Why I Support Phil Robertson
Welcome to the return of the Big Picture Podcast. I’m Joel Fieri and this podcast seeks to begin and hopefully sustain a conversation about current trends, ideas and issues in the Church and greater society. And the latest from that society this Christmas season is the controversy surrounding Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson. In case you haven’t heard, the reality show star was interviewed by GQ Magazine at his home in Louisiana. The reporter, being a reporter, asked Phil some probing questions about his faith and his life. And Phil, being unashamedly himself, answered them honestly, for which he’s been suspended from the show and publically ridiculed. That’s not surprising at all, since political correctness long ago took ahold of our society and has been slowly eroding free expression and even freedom of speech. I won’t get into whether or not it’s a ‘freedom of speach’ issue. In a way it is and in a way it isn’t. Basically what we have here is a case of an out-spoken Christian man, who by all accounts (even the GQ reporter’s) is a very kind, loving and respected family man and successful businessman who was asked his honest opinion. In a saner world, his opinion would be heard and, if not accepted, at least respected and even appreciated. But our world is far from sane. What’s bad is now called good, and vice-versa. But we’ve already covered that here. The world is what it is. My concern, in the “Big Picture”, is the Christian community’s reaction to all this. Most Christians I’ve heard are supporting Robertson, but many Christians aren’t. You see, guys (and it’s mostly guys, let’s be honest, which I’ll get to later) like Phil Robertson are irritating and embarrassing to a lot of Christians nowadays. They make trouble and get the world angry at us. We’ve talked before here about Christians believing our own bad press and letting it affect our witness, and I think that’s happening here. But should we be embarrassed? Let’s look at the question he was asked. The question was –
“What, in your mind, is sinful?”
And Phil’s answer was – “Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he said. Then he paraphrased Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
Now I myself wouldn’t have answered starting with homosexuality, but Phil did. And I see his point. Homosexuality is the strongest challenge to Christian faith in the Western world today. You may not want to admit it, but it’s true. No other group of adherents to a particular sin are putting pressure on churches or people of faith to compromise our beliefs. There are no political advocacy groups for adulterers or swindlers, but there is the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD, the group that got him suspended). I haven’t heard of a pastor expressing any fear or pressure to say greed and slander are not sinful. But ask any pastor that’s committed to faithfully preaching the Word of God, and they’ll tell you there’s pressure to accept homosexuality. There’s really no denying it. So, when asked, Phil Robertson quoted God’s Word. He didn’t condemn homosexuality, nor did he compare it to bestiality. The Bible does that! That’s the key. You either believe it or you don’t, and the people hearing it either accept it or they don’t. As Phil said in a follow up interview “Whether I said it, or they read it, what’s the difference?” And he’s right. This needs to be our attitude as Christians today. When asked, stay true to the Word. If they don’t like our answer (and they won’t), it’s God’s problem, not ours. He wrote the Book, let Him deal with it. And even more important, we need to back each other up, which is why we need to publically support Phil Robertson. Especially our Christian leaders. Not only to be unified against opposition or even persecution, but just as importantly, because this as an opportunity to lead and inspire Christian men. As I mentioned before, it’s mostly men that say these kinds of things and make trouble with society. This is, I think, a key moment for American Christianity. Our leaders have an opportunity – right now – to engage and lead men by supporting Phil Robertson. Because make no mistake, men in general, and Christian men in particular, love the Robertson family, not only for their rugged outdoorsmanship, but mostly for their unashamed and unapologetic commitment to their faith. Phil Robertson represents this more than anyone, and men are looking at him now, as he’s standing by his remarks and won’t be intimidated into silence or compromise. He has their admiration. For us and our leaders to hold back on speaking out in support of him, or worse, to join in the criticism, would send yet another message to those men that Christians are more concerned with political correctness and quiet approval from society than we are with standing firm in the difficult Truth of God’s Word in what they instinctively know is spiritual warfare. From that they might just conclude that Christianity is not worth the trouble.
In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11-12 in your Bible). Today’s witness is someone who faced much more opposition and trouble, yet gave no thought to being silent. His name was Paul Robert Schneider, and he was the first Protestant pastor to die in a concentration camp at the hands of the Nazis. His story is one of unmitigated courage, self-sacrifice, and martyrdom. Paul Schneider was an obscure village pastor who could have escaped persecution completely had he simply been willing to keep his mouth shut. Once, Schneider was asked to preside at the funeral of a young member of the Hitler Youth. Before the benediction had been pronounced, the local Nazi leader interrupted the service to declare that the dead youth had now crossed over into the heavenly storm troop of Nazi legend, to which Schneider replied: “I do not know if there is a storm troop in eternity, but may the Lord God bless your departure from time and your entry into eternity.” After this confrontation, Schneider was placed in prison for five days, but he did not back down. On October 3, 1937, the Sunday of Harvest Thanksgiving, Pastor Schneider was once again—and for the last time—preaching in his pulpit saying “Confessing Jesus will carry a price. For His sake we will come into much distress and danger, much shame and persecution. Happy is the man who does not turn aside from these consequences.”
He ended the sermon by quoting from a poem by Heinrich Heine, the popular nineteenth-century Jewish writer whose books had been burned by the Nazis. This poem depicted the judgment visited on Belshazzar (meaning Hitler) who spurned the call to repentance. There was both gratitude and warning in Schneider’s sermon, for, as he said, God’s Word is one of both grace and judgment. This Word was to be declared not only in the cozy comfort of the congregation but also “outside in the world too, and in public, to those who want to hear it and to those who do not want to hear this, before this nation and state and all earthly authorities.” He quoted Jeremiah 22:29 “Therefore, O Land, O Land, O Land—hear the word of the Lord”. He was arrested and sent to the concentration camp at Buchenwald. He never ceased to preach God’s love and grace in Christ to his fellow prisoners. While in solitary confinement he called out to them every day at the morning roll call, even though such utterances brought vicious reprisals from his captors. When asked by a fellow inmate why he continually subjected himself to such brutality, Schneider replied, “Somebody has to preach in this hell.” On July 18, 1939, he was killed by the camp doctor. His wife Gretel drove to Buchenwald and retrieved his body and returned it to his home town for burial. Hundreds of people swarmed the village for Paul Schneider’s funeral. Many pastors joined the procession to the cemetery. One of the Gestapo officers sent to observe the proceedings remarked to one of the pastors, “This is the way kings are buried!” to which the pastor replied: “Hardly! What is happening here is that a blood witness of Jesus Christ is borne to the grave.” As we so often see on The Great Cloud Of Witnesses, there is no opposition that is stronger than a faithful believer’s commitment to the Word of God. Pastor Schneider willingly faced brutality and death while his fellow Christians begged him to be silent, and for that he is hereby nominated to the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, of whom the world is not worthy.
Thanks for listening. If you enjoyed this week’s Big Picture Podcast, please go to my web site at gobigpicture.net and also check out our other podcasts and points of view on the E-Squared Media network at e2medianetwork.com. Wherever you go, leave a few comments and tell your friends, and even you pastor about us. See you next time on the Big Picture podcast. Be blessed!
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