Duck Commander Phil Robertson is the American Establishment’s worst nightmare, and allowing him simply to exist was not an acceptable option for those who wish to form our opinions and exterminate Christianity from our society.
Most everyone has by now heard of the controversy surrounding Robertson’s comments as quoted by a snarky and patronizing article published in the January issue of the misnamed Gentlemen’s Quarterly—comments that got him “suspended” from the production of A&E’s most popular show, Duck Dynasty, only to be “reinstated” weeks later. You may not know precisely what Robertson was getting at unless you’ve read the original piece, however, since a considerable amount of spin was attached in the days and weeks that followed.
Robertson’s shocking statements simply condemned homosexuality and the effects of welfare on the black population of rural Louisiana. It is impossible to know the full context of his original statements, since they are presented over-eagerly as gotcha quotations by GQ. But assuming he actually said what is attributed to him—and anyone who’s familiar with him would not in the slightest be surprised—we know this: Robertson believes homosexuality is sinful because God says so in His infallible Word. He, like Saint Paul, doesn’t make a sophisticated distinction between inclination and activity. And Robertson follows Paul’s thought process as spelled out in Romans 1—that a society given over to sexual perversion is a society that has followed a long path of degradation. In addition Robertson, convinced as he is by a higher authority which demands submission and not explaining away, also recognizes that such perversion is not even rational behavior. Thus, the Duck Commander, in the field, armed, and with his girly-man interviewer in tow, said with vulgar rhetorical flourish what most men, Christian and non-Christian alike, have said in locker rooms or at bars or by the water cooler or wherever: that the very idea of what gay men do, or want to do, is repulsive.
Whether he recognized it or not, that last was a natural-law argument: This part doesn’t belong there. And this is where things get hairy, because Robertson’s view has become the widely held stance that dare not speak its name. The horror on the faces of Jerry Seinfeld and “George Costanza” as they speak the line now quoted ad nauseam (“not that there’s anything wrong with that!”), in the episode of Seinfeld in which they vociferously deny that they are “gay,” comes from the same place. A man can pervert his affections to desire anything sexually, from a child to a soda can, but a man’s natural inclination is toward women, and most men don’t simply claim to be heterosexual but are repulsed by the notion of homosexuality. If I believed in evolution, I’d wonder, along with the geneticists who care, why, after hundreds of thousands of years, a gay gene could still exist, given the obvious obstacle to passing along its material in any fruitful way. And I might just conclude, along with the scientific community up until the 1970’s, that the homosexual inclination is a pathology that needs correcting.
Instead, Phil Robertson simply observes that the behavior condemned by God, in both Testaments and in no uncertain terms, is irrational, and concludes that, well hey, sin by its very nature “isn’t logical.” Since I believe, along with the Duck Commander and not a few others, that God formed man out of the dust of the ground and Eve from Adam’s rib, it doesn’t surprise me that the feminine is designed to receive the masculine, and that certain unipolar things are designed for the toilet. And that confusion over such things leads not only to fire from Heaven but also to injury and disease.
Robertson’s unwavering commitment to submitting to divine authority—an authority expressed both in Scripture and in nature—is what threatens the establishment. (That is to say you, dear Christian reader—you threaten the establishment.) Yes, of course, A&E has kept the secret of Phil’s beliefs hidden in plain sight, cashing in on the wild popularity of semi-unfiltered redneck Christians. That is the point. The establishment knows that we exist and is happy to take our money, so long as we submit to their naughty-naughtying whenever they decide that our turn to abase ourselves before them has rolled around. When that time comes, we are supposed to cower, to qualify, to apologize, and to hush up. Even now, conservatives are very carefully praising Phil Robertson’s right to free speech and underscoring the hypocrisy of the media. Hardly anyone on the professional right, however, is willing to voice agreement with Phil and Moses and Paul and God about the most fundamental aspect of this affair: that God indeed made the world a certain way, and He expects us to live accordingly. It’s that thing we call Law, which must always precede both civil order and the Gospel, and without which free speech isn’t worth a damn and Christianity is toothless and irrelevant.
Aaron D. Wolf (1973-2019) was Chronicles' executive editor.