Thursday, December 19, 2013

Defending Christian liberty

I'm going to comment on some statements by Jared Wilson:

Before we start organizing the boycotts or social media petitions or whatever, I think the show’s Christian fans — of which I am one — could use a reality check on a few notes:We ought to remember that the first amendment does not guarantee anyone’s right to have a show on cable television.
i) Just as firing a private employee for his statements doesn't (necessarily) violate the employee's Constitutional rights, boycotting a private employer doesn't violate the employer's Constitutional rights. So Jared's argument cuts both ways. If A&E is free to fire a Christian, Christians are free to boycott A&E. 
ii) This isn't really a question of whether the private sector has the right to fire an employee. This controversy doesn't reflect free market dynamics. If A&E had fired Phil because he made a statement which the general constituency of Duck Dynasty found offensive, that would be defensible on libertarian/capitalist grounds. 
But that's not what happened. He was fired in spite of his audience due to pressure from outside interest groups. That's not A&E making a business decision. That's A&E snubbing the consumer. That's a distortion of free market forces. 
iii) In the current political and legal climate, politically correct speech is protected speech whereas politically incorrect speech is hate speech. Jared's statement about the first amendment would only be valid if that was equitably enforced. Precisely the opposite is happening.  
Suppose A&E fired him after he made a statement supporting homosexual marriage. It's not hard to imagine Eric Holder launching a criminal investigation of A&E for violating Phil's civil rights. So Jared's argument overlooks the glaring disparities in how the Federal gov't currently treats free speech issues. 
iv) Many networks have generic disclaimers about how the views expressed on a given show are those of the participants, and not the network.  
The firing of a millionaire reality show participant isn’t just a first world problem — it’s a one-percenter problem.
i) Although he's now a one-percenter, he started out dirt poor and make his fortune the hard way. 
ii) More importantly, I think Jared draws exactly the wrong lesson from Phil's "one-percenter" status. Yes, his personal fortune insulates him from the financial consequences of losing his job. But if somebody as popular as he can be successfully targeted by the homosexual lobby, then average Christians are far more vulnerable. Christians who don't have the resources he has to fall back on. 
In defending Phil, we are defending ourselves. It's precisely because we have more to lose than he does that we should defend him. If he wins, that's a win for the rest of us. If we can harness his popularity to mobilize support to push back the assault on Christian liberty, we are doing ourselves and our children a favor. Indeed, we are doing unbelievers a favor. Everyone benefits from Christian expression. 
What Phil Robertson said about homosexuality to Gentleman’s Quarterly magazine is something nearly all so-called “gentlemen” used to believe, including the part where he said black people were happy before the Civil Rights movement and he never saw racism in Louisiana growing up. Yes, he said that. (Heck, the first time I was personally confronted with the harsh reality of racism against African Americans was in Louisiana, and I’d only been in the state a few hours.) Also, Phil Robertson has an adopted grandson who is biracial.
It's quite possible that Phil has some 'splainin' to do on that issue. However, he seemed to be expressing solidarity with the blacks he grew up with. 
On Facebook, Jeremy Pierce, who's an evangelical philosopher specializing in race (among other things), offered this interpretation:
He seems to be offering it as an argument against the welfare state, all while putting himself in the same boat as the black people of that era. It's hard to accept that charitably as a defense of Jim Crow without further evidence. It seems to be a rant against the entitlement class created by ushering blacks onto welfare in huge numbers in the 60s. Clarence Thomas makes similar points in his autobiography, and I've seen John McWhorter and Glenn Loury say stuff along the same lines, and none of them would defend Jim Crow. Two of them are even very much on the left with economic policy issues.


  1. "Heck, the first time I was personally confronted with the harsh reality of racism against African Americans was in Louisiana, and I’d only been in the state a few hours."

    For what it's worth, if anything, I've been to Louisiana. One thing I'll never forget is a white teenage girl respectfully standing up so people could make their way down a crowded aisle to find a seat (including me), and addressing others (including me) with "Yes, sir" or "Yes, ma'am" or "Please" and "Thank you," for example.

    I should point out I'm neither white nor black.

    This isn't meant to somehow mitigate let alone negate racism against black people, of course. But if we're judging by anecdotal evidence, then see here.

  2. Well put, Steve. I think a lot of people are needlessly nitpicking Phil's statements. What's important is that he stood for the gospel and said what needed to be said. That simply stating that homosexuality is a sin is declared "hateful" just shows how much political correctness needs to be challenged.