UPDATE: Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson Suspended Indefinitely after Anti-Gay Remarks

Phil Robertson. Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/A&E.

Phil Robertson. Photo by Karolina Wojtasik/A&E.

A&E has indefinitely suspended Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson after his anti-gay remarks.

Good for A&E. Bigoted Christian fundamentalism does not belong in the public realm.

“A&E has placed Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson on indefinite hiatus following anti-gay remarks he made in a recent profile in GQ.”

A&E issued the following statement:

“We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty,” A&E said in a statement. “His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.”

Good. Bigotry has no place on TV, or in Christianity for that matter.

As I said earlier, they know the show is on the decline, and they have enough speaking engagements lined up in the conservative Christian community to make plenty of money and sustain their business for years to come.

“It seems that the Duck Dynasty folks have finally reached that point that Tim Tebow reached when he realized that he was approaching the final days of his “day job”, and he decided to leverage what was left of his popularity into one final evangelistic appeal before his time on the public stage was done. I believe that’s exactly what Robertson meant when he said: “Let’s face it. Three, four, five years, we’re out of here,” Robertson told GQ. “You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.”

The sooner, the better.

Right on cue, here come the anti-gay comments from Duck Dynasty

Proud Rednecks. Proud Christians. Proud Southerners. Proud Bible quotin’, gun totin’, pro-Jesus, anti-gay redencks.

If this is describes you, then here are your role models.

Phil Robertson's anti-gay comments are receiving backlash from the LGBT community. (L-R) Willie Robertson, Phil Robertson and Si Robertson attend the A+E Networks 2012 on May 9, 2012. (Andy Kropa/WireImage) | Andy Kropa via Getty Images

Phil Robertson’s anti-gay comments are receiving backlash from the LGBT community. (L-R) Willie Robertson, Phil Robertson and Si Robertson attend the A+E Networks 2012 on May 9, 2012. (Andy Kropa/WireImage) | Andy Kropa via Getty Images

We’ve seen that as the Duck Dynasty folks become more popular nationally, their fundamentalist religious beliefs are coming more to the forefront.

From their Restoration Heritage Church of Christ roots at Harding University, to their upcoming involvement in a fundamentalist Christian propaganda film, and now, right on cue, here come the (explicit) anti-gay remarks in an interview with GQ.

Comments include gems such as:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus,” [Phil] Robertson told GQ.

“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.”

and

“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. 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.”

and

“We never, ever judge someone on who’s going to heaven, hell. That’s the Almighty’s job,” Robertson told GQ. “We just love ‘em, give ‘em the good news about Jesus – whether they’re homosexuals, drunks, terrorists. We let God sort ‘em out later.”

Yes. “Homosexuals, drunks, terrorists.” All equal threats to your well-being.

I shake my head.

It seems that the Duck Dynasty folks have finally reached that point that Tim Tebow reached when he realized that he was approaching the final days of his “day job”, and he decided to leverage what was left of his popularity into one final evangelistic appeal before his time on the public stage was done. I believe that’s exactly what Robertson meant when he said:

“Let’s face it. Three, four, five years, we’re out of here,” Robertson told GQ. “You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.”

Duck Dynasty: The Tim Tebow of Rednecks.

For more:

HuffPo: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson-gay_n_4465564.html

GQ: http://www.gq.com/entertainment/television/201401/duck-dynasty-phil-robertson?currentPage=1

CBS: http://houston.cbslocal.com/2013/12/18/duck-dynasty-star-a-vagina-is-more-desirable-than-a-mans-anus/

Huffington Post on “Bible Secrets Revealed” premiering tonight on History

Huffington Post ReligionJaweed Kaleem has written an article this morning for the Huffington Post Religion section, entitled “Bible Secrets Revealed, New History Channel Documentary, To Premiere.”

On the rationale behind the show:

“A lot of Biblical scholarship is controversial from simply making unsubstantiated claims or by saying things like ‘we found the Arc of the Covenant and the nails of the cross,'” says Robert Cargill, an archeologist and religion professor at the University of Iowa who was a consulting producer for the show. “We wanted the scholarship itself to be controversial, based upon the facts of what we have found in our studies.”

On the diversity of scholarly opinion in the show:

“In addition to Cargill, who was raised as a Christian but now calls himself an agnostic, experts were drawn from Islamic, Jewish, Catholic, Protestant and secular backgrounds. They include Reza Aslan, whose book, Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, topped bestseller charts this year after a controversial interview about his Islamic faith on Fox News, and Los Angeles-based author and Rabbi David Wolpe.”

The article concludes:

“We look at the different approaches to the canon. There are some people who say the Bible is the word of God, while others say, ‘well, people did the best they could to believe in the Bible a long time ago, but now we accept that everything wasn’t created in six days, now we accept that there’s evolution,” says Cargill…”Some people say the Bible is a political document, an economic document or a legal document. At the end of the day, it’s a human document, and that’s what scholars look at,” adds Cargill. “But the reason it’s so popular is because people have found so much value in it, looking toward it for nuggets of wisdom and guidance for how to life a better life.”

Give the article a read.

And tune in to “Bible Secrets Revealed” on History tonight, Nov 13, 2013 at 10/9c. The series airs every Wednesday for the next six weeks.

Live tweet your comments and feedback with the hashtag #BibleSecretsRevealed.

For more, visit the official “Bible Secrets Revealed” website.

Huffington Post story on Iowa Professors’ Des Moines Register Editorial on “Biblical Marriage”

Meredith Bennett-Smith of the Huffington Post has published an article entitled, “Biblical Marriage Not Defined Simply As One Man, One Woman: Iowa Religious Scholars’ Op-Ed“, which examines an editorial that Dr. Hector Avalos (Iowa State), Dr. Kenneth Atkinson (University of Northern Iowa), and I wrote for the Des Moines Register.

I blogged about this a few days ago.

Ms. Bennett-Smith interviewed me for the piece. The HuffPo article does a nice job of summarizing the editorial:

“The Bible’s definition of marriage can be confusing and contradictory, noted the scholars. They stated in their column that a primary example of this is the religious book’s stance on polygamy, a practice that was embraced by prominent biblical figures Abraham and David. Furthermore, Avalos, Cargill and Atkinson point out that various Bible passages mention not only traditional monogamy, but also self-induced castration and celibacy, as well as the practice of wedding rape victims to their rapists.

In an interview with The Huffington Post, Iowa University Professor Robert R. Cargill said the column was the brainchild of his colleague Hector Avalos, who suggested local scholars put together an “educated response” to the often-touted claim that the Bible defines marriage as solely between one man and one woman. “[T]hat’s not the only thing the Bible says,” Cargill told HuffPost.”

The Des Moines Register editorial concludes:

“So, while it is not accurate to state that biblical texts would allow marriages between people of the same sex, it is equally incorrect to declare that a “one-man-and-one-woman” marriage is the only allowable type of marriage deemed legitimate in biblical texts.”

That is to say, the point of the editorial is that while the Bible cannot be used to sanction same-sex marriage (because it clearly opposes male homosexuality), it ALSO cannot be said to endorse ONLY marriage between “one man and one woman” because the Bible (the whole Bible, not just the New Testament) clearly offers polygamy, marriage imposed upon men who sexually violated women, and Levirate marriage as God-ordained, God-sanctioned marriage options. (Remember, these forms of marriage were commanded in the law in an attempt to protect women from the abuses of men and a society where women did not have rights equal to men.)

The article concludes that we should be careful when attempting to use ancient religious documents to legislate modern social relationships. Or as we conclude in the editorial:

“Accordingly, we must guard against attempting to use ancient texts to regulate modern ethics and morals, especially those ancient texts whose endorsements of other social institutions, such as slavery, would be universally condemned today, even by the most adherent of Christians.”

So nowhere in the editorial do we endorse polygamy. (In fact, I am personally opposed to polygamy because it tends to promote the continued suppression of women, as polygamy is usually one man and multiple wives – not the other way around – and often within a religious context.) The point of the article is not to promote polygamy, but to point out that marriage between “one man and one woman” is not the only form of God-ordained, God-endorsed, and in some cases, God-mandated marriage in the Bible.

In the HuffPo article, I also address the attempts by politicians and fundamentalists to use snippets of the parts of the Bible they like (“cherry picking”) for political purposes and for purposes of focused, special condemnation:

“Politicians who use the Bible aren’t necessarily interested in the truth or the complexity of the Bible,” he said. “They are looking for one ancient sound bite to convince people what they already believe.”

Give it a read. I welcome comments on the HuffPo article, here on this post, or debate the issue with me and my colleagues on my FB page. Just remember that my wife and I just had twins, and that my spare time to respond to comments is limited (and often covered in spit-up ;-).

Winners and Losers in the Emmanuel Christian Seminary Scandal

Dr. Christopher Rollston is kicked off the sinking Emmanuel Christian Seminary ship. Image by Daniel O. McClellan (http://danmcclellanart.wordpress.com)

Image by Daniel O. McClellan (http://danmcclellanart.wordpress.com)

It’s finally over. The Emmanuel Christian Seminary tenure scandal, stemming from Emmanuel’s attempt to fire (the very tenured) Dr. Chris Rollston, has been resolved.

Dr. Rollston has voluntarily resigned his position at Emmanuel Christian Seminary after completing the Fall 2012 semester. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that Dr. Rollston had accepted a Visiting Professorship at George Washington University in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations beginning in the spring of 2013.

Meanwhile, Dr. Michael Sweeney, President of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, announced that Emmanuel is taking steps toward being wholly acquired by neighboring Milligan College, but only after a donor forks over a substantial sum to alleviate Emmanuel’s existing debts.

All of this has caused me to reflect upon Emmanuel’s self-inflicted wounds in the form of an old Newsweek-style (remember them?) “Winners and Losers” post.


Winners

Chris Rollston – Some will spin argue that Dr. Rollston lost because Emmanuel ultimately got what it wanted: his departure. But those with eyes will see that this is a HUGE win for Dr. Rollston. He ended up with a better job at a much more prestigious university (had you ever heard of Emmanuel before the scandal?), with a faculty and administration that will protect, defend, and promote him, and, he won’t miss a day of teaching during the transition. He’ll have colleagues like Dr. Eric Cline with whom he can discuss his discipline, and he won’t have to worry about duplicitous “colleagues” on the thought police questioning his scholarship or divulging confidential personnel matters on Facebook. Dr. Rollston landed at better school, didn’t miss a day of work, and I’m guessing got paid for his troubles. (Again, please correct me if no cash was paid to Dr. Rollston as part of this “amicable resolution“). This is definitely a win for Chris Rollston.

George Washington University – What a steal! GWU got to hire an excellent professor the way that other ball clubs sign talented free agents out of Oakland or Miami. (Sorry, baseball joke.) AND, Eric Cline gets credit for stepping up with a great offer, which will earn him many points (as well as a few beers I’m guessing) with the academy. Big win for GWU!

Academic Freedom – It’s actually nice to see academic freedom win one every once in a while. With the deplorable treatment of excellent scholars by confessional schools over the past few years, it’s nice to see academic freedom, critical scholarship, and fundamental concepts like academic tenure come out on top now and then. It was nice to see Inside Higher Education get involved when Libby Nelson’s article broke the story onto the national scene. It was also nice to see the multitude of scholars line up to lend their voice and support to Dr. Rollston. It demonstrates that scholars must stick together to protest the underhanded workings of many confessional schools, who only hope that the academy will stand idly by and silently hold the coats of those attempting to dismiss good scholars because of their academic speech. This was a win for academic freedom.


Draw

Milligan CollegeMilligan will get to pick up the remaining Emmanuel assets during the forthcoming fire sale, and some quality professors to boot (if they choose to stay, but I’m guessing a few have updated their resumes and, let us say, have perhaps had some quiet conversations with colleagues at other schools during SBL last month). However, Milligan now has to deal with a fiscally problematic seminary with a tainted reputation. Will students will want to attend a place that fires their favorite (and very tenured) professors because said professors won’t toe a denominational line? Will students want to pay big private tuition dollars for a degree from a school now associated with the far right and the suppression of academic theological thought?

Still, the acquisition of the property across the 359 from Milligan (presently Emmanuel) should be seen as a opportunistic acquisition.


Losers

Emanuel Christian Seminary – Some will surely argue that Emmanuel won this standoff, and Emmanuel may attempt to spin this as a victory because they got what they ultimately wanted: the departure of Chris Rollston. However, the price they paid both in attempting to fire a tenured professor, and the price of the clumsily orchestrated and completely botched administrative handling of this scandal is so great, they must be characterized as losers. This is more than cutting off your nose to spite your face: this is sinking your own ship to spite your best professor.

Emmanuel may have avoided a law suit by paying off Rollston (allegedly), but the damage done to the Seminary’s reputation, coupled with their existing financial woes, ultimately doomed the school.

When all is said and done, Emmanuel Christian Seminary will cease to exist as an independent entity. It is desperately trying to get itself acquired by Milligan.

So sure, they got rid of a professor that a couple of people thought wasn’t doctrinally conservative enough, but in doing so, the school went under, and will have to be absorbed by Milligan College.

Ironically, that’s usually what happens when the good professors leave a school: it suffers and ultimately ceases to be. And this is probably not a bad thing, as the “Emmanuel brand” is so toxic right now, they essentially need to do like Philip Morris did and just change their name to Altria (or in this case, “Milligan”), start over, and hope no one notices (or at least that everyone forgets). The school will cease to be independent, they sullied their academic reputation, and they lost Chris Rollston. Three HUGE losses for Emmanuel.

Paul Blowers – Hardly anyone outside of Emmanuel had ever heard of Paul Blowers prior to the scandal. And now that the scandal is over, he’ll be forever known as the thought policeman who tried to get Chris Rollston fired. Lowlights include an awful article at Bible and Interpretation, in which he attempted to wiggle out of the mess he helped create (AKA trying to dig himself out of a hole), which generated a plethora of puns and the ever-puzzling “cheap seats” refrain, as well getting into an online shouting match with an undergraduate (and having it handed to him.) He disclosed confidential disciplinary proceedings on Facebook (proceedings some say he helped start), and was exposed for doing so. What’s more, it took Blowers far too long to put down the shovel and stop talking online. In trying to clean up his own mess and defend himself, he only made matters worse, and placed Emmanuel in a precarious legal position (which fortunately was “amicably re$olved”). BIG time loss.

Michael Sweeney – From attempting to fire a tenured professor, to not knowing how to handle a simple press release, this was an abject failure for President Sweeney and the Emmanuel administration. Dr. Sweeney successfully oversaw the demise of his seminary. It was an utter mess – one that will end with Milligan College having to step in and bail out what’s left of the school.


In the end, Dan McClellan‘s editorial cartoon captures it all in a single frame: Dr. Rollston improved his career, and Emmanuel will cease to be.

When all is said and done, it’s a victory for critical scholarship, tenure, and academic freedom. And for once, it’s nice to see the good guy win.

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