About the Phil Robertson/"Duck Dynasty" controversy: We hear a lot about "offense" these days.
About the Phil Robertson/"Duck Dynasty" controversy: We hear a lot about "offense" these days. "What you say offends me!" Perhaps so, but except for outright hateful statements (such as, "You are inferior because you are _____" or "You should be killed because you do _____"), those who get offended are, basically, insecure because they cannot tolerate difference of opinion. But then offense turns into censure, and censure then becomes “hate speech,” and “hate speech,” as we all know now, is a punishable crime.
This intolerance is the crux of our culture's present dilemma in "offensensitivity" in modern speech (a term coined by Berkeley Breathed of "Bloom County" fame). If I maintain that certain behaviors or beliefs violate Christian principles, then those who hold opposite views should be secure and "tolerant" enough in themselves and their opinions to understand that viewpoint without claiming "offense" and thereby seeking to silence my opposition. Disagree with it? Say so, and present your arguments. But silence me? Who do you think you are?
Silencing me (and those like me) is the critical part of this debate about free speech in an open society. They can attempt to engage me in debate (the mature response), but to claim that I am engaging in "hate speech" when I criticize a viewpoint based on biblical principles, or that I "hate" those whom I criticize based on those same criteria, is FALSE. If such is the case, then cannot the same be said for the reverse? Do not those who criticize Christianity “hate” Christians? Do not those who critique the Bible “hate” those who adhere to its teachings and principles? Should not such “haters” be likewise silenced because their views “offend” me?
Christianity is a revealed religion, and the main source for our revelation is the Bible. If we say certain behaviors or attitudes are wrong or sinful, as was Phil Robertson’s assertion in the GQ interview and his subsequent clarification, that doesn’t mean we, by extension, “hate” them. God, through the Bible, condemns certain behaviors and commends others, and both Phil and myself are only faithfully communicating His words. We cannot do otherwise and be faithful to the Christian message.
We are commanded to love those to whom we communicate the Bible’s message of hope and redemption through repentance from sin and faith in Jesus’ Name, and love demands that we tell the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. And sometimes the Truth hurts, and is offensive (Did you note the part about “repentance from sin”?).
It is for this reason that the apostle Paul calls Christ a stumbling stone: “As it is written, ‘See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame’” (Romans 9:33, NIV). People and organizations such as GLAAD are stumbling over God’s call to holiness that is a consequence of holding to a faith in Jesus. Contrary to GLAAD’s assertion, biblically faithful Christians do not and cannot agree with them. I know I do not, and neither does brother Phil.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Such is the cost of free speech in America. The culture (and, increasingly, the media) will decide which messages it will promote and which messages it will ignore. But to silence dissent outright as “hate speech?” Perhaps the Offended should just be offended and let it go at that—like an adult. If one disagrees, one can state that without insisting that opponents be silenced.
Paul admonishes us, in Colossians 4:6, to “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Could brother Phil’s viewpoint been communicated without offense? Possibly—but in our current culture, not likely. After all, while our speech should be full of grace, it is also to be seasoned with salt. And salt, in a wound, hurts. Our culture has been wounded by sin. Perhaps we, as a culture, should remember that if Truth hurts, it is not the Truth which needs to adjust, it is us.
Humiston is the pastor at the First Assembly of God Church in Crookston.