Ducks, God, Phil & Me

Duck Dynasty  Photo credit: GQ Magazine

Duck Dynasty
Photo credit: GQ Magazine

You know what we haven’t talked enough about? The Phil Robertson piece in GQ. I mean, I’ve hardly seen any opinions about it. Did anyone even read it? So weird.

In case you couldn’t see the sarcasm font, that’s what that is. If you’ve been conscious in America for the past week, it seems like it’s all anyone can talk about.

I think the timing is really great, too. Families across the country are about to gather together. Most families I know have plenty of people with different points of view on basically every topic for which Robertson expressed an opinion. This is going to be rather uncomfortable for a lot of folks trying very hard to keep the peace during the season of light and love. So good luck with that!

You can relax, I’m not going to write more about the gay or race issues Robertson raised. Other writers I respect have written plenty on that. If you’ve read anything I’ve ever written, it’s no shock that he and I view these topics very differently. What actually concerns me the most is the kind of Gospel Robertson espouses. It’s close to the Prosperity Gospel I find dangerously troubling.

In fairness, I don’t look to Phil Robertson for spiritual enlightenment. I doubt many people do. However, the kind of salvation he’s preaching is the kind many people subscribe to, particularly in my section of the country. So I think it’s worthwhile to evaluate some of his claims, given that so many people are espousing they believe it too.

Several times implicitly and at least twice explicitly in the GQ piece, Robertson indicates Christianity will make your life easy. It’s like a magic potion to fix you up real good.

“If you simply put your faith in Jesus coming down in flesh, through a human being, God becoming flesh living on the earth, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, being buried, and being raised from the dead—yours and mine and everybody else’s problems will be solved.”

And there you have it. Problems solved. No more bad diagnoses. No more car wrecks or financial trouble or grief. Everything’s coming up roses, right? Well, not exactly.

It sounds like the preachers who promise new cars and large homes in exchange for believing in Jesus. It’s a nice gig if you can get it, but I see no indication that the accounting system God uses has anything to do with our personal peace and prosperity.

Am I the only one who read the book of Job? God acknowledged he was a man of mighty faith, and still allowed terrible things to happen to him. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own family. Jesus was born as a Jew in the Roman Empire. His government executed him. He didn’t promise anyone who decided to follow Him a trouble-free life. He only promised His companionship in the trouble.

Scripture is full of references to God’s aid in difficult times. It doesn’t bother to even try to break the news gently that there is going to be really awful stuff in all our lives. It assumes the reader already knows that.

There’s no solution, no answers, no hospital corners. Only His Presence, Emmanuel: God with us. That’s what you get if sign up for this (which is pretty great, if you ask me). But you absolutely don’t get a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Robertson also seems to subscribe to the notion that our nation will be judged corporately by God for our spiritual state. It’s a philosophy that seems to be extrapolated from the Old Testament. I’ve heard different variations of this corporate judgement theory all my life.

It goes something like this: God judged Israel as a nation because they were God’s people. He will judge America as a nation because we are God’s people.

We ought to just be repentant, turn to God, and let’s get on with it, and everything will turn around.

I suppose on the most general of levels that’s true. The problem lies in the details. What does “turn to God” mean exactly? Robertson goes on to detail his view of a country that has done just that.

I think turning to God means something entirely different that Robertson. And we’re both claiming Christianity as our faith identity. Obviously, the many other faiths represented in our country see it another way.

See that’s the trouble. We don’t agree all agree on what turning to God looks like. It’s the reason our founders gave us a secular government with a Constitution that protects everyone’s right to pursue their faith in the way they have come to understand it.

I think there is good evidence in Scripture to indicate we will be judged only for ourselves, not what other people do…what we’ve personally done or left undone.

I don’t think Robertson is bad person. I think he’s a man trying to make sense of the world in the way he knows how. I don’t agree with his positions on basically anything, but that’s actually the good news. We don’t have to agree. I suspect when it’s all said and done, we’ll find we were both wrong in some way or another.

There’s a place for both of us in the big country. We both get to talk about our faith on the platforms we’ve secured for ourselves to stand and preach. Neither of us have to fear jail or fines or anything of that sort.

The best news of all is that God’s love is big enough for all of us, even me and Phil.

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