The Story: One of the stars of the biggest cable show of all time has been suspended by the A&E Network following his recent comments on homosexuality.
The Background: In a recent interview with GQ magazine, Phil Robertson, the 67-year-old patriarch of the Robertson family, was asked, "What, in your mind, is sinful?" Robertson responded:
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 says. Then he paraphrases 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. [. . .] We never, ever judge someone on who's going to heaven, hell. That's the Almighty's job. We just love 'em, give 'em the good news about Jesus—whether they're homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort 'em out later, you see what I'm saying?
After his comments were criticized by gay and lesbian groups, Robertson released a statement through A&E:
I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.
That didn't dissuade his LGBTQ critics, though, so A&E placed him on "indefinite suspension." The network said in a statement:
His personal views in no way reflect those of A&E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.
Why It Matters: Earlier this week state Senate Democrats in New Jersey pulled from consideration a bill that would write gay marriage, already legal in New Jersey by court order, into the law books. The reason: the bill contained religious exemptions. Loretta Weinberg, the Senate Majority Leader, said she pulled the bill after pressure from an LGBTQ legal group, Lambda Legal.
"They don't want any kind of religious exemption, so out of respect for that, I will (pull the bill)," Weinberg said. "There's a disparate group of people and it's hard to follow what they want, so I'm following Lambda Legal."
The decision by New Jersey Democrats and A&E are similar. When pressured by LGBTQ groups, organizations and politicians will choose to silence Christians who oppose the normalization of homosexual behavior.
Many Christians have assumed that they would be allowed reasonable exemptions and accommodations based on religious liberty. But LGBTQ activists have made it clear (and have said so from the beginning) that unconditional acceptance of homosexuality is the only option. Normalization and public support, rather than mere legal recognition, is the end goal.
Religious believers who think they can avoid the issue are deluding themselves. While we may not have a hit reality show that we can get fired from, we will be pressured in numerous ways to make it clear that we will not speak or act publicly in a way that supports the biblical view of homosexuality. The objective of the activists is to marginalize Christian views on sexual norms until they can be outlawed in the public square. Many Christians have already and will continue to gleefully work to ensure this becomes a reality. But for faithful Christians, allowing our biblical witness to be silenced is not an option. Like Phil Robertson we must all say, "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together."