Phil Robertson and the Lost Art of Nuance

[Embarrassing confession: The following post was begun in December 2013. No joke! It has sat pretty much untouched in my Drafts folder since its birth — a neglected child, orphaned by its maker. Most of that is forgetfulness; some of that was fear. I determined it was likely time to send it out of my Drafts box and move on. :-)]

duck dynastyI have never watched a single minute of Duck Dynasty. Prior to recent weeks, I could not have given you the name of any of the bearded fellows.

But now I know Phil.

Allow me to sketch a few things about myself:

I have been blogging here since 2007. Besides the occasional link in a Six-Pack, I have never posted about homosexuality.

If you enjoy labels, I suppose that I would be considered a conservative Christian from a mostly-Evangelical heritage.

People I know personally and value deeply would claim positions on multiple sides of this multi-faceted conversation. Some of them would even defend those positions well.

Perhaps more than any other conversation topic currently crossing my radar, dialogue around the topic of homosexuality highlights one word for me: nuance.

 

NUANCE IN MOUTHS AND EARS

Literally defined, nuance is “a subtle difference of or shade in meaning, expression, or sound”.

Nuance is the intellectual and linguistic ability to pick up individual grains of rice with a pair of tweezers.

As a speaker, this requires crystal-clear thought processes along with a finely tuned command of language (and one’s tongue). Within any bowl of rice, there will be some whose only utensil is a wooden spoon. These people should never be nominated as spokesmen for potentially explosive conversations.

As a listener, this also demands graciousness, displayed first by a tendency to reply inquisitively rather than insultedly. Such a listener will live with the acknowledgment that numerous views exist upon spectrums that contain more points than  “right” and “ridiculous”. Many of these points will only be discovered as nuanced speakers (mentioned above) enlighten us to perspectives other than our own. Listeners whose ears register only the frequency of their own voices will make as much mess of the rice ball as the wooden-spoon-speakers mentioned above.

 

RELUCTANT REFLECTIONS

As was indicated earlier, I have never posted on the topic of homosexuality. It’s not that I have no thoughts on the subject, but I confess to questioning the value of adding one more voice to a dialogue that seems destined to be hijacked by the opinionated extremes of the discussion. Would it be too simple to say that this post awoke me in the night, and as a father with small children, I’m only typing so that my mind will allow me to go back to bed? 😉

Some random reflections, in the spirit of nuance:

 

ILLOGICAL

Duck-man Phil’s comments about the illogical nature of gay relationships are hardly shocking. His phrasing, containing blunt mention of male and female anatomy, certainly engaged ears. But his basic point is hardly controversial: We cannot imagine what we cannot imagine. I have friends who anoint every dinner in burn-your-face-off hot sauce. My mouth does not enjoy the fire or the flavor of such a condiment. I have no trouble declining their every offer. In fact, I cannot imagine desiring that sensation as part of my meal. To my mind, it is illogical. To Phil’s mind, some other things are illogical. And when nuanced speakers are heard by nuanced listeners, then it doesn’t seem outrageous to imagine that many heterosexual men and women likely share Phil’s sentiment, albeit their expressions of the thought might come out through a different sequences of words and images.

 

TANGENTS APLENTY

As a student of Scripture, the piece of this large conversation that most interests me is the discussion of how we interpret the Bible’s teaching on the subject. I am not so out of tune with reality as to assume that every participant in this conversation gives a rip about the Christian faith or the words of our sacred text. But for my part, that is the strand that grabs my first level of interest. Everyone has a first strand of interest; now I have identified mine.

By its very nature, the more specific discussion about gay marriage demands nuance. The Bible-believing, God-fearing faith-folks will require nuance to keep from the turning this conversation into something else.

It is a separate topic to discuss whether Christian values should govern one’s nation.

  • Who gets to determine this?
  • On what historical or biblical model are you basing your concept?
  • Are you speaking of the Christian equivalent of what we see in Muslim states where Sharia Law governs, or are you envisioning something else?

It is yet another topic to consider what the role of government is within a democratic country.

  • What does it mean that public servants represent the people, when the opinions of the people are all over the map?
  • Shocking as this may be, democracy is not a biblical teaching despite the fact that some of its foundational thoughts might be a rooted in biblical concepts, such as the value of every individual as an image-bearer of the Creator.
  • How are the elected officials within a given democracy expected to protect or provide the privileges described in their Constitution to every stripe of citizen under their care?

In the handful of articles I recall reading, which provided commentary on Phil’s remarks,  the majority of writers and journalists expressed bewilderment at a string of words within his opinion. The particular string of words were an impressively accurate paraphrase of Romans 1:21-27, provided below.

21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

As acknowledged earlier, some could not care less about Romans 1, or the apostle Paul, or the fact that Romans is one of the most profound texts in the entire Bible. But for some of us participating in the conversation, these are substantial facts.

(An aside to journalists, bloggers, and social commentators: When someone who professes to love the Bible, inserts mid-speech a string of words that don’t sound entirely like their own, the odds are reasonable that they have determined that Scripture expresses their next thought better than their own words. Google will typically decode this mystery, if help is needed. There is no sarcasm present here, as I’m fully aware of widespread biblical illiteracy. I just found it surprising how many people published pieces that expressed mystification over the most un-Phil-flavoured phrases of his whole spiel, despite these words and wordings having been spoken and respoken for two millennia. Tangent complete. 🙂 )

And it is words like those, with 2000 years or more of mileage, that intrigue me most.

 

SEEKING CONSISTENCY

This portion of the conversation is typically framed by the following thoughts:

Critics of the “traditional interpretation of the Bible” (This phrase gets used – sometimes for distinguishing, sometimes for dismissing – by people with a wide range of views on Scripture) point out that the Bible’s explicit mentions of homosexuality are few, with most references coming from the Old Testament.

Bible-loving individuals, whose theology lacks nuance, often attempt to throw down their “God says so” trump card before anything of value is on the table. Even if one believes wholeheartedly in a holy God who governs the morality of the universe, calls for nuance go out one more time. Your cause is not served well by flippant phrases or careless commentary. If the Kingdom of God is as central as you say it is to the reality of the universe, surely there are wiser ways to dialog — even disagree — with those holding opinions not your own.

In speaking of the Bible, it’s a fairly simple concept that not every portion of Scripture is equal in weight. The Bible is not a flat text, with every word dwelling at equal elevation. For some, this concept is shocking. For some, this concept is enlightening. I am not even implying that the Scriptures referring to homosexuality are insignificant. I’m simply pointing out that a lack of theological nuance can cripple any conversation centered upon Scripture.

Bible-bashing individuals, whose un-theology lacks nuance, frequently employ a feisty-while-funny line of reason, particularly when dealing with Old Testament verses that include the word “abomination”. The dismissal can be summed up in one witty line: “Well, God forbid shrimp too!”

Ah, and He did. 🙁

The argument appears an enlightened, humorous indictment of the brainpower so obviously lacking among the Bible-believers. Make no mistake: there is a worldwide lack of brainpower, and some of the shortfall is among the people of faith. But a serious irony dwells here, for the Bible-basher has just displayed the same error so common among Bible-believers: He is treating the Bible as a flat text, where every word is equal in value. (With clarity and conciseness far beyond my own, Timothy Keller breaks this concept down for anyone who cares to learn how to handle Scripture, regardless of their faith convictions. His brief piece is especially about why Old Testament application can seem inconsistent to some. It’s short and helpful to this and other discussions.)

 

OVER AND OUT

Mark McKinnon, an American political advisor, gives mostly-sound advice to any person in any discussion: To pull off successful attacks in debates, you have to execute with nuance and subtlety. It has to be artful.”

Going beyond McKinnon’s strategizing for “attacks” and “debates”, the art of nuance is more than a battle scheme. It’s a good life skill for expressing care toward others and for learning from those unlike ourselves.

It’s a move of grace. It’s a method of wisdom. And it’s not always modeled best by folks whose lives revolve around bird-hunting. If Phil strikes your chord, that’s your choice.

But as for adding nuance to this, or any other potentially dicey conversation, that’s your duty.

So go for it… carefully. 🙂

[One ancient Draft cleared out. Next up: A rousing piece on Y2K! I never claimed to be trendy, at least not in any timely fashion.]

 

 

 

Six-Pack (45)

Welcome to the holiday edition of the Six-Pack. It’s not likely your holiday, but it is mine. This Six-Pack is being delivered late from the airport, a slot of time I knew I could sit to share some of the best piece I’ve recently read online.

As per usual, most pieces are faith-focused or ministry-minded, with a sprinkling of who-knows-what!

Need further direction? Start at my *Picks of the Week*, and move from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Why All Churches Should Have a Birth Plan
I’ve never been part of a church with a birth plan. Here are a list of reasons why that’s not a good thing.

2) Matt Slick on The Daily Show (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Matt Slick was asked to be a guest on The Daily Show, as a Christian voice on the topic of homosexuality. He thought he should say no. He ended up saying yes. Here is why he regrets that move.

3) Communion on the Moon
If you ever get to commemorate the death of Jesus on the moon, you won’t be the first one to do it.

4) An Atheist Chastises Evangelicals Who Don’t Evangelize
Magician Penn Jilette tells why he feels indignation toward Christians who keep their faith to themselves.

5) Jonathan Bender Turns Inventor
I once drafted this next-Michael-Jordan in a fantasy basketball league. Crippled by knee problems, he has turned his career-ending affliction into a second career.

6) 27 Best Tolkien Quotes (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
I do love me some quotes. And I do love me some Tolkien. And I am sharing this post!

Another Six-Pack served.  Have at it!

May your weekend be full of awareness and enjoyment of the One who loves you deeply. Grace and peace, my friends.

YOUR TURN: Which link above was most intriguing–why that one? Direct others readers to the best of the bunch. Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

Saturday Six-Pack (42)

Welcome to the weekend and to the Six-Pack. Below is the latest installment of best-of pieces I’ve recently read online. You know the routine: Most are faith-focused or ministry-minded; others are covered under the banner of who-knows-what!

If you need direction, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move out from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) The Beauty of Ambiguity
Paul Young, author of “The Shack”, posted this on his blog five years ago. Today, I direct you that way.

2) What a Coffin Maker Can Teach Us (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Joel Miller posted in reference to a three-minute video, which features Marcus Daly reflecting on his work of coffin-making. There is something profound here that is worth your time.

3) Common Fault Lines in Maintaining an Evangelical Approach to Homosexuality (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
In this TGC piece, Kevin DeYoung attempts to identify some of the ways that Evangelicals get into trouble in their efforts to voice their views on homosexuality. I greatly appreciate the nuanced nature of this contribution.

4) Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience with the Afterlife
In case this topic intrigues you but you’d prefer not to commit the hours necessary to read an entire book, Newsweek featured this piece on neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander and his remarkable account.

5) 13 Things Americans Do That the Rest of the World Finds Bizarre
Enjoy this piece (by Business Insider) sent to me by one of my American friends. Then create your own list of ones that weren‘t covered!

6) Leaving Westboro Baptist Church
A regular reader sent me this one–thanks Dave. Give a listen to this CBC interview of how two former members of the infamous church became friends with a prominent Jewish blogger via Twitter. No joke!

There you have it. May your weekend be full of awareness and enjoyment of the God who already fills it with Himself and every good thing.  Blessings on you, my friends.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff with a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

Saturday Six-Pack (38)

Happy Mother’s Day to every Mom and child of a Mom!

Here’s the latest installment of the Six-Pack, as assortment of worthwhile reads I’ve recently discovered. Most are ministry-minded or faith-focused, with a sprinkling of who-knows-what.

If you need direction, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move out from there.

Follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ), where I share sharp quotes and solid articles 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) The End: A Conversation with Dr. Scot McKnight
Since hearing Scot McKnight speak several years ago, I’ve paid increased attention to his work and writings. Here he reflects on the end-times-obsessed soil in which his early faith sprouted. Some good reflections here for any Christian who’s ever wondered how to make sense of end-times teachings.

2) Old Testament Law and the Charge of Inconsistency (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Okay, that title will not draw you in! But this is a great little article. Within some discussions (regarding homosexuality among other topics), Bible-believers sometimes get accused of being inconsistent in their picking and choosing of Old Testament laws to enforce. Timothy Keller provides this sharp primer on how to make such distinctions with theological integrity. Valuable read for believers and non-believers alike.

3) 33 Leadership Quotes from Jim Putman and Francis Chan
Brian Dodd was at Exponential ’13. While listening, he put down these quotes from two presenters. Don’t expect flow or context; these are simply quotes taken on the fly by one listener. Jim Putman is a minister in Idaho who has had some influence upon the leadership of our church; he is dead serious when it comes to making disciples and one of the straightest shooters I’ve ever visited with.

4) Ten Ways to Grow a Small Group
Some great points; some less than that. Either way, several pitfalls toward healthy and thriving Small Group ministry are noted here.

5) Baptism as WarfareA guide in an ancient church once showed me a baptistry and highlighted how its styling made it a vivid point of declaring new allegiance. Or as this article highlights, it was a declaration of war. This image adds great depth to a teaching that is tired in some circles and misunderstood in others.

6) Open Letter from a Non-Mom on Mother’s Day (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Amy Young puts forward this thoughtful piece on how churches handle Mother’s Day. It actually impacted what will happen in our service later this morning.

Blessings on you, my friends.  May your weekend be refreshing in rest, play, and worship.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff above by making a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

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Saturday Six-Pack (35)

Here we are–the weekend arrives with the latest Six-Pack arriving on your digital doorstep.

Below are a half-dozen of the best ministry-minded or faith-focused articles I read this week. Here they are, with a smattering of who-knows-what.

If six options are too many, start with the two *Picks of the Week*, and roll on from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Five Tips on Surviving Criticism
Count Donald Miller among the rest of us who have tasted criticism at some point.  Here are a few ways to handle it the next time it arrives.

2) Philadelphia Abortion Clinic Horror (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Kirsten Powers, for USA Today, offered this piece on the shocking media silence surrounding the nightmarish trial of Dr. Kermit Gosnell. You won’t have heard this on the news. You’d best hear it here, though you won’t enjoy the read.

3) A Word to Those Who Preach (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Kent Hughes shares this word to preachers in his commentary on Isaiah, regarding the pleasure of God in the task of preaching. Thanks to Tim Challies for sharing.

4) The New Sexual Identity Crisis
From the Gospel Coalition, there are a number of very valid points made in this finely nuanced piece.

5) Fresh Air, with Jack Levison
Scot McKnight posted this interview with Jack Levinson (done by Mark Stevens), about his new book on the Holy Spirit.

6) Former White Supremacist Sheds Hate and Embraces Christianity
The Religion News Service shared this powerful piece of the miles-from-my-experience life of Chris Simpson.

Blessings on you, my friends.  May your weekend be filled with rest, play, and worship to re-create you one more time!

YOUR TURN: Add a line below to direct other readers to the best stuff above or to highlight the piece that gave you something worth keeping.

Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

Sunday Six-Pack (29)

Welcome back to the Six-Pack, my friends!

After a couple weeks of family vacation, and one additional Saturday (plus one extra day!) to get myself back up to speed, here is the latest installment of internet keepers.

As per usual, these articles are typically ministry-minded or faith-focused, with enough flexibility to toss in the occasional who-knows-what.

If six is more than you can handle today, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Recommended: A Diary of Private Prayer
This quick book review is getting the first slot this week because of the value that could be discovered by following. I have used Baillie’s prayer guide on and off over the past few years–what a gem of a book! If your prayer life could use structuring and support, read this post. And then do some online shopping for a used copy of potentially life-shifting book.

2) Why You Shouldn’t Have a Position on LGBTQ’s (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
How does your church handle discussions surrounding homosexuality and gay rights? Less than comfortably, I imagine.  The following article sprung out of a Facebook post that opened with this: To the question, “What is your position on LGBTQ?” I think the best answer (in these times) is “we have no position” The question itself misses the point of any other answer? Agree?

3) We Wait Too Long to Train Our Leaders
A recent piece from the Harvard Business Review raises the corporate equivalent of what I’ve long thought about churches.  To my ministry friends, what do you think your church has missed out on, as a result of under-developed leaders?

4) Uh Oh, Canada!
Nearly six months ago, Leadership Journal’s blog published this short piece summarizing the results from a study that indicates that young adults are departing from churches at some unfortunate rates. One of the major reasons has nothing to do with Young Adults Ministries.

5) The Myth of Human Progress (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
Some have posited that postmodernism’s birth sprung from such catastrophic events as the two world wars, in which humanity’s confidence in itself and in its inevitable escalation upon the evolutionary ladder were cracked beyond repair. Living squarely within a generation labeled “postmodern”, I am not certain that the illusion has dissipated at all.  This article, from TruthDig spells out some such thoughts quite poignantly.

6) Ministry Lessons From the Good Times and the Bad
Ministry is certainly an “up and down” experience on multiple levels simultaneously. Wrapped into any graph of a pastor’s journey are facets of personal life, inner journey, and societal dynamics, not to mention the unique and multiple-layered movements occurring within a given congregation or denomination. Don Carson, for TGC, recently highlighted lessons he’d gleaned in the highs and the lows of decades of ministry.

Blessings on you, my friends.  May your weekend be refreshing in rest, play, and worship.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff above by making a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]

Saturday Six-Pack (27)

Another weekend, another Six-Pack of noteworthy pieces recently discovered online.

As usual, these articles are typically ministry-minded or faith-focused, with enough flexibility to toss in the occasional who-knows-what.

With the links more thickly packed than usual today, the six has become four. If a third-dozen options still paralyzes you, begin with my two *Picks of the Week*, and move from there.

For a steady stream of such links, follow me on Twitter ( @JasonBandura ) to the right of this post.  Sharp quotes and solid articles are tweeted 3-4 times daily.

Today’s edition:

1) Louis Giglio… In… Then Out (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
If you’ve somehow missed it this week, Louis Giglio was selected to publicly pray for the nation and the president at President Obama’s inauguration.  And then he was essentially uninvited. Reason? A sermon he preached 15+ years ago, on the subject of homosexuality, that found its way online.  One of the best summaries I’ve read was from Skye Jethani. Mike Lukaszewski offers this “what I wish Obama had said in response” piece, and Justin Taylor has compiled three sharp bits of commentary from others.

2) Dealing with Demons (*PICK OF THE WEEK*)
A missionary from the same conservative Evangelical heritage as myself describes his experience with the supernatural in Rwanda.  Thanks to Jonathan Storment for the link.

3) Churches and Malls
A recent morning blurb from HBR bounced off of this piece by Thom Rainer gives some food for thought on the future of church facilities.

4) 33 HBR Posts You Should Read Before 2013
So we missed the deadline on this title, BUT there ARE some terrific pieces to be found here.  Among them are The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time, HBR’s most-read piece of 2012 AND I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why, the most-commented-on piece of the year.

Blessings on you, my friends.  May your weekend be refreshing in rest, play, and worship.

YOUR TURN: Direct other readers to the best stuff above by making a comment below, or weigh in on what you read.  Your input makes this post better!

[You can subscribe to this blog via RSS or email, in the upper right corner of this page.]