I’d like to offer my brief comments on the Phil Robertson controversy. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, see here and here.
I don’t think that Phil Robertson is a bad guy. He prayed for a
woman with cancer after learning that he had been suspended from his hit
A&E TV show, Duck Dynasty (see here). He has affirmed continually that his faith teaches him to love and respect all people.
Yet, I can understand why people find his comments to be offensive
and hurtful. There are many homosexuals who see their same-sex
relationship as special, beautiful, and loving, and they do not
appreciate someone coming along and putting it in the same category as
bestiality and terrorism. There are African-Americans who are aware of
the oppression and discrimination that existed in the Jim Crow South,
and they do not care for Robertson’s implication that things weren’t
that bad for African-Americans under that system.
I was reading an article yesterday that suggested ways that Phil
Robertson can recover his image: he can apologize, or he can appear on a
talk show spouting some mea culpas. But, for one, I do not
expect for Phil Robertson to retract his sincerely-held religious
beliefs. In his eyes, the Bible is against homosexual relationships,
and he is committed to that standard. And, secondly, even if he were to
retract his religious beliefs and offer a public apology, that would
only be a band-aid solution. He’d simply be appeasing his critics,
without necessarily learning and growing from this experience.
In my opinion, this should be a learning experience—-not a “gotcha”
experience (for Robertson’s critics), and not a “we have to stand by
Phil Robertson in these end times” experience (for many of Robertson’s
supporters). I hope that Robertson learns why people found his
comments offensive, and that he can somehow come to empathize with
them, even if he chooses not to change his religious beliefs about
homosexuality. And I hope that other people besides Robertson can learn
from this: that, for example, white people can learn that racism does
exist, even if they do not see it.
Polarization can start this sort of discussion. For example, had
GLAAD and the NAACP not complained about Robertson’s comments, we would
not be talking about why they are so offensive and hurtful. But
polarization and an us vs. them mindset, if it is continued, can
obstruct learning, discussion, and growth.
A tale of two journeys
1 hour ago