I’ve only seen four episodes of Duck Dynasty, all of them through the magic of a Roku box.
While eating frogs, duck calls, and blowing up beaver dams aren’t my preferred style of entertainment, I can see why they’re amusing to many people.
Right now, everyone seems to be weighing in on Duck Commander Phil Robertson’s recent comments about homosexuality to an interviewer from GQ.
So let me share some broader thoughts about the way Christians -like Commander Phil – communicate to the culture:
First, the gulf between culture and Christians is widening at an accelerated rate.
Popular culture doesn’t care what Christians think or believe anymore.
Thirty years ago, politicians asked, “How will this play in Peoria?” There was a cultural sensitivity toward middle America, which included devout believers.
That’s now gone. When an artist writes a song or a producer funds a film, nobody considers how Christians will react.
As the culture races to experiment with new moralities and family structures, most Christians hold the same beliefs we did twenty centuries ago … and because we’re not playing along, the perception is that we’re standing in the way of “progress.”
Today’s article from Atlantic Monthly writer Larry Alex Taunton explains this divide well and is worth reading:
Second, we Christians are losing our ability to say anything meaningful to the culture.
Christian leaders remain unaware of how they sound to a postmodern culture.
Last week, I watched an interview with a prominent megachurch pastor on a national news station concerning the Phil Robertson controversy. I’d give that pastor a “B+” for talking to Christians but a “D-” talking to the culture.
Because when most evangelical pastors are given a public forum … even when they preach … they speak only to their constituency.
You can hear it in their language … tone of voice … lack of sensitivity … and, sad to say, arrogant assumptions.
Let’s face it: in the culture-at-large, evangelicals have few spokesmen who can address an issue with both truth and sensitivity.
If some truth is missing, Christians will be angry.
If some sensitivity is missing, the culture becomes angry.
What works in our pulpits doesn’t always translate well to secular journalists.
Phil Robertson spoke biblical truth, but his coarse language made him sound angry. Because his views and manner play well with his family, church, and region, he’s probably expressed himself like that scores of time in the past without recrimination.
But his words didn’t resonate well with millions in our culture this time.
I believe that Jesus wants His followers to win souls rather than arguments.
When we focus on being right, we win few if any souls.
But when we focus on souls, we’re forced to speak the truth in love … and in the process, we win more people to Jesus.
Third, when Christians speak to the culture, we need to lead with arguments followed by Scripture.
Increasingly, our culture doesn’t believe in God … or the God of the Bible … and rejects the Bible itself.
So when we quote Scripture to make a point, most people shrug it off … like Christians would if Muslims quoted from The Koran.
Last week, I even heard a prominent conservative commentator call Christians ignorant because of some of our biblical beliefs.
We have to know our audience better.
Sometimes Jesus went right to Scripture while teaching … like He did in Matthew 22:34-40.
Sometimes Jesus made arguments first and then quoted Scripture … like He did in Matthew 22:23-33.
Sometimes Jesus bypassed Scripture altogether and just told a story …. like He did in Matthew 20:1-16.
When Phil Robertson quoted Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 6:9, some of his hearers thought he was equating homosexuality with beastiality and murder.
They missed his point that we’re all sinners … because gays and their apologists don’t believe they’re doing anything wrong when they have sex with each other. Because what they’re doing is legal … and even moral to millions … Christians seem to be attacking a practice that’s already culturally acceptable.
I wish Robertson had gone on to read verse 11 because it encapsulates the gospel message: “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
Paul says that regardless of our sin – even adultery or homosexuality – Christ can wash us clean … declare us righteous … and make us whole.
Maybe the truths of verse 9 would have been better received if the good news from verse 11 had been added.
Finally, the more controversial the issue, the more articulate Christians need to be.
Throughout the course of my pastoral ministry, I didn’t shy away from any controversial issue in the culture.
I presented entire messages about the New Atheists … Intelligent Design … homosexuality … abortion … racism … and gay marriage, just to name a few.
But before I delivered those messages, I studied all of Scripture on that issue … became familiar with secular arguments … wrote out my message in manuscript form … and was very careful about what I said.
Because if I offend people with the way I say something, then they won’t be open to the biblical position I’m trying to convey.
When discussing homosexuality in public – still an incredibly sensitive topic to millions – Christians need to preface their remarks by saying something like this every time:
“The Bible teaches from Genesis to Revelation that sexual expression belongs only inside a committed heterosexual marriage relationship. For a follower of Christ, this rules out premarital sex … extramarital sex … and same gender sex.”
I’ve often began discussions about male homosexuality by asking this question: “What do you think of anonymous and promiscuous sex?”
My guess is that most people think sex should have some aspect of commitment and love built into it.
Then say, “That’s why the Bible is against homosexual conduct … even when two gay men are married … because one or both partners nearly always give the other permission to engage in anonymous and promiscuous sexual activity outside their own relationship.”
And those facts have rarely been considered by those who champion homosexual behavior.
One wonders: why have Christians singled out homosexual behavior when heterosexual sexual sins are far more common?
My guess: because those who commit heterosexual sins aren’t organized (there’s no equivalent of GLAAD for adulterers) and aren’t considered a threat to the practice of Christianity in our culture.
I wish those who espouse the blessings of homosexual conduct and gay marriage took the time to understand how scary militant homosexuality comes across to devout Christians.
Last week, I ran across a comment from an expert who stated that civil rights should trump religious rights … and that’s what scares Christians to death.
We’re afraid that we’re going to become a persecuted minority … or even extinct … for practicing our faith the way we always have.
While Christians and gay advocates may never agree on the topic of sex, can we at least agree to COEXIST and COMMUNICATE in ways that demonstrate compassion, dignity, and respect?
If so, then maybe this whole Duck Dynasty controversy will have done some good.