A Brief Note on Phil Robertson and Double Standards

I’ll join Wes in making a brief comment on the Phil Robertson fiasco.

First: I agree with Rod Dreher that Robertson’s suspension shows a double standard on the part of A&E, a standard that is much more hostile to criticism of homosexuality than it is to other offensive content.

However, this reminds me of Rod’s gushingly positive response to Joshua Gonnerman’s first post on First Things just 18 months ago. The title of Rod’s post was “One Crazy — Or Very Brave — Gay Catholic,” and he began by saying, “Joshua Gonnerman, a gay, chaste Catholic who is a theology doctoral student at Catholic University, may have blown up his academic career with his short, courageous piece in First Things today.”

Why would it take courage for Joshua to write that post, and why would it potentially blow up his academic career?

Because A&E is not the only operation out there that has double standards when it comes to homosexuality.

Rod recognized that a chaste gay graduate student would not just be at a disadvantage when it came to looking for jobs in conservative Christian circles: he could be at such a serious disadvantage that disclosing his sexuality could amount to “blowing up” his academic career.

This is not just an abstract worry. More than one of the bloggers at Spiritual Friendship has lost a job in a Christian institution, solely because he disclosed his sexual orientation. In each case, the Christian bosses agreed that the person they were terminating was not guilty of any sin, nor did he hold any belief about sexuality at odds with Christian orthodoxy. It was simply that they were unwilling to have an employee with same-sex attraction, even if he was completely committed to orthodox belief and obedient to orthodox teaching.

This is not to say that this prejudice is everywhere: most of us, including those who have at one point lost a job over our sexuality, have also been welcomed in other Christian circles. But the fact that discrimination is not ubiquitous does not mean it is not still a real problem in Christian institutions.

I think social conservatives are right to be upset at the double standard which A&E has applied to Phil Robertson. But we can’t do much but complain about the prejudice at A&E. On the other hand, we actually can do something about the prejudice and double standards in the Christian world.

In other words, now might be a good time to remove the log from our own eye.

Ron BelgauRon Belgau is completing a PhD in Philosophy, and teaches medical ethics, philosophy of the human person, ethics, and philosophy of religion. He can be followed on Twitter: @RonBelgau.

16 thoughts on “A Brief Note on Phil Robertson and Double Standards

  1. Pingback: A Brief Note on Phil Robertson and Double Standards » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

  2. Pingback: What Phil Robertson Gets Wrong | Spiritual Friendship

  3. A&E can do what they want in response to Phil Robertson’s interview but their response will lose them millions of viewers and hence, revenue. They have slaughtered their cash cow. Those most offended by his comments don’t watch the show anyway. I think Mr. Robertson will be back because it is all about the money.

  4. Brian the comments the man made were accurate and weren’t meant to be ‘crass and viciously stereotyping.’ They merely spoke plain truth about sex between homosexuals and heterosexual men and women.

  5. The difference here is Phil is not forcing his views on anyone. The gay person, whether currently openly active or not, is asking for acceptance of their lifestyle in the mist of those who believe that lifestyle is sinful.

  6. Noah: As I stated clearly in my post, none of the same-sex attracted men who I am talking about were dismissed from Christian institutions for asking acceptance for a “gay lifestyle.” All of them agree with the Christian tradition that gay sex is wrong, and are publicly on record in affirming that.

    Your response just re-affirms the point I was making, that many Christians can’t make a distinction between experiencing homosexual temptations, and undermining Christian teaching.

    • Then if they know its a sin and therefore choose not to engage for that reason, they may consider themselves or have but told they are homosexual, but really just having significant leanings in that way ( vs a macho man).

  7. To me the problem is that Phil Robertson — whom I knew nothing about before this — got suspended for doing two things: 1.) quoting some scripture in a way that indicated he took it literally (while implying that he thinks orientation is freely chosen); and 2.) telling about his personal experience with black people and giving his take on that experience (without any trace of hatred toward black people).

    It should not be a firing offense in this country to believe that what the Bible says is immoral is actually sinful. It should not be a firing offense in this country to express (implicitly) a sincerely held personal belief that homosexual orientation is voluntary. It should not be a firing expense in this country to talk about personal experiences in which it seemed to you that black people were happy despite segregation. It should not be a firing offense to do all three in a single interview.

    The fact that other employers fire people for being gay does not change the wrongness of what A&E did one bit. It is, strictly speaking, irrelevant to the case, even though it is very true that people should be making just as forceful a case against the firing of celibate gay men as they do against the suspension of Phil Robertson.Those of us who are gay may have more clout on the latter than on the former, though we’re right on the merits of both.

  8. The real issue is, Phil Robertson was asked what he thought. He wasn’t expressing what he thought A & E thought, or if he thought everyone ought to believe what he believed, ( I personally believe Phil is right). However, before everyone starts to jump, remember it is my opinion. I can still have mine own opinion, but Phil was asked for his opinion.

    Now, everyone wants him to apologize for his statement about homosexuality. The moment you apologize for what the Bible says, you make God to be a liar. He wrote, using human hands, every word in the Bible.

    • The bible teaches that hay guys need to wake up to how awesome women’s bodies are? He said some things the bible says on the subject, but not in a compassionate, gracious way. That would seem to be one of Ron’s complaints.

  9. Pingback: Persons, Not Body Parts | Spiritual Friendship

  10. Pingback: “The Church is Homophobic”—True or False? | Spiritual Friendship

  11. Pingback: Sexual Orientation Discrimination on Campus? | Spiritual Friendship

  12. Pingback: Sunday, 9/21/14 | Tipsy Teetotaler

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