When You Defend Phil Robertson, Here's What You're Really Defending

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Let's get a few things straight about what Phil Robertson said that got him in trouble.

Defenses of Robertson, the star of "Duck Dynasty" suspended for his remarks in an interview with GQ, have focused on the idea that he was just crudely expressing the sincere, Christian view that homosexuality is sinful.

Condemnation of Robertson therefore amounts to condemnation of views that are part of Christian doctrine.  What are Christians to do about the fact that their beliefs require them to condemn homosexual acts? Why are cultural elites oppressing Christians by making it forbidden to express their views?

Robertson's defenders should read his comments again, because their defenses are off-point. If you're defending Robertson, here's what you're defending:

  1. Robertson thinks black Americans were treated just fine in the Jim Crow-era South, and that they were happy there. " I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field.... They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
  2. Robertson thinks the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor because they didn't believe in Jesus. "A ll you have to do is look at any society where there is no Jesus. I’ll give you four: Nazis, no Jesus. Look at their record. Uh, Shintos? They started this thing in Pearl Harbor. Any Jesus among them? None. Communists? None. Islamists? Zero. That’s eighty years of ideologies that have popped up where no Jesus was allowed among those four groups. Just look at the records as far as murder goes among those four groups."
  3. Robertson hates gay people. Robertson in 2010: " Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions.  They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil."

This last one is key. My inbox is full of "love the sinner, hate the sin" defenses of Robertson's 2013 remarks. But Robertson doesn't love gay people. He thinks they're, well, "full of murder." His views on gays are hateful , inasmuch as they are full of hate.

As a side note, it's remarkable how often these things come as a package. Robertson's sincere doctrinal view about the sinfulness of homosexuality comes packaged with animus toward gays and retrograde views about blacks and non-Christians. It's almost as though social conservatism is primarily fueled by a desire to protect the privileges of what was once a straight, white Christian in-group, rather than by sincere religious convictions.

You might recall that conservatives are currently trying to figure out what to do about the fact that the Republican Party performs quite poorly with the growing share of voters who are not white, straight Christians. They think some of it has to do with economic issues. But then  they're scratching their heads, trying to figure out how Mitt Romney lost the Asian American vote 3-to-1 even though, by Republican "maker-vs.-taker" metrics, Asian Americans are disproportionately likely to be "makers."

Non-whites and non-Christians and gays keep getting the sense that, even setting aside policy, conservatives and Republicans just don't care for them. The "Duck Dynasty" episode, with Ted Cruz and others rushing out to defend Robertson's honor, is just another example of why.



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