Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson is a polarizing figure, but should a federal union be calling for those who support him to be fired - just for having a bumper sticker on their car?
Love him, hate him, agree with him, or think he's an idiot, there's no denying that Duck Commander Phil Robertson and his views - particularly his views on homosexuality - get people worked up. There's nothing wrong with that. Our words have consequences and people are free to hang on our every word, ignore us, or holler their disagreement at the top of their lungs. That's all fair game. This is America. We get to do that.
What we don't get to do is fire people - or remove them from positions within their employment - because of their beliefs, especially when there is no evidence that their beliefs affected their job performance or their treatment of others on the job who disagree with them. We can't fire them for having a rainbow colored bumper sticker, a bumper sticker with an equal sign, or a bumper sticker that reads "Duck Dynasty: I support Phil Robertson." Yet, that's exactly what the thought police in a federal government union at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida are proposing, according to a Washington Times article.
Alan Cooper, the executive vice president of the local union chapter, said this in an e-mail to fellow union members:
"We took offense. These two particular individuals have a great amount of influence over individuals who may be gay, who may be African-American, and we have a concern they should not be in a position to exert that influence when it comes to promotions. Phil Robertson has made disparaging remarks against a vast array of people, which created a firestorm in the media in the recent past."
There do not appear to be any actual accusations that the two men (both civilian employees in management at the Air Force base) whom Cooper and the PC-patrol want to see fired have actually done - or even said - anything that would amount to maltreatment or discrimination of anyone who is homosexual or black - or anyone else, for that matter. Their entire crime comes in the form of placing a bumper sticker on their car - and in one case, of having some bumper stickers on a desk.
Here's the thing. No matter where you stand on homosexuality, gay marriage, or any other issue, you don't have a right to dictate that others share your view in the United States of America. The same thing holds true of religion, by the way. No one has to agree with Phil Robertson, the church of Christ (his religious affiliation) or these two government employees. Disagreement does not equal abuse or discrimination.
While we're at it, it doesn't equal hate, either, and those who imply it does should consider growing up - or at least looking up hate in any standard dictionary.
Are we seriously going to fire everyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin - or more to the point, every one who supports those who believe it is a sin. Truth be known, these men could support Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson for any number of reasons. Perhaps they support Phil Robertson's often-repeated statement that we should love homosexuals. Maybe you haven't heard that Phil Robertson has said that. Let's face it, it doesn't pay in the media to tell the whole story and people with an agenda have no interest in telling others that Phil Robertson claims to love gay people. You wouldn't believe how many Phil Robertson homosexuality comment articles I had to sift through to find this quote in an ABC article:
"We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job. We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus — whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?"
Even that was taken as Phil equating homosexuality with terrorism and alcoholism - a stretch, at best.
Does this government union seriously propose to fire everyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin? If so, how do they propose to do so without blatant religious discrimination? The overwhelming majority of the last generation (you know, just about everyone before the turn of the millennium) who was raised in any of the world's three major religions grew up being taught that homosexual behavior is sin. Until the 1970s, the American Psychological Association's official stance was that homosexuality came from - or actually was, in and of itself - mental illness.The rest of the world's psychological community followed suit suit about 20 years later.
Phil Robertson's views - right or wrong - were the majority view just a generation ago. Many people still hold them, though they are becoming increasingly afraid of being honest about it for fear that the mere mention that they agree with the Duck Dynasty star will bring on the ideological brown shirts who can't tolerate anyone who disagrees with them on all points and call for people to be fired if they don't toe the progressive line.
The views espoused by Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson - essentially, hate the sin, but love the sinner - are in the mainstream of Christianity. Most Christian denominations hold to some variance of that theme. As a former minister in a conservative Evangelical fellowship, I have people - friends and relatives - whom I both know and dearly love who identify with the LGBTQ community (I won't name names, because that's their story to tell or not tell at their discretion). I've had to take a long, hard look at my views on the subject because people about whom I care deeply are affected. In the end, I agree with my church organization's position paper on the subject, part of which reads:
"While Scripture makes it clear homosexual behavior is sin and comes under the judgment of God, it also indicates that those who are guilty of homosexual behavior or any other sin can be reconciled to God (2 Corinthians 5:17–21).
"In the church at Corinth were former homosexuals who had been delivered from the power of sin by the grace of God. In 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul listed homosexuals along with immoral heterosexuals as those who cannot inherit the kingdom of God. His grammar implies continuing sexually immoral activity until their conversion. Verse 11 follows with a powerful contrast, "And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." They had been homosexuals in orientation and behavior, but now through the power of God's Spirit their lives were radically transformed.
"Scripture makes clear that the efficacy of the death and resurrection of Christ is unlimited for those who accept it. There is no stain of sin so dark that it cannot be cleansed. John the Baptist announced, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29). "
While Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson and I don't share a denomination (curiously enough, both of the fellowships we belong to historically have chafed at the term "denomination"), we do share a view that we should love people, no matter what they have done or what they struggle with and that people can become free from sins that they don't want to live with - while recognizing they may still have a struggle with their sinful nature - through Jesus Christ. That's a fairly mainstream Christian belief and not unique to the Duck Commander Phil Robertson. It also applies to countless other types of sin, not just homosexual behavior.
You don't have to share that view. I promise. I will never call for you to be fired if you don't believe that Jesus Christ can set people free from homosexuality or the power of sin in general. I can't imagine any Christian whom I personally know would. I don't think Phil Robertson would, either, at least not based on the testimony of people who have actually seen him work with gay people. If I'm wrong, please point out in the comments the time when Phil Robertson or anyone on Duck Dynasty ever called for anyone to be fired or otherwise mistreated because they were gay or had a bumper sticker supporting anything to do with LGBTQ issues.
This has gotten so out of hand that Phil Robertson was excoriated for reading Scripture in a church. You don't have to agree with it, but I have to question whether it's reasonable to ask Christians not to read from the New Testament's Book of Romans - in church.
It's a scary day in America when you can't say what you believe, either out loud or on a bumper sticker, without fear of losing your job. Conservatives ought to be concerned. Libertarians ought to be livid. Liberals, if they have any intellectual honesty - especially the ones allegedly espousing "tolerance" - ought to be as mad as anybody about this.
I get it. Phil Robertson's views on homosexuality are contentious. In America, we're allowed to agree with contentious views and support those who espouse them - even on our bumper stickers. If we weren't, the LGBTQ lobby, which was in the extreme minority until very recently, could never have had the significant voice they have today. You don't have to agree with Phil Robertson or watch Duck Dynasty to realize that if you threaten someone's livelihood because they do, you're way out of line. We don't do that in the United States of America.
[Image via Bing]