Phil Robertson and 1st Corinthians

Everybody is talking about what Phil Robertson said in the GQ interview, What the Duck? Various newscasters have described his comments as crude, rude, and flat out wrong. Their comments sounded so politically correct, I had to look for myself. Our newscasters are pretty low on my integrity list ever since they looked the other way when Martin Bashir suggested that Sarah Palin “truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood”. Martin Bashir made this now infamous defecation in her mouth remark in response to her comments about our current federal debt policies. If we look at Martin’s comments in its entirety he used most of his words to attack Sarah Palin as “America’s resident dunce” rather than to substantiate his position of why he thinks her statements on federal debt are wrong or dumb. His use of an anecdotal story of slavery in 1756 is not much of an argument for or against current federal debt policies in 2013. Under the guise of journalism he deliberately wandered off the subject to make a malicious personal attack. If Martin Bashir gets lax treatment from his peers for his remarks then Phil must of said something really vile.

So with the journalism bar set so low, what did Phil say in the GQ interview? Here is the Corinthians related quote from the GQ interview that got me speed reading Corinthians on Friday night.

“Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong,” he says. “Sin becomes fine.”

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers””they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

During Phil’s darkest days, in the early 1970s, he had to flee the state of Arkansas after he badly beat up a bar owner and the guy’s wife. Kay Robertson persuaded the bar owner not to press charges in exchange for most of the Robertsons’ life savings. (“A hefty price,” he notes in his memoir.) I ask Phil if he ever repented for that, as he wants America to repent””if he ever tracked down the bar owner and his wife to apologize for the assault. He shakes his head.

“I didn’t dredge anything back up. I just put it behind me.”

These quotes sound very familiar to the argument that the Apostle Paul was making to the Corinthians. From the introduction to 1st Corinthians in the NIV Study Bible, we can see that the purpose of Paul’s visit was that “some of those who had come had brought disturbing information concerning moral irregularities in the church”. So Paul writes a letter to the Corinthians to help get them back on track with God. In chapter 6 he argues that the arbitrary judging of others was doing serious harm to the fledgling church and reminds them that judging others is God’s job. Then Paul gives them a laundry list of sinful behavior in which neither “the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God”. He follows this up with the reminder that although “Everything is permissible for me but not everything is beneficial”. This sounds like pretty good practical advice to a group of people struggling with at least eight morality issues. When we look at what Phil and Drew said in the article, you have to say that their comments are very close to what the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians. Unlike the comments made by Martin Bashir, Drew and Phil’s comments were neither personal or malicious attacks on some person or group and were on target with Paul’s message. When you read the story about Phil’s darkest days in the early 1970s, they chose to highlight the difficulty Phil had with seeking repentance. To me this part of the interview sounded like a mini sermon on the challenges of applying Paul’s message to a real world situation. So when did Paul’s hopeful message to the Corinthians of God’s grace and repentance get transformed by our media into a homophobic rant? If Phil is just the messenger then the ire of our newscasters is actually a thinly veiled, theological criticism of Paul’s message. This group that quickly criticized Phil is the same group that struggled mightily to condemn Martin Bashir’s journalism as slander. As Phil said, “Everything is blurred on what’s right and what’s wrong.” If Paul was still alive, what would Paul do?