Twenty minutes into the future: 2013 edition
First off, please understand I am not a fan of A & E network's "reality" series Duck Dynasty. I think it perpetuates a myth that people from the south are loud, coarse, obsessed with hunting, and backward, which then encourages others' belittling attitudes. On the other hand, I do appreciate their strong commitment to their family and their faith.
It is this commitment to faith that has ensnared the patriarch of the Robertson family. In an interview with GQ magazine, Phil Robertson was asked about what he considers sins worthy of death, and roughly quoting from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, he listed "Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers." Out of that list, people zeroed in on the denunciation of homosexuality, which led to Phil's being suspended from the show "indefinitely."
Immediately pundits on both sides of the issue blew up social media, some referring to Phil as a 'redneck racist homophone hatemonger,' while others decried him being denied his first amendment free speech rights to express his faith without fear of losing his job.
As many of you know, I'm a huge fan of the 1980's series Max Headroom. I have to say, I'm seeing some very disheartening parallels in the Robertson discussion.
First, let's all keep in mind that the Robertson family are pretty well off. A & E needs the Robertsons more than the Robertsons need A & E. The first amendment limits government regulation of an individual's right to speak his mind. The network is not the government, and is therefore not required to adhere to the notion of free speech rights. This means the network can terminate Phil's contract if it chooses to do so.
Second, I can't help but feel as if some folks were looking forward to Phil's fall. The show is unbelievable popular and the family is unashamed of proclaiming their deeply personal faith. They are everywhere: books, calendars, music CD's and even Chia Pets. There just seems to be way too much glee in his suspension. He was asked a question, and he answered in a way only he would, simply and without nuance. Why was anyone taken aback by his answer? Did anyone honestly expect something different?
So what does this have to do with Max Headroom? This: the television audience is more worked up about what a celebrity says and the ramifications of his statements than what is happening in the real world. People are losing their lives for their faith in other countries, and the biggest story in the U.S. is that a millionaire lost a side job for affirming his belief in something currently unpopular. This and the furor over the so-called war on Christmas solidifies the rest of the world's suspicion that Christians have lost credibility when discussing moral issues because we waste time dealing with such frivolities.
Back when I was in high school, Christian supergroups Petra released an album titled Beat the System. One of the songs on that album "Witch Hunt" describes perfectly what I see happening here:
Everybody look, there's a new bandwagon in town
Hop on board and let the wind carry you around
Seems like there's not enough to keep us busy till the Lord comes back
Don Quixote's gotta have another windmill to attack
Another witch hunt looking for evil wherever we can find it
Off on a tangent, hope the Lord won't mind it
Another witch hunt, takin' a break from all our gospel labor
On a crusade but we forgot our saber
There's a new way to spend all our energies
We're up in arms instead of down on our knees
Walkin' over dollars trying to find another dime
Never mind the souls 'cause we really haven't got the time
So send out the dogs and tally ho
Before we sleep tonight we've got miles to go
No one is safe, no stone's left unturned
And we won't stop until somebody gets burned
Bro, bro, bro, bro, bro, bro, brothers
-- lyrics by Jerry Reed, from the album Beat the System (1984)
See also: http://sojo.net/blogs/2013/12/10/theres-war-christmas-just-not-one-you-think