Phil Robertson is one of America’s pop icons. It’s an amazing story: college quarterback to barroom brawler to “Bible-thumping Christian” (as he calls himself) to duck call inventor to founder of a Dynasty. His television program is the highest-rated cable reality show in history. He and his family made Barbara Walters’ “most fascinating people of 2013” list; you can’t check out of a grocery store without passing their calendars and other paraphernalia.
Now Phil is in the news for a very different reason. He gave an interview to GQ in which he expressed his views on homosexuality, sparking a backlash that has led to his “indefinite suspension” by A&E, the channel that airs his show. The Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay-rights group in the U.S., called his statements “dangerous and revisionist.”
What did he say that generated such controversy?
I read the entire GQ interview. (If you do, be warned that the writer—not Phil, who always avoids profanity—uses extremely obscene language throughout.) Early in the piece, Phil is quoted making an anatomical comparison between heterosexual and homosexual sexual relations. Later he describes the sinfulness of our culture: “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.”
These are the statements that generated such outrage from the gay lobby and were branded as obscene by network news and media outlets. He also made statements that have been deemed racist. It’s unfortunate that Phil made them, because they are diverting attention from all he did right in the interview.
First, there’s his spirit. The GQ writer describes Phil as “welcoming and gracious” and calls his family “immensely likable.” Joining him on land the Robertsons have tended and cherish, he admits, “Whatever you think of Phil’s beliefs, it’s hard not to gaze upon his cultivations and wonder if you’ve gotten life all wrong.” God wants us to be ready always to defend our faith, but “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). Then, “when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame” (v. 16).
Second, there’s his clear focus on Christ. After one reference to homosexuality, Phil quotes Scripture: “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” (paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 6:9-10). At the end of the interview, he clearly presents the gospel to the GQ writer and encourages him to make Christ his Lord. Paul called us “ambassadors for Christ” with this message: “We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).
When we talk about homosexuality or any other sin, let’s speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And let’s offer the same grace to others that we have received from Jesus. After his GQ interview, Phil hosted a private Bible study with a woman who, according to him, “has been on cocaine for years and is making her decision to repent. I’m going to point her in the right direction.”
How will you do the same today?