Seven Points Regarding The Phil Robertson Kerfuffle

If you’re not already familiar with the Phil Robertson controversy, well, let me try to sum it up in one sentence: Phil Robertson, a long-bearded dude from a hugely successful A&E reality show makes racist and homophobic comments during a GQ interview, leading to objections from various lefties and lefty organizations, which A&E responded to by “suspending” Robertson (although the suspension may be “just for show“), which led to various right-wingers objecting to left-wing totalitarianism and blah blah blah you get the gist of it.

Okay, now that we’re all up to speed…

1) There is no first amendment issue here, contrary to what some prominent conservatives have suggested. Free speech is not a right to freedom from consequences, and the first amendment is not a guarantee that A&E will pay you to be on your own TV show.

2) Is there a single right-winger now objecting to Phil Robertson’s treatment, who also publicly objected to the way the Dixie Chicks were treated? Or who has publicly objected to the far more common case of companies firing people for being pro-union? (Cathy Young brings up many more examples.)

3) I think A&E’s reaction was over-the-top. I don’t want to live in a society in which employers routinely punish people for their off-the-job speech. Bosses already have far too much power over workers’ lives. I don’t feel sorry for Robertson, a charismatic millionaire bigot, but as a general principle, employers shouldn’t use their power over employees to punish political opinions.

4) Nearly every conservative I’ve read discussing this case has mysteriously forgotten to even mention Robertson’s racist comments, focusing instead on his homophobia. (Example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.) This is because it’s much more in Conservative’s “comfort zone” to defend homophobia by claiming religion makes it okay, than to address racism at all.

5) I despise the idea that if a belief is religious, it is somehow exempt from criticism.

There are countless Christians out there who don’t run their mouths off trashing gay people or equivocating homosexuality and bestiality, or claiming that life was just swell for Blacks under Jim Crow. The reason Phil Robertson does these things isn’t because he’s a Christian; it’s because he’s a bigot and an asshole. He, not his religion, is choosing to say these things, and it’s entirely appropriate to criticize him for it.

Furthermore, even if Christianity did require being a homophobic, racist asshole – which it does not – that still wouldn’t be an excuse for homophobia and racism. It would just make it morally wrong to remain a Christian.

6) Let’s review what Phil Robertson said about gays on another occasion:

Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another, and they received in themselves the due penalty for their perversions,” Robertson continued. “They’re full of murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, God-haters. They are heartless, they are faithless, they are senseless, they are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil.

Yes, he’s paraphrasing the Bible (specifically Romans 1:26-30). But the Bible is a long book; there are many verses he could have chosen, but he chose this one to yell out from a podium. He chose to interpret it in an anti-gay fashion (there are other interpretations). He chose to present it in an angry and condemning manner. Those were Phil Robertson’s choices, not God’s.

7) Great quote from Ken White at Popehat:

The doctrine of the Preferred First Speaker holds that when Person A speaks, listeners B, C, and D should refrain from their full range of constitutionally protected expression to preserve the ability of Person A to speak without fear of non-governmental consequences that Person A doesn’t like. The doctrine of the Preferred First Speaker applies different levels of scrutiny and judgment to the first person who speaks and the second person who reacts to them; it asks “why was it necessary for you to say that” or “what was your motive in saying that” or “did you consider how that would impact someone” to the second person and not the first. It’s ultimately incoherent as a theory of freedom of expression.

Via David Schraub, who makes an interesting counterpoint.

* * *

Finally, here’s a list of some blog posts I’ve read about this kerfuffle. I don’t agree with every point in every post on this list, but I did find them all to be interesting reading.

  1. Phil Robertson’s warped vision of civil-rights history – Ta-Nehisi Coates – The Atlantic
  2. GOP Congressional Candidate: Phil Robertson Just Like Rosa Parks
  3. Why Is It Always About Sex? « The Dish
  4. Fannie’s Room: Robertson as a Symbol of Waning Patriarchy
  5. Classism in the Rise and Fall of the Duck Dynasty Patriarch » Sociological Images
  6. We are respectable negroes: Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty, and the White Trash Politics of the Republican Party
  7. Ten Points About Speech, Ducks, And Flights To Africa | Popehat
  8. How typical is Phil Robertson’s view of gay sex? | The Volokh Conspiracy
  9. Clobber verses: ‘I’m crushing your head!’
  10. The A-Unicornist: The conservative reaction to the Duck Dynasty fiasco shows that religion is the single biggest obstacle to gay rights
  11. I used to be a homophobic racist, too | Defeating the Dragons
This entry posted in Free speech, censorship, copyright law, etc., Homophobic zaniness/more LGBTQ issues, In the news, Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans and Queer issues, Race, racism and related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

79 Responses to Seven Points Regarding The Phil Robertson Kerfuffle

  1. 1
    Hugh says:

    “5) I despise the idea that if a belief is religious, it is somehow exempt from criticism.”

    http://amptoons.com/blog/2011/07/05/want-to-ban-circumcision-include-a-religious-exemption/

  2. 2
    Jeremy Redlien says:

    I can’t help but wonder about the whole getting fired for speech thing should be oulawed, with certain exceptions of course. Maybe not a constitutional amendment , but legislation at the national level like what has been proposed with ENDA. Cause I think free speech isn’t all that useful if employeers can fire you for your political views.

    However, does anyone else think this was just a publicity stunt? Maybe Phil just wanted out and thought he’d give the show a boost on the way out the door. O r maybe the whole thing was planned ahead of time with the producers and eventualy he’ll back down and do a GLAAD sponsored publicity/apology tour, before getting his spot back.

  3. 3
    Ruchama says:

    I’m not sure that the usual employer/employee relationship is really at play here, when it comes to free speech, since Robertson’s job is, essentially, saying stuff. The only reason he was interviewed by GQ in the first place was because he’s on A&E, and the interview might have been set up by A&E as a promotion for the show in the first place. (I’m not sure about that last point.) He didn’t say this stuff just as Phil Robertson — he said it as “Phil Robertson, Duck Dynasty guy.” And A&E has at least some right to control what’s being said as part of the Duck Dynasty brand.

  4. 4
    Kohai says:

    Hugh,

    I don’t think Amp’s argument in that post was that religious circumcisions are immune to criticism. I think he’s arguing that circumcision bans that don’t include a religious exemption are 1) unlikely to be passed as laws or withstand judicial review, and 2) unlikely to do very much in practice to actually protect the bodily integrity of infants.

  5. 5
    Ampersand says:

    Thanks, Kohai.

    Hugh, if you are genuinely unable to tell that “I’m against a blanket ban of this behavior” and “I’m against criticism of this behavior” are different statements, then probably you’re not worth talking to – you know, never mind. I simply don’t buy that you can’t tell the difference between those two statements.

    To clarify my position, there have been many discussions on “Alas” – including the comments of the post you just linked to – in which I’ve said that I’m anti-circumcision, but I think the most moral and most effective approach to ending circumcision will be persuasion, not bans. “Persuasion” necessarily includes criticism.

    (ETA: That’s a little simplistic, because it ignores that there are anti-circumcision policy changes we could favor apart from bans and persuasion, and I do favor some of those policies as well.)

  6. 6
    closetpuritan says:

    I notice that you said routinely. I think I agree with the “routinely” caveat. One type of exception I can think of is when you have something like, “Tech managers spend as much time worrying about how to hire talented female developers as they do worrying about how to hire a unicorn.” (From Pax Dickinson.) I think for employees with power over other employees, particularly the power to hire and fire them, it is less problematic to fire them for political speech–at least if that speech indicates that they might not treat the employees under them fairly. I think the same would apply any time an employee creates the impression they’re speaking for the company at the time of the problematic speech.

    There might be other examples of exceptions I support, but I can’t think of any right now.

  7. 7
    Phil says:

    Furthermore, even if Christianity did require being a homophobic, racist asshole – which it does not

    I like this post and I think you have a good take on the issue.

    However, I think there are issues with the statement quoted above. I’m speaking as a non-Christian and also as a former Christian.

    I suppose it depends on how you define “being a homophobic, racist asshole,” but is seems reasonable to infer that you consider a person making statements like those made by Phil Robertson to be acts of homophobia and racism. But Christianity isn’t a single, monolithic religion, and it is entirely possible that a subset of Christians believes that the statements made by Robertson are absolutely consistent with their Christian beliefs.

    You might believe that those people’s beliefs are not true Christian beliefs, but if you actually did believe that there is such a thing as “true” Christian beliefs, then you’d be Christian.

    I guess I take a strange position on this, but I hold that there is no difference between what a person believes their religion to be and what that person’s religion actually is.

    that still wouldn’t be an excuse for homophobia and racism. It would just make it morally wrong to remain a Christian.

    I agree with you that religious beliefs are not exempt from criticism. But, assuming that most people believe that their beliefs are true, would you really say that even if your religious beliefs are absolutely accurate and true, it is still morally wrong for you to follow them?

    I don’t have a problem calling a religious belief morally wrong, but I feel like doing so carries the tacit admission that I also think your beliefs are false, no matter how many disclaimers I attach to the statement.

  8. 8
    closetpuritan says:

    I just thought of another example: law enforcement officers, although they don’t have power over other employees, have a lot of power over the public. Sometimes they’ve been fired or disciplined for speech on social media that is either political, or in a gray area between political and nonpolitical, and that gives the impression that they may not do their jobs properly. A lot of the time I think firing/disciplining is appropriate.

  9. 9
    RonF says:

    A&E has put themselves in an interesting position here. Phil Robertson said in that interview that he thought that homosexual acts are sins. GLAAD claimed that these were hateful statements and demanded A&E do something about it. A&E responded to GLAAD by suspending Phil.

    Then it started to go sideways for A&E. Duck Dynasty is not the usual “reality” show. In most of those shows the participants don’t have a lot of money and are trying to leverage the show to gain publicity and a career. But the guys on DD are already rich. A&E needs them a whole lot more than the Robertson family needs A&E. So the Robertson family has made it clear that A&E will have no show unless Phil Robertson is a full participant. A&E already has a new season of DD in the can. It seems to me that they’d have a heck of a time re-editing them to chop out Phil Robertson. I’m thinking that’s probably not going to happen. I’m also thinking that A&E is going to have a hell of a time making their budget if a DD-sized hole is chopped out of it when the family decamps to, oh, say, Fox network. So if A&E continues to cave to GLAAD they’ll lose the show, which they simply can’t afford. If A&E caves to DD they risk losing audience for many of their other shows.

    How the heck could A&E be so tone-deaf to understanding the beliefs of the Robertson family – or, I suspect, much of the show’s audience? Are there no practicing mainstream Christians in their management or production staffs?

    However, does anyone else think this was just a publicity stunt? Maybe Phil just wanted out and thought he’d give the show a boost on the way out the door. Or maybe the whole thing was planned ahead of time with the producers and eventualy he’ll back down and do a GLAAD sponsored publicity/apology tour, before getting his spot back.

    I sure don’t. I figure that this is exactly as it seems. The GQ interviewer – who seemed quite condescending and mocking to me – asked Phil Robertson a direct question and Phil gave him a direct and honest answer. Hilarity ensued. I did read that GLAAD says that the next step here is for Phil Robertson to go meet some gay families and have them share his values with him. I think it’s pretty funny that they think they’re in a position to start telling Phil what he has to do to get back in their good graces. I rather doubt that Phil has the slightest interest in making GLAAD happy.

    I figure that either a) Phil and his family ignore GLAAD entirely or b) they go meet some gay families and Phil uses the opportunity to explain his beliefs to them and exhorts them to change their ways.

  10. 10
    RonF says:

    As far as rights go, Phil’s First Amendment rights have not been interfered with. Whether his overall rights to free speech are being interfered with is a function of what their contract with A&E is. If there is a currently active contract between A&E and the Robertson family I’d be interested to see what the terms are for terminating the contract with the family or with any one member of it, and what rights A&E has to removing anyone or editing anyone out of the show. If there is no contract for the next season, then A&E may well be within their rights to just say “We’ll shoot the next season without Phil.”

    Whether that’s a smart business move is another question entirely. Here’s what may be a foreshadowing. The Country Kitchen restaurant chain told their customers that they were pulling DD merchandise off the shelves because of Phil’s offensive remarks (if you’ve never been in one, they serve what they deem old-fashioned country-style food and there’s a “general store” selling all manner of knickknacks and gifts and such in each one – the latter doubtless being a major part of their income).

    Two days later that merchandise was back after they were just flat out inundated with e-mails and faxes and phone calls telling them in no uncertain terms that they were about to lose a major portion of their clientele over this. They also apologized profusely to their customers through any media they could.

  11. 11
    Copyleft says:

    Breaking News: Redneck Hillbilly Exposed as Bigot–Literally Dozens Shocked!

    “I haven’t been this stunned since the House Republicans voted for the 34th time to repeal Obamacare again,” says Mississippi Redneck. “I mean, who could’ve seen this coming?”

  12. 12
    Elusis says:

    Phil Robertson said in that interview that he thought that homosexual acts are sins. GLAAD claimed that these were hateful statements and demanded A&E do something about it.

    That… is an interestingly sanitized summary.

    “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 compared same-sex sexual behavior to bestiality and promiscuity.

    “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.”

    He described same-sex sexual attraction as “illogical” and did so in distasteful, scatological terms. (I also like how he reduces women to “a vagina.”)

    And of course, don’t forget the whitewashing of racism:

    “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person. Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field. … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ — not a word!

    “Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

    So this is not actually a situation in which GQ said “Hey Phil, so what do you think of gay people?” and he said “well, respectfully sir, my interpretation of Christianity leads me to believe that it’s sinful, and not for me.”

    But feel free to paint him as the victim here – you’ve got plenty of support in the Christian Outrage Media Machine.

  13. 13
    Myca says:

    Thanks for pointing all that out, Elusis. I was on my way here to post on his racial comments. It does not surprise me that someone who seems to lack empathy, decency, and intellectual curiosity in one area also lacks it in another.

    Ta-Nehisi Coates had a great post on this the other day:

    The black people who Phil Robertson knew were warred upon. If they valued their lives, and the lives of their families, the last thing they would have done was voiced a complaint about “white people” to a man like Robertson. Ignorance is no great sin and one can forgive the good-natured white person for not knowing how all that cannibal sausage was truly made. But having been presented with a set of facts, Robertson’s response is to cite “welfare” and “entitlement” as the true culprits.

    The belief that black people were at their best when they were being hunted down like dogs for the sin of insisting on citizenship is a persistent strain of thought in this country. This belief reflects the inability to cope with an America that is, at least rhetorically, committed to equality. One can clearly see the line from this kind of thinking to a rejection of the civil-rights movement of our age:

    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,” [Robertson] 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.

    This is not just ignorance; it is a willful retreat into myth. And we must have the intellectual courage and moral strength to follow the myth through. If swindlers, goat-fuckers, and gay men are really all the same–disinherited from the kingdom of God–why not treat them the same? How does one argue that a man who is disfavored by the Discerner of All Things, should not be shamed, should not jeered, should not be stoned, should not be lynched in the street?

    Bigots gonna big.

    —Myca

  14. 14
    Myca says:

    But, assuming that most people believe that their beliefs are true, would you really say that even if your religious beliefs are absolutely accurate and true, it is still morally wrong for you to follow them?

    Phil, there’s a lot of interesting discussion to be had here, but I’m not sure this thread is the place for it. If you’d like to talk about this more, I can respond in an open thread?

    —Myca

  15. 15
    Phil says:

    A few things to consider:

    A&E has already shot and edited 9 episodes, out of a season total of 10, and they are ready to air in early January. A&E has temporarily suspended Phil Robertson–they didn’t actually fire him–but that suspension is mostly symbolic, since the show is already on hiatus. A&E isn’t choosing not to shoot the 10th episode yet because of Robertson’s comments. Rather, the Robertson family’s agreement is that the show must go on hiatus during duck hunting season, and the network didn’t finish the 10th episode in time.

    “Duck Dynasty” will have its season premiere on A&E in January, and the ratings will be massive. The premiere may well set a record for a cable-TV reality show. The Robertson family will rake in millions through their Duck Dynasty-branded products, and A&E will rake in millions through the ratings bonanza as well as whatever percentage they get from the branded products.

    Everybody involved with this incident will win. The Robertson family wins. Phil Robertson wins. A&E wins. Even GQ wins, earning itself a moment of relevance in an era of dying magazines.

    If swindlers, goat-fuckers, and gay men are really all the same–disinherited from the kingdom of God–why not treat them the same?

    This quote is from Ta-Nehisi Coates, and while I agree with his umbrage in general, I feel like it’s a statement from someone who just doesn’t get the nature of religion from a religious perspective. People who believe their beliefs are true do not feel that they take personal responsibility for the implications of those beliefs. Why would they? To many, if not most, religious people, a religious belief is factually correct in the same way that a scientific belief is.

    For example, millions of Americans believe that Jews are going to hell (that is, unless they accept Jesus Christ as their savior and stop being religiously Jewish.) That’s a terrible, horrible thing for people to think. But if it’s true–that is, if it is factually correct that Jews will go to hell when they die–then how can someone be expected to stop believing it just because the implications are horrible? If the truth is horrible/icky/insert-your-own-adjective-here, the truth doesn’t stop being the truth.

    I feel like this relates to my earlier comment about whether it’s reasonable to tell someone their religion is morally wrong when they, in fact, believe it to be true, and while I think it’s not really off-topic wrt to the Robertson kerfluffle, I’d be happy to discuss it in an open thread, if that’s preferable. (Myca and Ampersand?)

  16. 16
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Eleusis,

    I think the focus on anal sex is because, for the most part, the teaching of the New Testament and of the early church holds *that particular act* (and maybe others like oral sex) to be immoral. It doesn’t consider male-male *attraction* to be immoral, nor other particular behaviours (living together, nonsexual forms of affection, even kissing, etc.) to be immoral. And therefore, that’s the specific act that’s under debate, not gay *orientation*. I don’t know what Phil Robertson believes about same sex orientation, but the teaching of, for example, the Catholic church, and of conservatives within my church, and of the Orthodox church, is that same sex attraction itself isn’t a sin. For what it’s worth, Catholic and Orthodox teaching also condemn anal and oral sex when performed by opposite-sex couples, or more generally any sex act that doesn’t culminate with the deposition of semen in the vagina.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t have an opinion on whether anal sex is immoral or not, though I’m quite certain that other forms of affection between same-sex couples are fine. I think there are reasonable arguments to be made on either side, and that calling people you might disagree with ‘homophobic’ (or conversely, ‘un-Christian’, is an intellectually shameful way of evading the issue). I also don’t happen to think that Phil Robertson engaged the issues in a particularly thoughtful or charitable way. That said, the reason he brought up anal sex is because, for a lot of us, that is the particular issue over which the moral debate lies.

  17. 17
    Ampersand says:

    I feel like this relates to my earlier comment about whether it’s reasonable to tell someone their religion is morally wrong when they, in fact, believe it to be true, and while I think it’s not really off-topic wrt to the Robertson kerfluffle, I’d be happy to discuss it in an open thread, if that’s preferable. (Myca and Ampersand?)

    I have no objection at all to the discussion continuing in this thread, as long as it’s interesting. :-p

  18. 18
    Elusis says:

    I think the focus on anal sex is because, for the most part, the teaching of the New Testament and of the early church holds *that particular act* (and maybe others like oral sex) to be immoral.

    I personally don’t care why he holds any particular belief or has any particular interest in a particular body part.

    A&E cared that he aired his opinions about body parts and the people who possess them, in public, in a vulgar and fairly aggressive fashion, while representing A&E in the public mind. As well they might.

    What I care about, is that he is not some kind of victim – of A&E, of GLADD, of liberals, of gays, of black people, of people who hate America and Freedom and Christianity and Apple Pie ™. He is a guy who chose to say some stuff in the particular way he did, and to double down when called on it, and as noted above in point 7 from Popehat, other people get to respond, which does not equal stripping him of his rights or victimizing him.

  19. 19
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: A&E cared that he aired his opinions about body parts and the people who possess them, in public, in a vulgar and fairly aggressive fashion, while representing A&E in the public mind. As well they might.

    Eleusis, would you care if a Christian radio station fired someone for expressing pro-choice issues, or for expressing feminist critiques of Christianity?

    I don’t really care one way or the other about Phil Robertson, and I’m probably much less attached to free speech in the abstract than you are, but I do think the distinction between the government persecuting you for your opinions and your job firing you for your opinions is more than a bit artificial. Firing people for opinions you disagree with is an extremely effective way to get people to clamp down on opinions you don’t like (and a lot cheaper than sending them to prison), as many governments, business owners and other varieties of ruling classes have discovered before now.

    Also, sexual ethics are not the most important kind of ethics, but they do matter, and I wouldn’t want to see debates about sexual morality (whether it be the moral issues surrounding contraception, abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, casual sex, polygamy, etc.) shut out of the public square.

  20. 20
    Phil says:

    Also, sexual ethics are not the most important kind of ethics, but they do matter, and I wouldn’t want to see debates about sexual morality [list of issues that some Christians find objectionable] shut out of the public square.

    On the one hand, you’re suggesting that certain issues should not be shut out of the public square. On the other hand, you seem to be selecting as examples issues where you are likely to be the one holding the offensive position. What if someone made a statement exactly like yours, but with other issues? If someone said: “I don’t want to see debates about morality (whether it be the moral issues surrounding miscegenation, females driving, women voting, racial inferiority, etc.) shut out of the public square”–would you consider that person to be making exactly the same point as you? Or would those words fall differently upon you?

  21. 21
    Myca says:

    Okay, then!

    So there are a bunch of answers to the issues you raise in Post #7, Phil.

    When I read this exchange:
    Ampersand:

    that still wouldn’t be an excuse for homophobia and racism. It would just make it morally wrong to remain a Christian.

    Phil:

    I agree with you that religious beliefs are not exempt from criticism. But, assuming that most people believe that their beliefs are true, would you really say that even if your religious beliefs are absolutely accurate and true, it is still morally wrong for you to follow them?

    1) The question that immediately struck me is one that theologians have been grappling with for a long time – how does morality exist. Is morality the same as “what God thinks” or does morality exist external to God, and he perfectly conforms to it?

    You can think of this as the, “would it be immoral to stomp an infant to death if God told you to,” question.

    If your answer is “No! Stomping babies is still immoral, no matter what,” then you believe that morality exists external to God (and religion), and it’s possible for a religion to tell it’s followers to do something that’s nonetheless immoral, no matter how much they believe it’s right.

    If your answer is “Sure! Human sacrifice is fine, as long as God tells you to,” then you view God as the final definition of morality (it’s a little like “if the president does it, it’s not a crime”) So congratulations! Human sacrifice is moral now, and so is biblically-mandated homophobia!

    The only flaw is that by this standard there is literally nothing that can be said to be immoral as long as someone views it as their religious obligation. It’s perfect moral relativism. 9/11? Totally moral.

    As you may have guessed, I subscribe to the first view, because the second is utterly incoherent.

    And within the viewpoint of morality being something external to God that God is in perfect accord with, it’s legitimate to criticize a religion (or a God) when they do things that are immoral.

    2) The second, less metaphysical answer, is that personal interpretation always has and always will play a large part in what you think your religious obligations are. Do you believe slavery is moral? No? But the Bible does. You (a generic you) believe in the Bible. Why don’t you believe in slavery too?

    Oh, because it was written in another time, and you have to take context into account, and clearly slavery is immoral, we don’t stone adulterers or force young girls to marry their rapists either, etc…?

    Right. The same applies here. “What the Bible says” may be static, but “how it’s interpreted” is not.

    3) Finally, religions are ‘chosen’ to some extent. This didn’t just happen. Phil Robertson made a choice to attend a church that believes these things, and he could make a choice to attend a different one.

    I’m reminded of a perennial problem in tabletop RPGs, where a player will try to get away with some sort of deeply antisocial behavior by saying, “Well, this is just what my character would do.” As in, “It’s not me who decided to stab you in the kidneys and steal your horse. It’s not me who decided to lead the party into a trap and then teleport away. It’s all my character! What a jerk he is!”

    The response is always the same: “You made him. Go make a new character who isn’t an asshole.”

    The same applies here. You don’t get to shrug away responsibility for your decisions by saying “Well, but my religion maaaakes me.”

    You picked your religion, so it’s on you.

    —Myca

  22. 22
    RonF says:

    He compared same-sex sexual behavior to bestiality and promiscuity.

    Yup, he did. He seems to think that the Bible considers them roughly equal. I don’t think that’s a particularly controversial interpretation of the Bible. I should imagine that across the spectrum of Christianity hundreds of millions of people would share that view. As far as his comments regarding black people goes, they seem quite ignorant – but that’s not why GLAAD complained and why A&E suspended him.

    The premiere may well set a record for a cable-TV reality show.

    This year’s season premiere actually did. I imagine that this controversy will not affect next season’s premiere’s ratings negatively.

    What I care about, is that he is not some kind of victim …. He is a guy who chose to say some stuff in the particular way he did, and to double down when called on it, and as noted above in point 7 from Popehat, other people get to respond, which does not equal stripping him of his rights or victimizing him.

    He is seen as a victim. Not because people responded to what he had to say by deploring his viewpoint. That would be expected. Where he is seen as a victim is when advocacy groups such as GLAAD put pressure on A&E to take him off the air. Such action is seen as an attempt to silence him and to cost him money. It’s one thing to counter free speech you don’t like with more free speech. But getting him bounced off of DD is seen as an attempt to stop him from speaking freely.

  23. 23
    Elusis says:

    Hector: I was fired over a speech issue, speech that had nothing to do with my work, speech that had no reference to my employer, that was not even connected to my real name.

    So I’m more than familiar with the issues here.

    Speech made as a representative of an employer, or done on the employer’s property/services/dime should be handled differently from speech outside of one’s work sphere, in my opinion. There is little legal remedy if the employer is not a government entity – California even has a law protecting employees’ off-duty speech rights, but at-will employment law and the deep pockets of corporations mean it is rarely and narrowly enforced even in egregious cases. (I essentially had to become a lay legal scholar on this matter, see above.) And I feel fairly strongly that, in this era of too few jobs for too many unemployed people, this is a real problem that interferes with peoples’ exercise of their free speech rights.

    When doing their job, or representing their employer however, things look much different.

    I would defend an evangelical Christian’s right to vote, march, or donate money in support of opposition to gay marriage without losing her job as a manager at the grocery store. I would not defend her and say she deserves to keep her job if she were the county clerk refusing to issue a marriage license to a gay couple, i.e. doing her job.

    I would defend Phil Robertson’s right to vote, march, or donate money to opposing gay marriage as a private citizen.* I will not defend him and say he deserves to keep his job when he makes vulgar, aggressively anti-gay comments in an interview with the media, i.e. doing his job.

    *Marching might be a tough one here – I wouldn’t know him from Adam, but if he and his rather recognizable family went together, sporting their signature all-camo outfits, thereby visibly identifying themselves with the A&E/Duck Dynasty brand, it would start to get murky real fast.

    I’d still like to know, which conservative commentators defending Robertson in this case, also defended the Dixie Chicks, or Martin Bashir, etc. etc.? Which folks defending Robertson here have done so or will mount an eloquent defense for these other “victims” now?

  24. 24
    Phil Thibedeaux says:

    Myca,

    I don’t have an argument with what you’ve written, in the sense that I don’t really disagree with what appear to be your viewpoints.

    However, when you write:

    You can think of this as the, “would it be immoral to stomp an infant to death if God told you to,” question.

    Well, I personally think that it is intrinsically immoral to stomp an infant to death, and would be so even if God told me to–but that is easy for me to say because I don’t believe in God.

    My point is not that I personally evaluate the actions of religious people and nonbelievers differently because religious people might think they are right because of their religion.

    My point is that, even if you’re trying to not have a debate about religion per se, you can’t really avoid it, because the statement “Your religion is morally wrong” is intrinsically linked to the statement “Your religion is factually wrong.”

    The only flaw is that by this standard there is literally nothing that can be said to be immoral as long as someone views it as their religious obligation. It’s perfect moral relativism. 9/11? Totally moral.

    I wouldn’t say that’s the only flaw, but it’s a big one.

    I’m not engaging in moral relativism. I’m happy to condemn people’s actions, whether they be based on religion or not. I just think it’s worth pointing out that when I criticize the actions of the 9/11 terrorists, I’m coming from the standpoint that their religious beliefs are false and their actions are morally wrong. It’s unavoidable.

    In other words, I think I’m actually saying less than you think I’m saying. I’m not suggesting a change of policy or a change of action. Amp was right: if you believe your religion requires XYZ, then your religion may be immoral. But your religion is also false, and when we discuss religions in this way, we are tacitly acknowledging their falsehood without saying it out loud. Let’s not lie to ourselves about that.

    It kind of boils down to this: some religious beliefs are palatable. And some religious beliefs are icky. But all religious beliefs are incorrect. In our culture, we try really hard not to point out the incorrectness of religious beliefs, because it’s rude. So, when we’re faced with one of the icky beliefs, we still try to pretend that we’re not pointing out the incorrectness of the belief system that begat the icky belief.

  25. 25
    delurking says:

    The thing is, though, Phil, plenty of people *are* making the argument that this Duck Dynasty fellow is justified because his religion/God told him to do it.

    And while this isn’t as extreme as Vox Day’s famous argument that he would kill a toddler is God told him to, it’s on the spectrum.

    Apparently, according to those who are arguing in support of homobigot Duck Dynasty Guy, if God tells you to be a bigot, then it’s right to be a bigot. If God tells you to kill babies, it’s right to kill babies.

    The fact that Duck Dynasty guy deliberately *chose* the interpretation and the sect of Christianity that allowed him to be a bigot, as Myca points out, is being entirely ignored here. There are literally hundreds of Christian sects that do not require him to be a bigot. He could have joined any one of those churches. Instead, he sought out and became a preacher in one that allowed — no, encouraged him — to hate as deeply and strongly as he could.

    That’s not following God. That’s making God in your own image.

    We call that hubris where I come from.

  26. 26
    Ampersand says:

    My point is that, even if you’re trying to not have a debate about religion per se, you can’t really avoid it, because the statement “Your religion is morally wrong” is intrinsically linked to the statement “Your religion is factually wrong.”

    Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. If Lucy tells Linus “your interpretation of this passage of Genesis is open to doubt,” I don’t think that’s the same as saying “your religion is factually wrong,” unless the passage in question is really really central to the religion. In Christianity and Judaism (don’t know about others), there’s some wiggle room for interpretation of texts built in.

    Also, one can imagine a religion that is both factually correct and morally wrong – you just have to imagine a creator-God who is evil. I can’t say for certain that such isn’t the case.

    But yeah, basically I’m with you — all religions are factually mistaken.

  27. 27
    Myca says:

    if you believe your religion requires XYZ, then your religion may be immoral. But your religion is also false, and when we discuss religions in this way, we are tacitly acknowledging their falsehood without saying it out loud. Let’s not lie to ourselves about that.

    Umm … yes and no.

    I mean, obviously, I think that their religion is wrong on “are gay people damned to hell,” but I don’t think that that requires challenging them on issues like “the divinity of Christ.”

    I’ll focus on the immoral, harmful beliefs of (some) religions, because those are what I care about, and those are what help fuck up my world.

    I mean, look, I’m an atheist too, but I don’t think we need to have the “YOUR GOD IS A FANTASY” fight in place of the “Stop being an egregious dick to gay people” fight, because the second one is hard enough.

    Moreover, the huge numbers of committed Christians who don’t see homosexuality as immoral show that that kind of bigotry isn’t a necessary component of theist belief.

    —Myca

  28. 28
    Croatus says:

    Elusis: “I was fired over a speech issue, speech that had nothing to do with my work, speech that had no reference to my employer, that was not even connected to my real name.”

    I think there’s a real difference between TV/Entertainment and “real life” workers.

    Basically, the job of the entertainment people is to get high ratings without having too much advertiser trouble. If they stir up controversy without losing advertisers – perfect. Sometimes they go over the line, and that applies to both sides of politics. It just depends on whose ox is being gored.

    In the case of “real life” people, though, it’s a lot more problematic. A cop who was found to be making bigoted remarks against a segment of society on his off-duty blog may well have that used against him if he is sued for shooting a handcuffed member of said segment. And I wouldn’t really want cops like that policing me.

    That can basically be applied to any non-entertainment job. If a white woman hates blacks, I wouldn’t want her to be my social worker if I were black. If a black guy hates whites, I wouldn’t want him making my hamburger if I am white.

  29. 29
    alex says:

    That… is an interestingly sanitized summary… He compared same-sex sexual behavior to … promiscuity.

    That’s the most facinating thing about this. The HRC and GLAAD are outraged that gays are being compared to adulterers, drunks and sluts. The ignominy of all those conventional suburban gays with their white picket fences and SUVs being compared with those fucking deviants. Things have come a long way since Stonewall and the GLF.

  30. 30
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    One obvious problem with using god as a basis for morality is that there is more than one competing religion out there. So for any issue on which the religious moralities conflict, you can reduce the moral arguments to a question of “whose god is right” or (in the case of competing there-is-no-god-but-God monotheistic religions, “whose god actually exists.”)

    I think that may have been what Phil was getting at. The choice between gods, or between multiple sects which putatively worship the same god, is often just a proxy for the larger moral debate. And I agree that it’s mostly politeness and politics which leads us to say “well, according to many moderate Christians, Christianity doesn’t require you to hold those bigoted views” instead of “are you fucking nuts? Do you seriously expect us to live our lives according to a group-authored book written thousands of years ago by some dudes?”

  31. 31
    JutGory says:

    Elusis @23:

    I’d still like to know, which conservative commentators defending Robertson in this case, also defended the Dixie Chicks, or Martin Bashir, etc. etc.? Which folks defending Robertson here have done so or will mount an eloquent defense for these other “victims” now?

    I don’t think either of those examples are perfectly analogous (though I suppose most analogies are not perfect).

    Regarding Bashir, the distinction would be that his remarks were scripted (as opposed to Robertson’s off-the-cuff remarks). This distinction is important because, for all those complaining about the vulgarity in Robertson’s remarks, I think it is fair to contrast the style (and content, to some extent) of something said extemporaneously from something that was scripted (i.e. deliberately fashioned in a certain way). There is also the distinction between Bashir, whom I understand is supposed to be a “journalist” (as opposed to a “commentator”) on a “serious” news station, and Robertson, whose position is strictly that of an entertainer of sorts.

    As for the Dixie Chicks, I only vaguely recall the details of the controversy, but my recollection is that the boycott against them came largely from their fans. There may have been outrage stoked by other people but DC’s remarks were probably a legitimate news item and the publicity of those remarks outraged their fan base. Their fan base felt insulted by them. It is a bad move to upset your customers.

    Robertson is different in the sense that his fans were probably not offended by his statements. And GLAAD’s constituents probably are not fans of the show. So, GLAAD had to go to A&E (or sponsors of the show, which I would find more defensible than going after A&E) to retaliate against him. GLAAD’s efforts were organized in a greater sense than the DC boycott was.

    Rhetorical question: When is GLAAD going to call for a boycott of GQ for printing the interview?

    -Jut

  32. 32
    Ampersand says:

    You’re mistaken, Jut; the Dixie Chicks faced a large boycott, in which radio stations – the equivalent of A&E in the analogy – faced far more pressure to drop the DC than A&E is facing.

    Despite numerous clarifications and apologies from Natalie Maines and the Dixie Chicks, a full on boycott of their music was called for by pro-Bush, pro-war, and pro-American groups. Their single “Landslide” went from #10 on the Billboard charts, to #44 in 1 week, and the next week fell off the charts completely. Radio stations who played any Dixie Chicks songs were immediately bombarded with phone calls and emails blasting the station and threats of boycotts if they continued. Even radio DJ’s and programmers who sympathized with the Dixie Chicks were forced to stop playing them from the simple logistics nightmare the boycott created. Some DJ’s who played the Dixie Chicks were fired.

    Dixie Chicks CD’s were rounded up, and in one famous incident were run over by a bulldozer. Concerts were canceled in the US as the Dixie Chicks couldn’t sell tickets, and rival concerts were set up that would take Dixie Chicks tickets in exchange. The Dixie Chicks lost their sponsor Lipton, and The Red Cross denied a million dollar endorsement from the band, fearing it would draw the ire of the boycott.

    Despite the boycott efforts, it was clear that the DC hadn’t lost all their fans:

    Meanwhile, Dixie Chicks were preparing for their nationwide Top of the World Tour; some general death threats led them to install metal detectors at the shows.[54] At the first concert on the tour, the group received a positive reception. Held in Greenville, South Carolina, on May 1, it was attended by a sell-out crowd of 15,000 (tickets for most of the shows had gone on sale before the controversy erupted[55]). The women arrived prepared to face opposition—and Maines invited those who had come to boo to do so—but the crowd erupted mostly in cheers.

    Since Gladd never called for a boycott of A&E, it seems a bit weird to expect them to call for one of GQ. Even if GLADD had called for such a boycott, though, I don’t think it would make sense to call for a boycott of GQ. GQ’s role in this was one of a journalist, not one of a broadcaster or employer.

    It should be noted that Phil Robertson hasn’t been “fired.” He has been “suspended,” at a time when the show’s filming was on hiatus anyway. Does anyone doubt that he will be un-suspended in time for the next season to be filmed? The main way that comparing the two things is a sham is that what happened to Robertson isn’t nearly as extreme or harmful as what happened to the Dixie Chicks. But in both cases, I think what happened wasn’t how things should happen.

    That said, I’d be against any boycott of A&E or GQ over this, for the reasons given in my post.

  33. 33
    JutGory says:

    UGH! Forgot to mention Alec Baldwin (as another example that could be raised).

    I think AB’s firing is more analogous to Robertson than Bashir. AB was fired (suspended, canceled, whatever) for an impulsive statement he made off the air and not in his role as an MSNBC commentator. MSNBC acted more quickly against him than it did against Bashir; of course, the low ratings of his show probably made it an easier decision for MSNBC. And, though GLAAD did condemn him, I don’t recall that their ire was directed at MSNBC.

    -Jut

  34. 34
    Jake Squid says:

    Maybe I’ve missed it but could somebody point me to where I can see GLAAD’s ire directed at A&E?

  35. 35
    gin-and-whiskey says:

    Regarding the unrestricted-speech-for-employees issue:

    It would be quite difficult to set up a dividing line based on some sort of “compelling work function” or “content of what they say” because there are always so many exceptions and because speech is inherently such a complex issue.

    Moreover, with respect to private employers there is a real balancing of rights: it’s simple to say that “private actions shouldn’t impact employment” to help a worker… but that ignores the fact that other workers (and customers!) are people, too. If I find out that my secretary is a Nazi sympathizer, why on earth should I be forced to work with him? Even if I’m a middle manager at Coca-Cola, why should I be forced to supervise him, and write reviews for him, and aid him with professional issues? Why should I be forced to deal with the fallout if my customers spot him walking in the KKK rally?

    Seems like the most reasonable compromise would be to have a cutoff (50 employees?) above which there was
    1) a default “free speech;”
    2) unrestricted ability to contract around it, including an ability to make those contracts a condition of employment.

    It wouldn’t make a material change for smaller employers, who would retain their same ability to fire people for whatever they want. It would force the big employers to be up front about what they want from their employees, though, whether it’s “don’t do anything stupid which mentions our company or while you’re wearing company apparel” or “don’t say anything controversial, ever, even in private.”

  36. 36
    alex says:

    There wasn’t any ire, they’re all on the same side. GLAAD raised the comments with A&E, A&E got back to them the same day suspending him, GLAAD then patted them on the back for being so respectful.

    http://www.glaad.org/blog/duck-dynastys-phil-robertson-uses-vile-stereotypes-tell-gq-his-thoughts-lgbt-people

    http://www.glaad.org/blog/ae-network-places-star-indefinite-filming-hiatus-following-anti-gay-remarks

    It’s just all very normalised and quotidian.

  37. 37
    Jake Squid says:

    It’s just all very normalised and quotidian.

    And we can all be thankful for the normalizing of ostricization of bigotry.

  38. 38
    nm says:

    The Dixie Chicks were an interesting case. The stations that banned their music didn’t do so individually; they were part of a network (Cumulus) owned by the Sinclair family, known for its support of conservative causes and willingness to tailor their broadcasting policy to partisan politics. The stations that continued to play the DC’s music (either locally owned or part of the ClearChannel network) were indeed bombarded by calls and complaints, mostly from people outside their listening areas and who didn’t listen to the stations anyway. (This is according to news articles that included interviews with some of the program directors and station managers at independent or ClearChannel stations.) So the DC are a good analogy for the Duck Dynasty folks, in the sense that the complaints against them didn’t come from their target audience; they are a bad analogy in the sense that the people initially banning them were motivated solely by ideology, whereas A&E seems to be motivated by concerns over ratings and advertisers. (I would be shocked to learn that Robinson doesn’t spout this stuff all the time, which clearly doesn’t bother A&E so long as they can leave it out of the way they edit their show.)

    So it’s not just a situation of people complaining about the way Robinson was treated who didn’t care when the Dixie Chicks were treated the same way. It’s more a situation of the same people who worked hard to manufacture outrage against the DC complaining about how Robinson is treated.

  39. 39
    Phil says:

    Apparently, according to those who are arguing in support of homobigot Duck Dynasty Guy, if God tells you to be a bigot, then it’s right to be a bigot. If God tells you to kill babies, it’s right to kill babies.

    I’d think that is the majority viewpoint of people who hold the traditional view of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good. They might not think about it much, but it’s inherently part of the belief system.

    If I find out that my secretary is a Nazi sympathizer, why on earth should I be forced to work with him?

    It’s interesting to consider which is more important: what a person believes, or what a person does. (Let’s assume that saying something is an action.)

    If a person’s private diary were stolen from their locked house, and it contained heinous bigoted statements, would that make me, as a co-worker, feel differently than if said person were quoted in an interview? Etc.

    Moreover, the huge numbers of committed Christians who don’t see homosexuality as immoral show that that kind of bigotry isn’t a necessary component of theist belief.

    Right. And of course, theist beliefs can get a lot scarier and more horrific than what Robertson has exhibited.

    I just think it’s interesting, the dance we do. I guess it has something to do with my upbringing: when I was growing up, I was raised to believe that asking me to change one single tenet of my faith was equivalent to asking me to change my religion.

    I realize I’m weird about this, but I just find it somehow dishonest to present evidence that I personally do not find persuasive in support of an argument I am making just because I know the evidence that I personally find persuasive will be impolite or icky to my listener.

    I understand that doing this may be more polite, and it may be more effective, and it may in fact be the lesser of multiple evils. I just think that we, as a culture or society, should be willing to just _consider_ the notion that it’s dishonest to make arguments that we don’t personally find persuasive.

    It happens on the other side, too. When an orthodox Catholic like Brian Brown or Maggie Gallagher cites a scientific study that seems to show that gay couples make bad parents, it’s dishonest. Unless they are opening to schisming with both living popes and rejecting the dogma that they, by virtue of their other public writings, consider to be infallible, then they are being intellectually dishonest. Scientific evidence does not alter the inerrant word of god.

    Again, I’m not necessarily suggesting a change of policy or action in the way we carry out our discourse. It is possible that, all things considered, this is still the best option. I’m just saying that we should be willing to kick the tires on this idea: that if I present an argument or evidence to you, in an attempt to change your mind, but I already know that if that argument or evidence were the exact opposite, it wouldn’t change my mind, then I am knowingly being dishonest.

    Thus, if I say, “The Book of Leviticus says you can’t eat shellfish, so why do you harp on the gay passages?” I know that I am being dishonest. Because even if every credible scholar in the world discovered that the shellfish thing were a typo, I wouldn’t give a flying fuck. I would simply switch to a different argument, because my position was never based on that argument on the first place.

    I’m not trying to be combative. As I said, I totally get why we do this. I just think it is fun, and possibly worthwhile, to discuss the ins and outs of it.

  40. 40
    Elusis says:

    Does Robertson being reinstated after an essentially meaningless hiatus strengthen or weaken the argument that he’s some kind of victim here? Discuss.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/27/phil-robertson-back-duck-dynasty_n_4509697.html

  41. 41
    RonF says:

    So A&E figured out that they’d blown their business plan. They’re going to paper it over with some PSA’s “promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people”, but I guess someone figured out that they need DD’s audience more than they need GLAAD to be happy with them.

  42. 42
    Ampersand says:

    Ron, I agree that the Duck Dudes definitely had the better hand. As well as being wrong for the reason I suggested in my post, A&E’s strategy was just plain lousy. They made themselves look insincere and stupid, and they didn’t even help lgbt rights at all.

    What if they had responded to Robertson’s bigoted statements by saying “the solution to bad speech is more speech”? They could have offered to produce a couple of informal “dinner table debates” (modeled after the debate between Dan Savage and Brian Brown, where Phil could sit down and discuss the issues in a respectful way with folks like (say) Rachel Maddow and Ta-Nehisi Coates.

    Of course, Phil might refuse – but then, instead of A&E looking like jerks, Phil would look like a coward. And in the best-case scenario, Phil would have agreed, and who knows? Maybe the resulting debates would have been enlightening for people to watch. Stranger things have happened.

    * * *

    Although the Ducks clearly had the stronger hand here, I doubt their hand was as strong as some of their fans believe. Being sued for breach of contract is no joke, and unlike most reality show actors the Duck folks have enough money to be worth suing. I suspect that not only was A&E highly motivated to reach an agreement with the Ducks, but the Ducks were also highly motivated to agree. Note that they didn’t get the apology to Phil that the “reinstate Phil” petition demanded.

  43. 43
    Ampersand says:

    Phil:

    I realize I’m weird about this, but I just find it somehow dishonest to present evidence that I personally do not find persuasive in support of an argument I am making just because I know the evidence that I personally find persuasive will be impolite or icky to my listener. [...]

    if I present an argument or evidence to you, in an attempt to change your mind, but I already know that if that argument or evidence were the exact opposite, it wouldn’t change my mind, then I am knowingly being dishonest.

    I honestly don’t think I’m doing this.

    At least in my mind, when I get into this argument, I’m arguing against the proposition “my religion gives me no choice but to oppose same-sex marriage.” If I argue, “that’s not true, because A B and C” – “A” being the fact that there are multiple ways of interpreting Biblical passages (for instance, Phil Robertson obviously isn’t a literalist when it comes to Paul’s injunction against men having long hair), “B” being that secular governments should not be expected to faithfully replicate religious law, “C” being that sincere Christians can disagree about same-sex marriage – those are three arguments that I genuinely believe to be true.

    And if I can be persuaded that those three arguments (and a couple of related arguments) are false, that would change my opinion – I might have to agree that in order to remain a Christian, they have no choice but to oppose legal same-sex marriage.

    Of course, having changed my mind on my A argument, I’d then move to my B argument – being a Christian is an immoral choice – but nonetheless, I would have changed my mind regarding my “A” argument. :-p

  44. 44
    KellyK says:

    So this is not actually a situation in which GQ said “Hey Phil, so what do you think of gay people?” and he said “well, respectfully sir, my interpretation of Christianity leads me to believe that it’s sinful, and not for me.”

    Exactly! The question was, What do you think is sinful?, not What do you think of gay people. Nobody asked for his views on gay people. Nobody asked for his views on anal sex. (And I find it really ironic that when a conservative Christian man says “vagina” and “anus,” that’s fine, but let a female representative utter the word “vagina” when it’s actually relevant to the topic of discussion, and suddenly it’s horribly crass and she needs to be made to sit down and shut up.)

    And as a Christian, I find it pretty offensive that Robertson and his supporters treat “don’t be gay” as the heart of Christianity—not “love thy neighbor,” not “Jesus died for your sins,” not “care for the poor and needy,” but “don’t be gay.” There are *maybe* six verses in the Bible that mention homosexuality, and that’s if you really stretch to turn the bits about temple prostitution and gang rape of foreigners into blanket condemnations of same-sex anything. Out of what, thousands? And yet the first thing that comes to Phil’s mind when you ask him about sin is “the gays.”

    It’s also worth pointing out that the doctrine that being gay is a sin is responsible for a lot of suffering (bullying, suicide, homeless gay teens, etc.). It’s not some neutral difference of opinion that poor innocent Phil is being picked on for.

  45. 46
    Phil says:

    I honestly don’t think I’m doing this.

    Oh, I didn’t mean for what I wrote to sound especially accusatory. I think that presenting arguments that one does not personally find persuasive is so ingrained in our discourse that we all do it at times.

    And I don’t have a problem with the notion that something might be dishonest but still be the best or most respectful choice. So when I say that it’s dishonest, I’m being sort of academic.

    However, I think you are using semantics to equivocate:

    “A” being the fact that there are multiple ways of interpreting Biblical passages

    You write that you believe this to be true, and I believe you. But while you believe this argument to be true, I don’t think you actually believe the interpretations of the passages to be true. So you say, honestly, that you believe your evidence or argument (A) by creating an extra level of remove between you and the evidence/argument.

    It is fair to say that “there are multiple interpretations of X” means something different to a person who believes fervently that X is divinely revealed truth than to a person who is speaking from a literary analysis standpoint.

    If I were arguing with someone who made the claim that Salieri killed Mozart and cited, as evidence, a passage from the play “Amadeus,” I could claim, truthfully, that there is more than one way to interpret that play.

    But I would still be engaging in dishonesty because I know that “Amadeus” is a fictionalized account.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that I have a moral obligation to insist to the other person that “Amadeus” is not a credible source. It is reasonable to choose not to argue about something.

  46. 47
    RonF says:

    Amp:

    Although the Ducks clearly had the stronger hand here, I doubt their hand was as strong as some of their fans believe. Being sued for breach of contract is no joke, and unlike most reality show actors the Duck folks have enough money to be worth suing.

    Except that (as I pointed out above) neither you nor I know what the nature or duration of the contract between A&E and DD is. For all we know, at the conclusion of the shooting of the upcoming season’s episodes there is no contract between them anymore. And if there is, we don’t know what the terms are. The fact that A&E caved so quickly leads me to suspect that when DD said “No Phil, no show,” they had the law on their side. But we’ll never know.

    Of course, Phil might refuse – but then, instead of A&E looking like jerks, Phil would look like a coward.

    Or that he’s just not interested in having the debate on this particular topic take over his life and has what he considers better uses for his time. The fact that he’s said something that others disagree with does not obligate him to let those who disagree with him consume his time and resources debating them.

    And in the best-case scenario, Phil would have agreed, and who knows? Maybe the resulting debates would have been enlightening for people to watch. Stranger things have happened.

    I do agree that this would be the best case scenario. I’d be quite interested in listening – as long as it’s not run by a moderator and is a direct one-on-one between Phil and someone who would represent the alternate view. It would be interesting to see if the people that Phil would be talking to would listen to him as much as they expect him to listen to them.

    I suspect that part of the problem here is that A&E thought they were dealing with a bunch of ignorant hicks. I think they mistook a difference in culture to mean a difference in intelligence and sophistication and didn’t realize that the folks at DD were just as smart as they are.

    KellyK:

    And as a Christian, I find it pretty offensive that Robertson and his supporters treat “don’t be gay” as the heart of Christianity

    I would find that offensive too. But what I don’t find is that he did that. He was asked what he considered sinful behavior was. I don’t think the definition of sinful behavior in Christianity = the heart of Christianity. If I was asked “what do you think is sinful” and “what do you consider the heart of Christianity” I’d give two different answers.

  47. 48
    Ampersand says:

    For all we know, at the conclusion of the shooting of the upcoming season’s episodes there is no contract between them anymore.

    That would be unlikely. Before this whole controversy happened, the DD crew negotiated big raises and a multi-year renewal, according to the usual media outlets that reports on such things (for example).

    Or that he’s just not interested in having the debate on this particular topic take over his life and has what he considers better uses for his time.

    He clearly considers topics like gay sex, how happy Blacks were under Jim Crow, and (most recently) why men should seek to marry 15-year-old girls, important enough to bring it up again and again in public – including when giving a public speech to other Christian conservatives. So the “it’s not worth my time” excuse wouldn’t wash, imo. However, this is all speculation; maybe he would have agreed to some debates, if

    I suspect that part of the problem here is that A&E thought they were dealing with a bunch of ignorant hicks

    I doubt that the A&E folks – who have, after all, been in a business relationship with the DD crew for years, and just before this controversy went through months of what were reported to be very tough negotiations with the DD folks – think the DD folks are ignorant hicks. I could buy that they may have thought so three years ago, but I don’t think that’s plausible for three months ago, unless you think that people get to run networks by being total idiots about their own business.

    Ron, do you think there’s any “redneck-face” going on with Duck Dynasty? These are a bunch of very sophisticated college graduates – I think at least some of them have graduate degrees, right? – who seem to be trying their best to look like hicks for TV, in a very obviously scripted “reality” TV format that is structured a lot like a standard sit-com. I’ve only seen one episode; do they ever talk about their backgrounds, or their college experiences, on the show?

  48. 49
    KellyK says:

    I would find that offensive too. But what I don’t find is that he did that. He was asked what he considered sinful behavior was. I don’t think the definition of sinful behavior in Christianity = the heart of Christianity. If I was asked “what do you think is sinful” and “what do you consider the heart of Christianity” I’d give two different answers.

    And yet his fans seem to believe that any criticism of that stance is an attack on Christianity itself. And I have to say that during this whole fiasco, despite it being the middle of an important holiday season, I saw an awful lot more “Duck Dynasty” talk on Facebook from the evangelical Christians I know than anything religious about Christmas. Yes, that’s one little non-representative sample, but I still think it’s telling.

    Evangelical Christians (and Catholics to a lesser extent) *have* defined opposition to homosexuality as, if not the absolute heart of Christianity, one of the main tenets. If you aren’t opposed to homosexuality, you’re definitely not viewed as a real Christian in evangelical circles. “Don’t be gay,” may not be rule #1 for evangelicals, but it’s probably rule #3 or 4 at least. (“Oppose abortion,” and “Vote Republican” are also near the top of the list.) It’s definitely one of the rules. If you don’t believe “gay = evil” is an evangelical rule, watch people like Rachel Held Evans be denounced as “not real Christians” when she says such horribly shocking things as “gay kids deserve unconditional love from their parents.” (Fred Clark who runs the Slacktivist blog at Patheos has a lot of good stuff on this topic.)

    There’s also the fact that what you define as sin shows where your morals are. The first thing that comes out of your mouth when you’re asked about sin (f you’re a religious person) is likely to be the thing you think is most wrong, the thing you’re most opposed to from a religious standpoint. What you label yourself as opposed to says an awful lot about your priorities.

  49. 50
    mythago says:

    Probably because it’s an easy sin to avoid, if you’re straight. Shunning material wealth, refraining from angry speech, loving the ‘least of these’ – that shit’s hard, even if Jesus said they were very important. If I am a Christian, and I say those things are important, then there’s some pressure on me to behave accordingly, even though it may be enormously tempting for me to buy another video game instead of donating that $50 to the poor, or to tell an obnoxious atheist he’s an asshole. Whereas if I simply pick things that I can’t do or am extremely unlikely to do, it’s much easier to be a good Christian, by my standards; I might as well say “The Lord dictates that we do not hover in the air” as a priority.

  50. 51
    Robert says:

    “[SOME] Evangelical Christians (and Catholics to a lesser extent) *have* defined opposition to homosexuality as, if not the absolute heart of Christianity, one of the main tenets. If you aren’t opposed to homosexuality, you’re definitely not viewed as a real Christian in [SOME, EVEN MANY] evangelical circles. “Don’t be gay,” may not be rule #1 for [THOSE] evangelicals, but it’s probably rule #3 or 4 at least. (“Oppose abortion,” and “Vote Republican” are is also near the top of the list.)”

    Fixed that for you. I don’t get to no-true-Scotsman the ironclad intolerants out of my theological circle, but you don’t get to monolithize the big tent that is evangelicalism (or Catholicism) either.

    Evangelical voters in the Presidential races in the US, probably the easiest and clearest proxy for party alignment, have run about 70-30 R-D in recent contests. That’s a strong preference, but equally clearly not a rule of identification.

  51. 52
    JutGory says:

    Mythago@50:

    Whereas if I simply pick things that I can’t do or am extremely unlikely to do, it’s much easier to be a good Christian, by my standards

    I am not sure if this comment was specifically made with respect to Phil Robertson, but I think many have observed that he also listed drunkenness and promiscuity as sins and that he had no problem lumping himself into those categories.

    So, it would not be fair to say that P.R. only listed sins he was unlikely to commit, though I think he hopes that those days are over.

    -Jut

  52. 53
    Ampersand says:

    It’s not asking all that much of yourself to condemn vices that you literally have not indulged in, in decades. Certainly, he doesn’t ask as much of himself as he asks of lesbians and gay men.

    Here are some Biblical passages that I don’t think we’ll ever see Phil Robertson apply to himself in a literal fashion:

    Matthew 6:24: No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

    James 5:1-6: Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter.

    Luke 12:33: Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

    Luke 18:25: For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.

    Oh, and let’s not forget 1 Corinthians 11:14: :-p

    Doesn’t nature itself teach you that it is disgraceful for a man to have long hair?

  53. 54
    JutGory says:

    Amp:

    It is hard to say how he might apply the passages regarding money to himself. I don’t know how he spends his money or whether he “serves two masters.” I do not know his charitable activities. He may live humbly, despite his wealth.

    The family was certainly willing to throw A&E away over the deal; money was secondary to their principles. A&E, however, was the one who caved (probably over the money issue).

    The long hair quote is odd and I am not sure what it means. As I understand it, specific “hairstyles” are very important for Orthodox Jews, and the Old Testament has many references to short hair (or cutting off your hair) as being a sign of mourning. Given that Paul was Jewish, I don’t know what he was getting at.

    It would seem to me that short hair (and grooming habits) would be a sign of vanity (and P.R.’s appearance is definitely that of an ascetic).

    Ack! Maybe Paul was just trying to appeal to his metrosexual Roman compatriots!

    -Jut

  54. 55
    mythago says:

    JutGory @52: No, not about Robertson in particular, just a follow-up to Kelly’s comment about the sort of folks who make sure this Onion article never gets old.

    Regarding Amp’s comment, I think the point is that if one is going to say “look at this verse in the Bible, that’s what it says, full stop” then such logic applies just as well to long hair on men – a verse that, IIRC, used to be cited quite a bit a generation ago – as it does to a prohibition on intercourse between men.

  55. 56
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: On the other hand, you seem to be selecting as examples issues where you are likely to be the one holding the offensive position. What if someone made a statement exactly like yours, but with other issues? If someone said: “I don’t want to see debates about morality (whether it be the moral issues surrounding miscegenation, females driving, women voting, racial inferiority, etc.) shut out of the public square”–would you consider that person to be making exactly the same point as you? Or would those words fall differently upon you?

    I’m struggling to see how best to answer this, since your starting premises are clearly a bit different than mine.

    In answer to your question, obviously, no, in general, I don’t want to see *every* idea debated in the public square. Every society, be it America or Cuba, shuts out some ideas from public discussion. (I’d probably end up excluding some of *your* ideas as subversive of social order, so you might want to be careful here). I think we should be able to debate issues like the morality of particular sex acts, because I don’t think those issues are clear cut, and I think you can make a good case for or against the morality of those acts. In answer to your *specific* question, that depends entirely on what you mean by terms like ‘racial inferiority’. I’d like us to have a general social agreement that people of all racial groups are of equal value, and that the state should be equally attentive to their welfare. On the other hand, I have a big problem when people try to shut down discussion of, for example, genetic causes for behavioural or cognitive differences between races or genders. Scientific debates should be based on evidence, not political fashions. Fortunately, I think those kind of debates are getting more mainstream now, and you can have those discussions in public contexts without immediately getting shut down, whereas twenty years ago a lot of people still bandied about ideas like ‘race/gender is a social construct’.

    So no, I agree with you in principle that society has every right to shut some ideas, that it judges to be subversive of social order or virtue, out of public discussion. I just disagree with you about what ideas those include.

    Phil Robertson, himself, has certainly said some objectionable things about race and Jim Crow, and I find his stuff about gays being dishonest, God-hating, etc. equally objectionable. If you want to shut him down for those things, I don’t really disagree. I do think it’s troubling when any statement like “I believe **** sex act is immoral” is automatically termed ‘bigotry’, because that shuts down any discussion of sexual morality, period.

  56. 57
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: I’d think that is the majority viewpoint of people who hold the traditional view of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good

    No, it isn’t. What you cite is something called divine command theory. The alternative is natural law theory, which says that morality is inherent in nature, and not arbitrarily dependent on divine will. Some Protestants (Calvinists, most especially), and Sunni Muslims, for the most part, believe in divine command theory. (The former Pope Benedict laid out a great exposition of the differences between Christianity and Islam in his Regensburg address). However, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, some Protestants, and (I’m told) many Shia Muslims believe in natural law. We might believe that God has a better insight into what morality requires than we do, but we don’t believe that he creates it. (With respect to *certain* moral commands, the only reason to follow them may be because ‘God says so’, but in that case the underlying moral virtue is that of obedience- the commands themselves are only of value because they’re a way to express obedience.)

    Of course, that doesn’t really solve the issue of whether any particular sex act is moral or immoral, because even if God has not forbidden homosexual acts (or certain homosexual acts, or certain sex acts whether they be performed by gay people or straight ones), they might still be immoral for other reasons. In any case, leaving God aside, it is not clear why the default assumption should be that any particular sex act is moral.

    None of that has any relevance to the gay marriage debate, of course. The state already legally allows all kinds of marriages that Christians might disapprove of- childless marriages, ‘egalitarian’ marriages between divorced people, marriages between Jews and Christians- so I don’t see that including same sex marriages to the list is a problem.

  57. 58
    Ampersand says:

    I do think it’s troubling when any statement like “I believe **** sex act is immoral” is automatically termed ‘bigotry’, because that shuts down any discussion of sexual morality, period.

    How does that occur, exactly? Does the word “bigotry” cause some intense chemical reaction in your brain that leaves you incapable of forming words with your mouth or your keyboard, and therefore all discussion is shut down, period?

    If not, then I can’t see how your statement is true.

    It does seem to me that your statement is, itself, an attempt (but I hope a failed attempt) to shut down discussion of bigotry.

  58. 59
    Ampersand says:

    Regarding Amp’s comment, I think the point is that if one is going to say “look at this verse in the Bible, that’s what it says, full stop” then such logic applies just as well to long hair on men – a verse that, IIRC, used to be cited quite a bit a generation ago – as it does to a prohibition on intercourse between men.

    Thanks, Mythago. That’s precisely what I meant.

    Every conservative Christian I’ve ever met makes many big exceptions to the idea that the Bible should be read in a literal, straightforward fashion, whether it’s about wealth, or slavery, or long hair. It is inescapable that Christians are choosing which passages to read literally, and which passages to interpret in less straightforward ways. So it’s clear that the choice to condemn homosexuality because of what it says in the Bible is exactly that – a choice. (And it’s a choice that not all Christians make.)

  59. 60
    Ampersand says:

    Phil, I don’t see the dishonesty.

    After all, it’s not like I keep my unbelief a secret. (Not that it would matter – In my experience, any Christian I argue with pegs me as an unbeliever within two sentences, anyway.)

    Let’s say we have a page which has an account of how Jerry crossed the ocean. It says, “Jerry walked across the body of water and only his feet got wet.” You believe the account to be true, I believe it to be fiction, and we’re both aware of the other’s view.

    In what way am I deceiving you if I point out that there’s more than one way to interpret what Jerry did?

  60. 61
    JutGory says:

    Amp,
    I may be non-responsive over the next few days (and I want to respond to Mythago), but I feel compelled to inquire (yes, it is a compulsion that I can’t resist right now): define what you mean by “bigot.”

    I suspect you have done it before (I am almost certain of that), but, if you want to discuss it, let’s be sure we understand our terms, because my view of it may be far different than yours. And, I may have a much different point of view about what constitutes bigotry than you do.

    Or don’t. By the time I get back online, I may be completely distracted by some puppy video on YouTube that I forget what we were even discussing.

    -Jut

  61. 62
    mythago says:

    Hector @56, setting aside the usefully vague definition of ‘shut down’ – your comments about “public discourse is so much more refreshing and scientific than twenty years ago” are exactly the same arguments I was hearing, well, twenty years ago. We are always emerging from a quite recent Dark Ages when the frowny warriors of equality were persecuting evolutionary biologists’ Galileos and only now are we starting to bathe in the warm light of Science. (Of course, when I was a slip of a girl, it was “thank goodness the tabula rasa theories of the 1970s feminists have been discarded. Nowadays, the revised story is that the 1970s feminsts’ radical stances were quite understandable, given the sexist excesses of the time.)

    One hears the same arguments from the Bell Curve crowd, of course, on race.

  62. 63
    Phil Thibedeaux says:

    Amp, I think that you are correct, even though I don’t think I’m wrong, exactly. I’m just being more abstract.

    In other words, if a person makes arguments 1 through 10, and argument 3 is the one where they do what I’m talking about (present evidence that they don’t personally find persuasive), then what I’m saying is, let’s look at argument 3 and only argument 3, and ignore arguments 1-2, and 4-10, and see if this specific particular style of argumentation is dishonest.

    And the specific, particular style of argumentation that I am talking about is what I have been calling: presenting evidence that you do not personally feel is valid.

    The question you seem to be approaching, though, is: “Am I, Amp, being dishonest when I use this specific style of argument?” And you answer that question “no,” because you are not deceiving your audience, because it is clear and understood that you, Amp, do not find the evidence you’re presenting to be persuasive.

    And I think I agree with you. But I think that’s because the evidence that you believe to be false comes with an asterisk, and that asterisk is attached to the understanding that you believe it to be false.

    Let’s say we have a page which has an account of how Jerry crossed the ocean. It says, “Jerry walked across the body of water and only his feet got wet.” You believe the account to be true, I believe it to be fiction, and we’re both aware of the other’s view.

    I’m not sure why you replaced my hypothetical example (about Salieri killing Mozart) with an even more hypothetical example..(?) At least with regard to Salieri and Mozart, there’s an actual text (Amadeus), and there are actual people in the real world who hold the (erroneous) factual belief that Salieri killed Mozart because of it. Those people are wrong not because they are misinterpreting the text, but because they misunderstood the text to be a relevant non-fictional piece of evidence.

    So, if I am re-phrasing the arguments in the following situations in light of your last post, it boils down to:

    I believe that Amadeus is a highly fictionalized work, and thus should not be taken as evidence to determine who killed Mozart. But even if it were not highly fictionalized, you can interpret the text in a different way and conclude that Salieri did not kill Mozart.

    Even though I believe that this page about Jerry crossing the ocean is complete hooey, I understand that you believe it to be truthful. However, you can still interpret it differently.

    Even though I believe that the Bible is an historical document containing popular myths, I understand that you find its text to be divinely inspired. However, you could interpret those texts differently and come to a different conclusion about this one specific matter.

    …to which I’d say, sure. If it is completely understood by every person who hears your argument that you are presenting evidence that you don’t personally find relevant, then you’re not really being dishonest. You’re just presenting the other person with another option that you can see within their own false belief system–and you are making it clear that you are doing so.

    So perhaps my analysis needs to be more specific and better-phrased? In other words, I could say:
    It is dishonest to imply that evidence is valid when you personally do not believe that it is.

    In your situation, since you have reason to believe that your audience knows you’re not implying that the evidence is valid, then you’re not necessarily being dishonest.

    Thanks for being willing to kick the tires on this one, though.

    Hector:

    What you cite is something called divine command theory. The alternative is natural law theory, which says that morality is inherent in nature, and not arbitrarily dependent on divine will.

    That’s all well and good, Hector, but I don’t think you’re responding to what I wrote. You seem to be writing about your own beliefs, and I was speculating about the set of people who “hold the traditional view of a God who is omnipotent, omniscient, and all-good.”

    Here’s a thought experiment: there are at least 247 million Americans who claim to believe in God. Let’s give all of those Americans a poll, and ask 1) What is “divine command” theory? 2) What is “natural law” theory? and 3) Is God does ever wrong?

    I’m gonna go out on a limb and predict that the majority of god-believing Americans will not be able to explain the two theories you’re discussing–certainly, not to the degree of nuance that you can, but that the majority of those Americans will say that God is never wrong. Do you disagree with my prediction?

    I’m not talking about the beliefs that you think that Americans ought to hold based on their denominational identification. I’m just talking about the beliefs that Americans, in all probability, actually hold.

    You cannot possibly think that a majority of Americans have read and understood Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address.

    Now, it’s possible to argue that, even though person A believes God is never wrong, person A does not believe it would be moral for God to ask them to stomp an innocent baby to death because, since God is never wrong, God would never do that.

    But the comment I was responding to doesn’t allow for this possibility, because

    If God tells you to kill babies, it’s right to kill babies.

    –assumes that God is already asking you to do it.

    Of course, God will never ask anyone to do that, not really. But that’s because God is imaginary and all supernatural beliefs are hooey. It has nothing to do with either natural law or divine command theory.

    I just want to be perfectly clear about that, so you don’t get the impression that I personally find either of those superstitious schools of thought valid in the slightest. :)

  63. 64
    Phil Thibedeaux says:

    In answer to your *specific* question, that depends entirely on what you mean by terms like ‘racial inferiority’.

    Well, no, it doesn’t, because if you are redefining the terms I was using to make them less offensive, then you misunderstand my question, which was, in context:

    you seem to be selecting as examples issues where you are likely to be the one holding the offensive position. What if someone made a statement exactly like yours, but with other issues?

    The point was that you said you don’t want to see certain debates shut out of the public square, and I was trying to figure out if there was anything you maybe would want to see shut out of the public square, and the answer is: sure.

    We all seem to think that there are certain debates that are beyond the pale, such that if you engage in them publicly you probably deserve some degree of scorn.

  64. 65
    KellyK says:

    Fixed that for you. I don’t get to no-true-Scotsman the ironclad intolerants out of my theological circle, but you don’t get to monolithize the big tent that is evangelicalism (or Catholicism) either.

    Okay, sure, people exist who fit the theological definition of “evangelical” who don’t fit those criteria. But, for the most part, they’re not people who those evangelicals would view as real Christians. (See again Fred Clark and Rachel Held Evans.) By and large, being anti-gay and politically conservative is a major part of being accepted within that subculture. Or at least, the part of that subculture I grew up in. Maybe the fact that I grew up in a rural and extremely conservative area skews things further in that direction than you would see in other places.

    But, do you actually know of any evangelical churches or denominations that *aren’t* anti-gay? Or don’t lean heavily politically conservative?

  65. 66
    closetpuritan says:

    The point was that you said you don’t want to see certain debates shut out of the public square, and I was trying to figure out if there was anything you maybe would want to see shut out of the public square, and the answer is: sure.

    We all seem to think that there are certain debates that are beyond the pale, such that if you engage in them publicly you probably deserve some degree of scorn.

    See, this is what I find frustrating about discussions with Hector. He often seems to respond as if he lives in a world where, any moment now, he or someone with extremely similar beliefs to him will become dictator of the world.

    whereas twenty years ago a lot of people still bandied about ideas like ‘race/gender is a social construct’.

    “Still”? “Gender is a social construct” is more complicated and means different things to different people, so that one depends on what exactly you mean. But “race is a social construct” is something that I think, aside from [much of] the evo-psych crowd, is pretty uncontroversial in scientific and academic circles. It sounds weird/unbelievable to a lot of people on first hearing it; probably for the same reason it sounded unbelievable to me on first hearing it (when I was in middle school, maybe?)–a lot of people think at first that it means that features such as differences in skin color and hair texture are illusory and/or evenly distributed among the different “races”. But what it actually means is that while those features are real, the races as discrete categories are not real. Similar to how different languages and different historical periods break color into more or fewer different categories–some Asian languages have only recently started using separate words for “green” and “blue”, and some languages only have two colors, light and dark, and many are somewhere in between in the number of color categories, and there’s no discrete line in the middle of greenish-blue where we can say, “THAT is definitely on the Green side, and THAT is definitely on the Blue side”–anyway, the categories are based on real differences, but the categories themselves are not “real”–there’s no “right” or “wrong” answer to whether you should have separate words for green and blue or put them in one category.

    If “race is a social construct” is so universally rejected as you claim, Hector, why does the US Census website state “The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country and not an attempt to define race biologically, anthropologically, or genetically.”

    In any case, leaving God aside, it is not clear why the default assumption should be that any particular sex act is moral.

    I think if you leave God aside, the default assumption for any act is that it’s moral. I don’t see how it could be otherwise if you leave God aside. I don’t know I’d even call it a “default assumption” so much as, “people opposed to homosexuality have had a long time to try and make their case, and none of it has been convincing to us”.

    I could even argue that homosexuality is morally superior to heterosexuality, since you’re eliminating most unintended pregnancies.

  66. 67
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: I think if you leave God aside, the default assumption for any act is that it’s moral. I don’t see how it could be otherwise if you leave God aside.

    I don’t think invoking God affects morality as much as you think (except maybe in the case of a few things where a commandment has been given *for no other reason*.) In the absence of a divine comman, you could still make an argument against particular sex acts based on a whole variety of other reasons.

    Re: “people opposed to homosexuality have had a long time to try and make their case, and none of it has been convincing to us”.

    Sure, but other people have been convicned, and some of the difference here is going to come down to differing moral intuitions. For example (to bracket the whole subject of sexual orientation for a minute), lots of people would argue, and have, historically, that *straight* anal sex is immoral, for reasons having to do with misusing sexual organs and sexual faculties contrary to their purpose, for purity/disgust based reasons, or on the basis of health risks. None of those is as simple as ‘God says so’.

  67. 68
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Closet Puritan,

    When I say ‘race/gender is a social construct’, I’m referring to the idea that race and gender don’t have a biological basis and the differences between racial groups, or between men and women, are due primarily to social/cultural conditioning rather than biology.

    Stephen Hsu dismisses that idea pretty neatly here:

    http://infoproc.blogspot.com/2008/01/no-scientific-basis-for-race.html

    Re: But what it actually means is that while those features are real, the races as discrete categories are not real. Similar to how different languages and different historical periods break color into more or fewer different categories

    Height isn’t a discrete feature either. Neither is body shape, or hair color, or any number of a variety of behavioural traits. ‘Species’ isn’t actually, in principle, a discrete category either. (Often species are practically discrete, because all the interfertile intermediates are not around, but plants of different species can hybridize all the time, and the reproductive definition of species breaks down completely for bacteria). All of these terms refer to continua of variation, yet we still find them useful.

    Re: The racial categories included in the census questionnaire generally reflect a social definition of race recognized in this country

    Yes, because the Census Bureau definitions don’t actually correspond to biologically meaningful racial groupings. For example, they treat East Asians and Indians as subgroups of an ‘Asian’ race. In reality, Indians have nothing in common with Chinese. (Nor are they just dark-skinned white people, they’re a mixture of two racial groups, one related to modern Persians and the other related to modern Andamenese). That said, the fact that the Census Bureau doesn’t think about race properly doesn’t mean we should use it as a category at all.

  68. 69
    closetpuritan says:

    Hector, I don’t think anyone is really claiming that physical features like skin color or hair texture are the result of cultural conditioning. (Leaving aside tanning, skin and hair bleaching, etc.). Now maybe what you’re trying to say is that you think that “non-superficial” differences, e.g. in IQ or work ethic, are biologically based, and even the Stephen Hsu you linked to says “As scientists, we don’t know whether (this) is correct”. I think the main difference between camps is whether one takes a “beyond a reasonable doubt” attitude about proving racial differences or not.
    Re: height isn’t a discrete feature–yes, and that’s why we don’t have discrete categories for it. And my sister has dark lond hair, and I have light brown hair, but the “categories” are different despite us sharing about 50. Percent of our DNA.

  69. 70
    closetpuritan says:

    Hector, WRT sexuality and morality, I was specifically talking about the idea that sexual acts would be assumed immoral unless proved moral, when everything else is assumed moral unless proved immoral. (NOT an argument that the only justification given is “god said so.”) I don’t think you get there without a theistic worldview. And the “convincing” thing was specifically questioning the idea that it is simply a “default assumption”–I don’t think in our culture that anyone has not been exposed to many arguments for why homosexuality is immoral.

  70. 71
    Myca says:

    lots of people would argue, and have, historically, that *straight* anal sex is immoral, for reasons having to do with misusing sexual organs and sexual faculties contrary to their purpose

    It’s disingenuous to assert Natural Law as a nonreligious argument for homophobic moral assertions, as Natural Law is at least as much shitty theology as it is shitty philosophy, and that’s if I’m being generous.

    —Myca

  71. 72
    closetpuritan says:

    Also, Hector, what you and Hsu are referring to as race sounds like what I would call ethnicity. I don’t know if the majority of people using the phrase “race is socially constructed” are using it the same way as me, but although both race (my definition) and ethnicity have social elements, ethnicity is a lot less arbitrary and subject to change (e.g. Irish and Italians weren’t always considered white) than race. (There is some discussion of this in the comments of your link, e.g. “A social scientist’s definition of rce is race as it manifests in societies, ie as a societal structure… What a social scientist means is that there is no basis for race as a social structure

  72. 73
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: Now maybe what you’re trying to say is that you think that “non-superficial” differences, e.g. in IQ or work ethic, are biologically based

    Partly, but I think there’s even some resistance to the idea that, for example, differences in metabolism and in medical risk factors for various diseases (diabetes, for example) show biologically rooted racial differences (as opposed to sociologically based ones). I think the evidence is pretty strong that they are, but some would disagree. What does your reference to ‘reasonable doubt’ mean?

    Re: height isn’t a discrete feature–yes, and that’s why we don’t have discrete categories for it

    I think it’s best not to think about race in discrete categories either. Most people have mixed ancestry when you trace it back far enough- there are virtually no ‘unmixed’ people in the world. I’d prefer talking about race as a comparative thing: for example, comparing the amount of West African ancestry in northeast Brazilians vs. southern Brazilians, comparing the amount of East Asian ancestry in Tajiks vs. Mongolians, etc.. All of us occupy points on a continuum, but because of historical migration patterns, etc. we tend to ‘cluster’, and that’s why it can be meaningful to talk about racial groups.

    Myca,

    Natural law is a philosophical school of reasoning, not a theological one (and you can use the term ‘natural law’ in a sense broader than the modern followers of the Aristotle/Aquinas synthesis like to use it). I realize you find it unconvincing or rather ‘sh*tty’, but many people do find it convincing. Regardless, there’s nothing necessarily ‘theological’ about natural law reasoning, unless you consider all reasoning about inherent purposes to be theological. I don’t.

    Re: What a social scientist means is that there is no basis for race as a social structure

    I mean, white Americans and African-Americans really are different, though there are plenty of people in the middle. *Most* people who self-identify as Black have around 80% African ancestry, and most people who identify as white have less than 10%. Castes in India represent distinct racial groups too, although there the borderlines are more blurry. I don’t think it’s necessary to have sharp boundaries in order to make talking about categories meaningful.

  73. 74
    closetpuritan says:

    Hector,
    What does your reference to ‘reasonable doubt’ mean?
    Meaning that if the evidence we have seems to indicate that a given difference is just a bit more likely to be genetic than environmental in origin, the people who are in one camp will say, OK, it’s probably genetic, that’s what we’ll assume for the time being, and the other camp will say, let’s not assume that it’s genetic unless we’ve got a lot stronger evidence.

    I’m glad that you accept that most people have some race mixing if you go back far enough in their ancestry, and that there aren’t discrete racial categories with a biological basis. Again, I think that your definition of race is pretty far from what most people mean when they say, “race is a social construction”. I’m not sure about most people in my “camp” but I will say that I don’t have trouble believing that some racial categories are more prone to certain diseases, but I also think we must be very cautious when those diseases are also associated with low socioeconomic status and the race in question tends to have lower socioeconomic status. (Diabetes is affected by SES so we should be skeptical; sickle-cell anemia, we don’t really need to be skeptical of.)

  74. 75
    Myca says:

    I realize you find it unconvincing or rather ‘sh*tty’, but many people do find it convincing.

    Ah, no. I don’t find it unconvincing (or I don’t find it just unconvincing), I find it shitty.

    I find Kant’s ethics unconvincing. I find Berkeley’s metaphysics unconvincing. They’re both magnificent, unconvincing as they are.

    Natural law is shitty.

    Linkie

    shit·ty (sht)
    adj. shit·ti·er, shit·ti·est Vulgar Slang
    1. Of very poor quality; highly inferior.
    2. Contemptible; despicable.
    3. Unfortunate; unpleasant.
    4. Being in a state of discomfort or unhappiness; miserable.
    5. Incompetent; inept.
    6. Trivial; insignificant.

    Natural Law philosophy meets the first definition, and probably several others.

    The reason I’d use this term specifically is that Natural Law philosophy/theology is founded on a logical fallacy, the ‘Naturalistic Fallacy.’ It’s not just unconvincing, in other words, it’s bad philosophy. It’s ‘of very poor quality.’ It’s ‘highly inferior.’ It lacks rigor. It lacks cohesion. It’s shitty.

    It’s like Objectivism, with the addition of being a stealth apologetic for Christian morality. At least Objectivism is honest in its wrongness.

    Incidentally, it doesn’t surprise me that you’d find Natural Law convincing, since, “many people do find it convincing,” is a logical fallacy too.

    As far as the theology of it goes, virtually the only people pushing Natural Law these days are religious-types looking for a beard for their ‘God Said’ morality. There are occasional exceptions (just as there are occasional climatologists who will take the buck to claim anthropogenic climate change isn’t real), but I am flatly unaware of any respected nonreligious moral philosopher who takes it the least little bit seriously. There’s a reason for that.

    —Myca

  75. 76
    closetpuritan says:

    What Myca said about Natural Law being used almost exclusively by religious types looking for a non-religious argument. It doesn’t explicitly invoke God, but I think you’re not going to find it convincing unless you think the universe and the human body are set up the way they are for reason. (Not a cause-and-effect reason, a “they should be this way” reason.) And the only people I myself have come across using Natural Law arguments are Catholic Christians.

    Personally, I’ve always thought it odd that, according to Natural Law, oral sex (for example) is a perversion of the intended purpose of our genitals, but bicycles aren’t a perversion of the intended purpose of our feet. Or for that matter, that the focus is on oral sex as a perversion of the intended purpose of our genitals and not the intended purpose of our mouths.

  76. 77
    closetpuritan says:

    It’s kinda beating a dead horse at this point, but I just came across two posts by Ta-Nehisi Coates discussing the idea of “race is a social construct”. The second post, conveniently, is called “What we mean when we say ‘race is a social construct’”.

    If you tell me that you plan to study “race and intelligence” then it is only fair that I ask you, “What do you mean by race?” It’s true I don’t always do math so well, but I understand the need to define the terms of your study. If you’re a math guy, perhaps your instinct is to point out the problems in the interpretation of the data. My instinct is to point out that your entire experiment proceeds from a basic flaw — no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.

  77. 78
    Hector_St_Clare says:

    Re: My instinct is to point out that your entire experiment proceeds from a basic flaw — no coherent, fixed definition of race actually exists.

    I don’t see how that’s a flaw. There is no fixed, coherent definition of ‘light’ and ‘darkness’ either, but we can certainly study the influence of light and photoperiod on how organisms function.

    You can define race along a spectrum, and look to see if there is a correlation between IQ and ‘Percent Ancestry from ____ group”. (Fill in the blank- Ashkenazi Jewish, Ancient South Indian, West African, etc.). Or you can use self-identification, which usually correlates pretty well with actual genetic ancestry. African Americans in the U.S. have about 80% West African ancestry on the whole. It’s perfectly possible for some self-identified ‘white’ people to have more African ancestry than some self-identified black people, but as long as there are genetic differences between the two groups *in the aggregate*, we can still investigate the question.

    Of course, knowing that IQ differs between two groups and that IQ is largely (probably about 50%) heritable doesn’t really tell you, in theory, whether the difference between the groups is due to genetics, or to early childhood environment, or to different prenatal conditions, or any number of other causes. Short of artificial wombs, we aren’t ever going to be able to really equalize environments completely.

  78. 79
    JutGory says:

    File this under the “whoc cares what you have to say (as if we ever did) file:

    Mythago @ 55 and Ampersand @ 59

    First off, I am not a literalist when it come to the Bible. But, I suppose if I were, I would observe that long hair being “disgraceful” does not mean it is “sinful.”

    I am more of the mind of Ned Flanders, when he confessed:

    Why me, Lord? I’ve always been good. I don’t drink or dance or swear, I’ve even kept kosher just to be on the safe side. I’ve done everything the Bible says! Even the stuff that contradicts the other stuff

    !

    Certain passages in the Bible require interpretation in order to understand them, if for no other reason that there are so many on a particular subject. Amp’s quotes regarding money are a perfect example, because there are a number of parables in the New testament regarding using your talents and gifts to produce wealth (“wealth” perhaps, being a metaphor for something else).

    Other examples being Jesus’ comments on the Sabbath and Paul’s direction whether gentiles were required to observe Jewish Law.

    I would bet that the two items that receive the most treatment in the Old Testament and for which there is little or no variance throughout the Bible are: 1) the prohibition of idolatry (one of the Ten Commandments); and 2) the prohibition of human sacrifice (God’s command to Abraham). There may be others, like bearing false witness, but these two seemed to be the ones that caused the Jews the most trouble (probably because they were marrying those Gentiles!).

    Other items are treated much less often, such as: 1) divorce; 2) homosexuality; and 3) cheeseburgers (milk and meat, specifically, but dietary laws, generally). There is strong unequivocal language about divorce in both the Old and the New Testaments (even though I believe it was permitted in the Old Testament). The Catholic Church takes that direction to heart, while the Anglican Church practically founded itself upon ignoring those passages. Homosexuality is probably mentioned less often, but, likewise, in unequivocal terms. As for the dietary laws (not to mention circumcision, which is a pretty big deal in the Old Testament, as well), Paul absolved the Gentiles of adhering to them, paving the way for the Bacon Double Cheeseburger.

    But, I do not think I would necessarily characterize an interpretation as a “choice,” so much as I would look at whether it is an “honest” or “earnest” interpretation. And, that applies both to those who believe homosexuality is sinful as it does to those who think it’s okay.

    -Jut