'Duck' Dilemma: Phil Robertson's Remarks Point To A Bigger Issue

Duck Dynasty, Phil Robertson

It's time to address religious fundamentalism as a major source of intolerance in a changing world.

Our nation has come a long way in the past few years when it comes to homosexuality and LGBTQ rights. There was once a time in this country when the legalization of lesbian and gay marriage would've been literally unthinkable; now it's legal in 17 states. And while we still have a ways to go in the arena of public opinion, it's a pretty indisputable fact that we're a lot further along now than we were back then.

Nevertheless, every now and then we'll see a scandalous furor erupt over less-than-progressive comments from some public figure or another. The most recent of these was the much-buzzed-about interview given by Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson to GQ magazine; by now, I'm sure you've read/heard/debated about his comments ad nauseum.

But this issue is much bigger than Phil Robertson. As much I think he's an ignorant buffoon, I also think we need to look at the bigger issue. When it comes down to it, the man was simply abiding by the tenets of his faith—he even paraphrased from the New Testament.

The elephant in the room that the media doesn't want to discuss is the fact that the Judaeo-Christian tradition, on which Western culture has been based for nearly two millennia, condemns homosexuality as a sin. Pope Francis, as much as I admire him, could very easily come out on TV tomorrow and preach the same thing Robertson did. How would the media respond then?

Just as it has in issues of race and gender, our culture is now starting to move past centuries-old biases against sexual orientation, but organized religion has not—and cannot—do the same without abandoning scriptural teachings. For all the outrage, pundits continue to ignore that the very faiths the majority of them were probably raised in contain anti-gay prohibitions, and very few have the stones to come out directly against organized religion.

The fact of the matter is that the faiths that most of us were raised in taught us to think that homosexuality is wrong. In instances like the Robertson debacle, so many of us seem to ignore this basic fact. It's not as if Robertson is just spouting some stuff from the top of his head; he's quoting from the most widely published and read book in the history of the world. 

To be clear, I'm not justifying what he said—I'm merely pointing out from where his words and opinions are derived, something that is rarely done in the arena of public "debate" over issues like this. Robertson isn't saying anything radical; if anything, his comments are actually toned down from what you'd find in the major Western religious texts. Consider 1 Corinthians 6:9–10 in the New Testament, which reads, "Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God." Or Leviticus 18:22 in the Torah: "With a male you are not to lie (after the manner of) lying with a woman, it is an abomination."

I have yet to see a public commentator in the mainstream media acknowledge the fact that Judaism, Christianity and Islam all support Robertson’s statements. It's as if the truth is too hard to handle.

To be sure, the implications are there. It's definitely implied in the media's response that archaic thinking like this should be abandoned. The unspoken message is that this aspect of organized religion's message is out of step with where modern culture is headed, but no one wants to come out and explicitly state it. They'd rather deal with each specific controversy, like Robertson's, on a case-by-case basis, acting as if the opinion came from one individual and pretending to be baffled that anyone would still hold these ideas.

The Koran, Torah and New Testament all vilify homosexuals. The first two, in fact, call directly for their death. The Koran 7:80-84 says, "...For ye practice your lusts on men in preference to women: ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.... And we rained down on them a shower (of brimstone)." For every Phil Robertson out there, there are millions more who feel the same way, basically because their religion tells them to.   Keep reading...

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