Trinity Western University and Duck Dynasty – Why can’t we get along?

Brandon Ambrosino over at Time has a nice little piece on the Duck Dynasty/Homophobia fiasco that, I think, offers a lot of insight on the recent spat in Canada around the proposed Trinity Western University (TWU) Law School (see my earlier post).  I’d encourage you to read it.

For those of you, like me, who could give all of two-shits about Duck Dynasty, the background to this story was a quote from one of the scruffy stars of the show, Phil Robertson to the effect that:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a  man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got  more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin:  It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

Ok, we’re not talking deep philosophy here.  As a result of this comment 9and others), Robertson has been suspended from the show by A&E.

Ambrosino doesn’t defend Robertson, but he notes (as I did earlier this week with respect to the TWU affair), that the criticism of him says as much about Robertson’s critics as it does about him.

First, Ambrosino observes that it’s not as if Roberston’s views on homosexuality are beyond the pale, after all they’re shared by Pope Francis – yes, Time’s man of the year.  Robertson is less refined that the Pope, but still, the substance is the same.   Why does the Pope get hailed, while Robertson gets nailed?

Second, he points out that one can believe that homosexuality is a sin or oppose gay marriage without being a bigot.  As he says:

For the record, I’m undecided on whether or not I think Phil actually is  homophobic, although I certainly think his statement was offensive, and not only  to the LGBT community. But I also think that if I were to spend a day calling  ducks with Phil, I’d probably end up liking him — even in spite of his position  on gay men. It’s quite possible to throw one’s political support behind  traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted.

For what it’s worth, Robertson subsequently issued a statement making exactly that point, saying:

I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other

Maybe his agent made him say, but it sounds sincere. And surely it’s not inconceivable that a man who takes his Christianity seriously might genuinely “hate the sin, but love the sinner”?

Third, Ambrosino asks why the response to every story about a public figure who criticizes homosexuality is an immediate public shaming.

I’m reminded of something Bill Maher said during the height of the Paula Deen  controversy: “Do we always have to make people go away?” I think the question  applies in this situation too.

Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence  them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them?

It’s a solid point.  Having Robertson suspended by A&E doesn’t do much to advance gay rights or advance tolerance for the LGBT community.   As one might reasonably have predicted, the immediate result was to whip-up social conservative blowhards, like Newt Gingrich and Sara Pallin and to further harden the dividing lines between religious conservatives and the LGBT community.   Think of all the better ways this could have been handled.  Rather that going apeshit about how offensive Robertson’s comments were, maybe work it into the show.  Have Robertson and the boys invite Nathan Lane out duck hunting?  Maybe do a cross-over episode with Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (ok, it’s no longer on the air, but you get the point).  Lord knows the Roberston boys need the sartorial help.   The comic possibilities are endless, as are the opportunities for promoting tolerance or understanding.

Instead, it degenerates into another battle in the culture wars, all because of an unwillingness to accept the possibility that despite his views on homosexuality, Robertson might be a decent person.  Ambrosino finishes off his piece by citing G.K. Chesterton for the proposition that:

“bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the  alternative to a proposition.” If he is right — and he usually is — then I  wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than  Phil’s.”

Good stuff.

Although he was dealing with the Duck Dynasty fiasco, I think his analysis provides considerable insight to the TWU affair here in Canada.  Much of the opposition to the proposed TWU law school has been, as far as I can tell, driven by people unwilling to consider the possibility that one can believe that (i) homosexuality is a sin and (ii) that homosexuals should be entitled to the equal protection of the law.   That constitutional lawyers and human rights activists are unable to grasp that self-evident proposition doesn’t say much about the state of the human right bar in this country.  The same impulse that results in calls for Robertson to be suspended from Duck Dynasty drives otherwise respectable members of the legal community to demand that TWU be barred from providing legal education.

But it’s not as if shutting down TWU will promote acceptance and understanding between the Canadian LGBT community and conservative Christians.  Quite the contrary, it sends the message to conservative Christians that gay rights are incompatible with their religious rights (as if both aren’t just different facets of the same charter rights), that Canada cannot accept both gays and lesbians and conservative Christians and something has to give.  Well, geeze, with a proposition like that, no wonder Christian conservatives aren’t enamored with the pursuit of gay rights.

Perhaps instead of offering to litigate to shut TWU down, maybe Clay Ruby should offer to use his considerable talent to do something constructive, perhaps offering to speak about equality rights and the charter at TWU.  Maybe highlight the self-evident truth that the same equality rights that protect homosexuals from state-sanctioned discrimination also protect the protect the religious freedoms of TWU and its students from the predations of the BC College of Teachers (after all, equality goes to the right of religious freedom, namely that people who practice minority faiths are entitled to the same freedom of members of the dominant faith).  Maybe the Canadian law deans, rather than calling for TWU to be denied the right to establish a law school, should offer to host a conference on the Charter at TWU or a virtual conference between students TWU and the students at their schools discussing the interaction of religion and the law.  Might that not be constructive?

But, no, the “other” must be silenced.  Well, who are the bigots?

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