There’s usually more going on behind the headlines than you think.
Take the A&E Network dust-up with Phil Robertson over his GQ magazine interview in which he had the audacity to call homosexual intimacy “sinful” and cited the Scriptures to support his views. He used some graphic language, but the interviewer himself used a lot more. It’s GQ.
But why would A&E move so swiftly to suspend the star of their all-time biggest show, essentially slaying the duck that lays their golden eggs? Why would they commit corporate suicide?
But sources close the Robertson family make sense of it this way. You may have pictured a GQ guy in a hipster suit hanging out with Phil and his shotgun. Not at all! There was an A&E representative there the whole time. A&E let the interview go to press then feigned outrage. These sources claim it was set-up.
But why set up their own star? The A&E people originally pitched Duck Dynasty as a mockery of stupid rednecks, baboons from the backwoods. You know. The ridiculous people in the world beyond the Starbucks. But millions came to admire them and their view of family and Jesus.
From a Hollywood/Manhattan point of view this is a disaster. Millions are reading books by Phil, Si, and Willy on Christian living. The monster this show created supports everything this coastal “creative class” despises. So they caught Phil in a trap—the hunter was hunted and bagged—and dangled the money and fame, expecting he would come around and do things their way. Or so they say.
But TMZ reports that “sources very familiar with the situation” claim that the interview went wild when Phil escaped with the reporter on his ATV. Who are going to believe?
Given that A&E made no attempt to rescue Phil from the swamp of his own making, the corporate plot version seems plausible to me. We tend to think that other people think the way we do. Media executives are no different. They don't understand a seriously held Christian faith. Godliness is rare in their circles. Their social milieu these days can’t understand moral dissent from gay acceptance in anything but political terms. It’s “discrimination,” as their friends at GLAAD put it.
And people they deal with daily “have their price.” And when the price starts at $200,000 a show for the family, they cannot image someone not “coming around.” But the Robertsons don't need the money. They're worth $400 million in merchandise alone. And even before the show they were rich from duck calls. On the expense side, they’re happy to live on the ducks and squirrels they kill. Moreover, they know you cannot serve both God and money.
What we see in this stand-off is the clash of worlds that divides the country more broadly. This is why we have red and blue states. This is one reason we have gridlock in Congress. Calls to “understand” each other won’t do. Christians have to get more serious about knowing Jesus, knowing our world, and knowing better how to live out their faith in Jesus in a complex and hostile world. Phil Robertson is growing along with us in that.