Recently broadcast comments about a [[Phil Robertson]]’s personal views on homosexuality (and other issues) caused a huge stir in the world of cable television recently. Not to be honest, my wife and I love the show, and can see why so many Americans do, too. But I am also an Interfaith minister who has no issue with doing ‘gay’ weddings.
I don’t agree with Phil’s sentiments — which he made clear were partly his own preference (“that’s just me”) and partly his interpretation of the Bible. I can understand why some would be offended, but it was clear to me it was not meant to disrespect people, only actions (“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell … We just love ’em”). If anything, the critics are the ones closer to hate speech, in particular GLAAD for “push[ing] vile and extreme stereotypes”. Saying or believing or even acting out of one’s choices isn’t “pushing”. If anyone should know that, it’s those who are wrongfully accused of doing such a thing the most — the gay community itself.
But the full context of his statement reveals his family’s positive Christian ideals, regardless of what he considers sin or how he crudely expressed it. His brother, Silas “Si” Robertson, says,
When I sign people’s stuff I put down John 3:16 and 17. Most people can tell you what 16 says, OK. ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.’ But they don’t know nothin’ about 17. It says Jesus didn’t come to condemn us. If anybody had a right to condemn someone, it would be the son of God. If he didn’t do it, then hey, we definitely are not qualified to do it.
Regardless, it opened up a dialogue not so much about homosexuality, but free speech. There’s even the argument free speech does not apply to private enterprise, such as a television network. It opened up the gates for hordes of supporters, not just the usual bigoted ones (even the Klan), but decent people recognizing his unoffensive intent whether they agreed or not.
What I have been impressed with are all the people who are gay who have come out in support of Phil’s right to express his beliefs. What he is saying is not hurting anyone or inciting others to be any more or less bigoted than they already may be. Some of “them” as well as “us” know what hate speech is … and isn’t.
I also understand A&E’s need for perceived damage control, but really have to wonder if he was set up. You can’t just fire every person who makes a statement some pretentious advocacy group makes enough noise about. Phil and his family represent so much of what we want to believe are values that can actually be found and lived in the real world. They’re not perfect, and most certainly neither are we. And we all have some dissenting or unpopular opinion or another.
I sincerely hope they will work this out in a mature way where meaningful dialogue can replace what some could argue is censorship or even discrimination based on belief. One sponsor already back-tracked on the issue after the consumer base made it clear that dropping his family’s products was an unwanted result.
But what’s next for America? Will we mature on the issue of hate speech? Will I be condemned for criticizing the “[[raw foodist]] lifestyle” as unhealthy or even a bit insane? Is it [[politically correct]] to speak against those who immunize their children or those who don’t? Even if I’m wrong or ignorant about something, can that not be distinguished from instilling fear or calling for action against individuals based on some group identity?
The discussion about homosexuality is already taking place. But it cannot wait to take on the greater challenge of delineating what is [[free speech]] and what is [[hate speech]].