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Duck Dynasty

Our Heathen President

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I am calling upon all Christians everywhere (well, at least in God’s special promised land of America) to fire up the Christian Outrage Machine.

Let’s be honest, we were a little concerned what we’d be outraged about once A&E brought Phil back to filming Duck Dynasty. But never fear, new outrage is here!

It goes back to the religious practices (or lack thereof) of the Commander in Chief, President Obama. You see, people who really care about such things have discovered that he’s only been to church 18 times since taking office!

Only 18 times!

That averages almost 4 times a year.

Can you believe that guy? How can he claim to be a Christian and “forsake the fellowship of believers”? You would think that a true Christian president would be in church every Sunday. You would think that a true Christian president wouldn’t act like the majority of Christians in America, who all attend church services fewer than 12 times a year (less than once a month).

No, a Christian president should be better than us. He should be in church more than we are. He should pray more frequently than we do. He should read his Bible daily and have a good chunk of it memorized.

It’s almost as though he has forgotten the righteousness received from the Holy Sanctuary and would rather live a Romans 3:21-26 kind of life ~

But now, apart from the law, God’s righteousness has been revealed—attested by the Law and the Prophets —that is, God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ, to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of theglory of God. They are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. God presented Him as a propitiation through faith in His blood, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented Him to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be righteous and declare righteous the one who has faith in Jesus.

Oh, well. I guess he’ll learn on Judgment Day when God checks his church attendance record. As a Christian Nation we need to rise up against this president’s mentality. We need to show him and teach him a lesson. So, in order to make our statement loud and clear, let’s be in church every Sunday in 2014.

That’ll teach our heathen president a lesson. So I’ll see you Sunday.

Right…?

Why I’m Disappointed A&E Brought Phil Back to Duck Dynasty

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You may have heard – Phil is back.

I’m disappointed that A&E caved and is lifting Phil’s suspension from Duck Dynasty.

There.

I said it.

I’m disappointed that A&E relented. Changed their minds. Caved.

I’m not disappointed for some moral high-ground reason. There will be enough on the Left who will lament that.

No, I’m disappointed because it will reinforce the bullying of the Christian Outrage Machine. It’s the machine that kicks in whenever the Religious Right feels threatened or attacked. The Right blusters, huffs, and puffs, and tries to blow away the Left-Leaning hippie-commie-scum that are trying to take ‘Merica away.

You see, A&E did not cave because they wanted to provide wholesome, family television for their viewers. They caved because of the financial smack to the face they were about to take. Rather than lose millions (or more?) in revenue, they decided to relent and allow Phil back in the fold.

Actually, the capitalistic system worked quite well. The producer said, “We’re not going to produce XYZ anymore.” The consumer said, “If you don’t we’re going to take our business elsewhere.” The producer responded, “Um…well, okay – you win.”

It’s capitalistic back-and-forth.

I am disappointed because the Religious Right will not see it this way. We (I tend to be conservative in my theology, so the Religious are pretty much my people) will interpret this move from A&E as a moral victory, not a consumer victory.

I am disappointed because we view everything through the wrong lens. Instead of looking at the world (and television shows) through a Christian lens, we see the world as Ameri-Christians. We blend our citizenship with our faith and come out with a junky hybrid that isn’t good for either the nation or the faith!

As consumers, we won.

Yay us.

But that’s it. A&E doesn’t agree with our theology or our biblical positions. We will misread and misinterpret these events. The whole thing will quickly be spun into a righteous moral victory. And that disappoints me.

I wish we could have rallied people to save some of my favorite shows in the past. There are some great shows that were killed before their time. But we couldn’t muster the consumer base to make a dent in the producer’s wallet. Duck Dynasty made that dent.

Not Christianity.

If you’re a fan of the show I’ve got nothing against you. I’m glad you get your favorite character back on the show. But don’t pretend it’s about Christianity winning the day.

In the end we show that Christians can bully with the best of them.

And that disappoints me.

Related Posts:
Duck Drama
The Idol of Celebrity Christianity

The Idol of Celebrity Christianity

Today’s post comes from guest blogger and pastor Jeff Stephens.

The incredibly awesome Jeff Stephens!
The incredibly awesome Jeff Stephens!

Jeff is still a Christian even though he graduated from Fuller Seminary and Vanguard University. He’s also a children’s pastor at Oak Valley Church, loves his big family, and is engaged to Claire Browning. Take it away, Jeff!

I know, I know. I’m beating a dead duck.

I started this blog, a vague post about celebrity Christianity, last week. I wrote about how, in America, we’ve baptized the marks of celebrity culture (exorbitant riches, notoriety, ease, good or interesting looks), and turned them into markers of the “blessed” Christian life. I addressed how fame has become a noble pursuit, and how we plebes long to be “great” too.  I wanted to say that we’ve bought into the tabloid culture of American celebrity, FREAKING OUT (!!!!!) about everything before bothering to check the facts.

Oh, there’s more.

I wanted to talk about how we even make local celebrities out of pastors, “platform” ministers, and other church leaders (like myself), and how damaging that can be to church leaders (like myself) and to the body of Christ. I wanted to prove that celebrity Christianity is an ineffective means for evangelism, that it hurts our witness in the world, and how it destroys our prophetic voice. Finally I wanted to discuss how we put our pet celebrity Christians on pedestals, to the point where our adoration becomes idolatry. I would use a certain reality TV family as an example.

Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of James Barker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Of course, I would exegete the scriptures in such a way that every reader would have a blown mind and a changed heart. I would show that our obsession with celebrity makes us covetous and ignorant of many of the things that Jesus cared most about. I would illuminate how Jesus didn’t try to keep up with Kardashians, but rejected celebrity and earthly riches at every turn. I would explain the type of Christ the world needs to see in use. I would steal information (indeed, I already have) from a much better Christian blog. The reader would therefore see that I was worthy of the pedestal upon which I’ve been placed. All in 1,200 words or less.

And then something magical happened. You might even say it was my own personal Christmas miracle. Or that I can see into the future.

One of the most visible, uncompromising Christian celebrities in America got temporarily suspended from his TV program. As expected, the so-called Christian Outrage Machine (as coined by a prestigious blogger) came out in full force.

This got my wheels spinning. I said to myself, “Self, what if I can manipulate that blog-in-progress and make it about this current event? Then my blog won’t seem like it was conjured out of thin air, but rather was written in response to something going on in the real world!”

This was a blogger’s dream: writer’s passion meets controversy everybody is talking about! Now I could make my mark in the world, perhaps even have ten minutes of fame.

Upon further investigation, however, I realized that my blog and this controversy had nothing to do with each other. Nobody was putting Phil on a pedestal. If that were the case, tons of people would be changing their Facebook profile pictures, offering their unwavering support for Phil.

Oh wait…

Of course, I’m being facetious. I don’t mean to judge anyone’s motives or heart. And while it’s obvious that this debate is very complex, it is my opinion that, for Christians, celebrity is at the core of the issue. More specifically, it’s about worship.

When we worship, we place someone or something on a pedestal, hopefully for all to see. We show complete adoration and support, even to the point that someone or something is beyond reproach.

The same can be said about celebrity. Celebrity is about celebrating.

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So this past week has screamed of worship to me. We’ve placed a man, a network, a cause, an organization, a country, a doctrine, or ourselves on a pedestal. We’ve worshipped them.

Most obviously, we’ve worshipped the Robertsons, putting them in the spotlight. Today they’re probably more celebrated by their fans than they’ve ever been. You may think this is a good thing, for they’ll have a larger platform. I, however, am of the opinion that God doesn’t need them to have a larger platform. I believe that you can’t increase God’s fame and a man’s at the same time. Instead, it would be better to have the attitude of John the Baptist: Christ must become greater. I must become less! (John 3:30)

We’ve also worshipped the Robertsons by acting as if Phil doesn’t make mistakes. We’ve been unwilling to even hint at the possibility that some of his comments could have been reminiscent of the language of oppressors, or maybe a bit insensitive, or even just naïve. In all of this, we’ve made little gods out of them. We’ve made them shining examples of what it means to be Christian. We’ve acted as if questioning Phil is akin to questioning the bible or even Christ himself. We’ve made them out to be greater than they are. We’ve acted as if a temporary suspension from a tiny reality show (that is watched by .001% of the world’s population) is directly tied to the fortunes of the Kingdom of God. We’ve acted as if the gospel message cannot survive in a world where Duck Dynasty products are not sold at Cracker Barrel.

Instead of pointing people to the righteousness of God, we’ve pointed them to the righteousness of Phil. We’re bent on insisting that Phil is righteous. Yet scripture says that our righteousness is like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), that no one is righteous (Romans 3:11). With this in mind, is it possible that, instead of emphasizing our opinion that Phil hadn’t sinned, we should have emphasized the fact that all have sinned (Romans 3:23)? Would it have been better to admit that he did screw up in some way, yet Christ died for him anyway?

I’m not saying we should vilify the man, but these simple acts of humility would have done much to spread the message of Christ.

We’ve also pedestaled those things the Robertsons represent, some of the greatest celebrities of our day: oldendays America, the American dream, shootin’ stuff, and (the granddaddies of them all) the founding fathers and the constitution. Once again, we’ve acted as if those American deities are infallible, and we’ve treated the constitution as if it were scripture.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe freedom of speech is a great thing, and it must be protected. But demanding our rights only calls attention to that most timeless (and American) idol of all: ourselves. Demanding our rights is a way of shouting to the world, “Look at ME!” But Christ calls us to lose our lives for his sake (Matthew 10:39, 16:25//Luke 9:24).

I also believe that we cannot advance God’s mission while demanding our rights. Instead, we must lay down our rights, becoming the servant of all. We must be like Christ, who refused to demand his rights as God. Instead, he took the form of a slave and humbled himself, even to death on a cross. That act of humility and love made him exalted above every other name (Read Philippians 2:1-11).

So what are we to do? Even if celebrity and this issue are unrelated, stories like this give us an opportunity for self-reflection. We can pause to check the planks in our own eyes (Matthew 7:23) instead of acting as if we have specks of sawdust and they have redwoods. We can be humble and admit our own sins, pointing people to the God who saves us in spite of ourselves.

That last point really has nothing to do with Christian celebrity, but I thought I’d throw it in there. I hope your minds are blown and your lives are changed. In 1,300 words or less.

Duck Drama

Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of phanlop88 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

And like that (imagine snapping fingers) Christian America went bananas. Over television. Okay, not exactly over television. Over a network censuring reality tv star Phil Robertson (patriarch of the Duck Dynasty family) for voicing his own religious perspective on sin – specifically homosexuality, bestiality, promiscuity, drunkenness, (and a few more thrown in in the form of a Bible quotation).

You can read the full article from GQ here.

Shortly after the article came out, A&E suspended Phil indefinitely for his comments.

That’s when the Christian Outrage Machine kicked into overdrive.

The Christian Outrage Machine (let’s call it the COM) is the mechanism by which Christians respond militantly with outrage towards any slight (or perceived slight) towards the faith or towards Christian people. When Chick-Fil-A came under fire a while back the COM fired up to defend it. When people want to remove a 10 Commandments statue from a public venue the COM comes to life. It’s everywhere.

But the COM should take a step back, breathe, and calm down a little bit. This isn’t really a persecution issue. It’s not even a love and tolerance issue. It’s a finance and image issue. I’m fairly certain that the nation could guess what the Robertson family’s views on morality would be. It’s not a surprise. I don’t even think the network’s response is due to Phil’s less-than-tactful way of phrasing things. Part of the family’s “charm” that the network promotes is their gritty, down-to-earth quality. If you want fancy oration on the nature of sin and morality you’re never going to find it in Duck Dynasty. The network cashes in on that down-to-earth quality (I do think that Robertson could have voiced his beliefs in a way that was more winsome and less in-your-face-confrontational, but perhaps that’s more my style than his).

No, it’s not about persecution of stating beliefs. It’s really a financial and image issue. The network needs to be as appealing as possible to as wide an audience as possible. If their LGBT demographic is upset it could cost the network revenue. So the execs take steps to pacify the demographic to ensure that the money keeps coming in and that the network maintains an image of being gay-friendly.

It was a business decision, not a persecution-for-the-sake-of-oppressing-faith decision.

Secondly, no Christian should ever be surprised when non-Christians get upset with a Christian view of morality. In fact, we should expect it. Jesus kinda promised that we would have trouble and difficulty, and that following him would put us at odds with the world.

This should make us sad – not outraged. Outrage is the response we have when we become soft and take on feelings of entitlement. We have blended in to the world too much when we feel outrage for being treated poorly. Shouldn’t we be used to it?

On the other hand, to my left-leaning and/or non-Christian friends: please clean up your rhetoric a bit. You have accused Phil Robertson of speaking hateful things against the LGBT community. But disagreeing with someone’s choices is not hate. Phil even said outright:

We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the almighty’s job. We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus.”

You weren’t hearing it, but what Phil was saying is that how we treat people is not based on their sin. The left has its own outrage machine, the Liberal Outrage Machine. It gets fired up whenever Christians publicly state that any behavior is wrong. Ironically, Phil comes across as more tolerant that the “tolerant” liberals. He’s saying, “We love everybody and don’t judge, even when we disagree.” The Liberal Outrage Machine is saying, “You can’t voice your opinions! Be quiet!” Dang….

In the end, I am saddened that A&E would try to silence Phil Robertson for speaking what everyone could already have guessed about him. I’m really bothered by A&E trying to hide their financial and image issues behind false notions of tolerance and “doing the right thing.”

I’m also saddened that Christians have forgotten that being at odds with the world is supposed to be part of our standard operating procedures. We’ve grown complacent. We’ve gotten used to dominating society and have forgotten the need to share about the kingdom of God with a broken world.

So where does that leave us? In terms of Duck Dynasty, people who love it will continue to love it. People who hate it will continue to hate it. These outrage issues never sway anyone – they only solidify the lines drawn in the sand. But lines aren’t as important to Jesus as people are.

So, Christian, we can get off the Outrage Machine. The Outrage Machine focuses on us.

It does not focus on Jesus.

And when we focus on Jesus we can love people in spite of being hurt or attacked by them.

Related Posts:
A Christian Response to Gay Marriage
Bite Your Tongue and Pass the Chick-Fil-A

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