I made an intentional decision to not blog on the Duck Dynasty disaster (alliteration is still big with the kids, right?) yesterday as I didn't really feel I had much to add that was not already articulated by others like Jonathan Merritt, Sharon Hodde Miller and several others. But this morning, as I was walking around D.C.--one of the most public cities in the world--I was drawn to one specific lesson that this controversy (and others like it) can teach us.
The ground of free speech and the consequences that can come from that speech has been well-covered over the last 36 hours, but not enough attention has been placed on the matter of the motivation and content of good Christian speech.
My contribution here is small, but I think it is important. So often these public controversies venture into different interpretations of Jesus as a moral teacher. Some claim Jesus was less concerned about sin than with announcing His Kingdom. Others focus on Jesus' rebukes of the Pharisees and make the case that Jesus was some kind of moral enforcer. Of course, both views have some truth, but they are also incomplete and something of a misrepresentation.
What I find when I read the Gospels is that Jesus welcomed those others would cast out, and he rebuked those who considered themselves to be holy. He risked his public standing to privately counsel the woman at the well; He defended the adulteress woman publicly against the self-righteous, but told her privately to leave her life of sin; He rebuked James and John for desiring to call down fire from heaven as punishment for the Samaritans who did not welcome Jesus, saying that He "did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them;" He publicly healed the man by the pool, and privately told him to "stop sinning"; He took on the public shame of the cross while privately shepherding a criminal into His Kingdom. Time after time, we see Jesus publicly associate himself with the unbeliever and the outcast, and rebuke the religious who would cast moral judgments on unbelievers in public. Jesus' admonitions to unbelievers about sin were often in private and on a personal-level. They were meant not to bring shame, but to welcome into the Kingdom.
For too long, Christians in this country were focused on just the opposite: determined to not undermine prominent Christians, we would support them publicly even if we disagreed privately; while prominent Christians would denounce immorality publicly, while neglecting to confront it in their own church, and in their own lives.
In a public world, Christians have a responsibility to humbly, gently correct their brothers and sisters with a public platform who misrepresent the Gospel. This should be done with great sensitivity, and awareness of our own failings, but we have all seen the costs of allowing only the loudest, most controversial voices define Christianity to the rest of our nation.
Let's be clear: Phil Robertson's remarks were both intellectually undeveloped and theologically ignorant. The remarks that led Al Mohler to tell CNN that he "would not have been so anatomical," were not only in error because of some type of political correctness (or decency), but because they assumed that human inclinations will always bend towards what is moral. His remarks suggested that our desires are always in line with what is "right." Of course, this is an absolute fallacy (For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. -Romans 7:18), one that lines up conveniently with the spirit of the age.
In that same interview with CNN, Al Mohler affirmed that Christians must be careful and considerate of the forums in which they make moral pronouncements. He was right. And Christians who do have a public voice, and take on the burden of teaching, should welcome the accountability other Christians can provide as a safeguard against the own sinfulness that can well up in our hearts. Our platforms are never more important than our faithfulness.
Let us remember that whatever light is in us did not come from us. Let us remember our responsibility to share that light, and hold each other accountable as children of a holy and perfect King.
What did you learn from from this ordeal? Let me know in the comments.