If you have read many of my blog and/or Facebook posts, you probably know that I am both an Evangelical minister and a conservative/libertarian/constitutionalist. What you may not know is that for my entire life I have had gay friends. One of my closest childhood friends died of AIDS. When I worked in EMS, I had several openly gay partners - working partners that is. We worked 24 hour shifts. I got to know several well. Later, as a pastor, gay people continued to cross my path. In every case, I treated them with dignity, love and respect. Like everyone else they, were and are, of infinite value - because Christ died for them. I don't use, or let others use in my presence, any kind of gay slur. God being my helper, I practice real tolerance by not requiring people to live as I do, believe as I do or endorse the choices I make, in order to be respected and loved by me.
Politically, I do not support laws that prevent people from living as they wish, provided that they cause no harm to others. In regards to marriage, I believe that this is a religious and cultural institution which government should stay out of as much as possible. My faith requires much more of me in regards to my marriage than government does. I think people should be permitted to write their own marriage contracts. In regards to supporting laws that compel non-Christians to behave as if they are Christians, I oppose them. In fact, in my last sermon, I made the point that by focusing upon politics, the Evangelical church has neglected its' primary mission of loving others and presenting the live changing Gospel of Christ. I believe that everyone has the right to be equally considered for most jobs be they gay or straight, Christian or atheist. I would only make exceptions for religious institutions who have moral objections to the gay lifestyle. I support the right of all Americans to serve in the armed forces.
So, all that said, what do I think about the uproar over Phil Robertson? Well, I have to say that I am extremely concerned. You see, he was not caught on Camera using a gay slur (like Alec Baldwin). He was not accused of refusing to hire a qualified gay person in his business. He did not even seek an opportunity to opine upon the moral issues surrounding homosexuality. What was his sin, for which he has now been suspended? He was stupid enough to actually be truthful regarding his sincerely held religious beliefs.
I'm sure that the folks at A&E don't realize it yet, but his beliefs are far from unusual among serious Christians. Some of this things he said were direct quotes from the New Testament:
Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10 NIV)
What everyone so far has missed is this: By his own admission, prior to coming to faith, Phil Robertson was both sexually immoral AND a drunkard. He was not placing himself above gays - even in a Christian context - he was placing himself in the very same category. If you are not a Christian, please let that sink in. Remember that a key doctrine of the Christian faith is Grace. We believe that when we come to faith in Christ, he cleans us up. There is no room for self-righteousness - we can take no credit for it. There is, however, also no room for us to change God's Word. Not to justify our behavior or the behavior of others. Those who are asking him to change his beliefs are asking him to deny the Lord who gave him the strength to sober up and the grace to save his marriage. They are asking him to deny a truth that has transformed his life for the better. I highly doubt that he will do this.
There is another truth about the Christian faith that most outside and many inside the church do not understand: The Christian life is not about claiming what you believe to be your rights - it is about surrendering them to God. This is why Jesus told his followers to "count the cost" of following Him. The Bible is abundantly clear in regards to the sexual ethics required of those who choose to follow Christ. Written in a culture in which both heterosexual and homosexual sex outside of heterosexual marriage was the norm, the New Testament only permits sex in heterosexual marriages. It is not only the New Testament that has held this position - the entire Christian church - Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant - held this position for 1,950 years. Every Saint and hero of the faith held it. It was unquestioned. Worldwide and in the US, the majority of Biblical Christians still hold it.
Is that fair if you happen to be gay? No it isn't. Life in this broken world is NOT FAIR. Ask a returning, disabled vet if what happened to him is "fair". Ask a widowed mother if life is "fair". Ask anyone who - like me - lives with daily, severe pain if life is "fair". Life isn't fair for any of us - but God is good. He offers Grace and mercy to all, and purpose too.
Of course, the immediate response was, "He's judging, Jesus said not to judge". Check the context. This is in the Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 7:1ff) the reference is to religious leaders who JUDGED AND SHUNNED people, while ignoring their own sins. Think for a moment. Judging involves a determining of guilt and the pronouncing of a sentence. Only God can do that - and that is why Pope Francis was right to say, "Who am I to judge?" However, IT IS NOT JUDGING TO ANSWER A QUESTION REGARDING THE LAW. We are supposed to know what it is. We are not supposed to pass sentence upon, hate or reject those who choose not to follow it. That is judging.
Sadly, the response has been much worse than that. He has been called every vile name possible in online forums. Spokespeople for the LBGT community have stated that anyone with such an opinion has no place in the public life of the nation. Others have commented that he "cannot be allowed to hide behind the 1st Amendment's freedom of religion" and "He cannot be allowed to hide behind Christianity."
Then there is this from MSNBC: "GLAAD jumped on Robertson’s comments Wednesday. 'Phil and his family claim to be Christian, but Phil’s lies about an entire community fly in the face of what true Christians believe,' spokesman Wilson Cruz said in a statement provided to msnbc." WOW, TALK ABOUT JUDGING. When did Wilson Cruz become the final authority as to what all "true Christians" believe? What gives him the authority to make that determination for millions of sincere Christians? What gives him the right to sit in judgment of Phil Robertson and his faith?
I thank God, that not everyone in the Gay community would agree with Wilson Cruz. Most gay people I have known just want to be treated with respect. They don't force others to agree with them by coercion. Sadly, many on the left, both gay and straight, want to do exactly that.
What concerns me more than anything else is the contempt for religious freedom and the historic Christian faith that many on the left are pushing. I am a Christian who lives in the cultural bubble of California - but I have spent time in other states. Outside the "blue state bubble" there are lots and lots of people who agree with Phil Robertson. There are even quite a few in the "blue states". Not just a few "extremists" - but millions of religious people of many faiths - Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox, Mormon - as well as theologically conservative Jews and Muslims. Add those groups up and you easily have over 100 million Americans. Just how do those condemning Phil Robertson intend to keep these people out of the "public life of the nation"?
Just how are we who dare to hold on to the historic Christian faith to be kept out of public life? What rights are to be removed in order to accomplish this? How are we to be identified? I know, Christians could be made to wear a yellow cross at all times - just like the Jews. Hitler actually used homosexuals in the SA to oppose and subdue the Christians in Germany. After he didn't need them any more he threw those he didn't kill into the same concentration camps as the Christians who refused to bow to his twisted cross. I'm not calling gays NAZIS, I am appealing to them and everyone else to stop marginalizing other Americans - because chances are it won't end well for any of us. We need to be truly tolerant of each other - we need to reject the false tolerance of political correctness before it's too late.
Were Phil Robertson's comments crudely presented? Yes, they were. Like the politically liberal Christian - and fellow recovering addict - Bob Beckel, his past sometimes shows through. He may owe many an apology for that, but not for his sincerely held religious beliefs. Is his theology Biblical? Absolutely. Were his comments hateful? Absolutely not. Sadly, the same cannot be said of those who were so quick to attack him. Their comments were not only hateful, they were and are just as un-American as those on the signs of Westboro Baptist Church.
Note: I wrote more about the hypocrisy of the left and gay activists in ignoring or supporting attacks upon Christians HERE