Homosexuality and Ducks

Published 10:49 am Saturday, March 1, 2014

by Brandon Robbins

“Duck Dynasty.”

Just a few months ago, it was one of the hottest shows on television. Its ratings were at the top of the charts, just behind shows like “American Idol” and “Modern Family.” Everywhere you went, you saw “Duck Dynasty” shirts, posters, cups, bassinets.

But recently, something has happened. Since the beginning of their fifth season, “Duck Dynasty’s” ratings and viewership have fallen dramatically. Almost 2 million fewer people are watching the show now than were watching it just a few months ago.

What happened?  How could a show that was at the top of its popularity decline so quickly?

There are probably many accurate answers to that question. But one that seems to have gotten a lot of attention over the past few months is a bit more scandalous in nature.

Just a few months back, Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, gave an interview for “GQ” magazine. During that interview, Phil shares his views on a variety of subjects, most notably, homosexuality. While his view is not that different than most southern evangelical Christians, it is rather crass in nature, and it comes from the mouth of a television celebrity.

For several weeks following the release of this article, television and newspapers were flooded with stories about Phil and homosexuality. A&E Network quickly suspended Phil from the show, and debates arose everywhere regarding the fairness of their action and the veracity of Phil’s comments.

Eventually, Phil was reinstated on the show and the debate cooled down. But the story was not over. There still appears to be a connection between the magazine article and Duck Dynasty’s failing ratings. And the debate over homosexuality is far from over.

This raises an interesting question then: was it worth it? The group who seemed to suffer in this instance more than any other was the cast of “Duck Dynasty.” So was it worth it for Phil to share his beliefs? And more importantly, was he even right?

In the article, Phil paraphrased a passage from the Bible that says this: “Don’t you realize that those who do wrong will not inherit the Kingdom of God? Don’t fool yourselves. Those who…worship idols, or commit adultery… or practice homosexuality…none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10).

Now at first glance, the passage looks pretty straightforward; doesn’t it? The Bible clearly seems to state that homosexuality is wrong. But is there maybe something more going on in this passage?

You see, one of the biggest errors most people make when reading the Bible today is that they only read verses. They will search for one verse in the Bible and hope to find in it the whole truth of scripture. But this isn’t just how the Bible was intended to be read. It’s like reading a line in “Peter Pan” that says, “then Peter flew out the window” and assuming that this was part of “A Brief History of Early American Flight.” Without context, single sentences are easily misunderstood. And the same is true in the Bible.

The only problem is, in this case, most of our Bible translations don’t do us any favors. They don’t even give us a chance to understand that context.

You see, the word translated homosexuality in this passage isn’t actually even describing homosexuality as we witness it today. It was something very specific to the first century context in which Paul is writing.

The actual word Paul uses here is the Greek word “malakoi” which is better translated “soft ones.” There was a practice at that time in which older, wealthier men would have young boys who they kept around them for inappropriate purposes. It was an abusive, pedophilic relationship. And truthfully, it is something we would still abhor today. That’s what Paul is criticizing when he uses the word “malakoi.” So when Paul writes these words, he’s not speaking against homosexuality in general, simply this specific practice.

So what do we do with this? How does it impact the way we understand scripture? Does it make monogamous homosexual relationships acceptable in the eyes of the Bible? Or are there still reasons people might say it is wrong?

That’s why this Sunday, at Courtland United Methodist Church, we’re going to conclude our series called “What Christians Believe” by wrestling with the question: What do Christians believe about homosexuality?

What does the Bible really say? How do we understand the other passages in scripture that appear to condemn it? And most importantly, I believe, how should we respond?

This is one of the most debated topics in our nation and in our churches today. And it won’t likely disappear soon. But what if we could at least understand what the Bible is truly saying?  What if we could at least have a greater assurance of what God desires we say and do and believe? Well, this Sunday, I invite you to come find some of those answers and be a part of the conversation.

BRANDON ROBBINS is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. He can be contacted at 653-2240 or pastor@courtlandumcva.org.