UPDATE*** This post has received MUCH publicity in the last two days. JD is discussing this very article on his radio program and podcast, The Pulpit and Pen Program, on Monday (12/23/13). You can find links to this podcast (and to subscribe) under “The Program” tab. Also, if you would like updates from this collaborative blog, please click the link on the home page that says, “Become a Pulpiteer.”
Four months ago I wrote the article, Why Christianity Doesn’t Need Duck Dynasty (Or Other Celebrities), and it remains among the most well-read articles in the history of the Pulpit & Pen [click here for link]. I presented in that article a basic treatise; evangelical Christianity is too enamored with Christian celebrities. I wrote…
Then what about ‘Duck Dynasty’ creates all the fixation from evangelicals?
1. Evangelicals love celebrities. We love our Tim Tebows and RGIII’s. We love our country stars that become Christian artists (until they get their third DUI). We love them. I think it’s because we don’t have very many celebrities to begin with. We feel left out of celebrity culture, and so we highly esteem Christian celebrities. And every time Disney presents one of their young stars as a “Christian teen” we fall for it hook, line and sinker until they start getting tattoos and dancing at stripper poles (remember, Brittney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Beiber were all billed to us as ‘Christian kids’).
2. There’s a rumor out there that evangelicals are lame, boring, losers, fuddie-duddies. It makes us feel good to have somebody that’s “cool” on our team.
3. There has been a very purposeful (*ahem*) strategy the last 20 years to look at the lost world and say, “see…we’re just like you.” We want to be like the world even more than we want the world to be like us. Having ‘our people’ at the front and center of popular culture makes us feel like we’ve really achieved that.
4. We confuse the American Dream with the Gospel. The Robertsons have a pretty wives and pretty kids, lots of fancy toys, big houses and money. That’s the appeal. Oh, yeah – I forgot…they also have Jesus. There is a cold and dark place in the American soul that thinks the American Dream is a Biblical concept. The Robertsons are our apple pie. They have it all. Sure – they love the big cars, expensive houses, flaunted wealth and let their 13 year old daughters go about dating outside of their supervision, but so what? They’re Christians. They’ve got it all.
We feel like Christian celebrities are our ticket to a party in popular culture that we rarely get invited to. We have ‘ugly girl syndrome’ (forgive the expression); as evangelicals, we rarely get asked to the prom, and this is our chance.
Well, it seems that cultural Christianity was just kicked out of the Prom, and boy is it angry. With Phil Robertson being indefinitely suspended from his own show on A&E for his perceived homophobic remarks [click here for link] and the future of the program altogether unknown, a healthy percentage of the American heartland is enraged. Both authentic Christians and cultural Christians (those who think they’re Christians because it’s “M’erica” and you’re supposed to be) are coalescing into a world-class pity party over their beloved camouflaged hero.
Robertson’s comments were certainly pointed and direct, but they were also true. And truth is so rare these days, we shouldn’t knit-pick the package it comes wrapped in. As I pointed out in Why Christianity Doesn’t Need Duck Dynasty (Or Other Celebrities), the Robertsons don’t seem to be the most articulate Gospel spokesmen and certainly aren’t the most accurate Gospel spokesmen – and hence, my point – there are probably better examples for us to emulate down at your our church. And although inarticulate, Robertson’s words to GQ Magazine were true.
The following are my cautions concerning this debacle:
1. Understand that many of those coalescing with believers on the side of Phil Robertson might be under the impression that if they “stand with Phil” that they “stand with Jesus.” Use conversation with folks about Duck Dynasty as opportunities to share the Gospel with false converts – not to naively welcome lost people to the team.
2. Understand that this is not about “free speech.” No one has imprisoned Phil Robertson, or even threatened him with such. Clearly, Robertson has the right to speak however he wants. And private enterprise, like the A&E television network, have a right to conduct business however it wants. If A&E doesn’t want to do business with Phil Robertson because of his beliefs, they’re not forced to – in the same way that Christian bakers shouldn’t be forced to engage in business with homosexuals wanting a wedding cake. The right of conscience has to be a right enjoyed by all or it is enjoyed by none.
3. Understand the grave consequences for Gospel credibilty if Robertson apologizes. Robertson, at this point, needs to hold his ground and we Christians need to pray for his strength and perseverance. However, if he apologizes for the content of his message, we will again be sorely let down by a Christian celebrity. I pray, pray, pray this is not the case.
4. Understand that it’s sad if Phil Robertson loses his television show over speaking of sin. Also, understand as Phil is back at his beloved duck paradise and Willie is flyng around in his helicopter and Uncle Si nursing on his sweet tea, an Iranian pastor is rotting in prison. Here’s the truth of it… evangelical America cares more about our favorite celebrity losing his television show than Christians across the world losing their lives. Some perspective wouldn’t hurt.
5. Understand amidst all the outrage that Robertson (assuming he stays strong) becoming a martyr is a wonderful thing. The Robertson clan won’t starve and Wal-Mart will be happy to start carrying the Robertson-owned Duck Commander line instead of the A&E owned Duck Dynasty line. In the mean time, Christianity has always been advanced by martyrdom. So long as we use this as an opportunity to evangelize the cultural falsely-converted and bring attention to sin (as opposed to free speech issues) this could be a great thing for the Kingdom of God.
In short, throw a righteous fit…but don’t lose any sleep over it.
[Contributed by JD Hall]
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