“Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson. Credit: www.glaad.org. All rights reserved.
In a recent interview with GQ magazine, reality television star Phil Robertson compared homosexuality to bestiality and declared that “the homosexual offenders won’t inherit the kingdom of God.” Robertson is the main attraction on the US TV program “Duck Dynasty” and a born-again Christian who, in his own words, “gave his life to the Lord in the mid-1970s.”
Roberston’s remarks have inflamed a debate about the rights of LGBT communities that rages, cools, and then simmers, only to be stoked again afresh. I believe that everyone has the right to speak their mind, including Mr. Robertson. America prides itself on its freedom of speech. However, as a heterosexual man, I cannot fully imagine what it must be like to live in a country in which someone disgusted by an integral part of my identity is granted a self-promotional platform of this kind by a large media company.
As a member of the millennial generation in the United States, I can attest that most of my peers now see the full implementation of LGBT rights as inevitable. To a large extent, our thoughts inhabit a future space, while we wait for society to join us. However, it is important to remember that there is a very real amount of pain and fear that is being endured during this slow progression. So I am compelled to ask those who, like Mr. Robertson, still oppose the struggle for LGBT rights: what is motivating your views?
Freedom is what allows people to live their lives differently. So the many heartfelt appeals for LGBT rights must be accepted on the terms of a freedom-loving democracy, not on the terms of a religious interpretation. When we label a set of criteria as rights, this suggests that something is essential to the fundamental wellbeing of a person or people, and a society that seeks to represent all people equally must govern accordingly.
It is a relief when the rights in question have been enshrined in law, and people are lifted to new heights, and society improves to a position of greater moral certitude - but the apparatus of government does not cease to function when human rights are violated or denied.
The bureaucratic machinery operated by human beings is capable of persisting in a state of soulless functioning. The mere classification of an ethical entitlement isn’t enough to spark real change. So this is not a case of certain people asking for something that they have chosen to call rights. This is a case of a society that is wrong, that denies representation to its own members, and that therefore is deserving of the very scrutiny and judgment that it directs towards those who are asking for the promise of democracy to be fulfilled.
It is the job of this society to right itself in accordance with its original aspirations towards freedom and equality. The aim is not to remake society in the image of the people who are being adversely affected by injustice; rather, society must be made to be more faithful to the principles of its own design. The authors of the U.S. Constitution were mindful that many of their constituents came to the colonies to escape religious persecution. Therefore, they specifically sought to set in place a system whereby religion would be respected in the utmost way - by being given the freedom to flourish or falter on its own terms, separate from state orchestration or imposition.
From the vantage point of many Christians, Phil Robertson’s views do not reflect the religious figure from which they draw their inspiration. But people like Mr. Robertson define their morality in such a way as to make things easier for themselves. And perhaps that is why some American Christians promote compassion and community, while others are merely selling fire insurance. Some practice acceptance, while others condemn the marginalized in Christ’s name. Some Christians invite people into their churches and homes, while others seek to wield the power of the law to exclude couples from governmental recognition. It is difficult to even see the connection between the latter group and Christ, who was an outcast and a friend to outcasts; Christ, whose very life was sacrificial; Christ, who was himself judged and condemned, and forgave his transgressors on the cross. The disparity is mind-boggling.
That being said, it seems to me that there is more fear in LGBT rights opponents than there is hatred. They fear that the broadening of civil liberties will signify the dimming of spiritual life. But they are the greatest enemies of their own faith, the conjurers of their worst fears. The best way for people to find God through the church is surely for them to wander through an open door. Why then are opponents of LGBT rights actively trying to close those doors?
They say that they fear that children brought up by homosexual parents will be harmed. There isn’t any evidence to support this. We do, however, have plenty of evidence that we have more children than we do parents, and that foster homes in many instances have profoundly damaging impacts on child development. And there is much evidence to indicate that LGBT children of homophobic parents are kicked out of their homes or impelled to flee at an early age. State and local studies have found disproportionate rates of homelessness among LGBT youth.
Opponents of LGBT rights often state that marriage is by definition the union between one man and one woman. They say this with an innocent naivety, as if they are simply enforcers sent by Webster’s Dictionary - but where is their outrage at the linguistic evolution that has altered the meaning of thousands of other words?
They say that they are merely respecting the tradition of marriage, but marriage traditionally treats women as chattels. They say that homosexuality could pave the pathway to polygamy, but polygamy has historically been associated with heterosexual marriage. They say that LGBT marriage will herald the beginning of terrible things, but the slippery slope of bigotry is far more perilous than the effects of committed love. In our so-called modern world, homophobia incites harassment, beatings, imprisonments, public lashings, and homicides.
For Christians the question is not how to reconcile a homosexual union with a religious definition of marriage. The question is how to reconcile a society of judgment, condemnation, and discrimination with the forgiveness, acceptance, and humility exemplified by the spirit of Christ.
Opposition to LGBT rights destroys families, deters people from the church, and defies the spirit of Christ. And yet LGBT opponents claim to be motivated by the family, by the church, and by Christ. So I ask again - what is motivating these views?
Many Americans know that political sentiments in this country are fleeting. Constituencies change, partisanship shifts, and the behemoth of our bureaucratic apparatus moves in either poorly-premeditated strides of error or in staggeringly-slow steps towards the greater good. However, with time, America has a habit of eventually veering itself in the right direction. We must ensure that this happens by speaking up, sharing our views, and advancing our future together.