explain why A&E and the media are not looking to have a conversation on the issue of homosexuality. For them, the conversation is over.
I read Dr. Russell Moore’s December 18 blog article concerning the suspension of Phil Robertson and, as usual, it was a terrific entry in the ongoing discussion. Moore ultimately requests for there to be honesty in the “cultural conversation” without muting one another before the conversation even begins. He says, “let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.” Who can argue with that? I think no one. My hunch is that something a bit more substantive is happening beyond the media’s unwillingness to engage in healthy cultural conversation. I believe Phil could have spoken on a number of sexual and Christian-based issues in his GQ interview and not received a suspension from the network. If I am correct, then why is homosexuality set apart and what is happening here?
Let’s put aside for a moment the real possibility that this has as much to do with marketing and future ratings as it does anything else. From A&E’s perspective, the pursuit of persuasion concerning the topic of homosexuality is not a legitimate pursuit and, ironically, is seen as culturally “sinful” in its own right. A significant portion of the more influential entities of our nation have reached a place of line-in-the-sand determination and it goes something like this: Discussions about the moral acceptability of homosexuality are equal to discussions about the moral acceptability of race. There is no discussion to be had.
More than once I have been called a bigot and a host of other pleasant names because of my views on homosexuality. The names were tossed my way because the person with whom I was conversing had already assumed the very thing being discussed – that the normative behavior of homosexuality is as certain as the acceptability of being black or white. To call homosexuality sin is to call being black sin and, obviously, that will never do. In an almost comedic fashion, the people who land blast conservatives like me become the very thing they supposedly hate and then defend it by suggesting they are acting in a manner consistent with speaking against a person who had spoken racially charged remarks.
In my opinion, our engagement with culture on this issue should be more than just asking for an open forum on sexual beliefs, specifically homosexuality. That forum has been locked and sealed. Instead, we need leaders who are willing to show why and how sexual orientation is not the new black. That is the only way for us to find any footing to even crack open the door of conversation. People like those in charge of A&E believe they are doing a great service by shutting down the conversation before it begins – let’s be careful to not attack them too quickly or harshly. They are, after all, acting in a way they believe is consistent with right and wrong (yes, they are making a moral judgment). Most of us would have no problem with the suspension of an A&E star who said a black person was sinful in a GQ interview simply because they were black. For A&E there is little to no difference between that and what Phil Robertson said.
We can insist on “free speech” and the necessity of sharing ideas and beliefs. It won’t matter. We can shout to the media and to the nation the irony of their own intolerance. They will never hear us. Instead, they will reply and ask, “is it intolerant of me to cut off a conversation with someone who is smearing a black person for being black?” Do you see it? We need to understand why they are so unwilling to engage in this conversation; shouting intolerance at them isn’t enough.
The closest thing I have seen lately that has had a somewhat wide public reading is this article by Vodie Baucham called “Gay Is Not The New Black.” That was written in 2012 and we need to see more of this kind of engagement before anything else helpful will happen. Unless we can demonstrate what we believe are differences between sexual orientation and race, the “muting” of conservative voices will continue to happen. In other words, we need to show why it is OK to be having the conversation in the first place and why it is important.
Someone else needs to do that – I’m cooking dinner for three kids.