Anyone who has been spending any amount of time in front of a TV, computer, or radio in the last 48 hours has been unable to avoid hearing about Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the Duck Commander family and star of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty.” Due to him expressing his conservative Christian beliefs in an interview with GQ magazine, he has been suspended indefinitely from the show.
After the network’s decision, advocates and opponents of Robertson have voiced their opinions regarding their outrage at his comments or their support for him. Facebook groups have been formed. Petitions have been signed. Lines have been drawn in the sand. And vitriol flows from every side.
Full disclosure: I have been a fan of Duck Dynasty. The show amuses me. I’ve read Phil Robertson’s book. I admire the way that the Robertson family stands strong for their convictions and allow those convictions to impact their lives. The Robertsons value each other, spending time with one another, working with one another, and doing their best to put family first.
The story as I see it is that Phil Robertson expressed his opinion and his employer was unhappy with that opinion. So, his employer has put him on a leave of absence. Somehow, this has surprised those who are supporters of Robertson and the values to which he holds. But why is this such a surprise? Isn’t that his employer’s prerogative to make such a decision?
What would happen if there was a Christian employer whose employee made comments with which they disagreed and they, in turn, suspended that employee? Would that not also be the employer’s prerogative?
I know what people will say here, that the second case would never happen because that Christian employer would be brought up on charges of discrimination and would be forced to reinstate the employee. Is that correct? Is that what would happen?
Of course not, there’s no way that could be the case, right? I mean, if the roles were reversed and a Christian employer were not allowed to suspend an employee for their comments with which he/she disagreed, than we would be looking at some form of inconsistency, right? Is it possible that those who cry out for tolerance might need to reassess their tolerance when it’s discovered that it breaks down and they become intolerant over those with whom they disagree?
The dictionary definition of tolerance is, “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one’s own.” According to that definition, it would seem that shutting down the opinions of those with whom you disagree might actually be contradictory to the definition and actually mean the opposite, intolerance.
There is a breakdown somewhere.
I believe that people should hold to their convictions. I believe that people should be able to express their opinions. So, what happens when expressing your opinions and holding to convictions on one side is interpreted as tolerant, open-minded, and progressive while expressing your opinions and holding to convictions on the other side is interpreted as intolerant, unloving, bigoted, and deserving of being shut down?
Until we can come up with some adequate answers for these questions, answers with which both sides can agree, I think we are at an impasse.