There are a couple of things to get out of the way before I even get started.
First off, I don’t watch, and am not a fan of, Duck Dynasty. That said, I have watched the show, and I’m not a hater. If anything, I’m indifferent. So don’t climb up on your high horse and insist that my points have no merit because I don’t own Duck Dynasty merchandise. I did watch a mini-marathon one afternoon just to see what all the fuss was about, and was immediately put off by how fake and manufactured the show was. I mean, not long before their reality show aired, the Robertson family was a bunch of clean cut yuppies. So the camouflage and long beards are costumes, and these people are just badly acted characters on a television show. Kinda like how Larry the Cable Guy is actually a character performed by actor Daniel Lawrence Whitney from Nebraska, whose normal speaking voice has no trace of a Southern accent (and who never worked for a cable company).
Secondly, while I don’t consider myself a Christian, you should not assume that I’ve never read The Bible and have never heard of Jesus Christ or his teachings. I was raised in a devout Christian household. My mother, a deeply spiritual Christian, was one of eleven children of a Baptist preacher whose wife was herself the daughter of a Baptist preacher, and she had a brother who was a Baptist preacher. I have a first cousin who is a Baptist preacher, and another who is the minister of music in a Baptist church. The point is, it’s safe to say that I’m very familiar with the material. My Baptist bona fides are well established.
If I disagree with the wit and wisdom of Phil Robertson and the Duck Dynasty clan, it’s not out of ignorance of Biblical principles, but rather out of a disagreement with their perceptions of them. My spiritual reality is that I believe in God, Jesus and I are negotiating, and I’ve found very little in most contemporary Christians that I can recognize as Christian. So, it’s not that I’ve never read or embraced the teachings of Jesus Christ (I have) that leads me to identify as non-Christian, but the fact that I don’t think that word “Christian” means what a lot of people think it does. Until I can see more of what I believe, and my mother believed, reflected in the lives and actions of most self-proclaimed Christians, I cannot in good conscience identify with Christians are the organized non-profit corporate entity which we generally refer to as Christianity.
Now, to the basic point of why I’m writing.
The first thing I noticed in the kerfuffle that followed Phil Robertson’s bone-headed pronouncements about gays and lesbians is that the people who were quickest to defend him for “standing up for Biblical principles” were not people one might immediately recognize as Christians. Oh, sure. They wear the t-shirt. But rather than volunteering at soup kitchens, helping the poor or spreading the Gospel in any noticeable way, these people are the ones frequenting bars, having extra-marital sex and cheating on their taxes. The real Christians (and by that I mean people who actually live their lives according to Biblical principles) have been curiously silent on the subject. No, the people who were quickest to defend Phil Robertson’s Christian beliefs were people who likely haven’t opened a Bible since their mothers made them do so as kids, and wouldn’t perform an altruistic act unless they knew television cameras were filming them.
It’s fairly obvious why those least likely to successfully pass themselves off as Christians were the most zealous in defending Phil Robertson’s Christian beliefs. It’s an easy score. Rather than volunteer at soup kitchens, help the poor or take care of the sick, these people can easily get instant bona fides by sharing a meme on Facebook which defends Phil Robertson’s misguided hate as Free Speech and labels blowback against his bone-headed comments as religious persecution. It’s a quick and easy salve which soothes the cognitive dissonance resonating in their minds as they try to reconcile the fact that they are not Christian in any demonstrable way with a fervent desire to prove that they are in possession of the secret decoder ring that puts them on the right-hand-side of Jesus Christ himself. It’s the same kind of logic which saw droves of people rush out to show their support of Christian values by purchasing overpriced, deep-fried chicken sandwiches.
Phil Robertson and Duck Dynasty are now at the center of the well-oiled professional outrage machine. It’s no mistake that the first public figures who parachuted in to defend Phil Robertson were political leaders, pundits and the Conservative figureheads from the Fox News machinery. Sarah Palin and Bobby Jindel were eager to score cheap and easy political points by standing up for Phil Robertson for the very same reason well-meaning but misguided self-proclaimed Christians were eager to share their memes about Free Speech and Biblical Principles. It’s easier to slap the bumper sticker on your car and claim to support something than it is to actually live your life according to the principles you claim to hold dear.
In short, anybody can put on the t-shirt. The people we’re hearing most from right now are the people who put on that Christian t-shirt whenever there’s a quick and easy way to stand up for Biblical principles and get a gold star on their play card, but who rarely ever wear it otherwise. If there’s a lesson to be learned from this, it’s that most of the people who are angrily jumping up and down about Phil Robertson’s reacent encounter with the phenomenon known as “cause and effect” are the very same people you’ll see in the clubs this weekend, drinking to excess, trying to get laid, under-tipping their waitresses and cursing like sailors.
Let them have their moment of self-righteous outrage. For many, it’s the closest they’ll ever come to a genuine spiritual experience. We should not begrudge them a few moments in the safe, warm cocoon of the kabuki theater which is popular religion. And we should not take them seriously or be alarmed by their anger. It’s all for show.
Jesus once said;
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits.
That’s good enough for me. It’s something to keep in mind as you deal with the inevitable fall-out from wayward Christians who are trying “make their bones”. They’re not angry at you because you disagree with them. They’re angry in general because they know how hollow their words are. It’s not you they’re trying to convince with all those public displays of Christian affirmation, it’s themselves.