Sunday, December 22, 2013

Duck Dynasty: Cause for Concern

I’ve been writing at this blog for six years. From day one, my purpose has been to celebrate the wonderful truth that God is for us in Christ Jesus. For this reason, I’ve avoided (for the most part) engaging in controversy. Today, I’m going to make a rare exception. (Boy, I hope I don’t regret it.)

Here it is: I’m concerned about Duck Dynasty. Now, before wading into it, let me make a couple of important caveats. First, I’ve never seen the show. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’d ever heard of it until a couple of weeks ago. (I know what you’re thinking – I must live under a rock. Maybe so.) Second, I’m a pastor, and I’m writing pastorally. As always, my main concern is the spiritual well-being of the believers in my church. That’s what drives me as I write – not my community or society. My church is my audience.

That said, grandpa is no longer on the show, because of comments he made in a recent interview. The response has been unbelievable – from CNN to FOX, from personal blogs to company water coolers. Undoubtedly, it has been the topic of conversation over countless dinner tables. (Do families still eat together at the dinner table? That’s a subject for another time.)

The discussion that has followed grandpa’s dismissal concerns me for three reasons.

For starters, I’m concerned for those who don’t understand (or even care) what the fuss is all about.

Of late, two powerful forces have merged in society. (I’m indebted to Carl Trueman for this observation at Reformation21.org.)

The first force is “moral myopia.” Myopia is the technical term for shortsightedness. For those who are shortsighted, everything beyond a certain distance looks fuzzy. If some of you were to remove your glasses, you wouldn’t be able to see your hand in front of your face. Well, that’s our society. Morality has become relative. Most people are myopic, meaning they don’t see the future ramifications of today’s moral relativism.

The second force is “an aggressive agenda of absolute conformity.” In other words, everyone is expected to subscribe to society’s standard of morality (or lack thereof).

These two forces have merged in our day. What’s the result? The message we’re getting is this: we must embrace an “ethic of sexual anarchy bounded only by the principle of consent.” If we don’t, we’ll be dismissed as the moral equivalent of racists. We see this being applied to everything from the Boy Scouts of America to the Winter Olympics in Russia. It’s being pushed politically and legislatively. It’s being pushed in the education system. And it’s being pushed by just about every facet of the media.

We’re on the cusp of entering an age in which our society will (generally speaking) hold us (Christians) in contempt. Gradually, our position on every ethical issue is being labeled hate. To speak out against vice is hate. To challenge those who continue obstinate in their sin is hate. To support life is to hate women. To support marriage is to hate homosexuals. The issue surrounding homosexuality is particularly disconcerting, because the debate is being framed in categories such as tolerance vs. intolerance, enlightenment vs. ignorance, and love vs. hate.

And so, I’m concerned for those who think grandpa’s dismissal is irrelevant (i.e., no big deal). They’re wrong. It’s a huge deal, as it’s a sign of what’s coming.

Secondly, I’m concerned for those who want to downplay what the Bible actually says about homosexuality.

I write this with some hesitation. My goal isn’t to bash a particular group of people. My goal is to provide clarity for Christians who are wrestling with these issues. Let me begin by explaining what’s happening. For the past several decades, there has been an organized effort to normalize homosexuality within society. We can see how this has unfolded by simply looking at television’s progressive portrayal of homosexuality.

Of late, we can detect a growing trend to normalize homosexuality within the church. How’s this evident? Some people (even within so-called evangelicalism – which is admittedly a rather nebulous term nowadays) contend that homosexuality is an acceptable lifestyle provided the partners are consenting adults, who have committed to a monogamous, permanent, covenant relationship. According to this view, when the Bible speaks ill of homosexuality, it isn’t speaking of monogamous, permanent, covenant relationships between consenting adults of the same sex. It’s speaking of casual homosexuality. And so, the Bible only condemns sexual promiscuity – whether it’s heterosexual or homosexual.

Accompanying this position is the contention that the Bible commands us to love everyone. Some interpret this to mean that we’re to accept everyone, including their sexual orientation (whatever that might be). Moreover, they contend that the church needs to recognize that prohibiting covenant homosexuality places unnecessary barriers in the way of unbelievers, whereas granting covenant homosexuals an accepted status within the church makes the church more attractive to society.

Some (in this camp) go so far as to argue that there are covenant homosexual relationships in the Bible. They appeal to David and Jonathan, and Naomi and Ruth. This is where I need to bite my tongue – hard. (The sarcastic side of me wants to let loose.) Let me simply say this is a clear case of “hermeneutical gymnastics,” and unworthy of any sober-minded student of Scripture.

The Bible clearly condemns the act of homosexuality: men or women exchanging “the natural function” for that which is unnatural (Rom. 1:26–27). (Also see 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10.) And we don’t love others by downplaying what the Bible clearly states. We love others by upholding God’s good and perfect will for their lives. Often times, this means denouncing sin in its innumerable forms and expressions – personal, societal, and political. When we do so kindly and prudently, we’re loving others. A failure to do so is a failure to love.

Thirdly (and finally), I’m concerned for those who want to make grandpa the poster-child for the Christian faith.

I’ve read the transcript of grandpa’s recent interview. (It made me blush.) He attempted to quote Scripture (botched it, but at least he tried). But he had no difficulty or hesitancy engaging in a discourse which was (to put it mildly) downright crude (“lacking tact or taste; blunt or offensive”), crass (“unrefined as to be lacking in discrimination and sensibility”), and vulgar (“deficient in taste, delicacy, or refinement”). Wait, I’m not finished. It was rude, tawdry, and tasteless.

What does the Bible say about such speech? How are followers of Jesus to speak? “But do not let immorality or any impurity or greed even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks . . . Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification” (Eph. 5:3–4). As Christians, there’s no such thing as “freedom of speech.” (Wow, now that might create some controversy. But stay with me.) What I mean is that, as Christians, we’re only free to speak as our Master speaks – form and content.

As I write this, I recall a simple chorus I learned as soon as I could speak:

O be careful little tongue what you say,
For your Father up above is looking down in love,
O be careful little tongue what you say.


Grandpa would do well to learn this little ditty.

I suppose what really concerns me is the number of Christians (I pray there aren’t that many, but I fear there are) who seem to think grandpa is now the poster-child for the Christian faith.

At this moment, I can mention the name of lots of men – well educated in religion, theology, and history; pastors at churches and professors at seminaries; faithful husbands and fathers. Perfect men? Absolutely not! Far from it. But men who are striving by God’s grace to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. Here’s my question: Would any of these men ever make it on a reality TV show? Hmm, I wonder. No, they would be dismissed immediately (even by many Christians) as boring, uninteresting, and irrelevant. Why is that?

So, what does it say about those who are gravitating to grandpa as a champion of the Christian faith? What does it say about those who know the characters of Duck Dynasty better than the members of their own families (physical and spiritual)? What does it say about those who seek to couple the Christian faith with a reality TV show? Personally, I think it says a great deal. It’s but another symptom of the pervading shallowness, absurdity, and immaturity that passes as modern-day evangelicalism. Ouch!

Enough said. I’m allowing myself one rant per year. Just got this one in in the nick of time – eight days to go ‘til ‘14. Anyway, I’m off now to an early Christmas celebration at the home of dear friends. Looking forward to it. If Duck Dynasty comes up in conversation, I now know exactly what I’m going to say – “Pass the eggnog” (non-alcoholic, of course, lest I offend my Baptist friends).

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Stephen; appreciate your thoughts on this very much.I've encountered all the extremes of thought you've mentioned - just on Facebook alone.
Merry Christmas to you all.
Deborah

me said...

Thank you Stephen, timely rant!

Merry Christmas :)

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Stephen. As usual, you are "bang on"
Brenda

Anonymous said...

While I don't think that he is the poster for Christianity, what I do think is that many have observed him attempt to speak about his faith and belief in the biblical sense about homosexuality. To that end, it was unrefined, but people jumped on because the liberal media attacked Phil, because he answered the question of, "what do you consider sin." This was a calculated ambush. The firestorm that ensued was far bigger then just one man's comments; it was about a man, who was a Christian, taking a stand, rooted in biblical truth--in an unapologetic manor. Nothing more,nothing less. I'm soo very tired of seeing Christians taking lumps for affirming their faith, saying what they believe, and being ostracized. I guess in the end, God ordained many things in the days before Christ, the things during Christ, and the things that will bring Christ to us again. He controls all things, and he said we will be persecuted for our faith. We see this parallel in everything Pontius Pilot to present day things, home and abroad. I certainly appreciate your article. Thanks for your insight and and teh good read.

StoryTeller said...

Stephen, Thank you for your comments! I have been trying to come up with the right words to share my thoughts on this issue - now I can just refer my FaceBook friends to your blog for a well-thought Christian response.

Christmas Blessings, Alan

Nica Carapeto said...

Obrigada! Boas palavras! Desde quando ser cristão é ser estrela de TV? Beijinhos e Feliz Natal para vocês!

Mark N. said...

Greetings Stephen. I like your article.

I get and agree with your overarching point, but I would suggest not using the term "freedom of speech" like you do, though. I think it's misusing the term and could easily cause confusion.

The term "freedom of speech" is a technical political term to demark the political right to speak freely. I think it's a bit of a category error to say that Christians don't have "freedom of speech". (Even though, again, I understand and agree with your overarching point).

"Freedom of speech" has never been meant to address whether God (or conscience or even the government) approves or condones a particular speech. It has never been meant to address whether speech is moral or ethical or wise. It has been meant to mean that, politically speaking, distasteful speech will be tolerated.

We can say that a particular instance of speech is crass, vulgar, ungodly, or what not. But, in that critique, when we affirm "freedom of speech", we affirm that society will allow him to say that, not that God is condoning or that it is wise or moral or advisable.

So, I can both say that the Bible very much so constrains my ability to speak in ways that are sinful, but that does not in any way, as Stephen suggests, mean I have no "freedom of speech".

This could apply to many other areas. In a similar way, we have a political freedom to covet. We do not have freedom before God to covet. There is a lot of confusion in this area, and I think ignoring these distinctions causes a lot of problems. We can easily denigrate the important concept of "freedom of speech" simply because we are not careful to make these distinctions.

I love this quote from Milton: "Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties."

I think we as Christians should insist on this right, in its proper place. Of course, we our is constrained in our ethics before God. However, "freedom of speech" deals with a different sphere from our commitment (and mandate) to be held accountable to the universal ethical norms of the Scriptures.

Anyways, those are just my thoughts on an otherwise helpful article! God bless you!

Mark N. said...

Just, as a bit of clarification, my comment is moreso responding to a broader trend of using the phrase "free speech"--so maybe its not even fair that it is directed at your article :)

Stephen Yuille said...

Mark. Thanks for your comments. I agree. I was using the expression "freedom of speech" as my mother would say "tongue-in-cheek" - nothing more.
Stephen

Vidal Jones said...

Greatly appreciate your blog and sermons that I listen to on the internet. I didn't even consider it a rant, but much needed food for thought....

Mica Roberts said...

Well done Pastor Stephen. I appreciate your post very much. When society is menacingly stalking us to extrude "hate" from our mouths, we should be prepared to answer their questions in the same manner that Peter instructs us to give an account of our hope, "with gentleness and respect" 1 Peter 3:15.

I pray Lord that you give me the courage to proclaim truth, and the wisdom to do so with gentleness and respect.

Thank you for your thoughtful and encouraging post.

Clayton

Anonymous said...

Just catching up on many missed blogs. Wow! 11 comments on the Duck Dynasty rant. A record? I agree with all of it, even the freedom of speech, in context. Regarding the subject for a later time---yes, some still converse around the dinner table, though in my case it is much less frequent than in my past. I have seen Duck Dynasty, and the best part for me was the closing scene of each episode, with the extended family at the large dinner table, giving thanks, led by grandpa. No, he should not be a poster child, but we should certainly ask God to prepare us for Biblical boldness in witnessing and joy in persecution. Stephen, now that it is 2014, your next yearly rant could come at any time, eh? Blessings to you and yours, from Bruce L.