Featured Post

Ugly Duck Things

So the Duck Dynasty situation has come to a predictable close: Phil Robertson is back on the show, and A&E and GQ are laughing all the way to the bank. Bobby Jindal and the folks over at Erick Erickson’s platform Red State are celebrating, and the good people of the USA are again well reminded of what rides under the banner of Christianity.

At least for the moment, Robertson is enjoying new status as a kind of Evangelical role model, praised for his boldness and courage, as well as for his commitment to Biblical values. That Robertson has refused to roll back anything he said is another cause for celebration among the Evangelical righties who support him, as it signals a spark of resistance in the long slog of the culture wars.

And what a pyrrhic victory it is for Christians. Because support from the Evangelical right has been leveled at Robertson as a person — thus the “I Stand with Phil” sloganeering — there’s been little to no effort from supporters to decry his despicably racist commentary on the Jim Crow era south. One might disagree with the Evangelical read on homosexuality, but they’re at least drawing upon a Biblical theme there. But the support effort hasn’t been aimed at supporting general expression of anti-homosexuality sentiments, it’s been aimed at supporting the man himself, which advances a certain ‘warts and all’ dedication. And that’s a big problem, because Robertson had some pretty terrible things to say about black people. Here it is, in full:

“I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

What Robertson and his primarily white Evangelical support base may not be aware of is that black folks, who one might conclude are now less godly, are actually a uniquely Christian subset of the population. This is not to say that the reason one shouldn’t be a racist is because black people are the most thoroughly Christian race group in the US, but only to point out that it’s especially bizarre for such an intensely dedicated Christian to express suspicion of the godliness of the most thoroughly Christian race group in the US. Let the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life explain, excerpted from their 2008 religious landscape study:

Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in the U.S., blacks are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation. Even among black adults who are unaffiliated (12%), more than two-thirds (70%) say that religion is somewhat or very important in their lives and, thus, are classified in the “religious unaffiliated” group; only 1% of blacks identify as atheist or agnostic. About six-in-ten (59%) black adults are affiliated with historically black Protestant churches; however, only about two-in-ten are members of predominantly white evangelical (15%) and mainline (4%) Protestant churches.

85% of black people, in other words, polled as Christian, compared to 78% of whites. While only roughly 1% of black people polled as atheist or agnostic, 5% of whites did. To indict black people as a whole is therefore to indict the greatest concentration of Christians in any race group.
Along with being factually inaccurate, Robertson’s remarks on black people are insulting and deeply divisive, jamming a wedge between white and black Christians we’d be much better off trying to dissolve. So why on earth is anyone defending him as a Christian? If the mission of the church on earth is to band together as a unified body of Christ, why make emblematic of that mission a man who so comfortably insults one of the most demonstrably Christian subsets of our population? When I ask myself whether a person concerned with Christianity and its mission of unity, solidarity, and fellowship would rally behind someone who takes potshots at black Christians, the answer is no. So why are so many Evangelicals willing to defend Robertson as a Christian role model?

 

If you guessed that what’s going on here isn’t exactly about Christianity, I’m in agreement with you. What rather appears to be at hand is a defense of a particular kind of culture that imagines itself to be deeply entwined with Christianity, while it is in reality deeply antithetical to it. This culture is expressed in the symbolic elements of Phil Robertson’s persona: the woodsy, outdoorsy, off-the-grid, self-made, rugged, and most importantly anti-progressive aspects that appeal to his right wing Evangelical supporters. It’s this culture that produces and nurtures the kind of racism Robertson advances, and it’s because racism is part of the culture that his supporters are willing to tacitly encourage it. Were this seriously about Christianity and defending the furthering of its goals, surely more Christians drawn to Robertson’s bold expression of doctrine regarding homosexuality would be nonetheless repulsed — openly, vocally repulsed — by the divisiveness he’s willing to engender in the church via racism.

 

But as Brittney Cooper points out at Salon, Evangelicals have a racism problem to sort out. And in my mind, this is a theological issue. It’s a matter of letting go of toxic elements of a culture that is entirely and easily separable from Christianity itself, if that were what adherents really wanted. That can start when Evangelicals stop defending aggrieved racists with otherwise potentially Christian messages as exemplars of the faith, and thereby furthering the image of Christianity itself as a harbor for racism. Everyone wants to be the persecuted, reviled righteous person from Matthew 5:11, who is blessed by virtue of their persecution; in this case, those most sure of their persecution are, in fact, the persecutors, and their victim is the hope of unity.
Please do be so kind as to share this post.
TwitterFacebookRedditEmailPrintFriendlyMore options

177 thoughts on “Ugly Duck Things

  1. I’m not ever sure if the church has ever been really unified except during the reign of Constatine. Christians like every other ideological suffers and benefits from factionalism and differences of interpretation.

    I agree that many White Evangelicals are persecutors that see themselves as persecuted. It’s an ugly trait but it’s possibly one reason why their churches are thriving more than the mainline churches.

    Report

    • Without a doubt! But it’s one thing to be divided over doctrine or practice (which certainly has been present all the way down) and another to be divided because one part of your church has a different color of skin. We can solve or resolve issues of doctrine, but nobody can change their race. Racism is, therefore, a much more despair-inducing issue, in my thought.

      Report

    • Christianity was born and came of age under persecution. I think it’s almost comforting for hard line Christians to claim persecution; the cultural history of the faith is well suited to that state of affairs.

      Report

      • I think some historians of antiquity have recently challenged the extent of Christian persecution in the Roman Empire. It might be much less than previously thought. The Church was able to grow enough to be a large enough institution for Constatine to find it political useful despite their persecution.

        Report

      • That’s entirely possible Lee but the genesis of Christianity and the core of its identity both per their own writings and historically still came about and formed in an environment of persecution. That Christianity grew despite those persecutions is a testament to the improvement it represented over the preceding faiths. Christianity was the IPhone of the religious technology of the time.

        Report

      • Point, North. A lot of critics of monotheism, especially if they have neo-Pagan sympathies, like to portray the conversion of Europe to Christianity as a bad thing because it meant an end to rationalism and allegedly more libertine to sexual mores of the Roman Empire. They forget that most pagans actually believed in their religion and that antiquity was a very patriarchal place for women.

        God in the Bible can get somewhat wild at times but anybody who ever read the Greek myths in their non-bowlderized form knows that the Greco-Roman pantheon were criminals of various sorts that got away with immoral acts with impunity. Even Athena, possibly the best behaved of them, turned Medusa into a monster for reasons why we would call slut-shaming these days. The other pagan pantheons were not much better. I’m pretty sure that the moral message of the Bible registered a lot better than the less comforting teachings of the pagan cults.

        Report

      • Indeed Lee, I’ve read* that compared to it’s predecessors (excluding Judaism which, let’s face it, has never been an expansionist religion with designs on universality) Christianity was a deeply pro-woman faith and spread very heavily through women (and from women to their children).

        *Full disclosure, I’m an utter dilettante in the subject of religious history.

        Report

      • KIm:

        The Norse pantheon encouraged “might makes right” beliefs and valorized violence. The only way you can get to the good afterlife was to have died valiently in battled on earth.

        The Greco-Roman pantheon consisted of a bunch of sociopathic criminals that would do as they wanted without regards to others.

        The Meso-American pantheon just loved to get their human sacrifices.

        The Egyptian pantheon supported a very aristocratic and hierachical system.

        The Indian pantheon seems alright for the most part.Vishnu and Shiva are outstanding moral pillars, especially compared to other pantheons. Many Hindus would argue that their gods are just facets of the One God and others would argue that gods really don’t exist though.

        The Abrahamic God is looking pretty good in any of his iterations.

        Report

      • North, women were some of the first truly pagan converts to Christianity. Before that, most of the early Gentile Christians were those that were sympathetic to Jewish teachings but did not want to embrace the ritual law and circumcisions. I imagine worshiping a God that wasn’t a sex criminal was a major plus.

        Report

      • Very much so Lee, also it cannot be understated how profoundly scientific-method friendly the Christian God (and the Jewish God they cribbed him from) was compared to the preceding faiths. If the ocean went in and out the Greeks would shrug and say that the Gods were doing it, most likely in an attempt to get laid. It was the concept of a single, detached and ineffable god who set the world in motion and mostly kept his hands off that lend credence to the idea that maybe it’d be a good idea to get under the hood and figure out how things works and that’s a lot of science in a nutshell.

        Report

      • IMO, Abraham’s God looks better after the Babylonian Exile. Before that, He strikes me as fickle, petty, jealous, and periodically, downright violent; see especially the depiction of Him in the Book of Joshua.

        The prophets of the Exile seem to have done a decent job of calling the Hebrew people to both a return to their own cultural identity and to a conform to good morality within that distinct cultural identity, with the result that there seems to have been an efflorescence of Jewish culture roughly coinciding with the advent of Hellenism. That said, the Jewish version of morality does seem to differ from what the Greeks brought to the table — especially regarding issues of intent and personal desire, and a stronger emphasis on communitarian prosperity and harmony as opposed to individual happiness.

        Caveat: I am largely an autodidact on this subject, so I am open to guidance and suggestions from others with better information or different lenses through which to view things.

        Report

      • Even before the Babylonian Exile, the Abrahamic God is a bit better than his Greco-Roman counterparts despite his occassionally fiery nature. The Torah contains a lot of laws about caring for other humans and justice than the pagan counterparts and the Exodus is a story of God siding with the slaves against the masters, something that never really happens in pagan mythology. He does get tamer as the Bible goes on. By Jonah, nearly all of God’s violence has disappeared and he became the meriful deity that most people worship today.

        Burt, that seems close enough but the problem is that we are comparing Greek philsophical morality with Jewish religious morality and its a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. The Greek philosophers either leaned in a monotheistic direction, you can read Plato and sense that Socrates was going there or were secular and not very religious. Most of their writing was for an elite rather than mass audience so naturally the individual was favored. Jewish religious morality was for a mass audience, the Torah was supposed to accessible to everybody. We don’t know what Greek religious morality was like; it might have been closer to the Jewish version or it might not have existed at all.

        North, thats very flattering but it isn’t true. It was the Greeks, Romans, Persians, and Indians that really began the scientific exploration of the universe. They got a lot wrong because it never occured to them to do experiments but the Jews weren’t interested in exploring the physical universe and mainly focused on ethical and moral philosophy and legal issues. Even the Talmud admits this.

        Report

      • Lee,
        And anyone who thinks that the Talmud is an authority on what the Jews were interested in…
        Read the book, what it says is instructive.
        A good reading of the Talmud shows that Jews were interested in arguing and in magical thinking with a focus on numerology. (Numbers! They’re Magic!)

        God, if you believe the bible, ordered entire cities slaughtered… and raped. The difference between that and raping one woman at a time? From a utilitarian point of view…

        Report

      • Lee, I’m certainly not saying the faiths themselves advocated for scientific discovery, just that the religious belief of a distant but consistant and single deity laid mental frame work that was especially useful for scientific inquiry. As you noted to Burt, the greatest thinkers of the Greeks were either monotheistically or athiestically inclined.

        Report

      • “and the Exodus is a story of God siding with the slaves against the masters,”

        This is true, but the manner in which he sided with the slaves, such as killing the firstborn of the masters, still seems to me a bit….not good.

        Of course, the part of your sentence I didn’t quote was a comparison to then current pagan religions, and you’re right that in comparison, the Exodus god probably comes out better.

        Report

      • ,

        Do Jews believe, as Christians do, that God is omniscient? Because stories like that, where God seems to miscalculate, seem to me to fit better with the idea of a non-omniscient God. (Or perhaps a better question is, did the folks of the era that story comes from believe in an omniscient God?)

        Report

      • All I know is, when *I* let loose a crate of frogs in the mall food court after dumping cherry Kool-Aid mix into the coin fountain and shouting “Let my people go!”, I got charged with ‘issuing terroristic threats’.

        Report

      • Attn James, thats a debatable proposition. There isn’t a lot of what you would call theology in Judaism, that is debates about the nature of God. Traditionally, Rabbinical leadership has been satisfied with there is One God, that God is incorporal, and he gave us the Torah and now lets figure out what the Torah means. Maimonides went so far as to argue you can only describe God in the negative, by what God is not than by what God is.

        The traditional Jewish answer would be that God is beyond human understanding so any theological debates about God’s nature is a waste of time. The debates should be about the Torah because its God’s gift to humans, so by its nature it should be understandible. Omnisicence is not incompatible with the Jewish understanding of God but its not a requirement either. Some recent Jewish thought has even argued for the notion of an imperfect God.

        Report

      • Pierre, that was after God sent plagues that were less extreme. Pharaoh refused to heed them.

        Maybe, but leaving aside Aitch’s point about the omniscience paradox, I don’t see why punishing the children of the Pharaoh’s subjects is actually fair or just. It’s punishment of the innocent based on collective guilt.

        Would I extend such condemnation to, say, Nat Turner’s revolt ca. 1830 where some children were reportedly murdered? I don’t know. If someone is enslaved, they are essentially being kidnapped, and I generally endorse violence to free the kidnapped persons. But if children are incidentally killed, then I don’t know what to say. I *might* say the slaveowners and the white slaveowner society are the ones responsible for the death (or to put it in Exodus terms, were hardened and their refusal to soften was the proximate cause of their children’s death)……but why visit punishment on the children if it could be avoided?

        Perhaps that’s one spin on what Exodus was getting at. Still, it’s a violent, barbaric system all along, and in my opinion, no one–not god, not the enslaved–comes out completely clean.

        Report

      • You wrote your response to James while I wrote my comment above making the comparison to Nat Turner.

        I’m curious, how do the interpretive traditions based on the Torah deal with the Passover and the narrative about the firstborn being killed? Do any of the interpretations advance the view that the killing of the firstborn was a bad thing, even if it were something done for the greater good?

        I’m really not trying to commit a libel, but I will say that I have had a lot of reservations about the celebration of Passover on the times when I’ve been invited to attend a seder based on just that notion of the firstborn dying. I usually keep my thoughts to myself because I don’t want to offend my hosts, but it is something that bothers me.

        Report

      • ,

        Thanks. I think I’ve seen that point about not delving into the nature of God before here, whether by you or someone else I couldn’t say, but I’d forgotten. I appreciate the reminder and will try to remember it next time around.

        Report

      • I got charged with ‘issuing terroristic threats’.

        That sucks. I’d have bet bank you’d be charged with “hooliganism”, which carries much more social cachet.

        Report

      • Thank you for the link. I should say, though, that the author doesn’t really address what bothers me about the killing. I do get that in the context of the Exodus story, killing the firstborn was necessary and followed a certain logic, yet that doesn’t make it just to me, or at least not wholly just. I still find it hard to justify the killing of those children.

        As an aside, I also find the author’s claim about the differences between Egyptians’ and Judaism’s regard for the firstborn to come off as suspiciously self-serving. The author’s argument seems to be, in part, that for Egyptians, being firstborn mean having more power while for Judaism, being firstborn meant having more obligations. That may have been true, but it seems to be a distinction with little moral relevance. Having more power usually comes with more obligation, and vice versa. Whether it did so in these two contrasting cases is perhaps debatable, as I am not an expert in either ancient Egypt or Ancient Israel. And even if the distinction holds in any meaningful sense, it still says little (to me) about whether the killing of the firstborn was justified.

        Still, thanks for the link and for introducing me to that site. It seems interesting.

        Report

      • Even Athena, possibly the best behaved of them, turned Medusa into a monster for reasons why we would call slut-shaming these days.

        Its worse. Medusa was raped, so it was victim blaming of the worst sort.

        The Abrahamic God is looking pretty good in any of his iterations.

        The people of Jericho would like to disagree as would the Canaanites as would the people of Sodom and Gomorrha. If I were Job, I would still be pissed at Him. Wives and Children are not goldfish. The latter are interchangeable in a way the former are not. The people of Egypt definitely have a complaint. 7 plagues and the loss of everyone’s first born son. The Abrahamic God has a great deal to answer for.

        Report

      • , it was ten plagues and the people of Egypt received them because of their enslavement of the Israelites. Likewise, the people of Sodom and its sister city, at least according to Ezekiel, their punishment for oppressing the poor.

        Report

      • ten plagues, and the people of Egypt received them because of their enslavement of the Israelites

        Confusing the people with their government, particularly in a non-democratic country? Sounds like God was a bit weak on his political theory.

        Although to be fair, he did try to warn his people against having a king of their own.

        Report

      • I think some historians of antiquity have recently challenged the extent of Christian persecution in the Roman Empire. It might be much less than previously thought.

        I didn’t realize there was a Martyr Denial movement. You learn something new every day.

        Report

      • – it’s not even the “omniscience” charge – IIRC, God didn’t just *know* that Pharaoh would do the wrong thing; God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”, so that he WOULD do the wrong thing (that is, is right on, as far as I remember the story).

        For which He then also punished the average Egyptian, who didn’t vote for Pharaoh.

        Report

      • :
        Abraham’s God looks better after the Babylonian Exile.
        There’s a reason for that.
        I believe it was Ezra who was authorized to rebuild the temple, and the same edict authorized the book that he carried. That book was interlineated texts, the bulk of it the “Deuteronomic text,” most likely written by Jeremiah. Everything after that is of a different author.

        What appears to be poetic structure in the early books of the Pentateuch, where things are restated and often detailed later (such as the creation of man & woman) is another interlineation of texts from a different source. That was the work of King David.
        At the time, there was a priestly tradition in the Northern Kingdom, and a separate one in the Southern Kingdom. Each had their own sacred texts. David brought both of them together in one book; a real work of diplomacy.
        This work was undone by his successor, King Solomon, who favored the Northern tradition, iirc.

        Report

      • – IIRC, God didn’t just *know* that Pharaoh would do the wrong thing; God “hardened Pharaoh’s heart”, so that he WOULD do the wrong thing

        Makes for a good fictional deity, much like the Greek gods. As an actual deity one would be interested in worshipping, not so much.

        Report

      • “Christianity was born and came of age under persecution. I think it’s almost comforting for hard line Christians to claim persecution; the cultural history of the faith is well suited to that state of affairs.”

        I disagree; the ‘Christians’ in the USA who generally make a big deal about their persecution wouldn’t know it if they saw it. They’re far more likely to be the persecutors than the persecuted.

        Report

    • Obligatory and nearly cliche. Point being, of course, Christians aren’t persecuted in this country. Maybe their privilege isn’t as superlatively overwhelming as it was a generation ago. If you want to see what it looks like where Christians are persecuted, may I suggest Saudi Arabia or Iran or Sudan? It doesn’t look like what happened with Duck Dynasty — a situation in which piety became an effective refuge for a scoundrel.

      Report

    • Actually the church during the time of Constatine was anything but unified. Thus the Nicene council to determine what was christian, by excluding Arianism. Of course a part of this was Constantine wanted to give the clergy a tax exemption, and thus had to figure out who was a legitimate member of the christian clergy, thus the council. Even after this due to differing world views between the East and the West the Church was not very unified, as the East tended to have disputed that could not be understand by folks in the west. (The east coming from the Greek heritage)

      Report

  2. I don’t think I’ve had the chance to welcome you to the site yet, Elizabeth, but I’m in awe of each of your posts. This was just the latest example. Of course, I suppose that it helps that you’ve yet to write a single word that I disagreed with. ;)

    Report

  3. There’s a reverse argument which can be made from the same premises: given that certain types of Evangelical Christians didn’t call Robertson out for the unchristian racism he expressed, they aren’t defending his views on religious (specifically, christian) grounds but rather on some other grounds. Given that, it’s not at all surprising they didn’t criticize him for his anti-gay remarks, either.

    I’m not convinced that the type of Evangelical Christians you refer to in this post – the ones defending Robertson’s anti-gay statements on first amendment grounds – can be separated from the type who would nonetheless, if they were Christian!, reject his expressions of racism. It seems to me that reverses things, to some extent. Or confuses them. The folks who defended Robertson aren’t making a Christian argument here at all (which is your thesis, afterall) so ipso facto they aren’t defending Christianity one way or the other. What they are doing, it seems to me (and which you hinted at in the OP) is defending a cultural identity by appealing to freedom of religious expression in order to justify and deflect criticism from otherwise unjustifiable moral and policy positions.

    Report

  4. “But as Brittney Cooper points out at Salon, Evangelicals have a racism problem to sort out.”

    But is it an Evangelical thing or a Southern thing? i.e. do Iowa evangelicals have the same problem? (and in my experience in the South, Evangelicals, esp the young ones, are far less racist than mainline protestants – who aren’t as intensively Christian anyway)

    Report

    • I’ve heard the argument made that Reverend Wright was indeed a racist.
      I’ve also heard the better argument made on that score, regarding some statements he made about Italians.

      But I do strongly feel that it’s a FAR different racism problem if indeed any problem at all, than the one Elizabeth raises above.

      Rev. Wright ran an Evangelical Church.

      Even more so than the Catholic Church, it is a mistake to lump together all evangelicals.

      Report

  5. http://www.thenation.com/blog/177713/duck-dynasty-and-fake-outrage-machine#

    I think this column pretty much gets it right. Duck Dynasty is another example of Kabuki Theatre politics in the United States where everything follows a particular pattern and outcome. This seems to be the constant way things happen now and I’m rather tired of it. It is also why I imagine most people tune out of politics. Someone on oneside or another (usually the right) says something offensive and/or stupid, it goes across the political media like a California wildfire. Both sides raise money. And the cycle is repeated.

    Otherwise I agree with you and LeeEsq.

    Report

    • Both sides raise money.

      That’s what it’s all about. As a liberal, I get a daily dose of spam from all things Democratic; constant pleas for money. Non stop. I get scolded when I don’t donate. I subscribe to enough conservative stuff to know that it’s the same on ‘the other side.’

      Rare is the missive that actually sets out to explain complex issues; that doesn’t take an us/them war as it’s basis. I have never gotten an ’emergency’ email from Dems that explain the benefits of repealing a piece of legislation; never one from the GOP about the importance of adopting one; the exception being regulations that cut taxes for the GOP and repeal anti-gay legislation from the Dems.

      This is not about policy, ideology, morals, or anything else; it’s about raising money. And the more controversy, the more money. Cooperation would be a real drag on this economic boondoggle.

      Report

      • The problem is that it seems Americans like to be outraged and this kind of stuff works.

        I remember listening to NPR interview a Democratic congressperson. He said when he tried to do positive fundraising, it fell flat. When he sent out an e-mail about “Can you believe what those Republicans said/did?”, the cash flowed in. I’ve seen political fundraising e-mails from both conservatives and liberals and the tone of outrage is the same.

        Report

      • NewDealer,
        positive notes are best to attract new followers, not to retain your current audience.
        It stands to reason that you fundraise among the most committed people, as you’re likely to get the most from them.

        There are far more useful ways to get money than outrage. They just take a bit more
        work than your average congressman is likely to put in.

        Report

      • People forget that words can often turn into sticks and stones. I’m against criminalizing hate speech, it contradicts the idea of freedom of speech and hate speech laws seem impossible to enforce consistently, but hate speech is capable of turning into actual violence more often than not. People need to be aware of this.

        Report

  6. Elizabeth,

    It seems like the post assumes that if someone self-identifies as Christian then they are, in fact, Christian or as Phil would say ‘godly’. Wouldn’t he probably counter by saying that actions speak louder than words? The people I know who are the loudest about their beliefs are often the worst examples of what a Christian should look like.

    Report

      • From where I sit, it looks like people are going to Mr. Robertson and asking him a question and then, when he gives an answer, are aghast at the answers he gives.

        This is a somewhat different dynamic than the one that Brother Mike is talking about.

        Report

      • Now if we want to argue that his beliefs are odious (if not indicative of some kind of mental illness that, we hope, could be addressed), that’s always a fun topic.

        Personally, I hope that he’s fixable.

        That said, there’s a difference between being loud about one’s beliefs and bringing up one’s beliefs in response to being asked about them.

        Report

      • As with most reality TV, I think it was pretty well documented that A and E went through strong lengths to keep these views underwraps. It took a reporter to bring them out to the open.

        Report

      • My point is that the counterargument being proposed by Mike is ineffective because it requires arguing that other people responding to questions being asked of them constitutes being loud about one’s beliefs, but Robertson doing the same somehow does not, while also ignoring that Robertson has a history of being very public with his beliefs in fora where he wasn’t being asked questions.

        I’m not demanding or even advocating that he be shunned or anything of that sort; I am however fully in agreement with Elizabeth’s point that the views Robertson expressed actually have little basis in Christianity, but instead are based primarily in culture. Using the banner of religion as a justification for culturally-bound viewpoints is an attempt to remove those viewpoints from the realm of debate and cast them as unassailable truths.

        Report

      • Well, given that we’re fixin’ to kick off season four, I think that there was a little more to it than A&E’s editing at play.

        But if we wanted to go back in time a couple of months (It’s October! It’s almost Halloween!) and you asked me what Phil Robertson thought about homosexuality, I’m pretty sure that I’d have been able to give you a ballpark paragraph or two explaining first that it’s not his place to judge but (judgment) followed by (assumption of it just being common sense to the point where he puts his opinion out there as if he can’t imagine anyone, anyone at all, disagreeing with it).

        Report

      • I am however fully in agreement with Elizabeth’s point that the views Robertson expressed actually have little basis in Christianity, but instead are based primarily in culture.

        A confession: as an atheist, I find it difficult to tell the difference between religion and culture.

        Report

      • “A confession: as an atheist, I find it difficult to tell the difference between religion and culture.”

        Religion is a belief, culture is a habit. They both influence the other, but the cumulative sum of social, economic and political influences that create each are different. The former is also more malleable than the second, but both can be changed with sufficient time and pressure.

        Report

      • Mark, this might be a quibble – it might be a BIG quibble, in fact – but I disagree with this comment of yours:

        I am however fully in agreement with Elizabeth’s point that the views Robertson expressed actually have little basis in Christianity, but instead are based primarily in culture.

        I don’t think that’s what Elizabeth was arguing in the post. In fact, her argument – in my view anyway – is that a truly Christian perspective would require self-identified Christians to reject only Robertson’s racist expressions and not the entirety of his comments of views. Consider this paragraph from the OP:

        Were this seriously about Christianity and defending the furthering of its goals, surely more Christians drawn to Robertson’s bold expression of doctrine regarding homosexuality would be nonetheless repulsed — openly, vocally repulsed — by the divisiveness he’s willing to engender in the church via racism.

        It’s not entirely clear what she means by this comment, but it implies – or at least suggests – that her view is that racism and racist views are inconsistent with Christianity while views regarding homosexuality aren’t. So the cultural critique she’s offering applies only to Robertson’s racism rather than his homophobia.

        At least, that’s how I read the OP. Which is why I wrote this comment upthread.

        Report

      • Here’s another way to say it, consistent with the premises offered in the OP:

        The set of Christian values includes bigotry against gays but excludes racism.

        The set of cultural values that appeal to religion for cover is limited to racism.

        But why think that bigotry against gays isn’t also a cultural value that gains cover by appeal to religion?

        Report

      • Well, it also seems vaguely worth noting that this particular bigotry was considered something akin to the established scientific consensus 40ish years ago (pre DSM-III, for example) and it’s interesting to think about how far you’d have to go back to not find much of an outcry against his statements. 1994? 1992? 1990? Certainly within living memory for not only most of us here but within living memory of Phil himself.

        I’m kinda amazed at how quickly that turned around, actually.

        If we figure out how it happened, we should probably tell the African-Americans.

        Report

      • JB, I read the other day at TPM that Turing was recently pardoned by the British government. Which reminded me of a comment of yours regarding … well … what they did to him.

        Also, I’m sure my argument is informed by the winds of change, but in one sense it goes a bit deeper than that (hopefully to the level of Miss Stoker’s OP), and on the other is just a sorta trivial, throw-away observation about the relationship between religion and culture.

        Report

      • “If we figure out how it happened, we should probably tell the African-Americans.”

        The glib answer is that gay people in America have money the way that black people in America do not.

        The less glib but equally true answer is that race and class have a strong correlation in America, both which is caused by and which keeps persistent the effects of 400 plus years of legal and social racial inequality. The LGBT community does not have as large of a nexus between race and class, making corrections to current inequality quicker and remedies for past inequality more of settled matter.

        Report

      • You want glib? Most white people know gay people, because “gay” is spread evenly amongst every demographic.

        So as “gay” became more acceptable, people started noticing gay relatives, gay friends, gay co-workers, gay this-or-that.

        People they know. It’s a lot harder to maintain bigotry when it’s got a face attached to it. When, to be blunt, the gay you’re bashing is your son, your niece, or your sister or even your father.

        Whereas with black people, well —- if you’re a bigot on race, it’s pretty easy not to get to know a black guy or an asian woman or whatever your particular hate is. Your cousin you’ve known for 20 years isn’t about to show up for dinner and say “Oh yeah, I’m black” and force you to confront “What you believe about blacks” with “My cousin, whom I knew and loved before and isn’t like that at all”.

        Report

      • It’s a lot harder to maintain bigotry when it’s got a face attached to it. When, to be blunt, the gay you’re bashing is your son, your niece, or your sister or even your father.

        Thank God Liz Cheney is up to the task.

        Report

      • The Cheneys and the Firefly concept of “Special Hell” come to mind.

        Because I honestly think it’s not personal bigotry, or even bigotry at all. It’s just politics.

        But then, that is always hard to tell, since anti-gay animus is often wrapped in religious views. And religion means you can take a 180 degree turn on specific subjects even if it doesn’t fit with the rest of your worldview.

        Because God says so.

        Report

      • , @kolohe; I think your both wrong on why LGBT rights spread quicker the battle for African-American civil rights. Morat20, people have a very easy time being bigoted even when there is a face to it. Until very recently, families were very willing to submit their children to torture if they had an inkling that they might be homosexual. They did all sorts of horrible things to their loved ones in order to prevent that from being the case. Kolohe, the myth of LGBT affluence is just that, a myth. The average LGBT person has about as much money as the rest of us.

        I really have no idea why the LGBT rights movement proceeded at a quicker pace than the African-American civil rights movement. They might not have had the official persecution that African-Americans did but they had the main religious of the West and Christianity is very strong in the United States. There was also a lot of bad science and cultural prejudice against them.

        If I had to take an educated guess; I’d argue that LGBT rights proceeded as quickly as it did because of combination of other civil rights movements weakening other forms of bigotry, the sexual revolution changing traditional heterosexual sexual morality and allowing for other expressions of sexuality, and a weakening of religious influence on society. These three acted to lessen the forces in American society that would be most opposed to LGBT rights and therefore created better conditions for LGBT advocacy.

        Report

      • “The average LGBT person has about as much money as the rest of us.”

        The rest of who? It is my understanding that the “average” black American has less money than the “average” American. So if the average LGBT American has about as much money as the “average” American, they are still ahead of the “average” black American.

        Report

      • Kazzy, I was just speaking against the myth of LGBT affluence. There used to be a stereotype that LGBT were relatively more affluent than the rest of us for the vaiety of reasons. This simply isn’t true.

        Report

      • like Kazzy said, I wasn’t implying any sort of specific gayfluenza, just that sexual orientation is much more decoupled from class in present-day America than race is.

        (gender identity, I swag, is not as nearly decoupled)

        Report

      • I’ve seen studies to that effect as well. The idea that every gay person is a young professional is off-base. What I’d be curious to see is the income distribution among gays. From what I remember of the study, there were indeed a lot of young gay professionals, but they were somewhat offset by the number of gays living in dire poverty — many of them runaways.

        I’d venture to guess that there is a certain economic stratosphere wherein you won’t find a lot of out gay people, namely blue collar workers. My reasons are thus:
        – blue collar fields and, perhaps more importantly, blue collar life styles tend to skew conservative
        – the children of blue collar families may be less likely to come out or may only come out after leaving home (either via the college route or runaway route)
        – adults within blue collar professions or blue collar communities may be less likely to come out because of greater fear of non-acceptance

        So, in a nutshell, you will see gay doctors and gay lawyers. You’ll see gay teachers. You’ll see gay waiters and waitresses aiming for something higher. You’ll see gay “starving artists”. And you’ll see gays amongst the homeless. But you won’t see a lot of gay loggers or construction workers or miners or cops or fire fighters. NOT because gays can’t or won’t do that work, but because I presume those industries to be less gay-friendly and the type which gays might avoid OR which they may stay closeted within.

        I recognize this is a highly simplistic logic and based in part on a lot of squishy stereotypes. This is more of a “I wonder…” than a definitive statement of what is.

        Report

      • This is touched on, but I want to say more directly that we should make distinctions between (a) men who are sexually attracted to men and women who are sexually attracted to women, and (b) men and women who are public about their attraction and speak out about it.

        I doubt that (a) has an average income all that different than average, but I suspect that (b) does. I would argue that (b) on its own is significant in terms of making political and policy headway on gay issues.

        Report

      • Great points, . The article I read did describe differences between gays and lesbians, with I think the latter faring better. The presence of children I think was also a huge indicator of earning power, for some pretty obvious reasons. And I think your last point better describes what I was trying to say.

        Report

    • The issue is that in a free country and democracy anyone can should be able to describe themselves in anyway they like no matter how contradictory or hypocritical. And honestly, I would not have it any other way.

      I agree that actions do speak louder than words but people have always been inconsistent and contradictory messes. For Freedom of Religion to mean anything, people need to be able to say “I’m X” even if there words and/or are completely contradictory to the actual beliefs/tenants of a religion. So maybe it makes no sense for someone to describe themselves as a “Celtic-Shinto-Jew” or whatever but Democracy demands that kind of non-sensical descriptor be accepted.

      Report

    • Haha, yeah, I have utterly no doubt this guy would file anything black people did, from wearing particular sorts of clothing to using government assistance programs (which is where he appears to be going with it) as ‘ungodly’, but that sort of proves my point.

      Report

      • I think you’re reading a lot into that; and frankly, I believe a lot of that has to do with my new-found realization of what “white guilt” is all about. You’re writing your own stereotypes into his statements.
        Two sources here:
        First, the belief that, if I say, “This coffee is tasty!” then I necessarily disparage other cups of coffee in an unflattering light.
        I suggest this need not be the case.
        In fact, I see him as giving a statement of approval.
        Further, from the quote above, I see him as expressing a fondness for an older generation. I do that myself sometimes.

        The other is that such statements seem to be somewhat common among people who were raised in sharecropper families.
        I could have easily said the same thing myself regarding Mexican immigrants.
        There seems to be an assumption that “white people” are the same all over, when this is not the case. It wasn’t until I traveled to New England that I first saw immigrant communities of white people identifying by national origin. (Quite a Polish population in NE Indiana; peirogie fest and all.)

        And to be clear:
        It’s not so much that I’m defending him so much as arguing against the judgment being passed against him. I don’t think it’s well-grounded.

        Mr. Robertson is free to despise me, should he so desire (not that I would really care one way or the other). Doesn’t alter the truth of my statements.

        Report

  7. There’s certainly a theological implication of the problem, but it seems to me the bulk of this post suggests that the problem is primarily sociological. The meaning of the Greek word with which Paul appears to condemn homosexuality is not really what this debate is about. It’s about a tradition-family-homeland sense of belonging. Part of that tribal belongingness is an allegiance to the term “Christianity”; the actual theology of Christianity is quite beside the point.

    Robertson said mean and/or highly unreflective things about perceived out groups. That assertion of identity– and the effort not to apply the golden rule to perceived out groups– is the point of supporting him. That there’s a colorable theological argument against one if those out groups, gays, is merely a fortuitous happenstance.

    Report

    • I’m really beggining to wonder if there is some value in having cultural Gatekeepers and guidlines for media like the Hayes Code. The Hayes Code prohibited a lot of genuine artistic exploration but it prevented too much trash from entering the media to.

      Report

      • The Hayes Code imposed a degree of subtlety in storytelling which has been mostly lost: smart and sly flirtation, indirect signals of sexual congress, and the sexiness of concealing rather than revealing one’s body. In some ways, it left a more satisfactory understanding of why particular characters were attracted to one another. These days, establishment of two characters as a couple gets short-cut into “She’s hot, he’s hot, so let’s nude them up and do a gratuitous sex scene” without so much as developing any chemistry between the characters, so getting it on becomes a proxy for a deeper illustration of love.

        With that said, we’re probably better off without it than we were with it. Sometimes the art requires exploration of something overtly sexual. But still — license to depict sex or violence does not mean that such depictions are obligatory. A price was paid for that license.

        Report

      • Burt,
        go ahead and look at Torchwood. And the writers of that acknowledge sucking at telling love stories.
        Still, they can throw in a ton of dramatic tension…

        Besides, the more you rely on the Hayes Code, the more you get pornography about Disney Princesses (not that that’s bad, I just would rather we not encourage it).

        Report

      • Tourchwood was a Davies product/project so you can’t pin it on Moffat. That being said I am a casual Dr. Who viewer and don’t go into the rage that over people seem to do for Moffat. My favorite companions are Martha, Amy, Rory, and Clara.

        Report

      • I have no doubt that we are generally better off without the Hayes Code and similar gatekeeping institutions. I’m just wondering if we had to throw the baby, sly and smart writing especially when it came to anything sexual, with the bath water, censorship. Everything seems really dummed down these days. Maybe there was lots of dumb media in the past but the need to be indirect seemed to have encouraged better and more intelligent writing.

        Report

      • Oh I’m the King of Casual Dr. Who viewers… very very off and on. Your point is well taken though. I’m with Burt on the Doctor, I enjoyed the ninth doctor much more even than the tenth (possibly because he was technically my first doctor).

        Lee: You may be right but, that being said, I wouldn’t exchange our current eras television fare for that of any preceeding era. Breaking Bad, Veep, Game of Thrones, etc etc… from my point of view it’s a television land of milk and honey. The only thing the current TV age is missing is a good solid Star Trek franchise but they have noone to blame but themselves for that one.

        Report

  8. To be honest, I haven’t seen a lot of actual left-wing outrage over this. I’m curious if it’s just the fact that like 95% of the Duck Dynasty stuff I encountered was Facebook “Stand with Phil” stuff (along with exactly zero calls for suspending, firing, tarring-and-feathering, or even actually MENTIONING Duck Dynasty or Phil in any other context than “Save his job!”) so it could be there was a vast liberal outrage that just didn’t poke it’s way into my Facebook feed.

    So my general impression is (1) Phil, one of the stars of a heavily scripted reality TV show aired an increasingly unpopular opinion on gays, and sorta slid in some fun kinda racism with it. (2) A&E suspended him for it. (3) A bunch of people got mad, wrote letters, and A&E reinstated him.

    I did not notice a lot of liberal outrage, calls demanding his firing, or anything like that. Could have happened, just didn’t notice it.

    While I suppose it’s possible this was all a marketing ploy by A&E to get some faux controversy going to boost ratings, I sorta come down on the end that it was an easy call by A&E because Duck Dynasty sells a particular ‘theme’ of rural — that is “earthy, salty wisdom” and “simple, loving lives”..

    There’s a couple of ways you can cast/brand/stereotype rural Americans. Especially the deep-woods rural here. The two most common are your basic red-neck/Hick/bigot sort — think ‘Deliverance’ — and the ‘simple, good, salt of the earth sort’. Good or bad, holy or evil. Whatever. It’s pretty stock stuff for TV, not nuanced documentary.

    So Phil here shows off a bit too much bigot/redneck/hick, which makes advertisers nervous and makes A&E nervous because it’s likely to turn off viewers. Viewers who probably won’t write angry letters, they’ll just slowly tune out because as much as A&E scripts Duck Dynasty’s family as something appealing (at least in some ways), that little shadow of the interview (and likely further comments off-script if A&E doesn’t put their foot down) is gonna eat away at that.

    People aren’t watching Duck Dynasty to see stupid hicks (like, say, Honey Boo Boo) they’re watching to see “you don’t have to be super smart or sophisticated or urban to be a good, loving family). If it becomes widely known that the star is a bigot and a homophobe, that doesn’t sell. Which means A&E doesn’t have a show.

    Now the weird mingling of religion in this is odd. (Thinking back, the folks on Facebook posting the most about Phil are all very evangelical Christians). Then again, the evangelicals have got to be keenly aware they’ve lost the gay-rights fight and so I can understand their urge to strike back somehow, to push back on progress.

    Report

    • Morat20, I think that many conservatives have worked themselves into a sense of permanent outrage and seige that whenever they think a controversy is coming or one of their tribe says something that might upset the other drive; they go into automatic defense mode. It fits perfectly with their persecution complex. Part of this permanent outrage is created by the media citadel that they built for themselves and it really needs to be torn down.

      Report

      • Lots of wackos everywhere to point at.
        That very same statement could easily have been written concerning liberals & DKos.

        Personally, I think I’ve just seen so much bs, and heard so many bs arguments, I tend to be very skeptical of everything these days.

        I was trying to think of something that might get me in a frenzy. I can’t.

        I don’t think I have enough energy to get in a frenzy right now.
        Nap first, frenzy later.

        Report

  9. Pingback: Monday Highlights | Pseudo-Polymath

  10. Pingback: Things Heard: e283v1 | Stones Cry Out

  11. … [W]hat’s going on here isn’t exactly about Christianity … rather appears to be at hand is a defense of a particular kind of culture that imagines itself to be deeply entwined with Christianity, while it is in reality deeply antithetical to it.

    So basically, Culture trumps Religion. I agree.

    Are you using semantics to defend a modern-day cultural position against an archaic religious position? More specifically, do we really need religion to do that for us anymore? I mean, plenty of non-religious folks have already figured this shit out.

    I’ve often felt like the Christian Left insists on not only pounding their square peg into the Religious Right’s round hole, but on explaining why they’re pounding. Meanwhile, plenty of us are suspicious why you feel compelled to pound much less understand your various explanations for pounding.

    (My apologies, Ms. Stoker. I can’t be here as often as I’d like and I missed your comment in reply to an earlier comment of mine. Holy cow. You’ve such a seemingly deep-seated negative opinion of secularists. I really am surprised. Thing is, secularists are pretty much the only collective political friend that the Christian Left has. Dems are your political ally, but only insomuch as “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”.)

    Report

    • Just don’t read my posts. I’m an endogeneous ethicist — I work and write within the frame of Christian ethics. (I was upfront about that in my intro post.) I don’t have any intention of having any kind of secular v. religious debate. It’s not what my training is in, nor what I’m excited about intellectually. (It’s pretty much been done to death in Youtube comments.) So if who I am and what I write about are both things that bug you on a fundamental level, seems wise to just avoid the bother and skip my posts altogether.

      Report

      • It’s really funny to see you using “don’t like it? don’t read it!” as a response to criticism, when if someone said the same thing to you about Phil Robertson you’d cry “but he’s a racist homophobe!”

        Report

      • Not so: notice, I never even claimed to watch the show. I haven’t, don’t, and won’t. The line is that racism in the church has tangible outcomes — see Cooper’s article in Salon. Me upsetting KTWard because I refuse to argue whether or not God exists hardly has the same ramifications.

        Report

  12. I’m fairly sure that all the outrage/media over this is manufactured. On whatever level. I’m equally sure we’ve all better things to do with our time.

    Meanwhile, I remain interested in an informative view on race and racism in the US. Toward that end, l read Ta-Nehisi Coates. Among others.

    I am, however, not at all convinced that a young white chick has what it takes to speak authoritatively on the subjects of race and racism in the US.

    But as Brittney Cooper points out at Salon, Evangelicals have a racism problem to sort out. And in my mind, this is a theological issue. It’s a matter of letting go of toxic elements of a culture that is entirely and easily separable from Christianity itself, if that were what adherents really wanted.

    So really, it’s way more about culture than religion. I can agree with that.

    “… if that were what adherents really wanted.”
    Which is to say, this is your fight with your Right brethren. The rest of us are just bystanders tasked with trying to figure out how best to translate your ridiculous fight into responsible public policy.

    Report

    • This is obviously my fight with my Right brethren — this whole post is about challenging them. That is literally my whole career: I’m a left Christian who challenges the domination of Christianity by the right in America. I know this isn’t sufficient for you, because I don’t dispute Christianity writ large. So again: just don’t read anything I write. It’s not going to be valuable to you, and I won’t soon be less white, female, or young.(I will eventually be less young. But that’s a long eventually.)

      Report

    • I am, however, not at all convinced that a young white chick has what it takes to speak authoritatively on the subjects of race and racism in the US.

      I don’t understand this comment. I don’t disagree with the position that one’s position in the racial/gender hierarchy might have some influence on his/her standing to make certain statements or might affect how they view certain things. But I’m not going to say that just because someone is a woman and/or white that they have nothing to say about “race and racism in the US.”

      Report

      • In any case, that sets me up for my point. We had a system where for your opinion to matter, you needed to be a particular color (white) and a particular gender (male, cis).

        I’d hate to think that we agree that that’s the case, we just disagree about what belongs in the parenthesis.

        Report

      • It’s more complicated than this.

        It isn’t that whites (or cis or het or male or whatever) folks don’t get to have and share their opinions. Of course they do, as if anything ever stops them.

        But the point is this: the balance of power remains tilted, and it ain’t gonna center just ’cause someone is nice for a few days. And the effects of white ignorance causes harm out of proportion with the wrongness — due to power.

        Our goal is to decenter the privileged voice. We have a long way to go.

        We should “speak on behalf” very reluctantly.

        Report

      • I do think, however, that Elizabeth wasn’t “speaking on behalf” or (to ktward’s point again) claiming we must agree with her because she’s speaking “from authority” so much as she was advancing an argument.

        And yes, I do agree that there is a power imbalance and that we mustn’t lose sight of that. But even there, I don’t think that Elizabeth is just “being nice for a few days.” Truth be told, I’ve read only one or two of her posts so far and don’t know if she’s being mean on the other days, but I hesitate to say that she is normally a mean person putting on a nice face now.

        Report

      • Of course!
        That’s why I find A&E’s press release about Phil’s suspension to be completely phoney and full of false morality. It’s complete hypocracy. I’m more annoyed by that they anything else in this whole damn situation. Have the courage of your convictions or just admit your a whore, but don’t try to be both.

        Report

      • Did you think A&E ever had a motive other than damage control? All that happened is that they had to guess which side was more important to placate, and their first guess was wrong.

        Report

      • I’m probably being tinfoil hat Trum, Mike, but I can see a clever marketing exec thinking “we could get some serious points with the fox news market by letting the Ducks fundy flag fly in this interview and then making a big commotion about it.
        Eh, I’m being too generous, don’t ascribe to malice what you can ascribe to stupidity and corporations are notoriously risk averse.

        Report

    • What concerns me about this is that some folks will interpret it as evidence of the superiority of Robertson’s views. When in reality they only reign supreme among “Duck Dynasty” viewers, which I’m sure already skewed hard right to begin with (especially if you’re factoring in merchandising and the like… I’ve watched the show on occasion but it never crossed my mind to buy anything related to it (for a whole host of reasons)).

      Report

  13. ,
    A well written piece, but you missed a HUGE part of the “this isn’t about Christianity” angle. Two pieces come to think of it.

    First, the backlash that has arisen – nearly all from the Right as was pointed out – is not a reflection of a religious persecution complex. Rather it’s further evidence of what I call the Philip H Working Theory of Fear-Based American Culture: Phil Robertson’s supposed treatment (what does a TV show suspension “teach” a millionaire anyway) just adds fuel to the fire of a group of people who feel less and less in control of their lives. From economic distress due to the (seemingly) permanent decline of the blue-collar supported middle class to the permanent “coloring” of America as “minorities” become a dominate demographic group, many folks on the Right side of the political aisle feel left behind, out of control, and useless. And no one from the Left is really lending them a hand to overcome this increasing sense of loss and powerlessness.

    Second, Phil Robertson is a rural Louisiana white man, which as a “citified” south Louisiana white man is a demographic VERY familiar to me. Many of the people who grew up around Mr. Robertson (perhaps even in his family) didn’t see racism (at least not in the sense of economic persecution) around them because they were economically persecuted as well. It’s an odd quirk of Louisiana history that the French Acadian settlers who gave rise to the Cajun culture were first driven out of Nova Scotia by the English, and then treated as second class citizens (and often serfs) by the same English, then Spanish, and ultimately Americans who bought the Louisiana territories (Pre- and post-Purchase). Many other non-French whites were lumped into the same sociocultural basket simply because of where they chose to settle in the state. Anyone who has seen Belizaire the Cajun has witnessed this in cinema. That sense of persecution has been handed down through generations, which is why most of the southern Parishes really do believe the northern Parishes could be given to Arkansas without any loss.

    Failing to under stand these key points about Mr. Robertson’s environment and culture blinds one, sadly, to a slice of reality about America that the Left ignores at its own peril.

    Report

    • I thought Elizabeth touched on that point towards the end of the original post. She referred to the Gospel of Matthew with regard to everybody wanting membership in the “persecuted for being righteous” club. It sounds like, from your description, Northern Louisiana Cajuns are not immune to this syndrome.

      Report

    • I agree this isn’t really about religion, but rather about a cultural issue that is entwined in and invested in a certain version of Christianity. That’s what the whole article is about.

      I grew up in Dallas, with a Cajun grandmother. (She was from Alec.) Whether or not she ‘saw’ racism around her doesn’t change the fact that she was well aware of lynchings, for example, or the fact that a black man walking on the sidewalk had to step into the street if she approached. The notion that this state of affairs was superior probably does cross her mind (and the minds of many, many other older Southern white people) but the fact that she declines to say so suggests that being old, Southern, and white isn’t the blinding agent you suggest it might be.

      Thanks so much for reading!

      Report

      • I wasn’t suggesting its a blinding agent – heck we almost elected David Duke Governor in the early 1990’s – but I do think that for a lot of our fellow Louisiana travelers “racism” connotes a brash, aggressive aggitative sort of approach, which many of them didn’t feel they experienced. I think it really boils down to your example – Blacks understood they had to go to the street for a white woman once upon a time. That was openly or overtly racist, so it simply was “how things are.” Racism, to Mr. Robertson and probably your grandmother, is a much harsher more upsetting thing.

        Report

      • Philip,

        Thanks for the added context on LA. The history if whiteness in this country is q fascinating one and it certainly is a factor. But I would suggest that a great number of people think that if you aren’t wearing a hood and shouting “nigger” than you can’t be racist.

        Report

      • What I mean is that people only think explicit bigotry or violence qualifies as racism; anything short of that might be wrong, but is something else. Calling Obama the “food stamp president”, birtherism, the medicine man imagery… None of that is real racism because no one was burning a cross.

        They’re wrong. But that is a fairly widely held belief.

        Report

    • Regarding your last point, about ignoring things at my peril — I mean, what am I supposed to do, with people who hate my very bones?

      I shall ignore them?

      OM-fucking-G I wish I could ignore them.

      I honestly expect they will murder me some day. They want to. My marriage, my love, my every smile is anathema to them. They make this very clear.

      Have you ever been the target of sustained, raw, violent, merciless hate? I doubt it.

      Report

      • I could be wrong, but I think he’s with ya on all that. It’s just that you’re not ignoring those folks – cuz you can’t – while the rest of us are ignoring them because we can.

        Report

      • Ah, yes, fair enough.

        The “ignore at your peril” line sets off alarms in me. To often it translates to “buy into my broken worldview or your violent treatment is deserved.”

        MRAs say it a lot, I’ve noticed.

        Report

      • got me right – I think Liberals too often ignore folks like Mr. Robertson, and we ignore the context in which they live and speak. In doing so, we exacerbate the problem. At their core, people – all people including – want to be seen and heard as full human beings. When the left ignores such requests from the right (ill phrased though they may be), we CONTRIBUTE to the problem we’re trying to combat.

        So no, , For heavan’s sake don’t ignore people who are threatening you with violence. Out them report them, prosecute them under the law, shame them publicly. But understand that not everyone who speaks like Mr. Robertson finds your life, your love, your marriage an existential threat – and ignoring things that allow to distinguish the real threats to YOU from peoples feelings of loss, insecurity and destroyed self-worth will make things worse for all of us.

        Report

  14. “given that we’re fixin’ to kick off season four, I think that there was a little more to it than A&E’s editing at play.”

    You would be shocked at the degree to which stuff in reality TV doesn’t actually happen that way.

    There is almost *never* a reaction shot in reality, for example. Any time you see someone roll their eyes or make a face in response to another person? That was completely unrelated footage, B-roll, that got cut in during post-production to make there be a story.

    Heck, they’ll even play one person’s recorded speech over someone else’s face to make it seem like a conversation was happening, when in fact it was just someone standing around…

    Report

    • FWIW, I understand Duck Dynasty is on the ‘more scripted’ end of the reality TV shows, rather than the ‘less scripted’.

      *shrug*. Phil threatened A&E’s script of the show (“Earthy, simple wisdom from simple, loving, folks”) with his comments. They suspended him, trying to close off the topic before it sank in.

      Then, for some reason, it became a rallying cry to some Christians — apparently it’s unthinkable that a TV network might not find a reality TV star being a bigot as ‘desirable’ –so A&E undid it because the ‘Christian’ outrage was prolonging the mess, which was what they wanted to avoid.

      Which has nicely settled “Oh hey, that guy’s a homophobe and a bit of a racist” into the casual public’s mind, which means the show’s image has been quite effectively tarnished, mostly by it’s ardent defenders. Because “Folksy bigot” doesn’t sell like “Simple wisdom from the country”.

      Or at least, not to the same people.

      Report

      • which means the show’s image has been quite effectively tarnished, mostly by it’s ardent defenders.

        Or … that the network knocked off the liberal tarnish and the show now shines for those same most ardent defenders.

        Report

      • We’ll have to see what next season’s ratings look like. Are there more people who used to watch the show but won’t anymore due to the comments… or more people that weren’t familiar with the show but might now be interested? I wouldn’t place bets either way.

        Report

      • Very few shows actually have a huge audience. Most popular successful tv shows may have at most a few million viewers. TV is full of niche markets where a show can be successful and make money, especially cheap to produce “reality tv”, with a really small percentage of viewers. If you add in sales of every sort of branded crap and DVD sales then that is even more money. Having ardent viewers who will buy and buy your stuff is just as good as having lots of them. I saw some headline that the last season premier of DD had a huge number of viewers, around 11 million. There are 300 hundred million or so americans. If the DD niche doesn’t care about Mr. Duck’s vile poo then it won’t affect their ratings. My guess is the audience for DD either agrees with him, thought that was the kind of thing he would think or doesnt’ really care at all.

        Report

      • Was a boycott actually ever called for? Or was offense and opposition voiced?

        Compare the DD situation to a recent (successful) attempt by Bill O’Reilly to strong arm ESPN into airing a commercial they initially determined did not meet their content standards:

        http://espn.go.com/blog/ombudsman/post/_/id/257/did-espn-cave-on-ad-or-act-appropriately

        I wonder if the right will decry such an organized, top-down attempt to infringe on the free speech rights of a media organization…

        Report

      • The structuring of pay-for-cable complicates this. A&E only derives a portion of their revenue from advertising. A lot of it comes from fees they charge cable companies which are passed onto consumers. I watch other programs on A&E which goes into their total viewing audience and which they use to negotiate rates. And even people who don’t watch anything on A&E pay the fee if the channel is a part of their cable package.

        It’s a complicated relationship, very different than that of the major broadcast channels. A portion of ad revenue goes to the cable carrier itself, which is how you end up with those delicious local spots sometimes.

        Report

      • Was a boycott actually ever called for?

        Of course there were calls for a boycott. And, of course, there was every right to call for a boycott. The problem came when there was a counter-boycott from supporters and, apparently, the counter-boycott actually contained patrons.

        The issues that I suspect we’re dealing with are the issues of counter-boycotters having more power over advertisers than people who never eat at McDonald’s, never shop at Wal-Mart, and so on.

        Report

      • “Of course there were calls for a boycott.”

        Citation? I never got the call.

        The hypocrisy of the right has never been on better display. Calls for boycotts which may or may not have actually happened are attacks on free speech. But real boycotts which really happen are… what, exactly?

        If people want to boycott DD, go for it. If people want to boycott CB (which I don’t think anyone threatened to boycott), go for it. But let’s not pretend those are different things. And let’s not pretend that market decisions have anything to do with morality.

        Robertson is still on the air and Cracker Barrel is still selling DD shit because the people who patronize those businesses like those things… nothing more, nothing less. Just like the presence of “Will & Grace” on TV didn’t mean that everyone loves gays. Just that enough people enjoy watching that show that it was profitable for NBC (or whomever) to air it.

        Report

      • Chik-Fil-A, yes. I thought we were talking about DD here?

        I’d venture to guess far more liberals ate at Chik-Fil-A than watched DD. Which I understood to be Jaybird’s point: It is silly to threaten to boycott a product that you don’t actually consume. So I’m asking whether GLAAD, the NAACP, or other organizations called for boycotts of “Duck Dynasty” based on Phil Robertson’s comments? I didn’t follow the issue that closely, but I don’t remember hearing boycotts called for.

        Certainly not in the same way that Bill O’Reilly called for boycotts of ESPN.

        Report

      • Jonathan:

        I didn’t see any. My — entirely anecdotal — experience here is A&E suspended Phil right away, there was a “save Phil” backlash from (of all places) a heavily Christian community (every comment about DD on my facebook feed, for instance, has come from the heavily religious members of my relatives and friends. Not a single exception. There were even a few big DD fans who weren’t particularly hard-core Christian who didn’t bother to post a thing).

        I never heard a call for Phil to BE suspended — as best I can tell, if anyone was complaining it wasn’t big enough to go mainstream. Just a huge push AGAINST Phil’s suspension.

        Report

      • My experience matches Morat20. This could be because A&E acted so quickly, because there were some “Good for them!” comments on my Facebook feeds that might have been “They should be suspended!” had the suspension not already occurred. But lots and lots of anger at A&E for the boycotts. Outnumber the “Good for them”s! by at least a 3-to-1 margin, despite the fact that I’d say the feed probably runs 50-50 or higher in favor of gay marriage (of those who have an opinion) and during that meme it was awash in pink equal signs.

        Report

      • Well, everything I’m googling is talking about the counter-boycotts to the A&E suspension of Phil and I’m not finding any articles talking about a boycott in response to Phil’s article so I’ll retract the claim that there were calls for a boycott of DD/A&E.

        That said, I did find some statements talking about the various responsibilities A&E and DD’s advertisers have that happened prior to Phil’s suspension. The word “boycott”, however, was not used.

        *THAT* said, it seems to me that a boycott to take a show off the air (see, for example, All-American Muslim) has more negative free speech implications than counter-boycotts to keep a show on the air (or a character on the show).

        It seems that the (right’s) boycott of A&E was successful (as was their boycott on behalf of cancelling All-American Muslim).

        This strikes me as something that is going to get worse before it gets better.

        Report

      • The right is organized in a way that the left is not. (If MSNBC called for a boycott, how would anyone even know a out it?) Thus their efforts along these lines are always more effective than the left’s, both in creating controversies and in exploiting them. Case in point: we just got through discussing the War on Christmas, just as we do every December, even though there is no such thing. It’s a complete fabrication, nothing but an exercise in right-wing victimology, yet it’s become as much a sign of the holiday season as carols, trees, and eggnog.

        Report

      • So at what point were Phil’s “free speech rights” under assault?

        I imagine the second he signed a contract.

        That said, I don’t see free speech as covering the soap box that one is being provided by a corporation, let alone the megaphone given. To be shouted down is free speech and counter-free speech (and probably counter-counter-free speech and counter-counter-counter and so on).

        However, with that said, I think that the controversy started prior to when the right started their boycotts on behalf of Phil. (Assuming we’re using “controversy” as a value neutral word.)

        Report

      • Yet it is the right who crus foul at leftist “organizing”.

        I didn’t hear about the issue until catching Sean Hannity railing against it. I wonder how many people would have learned about it had the right simply ignored all of it.

        Report

Comments are closed.