Friday, September 5, 2014

Who's the Judge of Us?

I incurred considerable wrath from readers for expressing my opinions about Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, and his quotes to a GQ reporter last year about homosexuality that I don't believe glorified God.

At the time, Robertson gave some raunchy description of homosexuality without really answering the question set before him, which was "what is sin?"  Robertson got the attention he wanted with his reply, but did he speak the truth in love?

I thought I did, but die-hard fans of Duck Dynasty begged to differ.

Who Mo Fobe?

Well, either I'm too stubborn for my own good, or I'm a glutton for punishment.  While promoting a new book he's written, Robertson told Good Morning America that he's "as much of a homophobe as Jesus was."  Which, of course, I can't simply let hang out there in the blogosphere, since what he said can be taken two ways.  I don't believe Jesus is a homophobe (notice, I use the present tense for our Savior), although He teaches that all sexual deviance, including homosexuality, are sins.  So Robertson is either saying he himself is not a homophobe either, like Christ isn't, or he's implying that Christ is, and so is he.

Ironically, Robertson also claims to be all about love, and that he doesn't hate anybody.  So maybe Robertson simply doesn't understand the definition of "homophobe."

For the record, according to Merriam-Webster, a homophobe is "a person who hates or is afraid of homosexuals or treats them badly."

Some extraordinarily defensive homosexuals say merely identifying their sexual preference as a sin would be treating them badly.  But gluttony is a sin, as is gossip, and pornography, and lying, and holding grudges, and few people who commit these sins think they're being treated badly when those sins are identified.  Embarrassed, maybe, or in denial, but not persecuted.

So maybe Robertson simply used the wrong terminology.

Converter Kill

Unfortunately for him, however, he also recently went on record with FOX personality Sean Hannity as saying that when it comes to dealing with ISIS, we should "either convert them or kill them."

Now - again, for the record - Hannity prods Robertson to elaborate on his wild advice, since, after all, it sounds like the same thing ISIS is trying to do with us.  ISIS wants us to either convert us to their brand of radical Islam, or they'll kill us.

So Robertson tried to soften his stance - with a heavily paraphrased scripture passage from Hebrews 12 thrown in. 

"I'd much rather have a Bible study with [ISIS] and show them the error of their ways and point them to Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of having your sins removed and being raised from the dead. I would rather preach the gospel of Jesus to them. However, if it's a gun fight and a gun fight alone, if that is what they're looking for, me, personally I am prepared for either one."

If you take his clarification of "convert or kill" seriously, Robertson's tactical hubris is nothing more than standard military operating procedure.  If an enemy combatant is actually coming at you to shoot you dead, what else are you going to do, but try to shoot your enemy first?  It's basic self-protection, whether you're on the battlefield, in the middle of a terrorist attack, or in a back alley someplace.

So what makes Robertson any sort of special spokesman for anybody, I find myself asking?

He's about as authoritative as Joan Rivers, who died yesterday after suffering heart failure last week.  Rivers had her fans, and she could be entertaining, but even a gay friend of mine couldn't stand her.  There's genuine entertainment, and then there's audacious grandstanding.  So maybe Robertson is the Joan Rivers of the swampy bayou set?

Judge Knott

River's death wasn't the only big news yesterday.  In Georgia, authorities officially charged Justin Ross Harris with eight counts of murder in the death of his young son this past June.  You'll recall Harris is the Home Depot employee who claims to have accidentally left his son locked in his car, where the toddler died of asphyxiation.

Prosecutors apparently are going to portray Harris as some sort of philanderer who sexted women who weren't his wife, and was frustrated with the incessant responsibilities of fatherhood.  Now the American public will have to prepare itself for yet another sensationalized, over-hyped courtroom melodrama that sounds like it's perfectly scripted for our modern media machine, including social media.  You can almost hear the court of public opinion being called into session.

The honorable Judge Knott, presiding.

You know Judge Knott - that's the judge to whom a lot of people appeal when others of us start analyzing the facts and discerning between right and wrong.  "Judge not," the holier-than-thou folks will lilt, as they misquote the scripture about the person being without sin throwing the first stone.

And there's the rub, right?  Duck Dynasty's Robertson loves to point out other people's faults, but at least, further along in his latest Hannity interview, he admits that he's no more perfect than anybody else.  He correctly says that "one little white lie does you in as fast as being sexually immoral."

So the dad who's going to trial over his son's death, and has already been unofficially proven to have carried on inappropriately with other women, is as lost without Christ as any homosexual who is unsaved, as well as Joan Rivers was, if the famously outspoken Jew ever confessed Christ as her savior before she died.  And what about me?  I can ramble on like Robertson, making assumptions, leveling accusations, and being judgmental - just like some people could accuse me of being right now, right here, in this essay.

Spirited Fruit?

But what's missing in all of this, folks?  Phil likes to hammer away at homosexuals, and I like to hammer at him for being unkind in the way he zeros in on something sensational and controversial that he knows will garner him attention.  Meanwhile, what does Christ expect in His followers?  The Fruit of the Spirit, right?  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Boy, would Joan Rivers have been able to enjoy the career she had if the Fruit of the Spirit guided her life?  Could Robertson?  I don't know about Harris, the Georgia father, but I certainly know that I struggle with letting the Fruit of the Spirit flourish in my life.

I've been told that Robertson's earthy schtick is part of his trademark, like the dotty, reclusive uncle who raises eyebrows in the best of families.  That's how Rivers got away with so much of her vulgar persona - she was the zany relative from Brooklyn you couldn't seat next to the rabbi after a bris.  It's who they are; it's part of their charm.

Of course, I've also been told that wealth and fame are good barometers of one's success in life.  But we've already had a ruling on that one; not from the court of public opinion this time, but from the eternal Judge.

To correct Robertson's botched scripture references from his Hannity interview, we should "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."

And do you remember what the writer of this passage in Hebrews continues to say?  Further down in Chapter 12, we read that we are to "make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy."

Live in peace?  With as many people as possible, in our evil age, and still be holy?  Isn't that a contradiction?  Isn't that impossible?

It would be, if not for God's grace, which verse 15 warns us can be easily replaced by bitterness and defilement when we act carelessly or belligerently.  We need to remember that God is still a "consuming fire," and He's the "judge of all men," but... He's also the God of eternal joy, and life.

And that grace all of us so desperately need.

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