Frequently, I’ve written about being true to one’s sacred Creation as Created by the Creator. This Creation is defined, in part, by responses to those who harm or marginalize your personhood. How you meet the meanness of others can be moments of transcendence and enlightenment. I’m not thinking of an eye for an eye.
There’s been much hubbub about a Louisiana-based reality show called “Duck Dynasty.” In a recent interview, the family’s bearded patriarch, Phil Robertson, made several homophobic remarks, which he says are biblically based, causing A&E to temporarily suspend the show, though the money making reruns didn’t stop. Recently, a video of an anti-LGBTQ sermon Robertson gave several years ago surfaced adding to the controversy. [pullquote]A&E dropped the ball in its handling of the controversy. Similarly, so did Cracker Barrel, which initially stopped selling the show’s products until it felt a backlash from customers who love Robertson. [/pullquote]
A&E dropped the ball in its handling of the controversy. Similarly, so did Cracker Barrel, which initially stopped selling the show’s products until it felt a backlash from customers who love Robertson. The money-making gear sold in its restaurant stores is back and selling well. An online petition, at last count, exceeded 1.5 million signatures to permit the controversial star to make new episodes. A&E, faced with losing an enormous amount of money, announced in late December the show wouldn’t be cancelled.
Although Robertson’s comments are ignorant and highly offensive, there is an extraordinary teaching opportunity that’s being overlooked by A&E, LGBTQ activists, and Christian leaders supportive of civil and human rights. Robertson isn’t a sophisticated man. This is not a judgment; it’s an observation. It does not excuse his behavior, though it helps to explain it. In addition, millions, perhaps tens of millions, agree with Robertson. Silencing him would have done nothing to change his mind or reach his fan base. Instead, cancelling the show would have many more committed to misinformed, insensitive views.
The theologian Teilhard de Chardin used the phrase “Second Coming of Fire” and wrote about it in great detail to describe the elegant, unfolding cosmos expanding and yet spiritually coming together to bring about universal human consciousness through love. If individuals like Robertson aren’t included in this human consciousness of fellowship, then all is for naught. [pullquote]Although Robertson’s comments are ignorant and highly offensive, there is an extraordinary teaching opportunity that’s being overlooked by A&E, LGBTQ activists, and Christian leaders supportive of civil and human rights. [/pullquote]
The First Fire is the awareness and experience of love. The Second Coming of Fire is the consistent embrace and application of love. We know what love is, but it’s not something successfully put into daily practice by many, including me. Love includes patience and perseverance. The Second Coming of Fire may have started, but no one has noticed. Maybe Robertson’s comments are a chance to stoke the flames.
There can be no Second Coming of Fire without people like Robertson. He and others like him must be included. Otherwise, it remains a divided world of “us” and “them” with no end in sight, preventing Creation to be united with Creation. This requires a measured response, not an emotional reaction to Robertson and the millions who think similarly.
Rev. Jesse Jackson wanted Robertson off the air for both his homophobia and distasteful remarks regarding the struggles of black Americans. Rather than get the show pulled, Rev. Jackson would better serve justice by asking to be in a “Duck Dynasty” episode to argue, debate and initiate conversation, perhaps over a meal at the family dinner table, about racism and what the Bible actually says about God’s LGBTQ children. If there is going to be a Second Coming of Fire to usher in universal human consciousness united with one Creator, then Robertson must have a place.
* Paul is an author, attorney, and a seminary trained, ordained priest in greater Albany, NY. His latest book, The Vampire Benning Wentworth and the End of Times – the War Between Devils and Vampires is now available.