Score one for the good guys. Bowing to pressure from its primarily Christian audience—an audience whose views Phil Robertson expressed when he made his supposedly “offensive” comments—the A&E Network has withdrawn its suspension of the “Duck Dynasty” patriarch. In an unprecedented turn of events, the score is now professing Christians one and politically correct lions zero. How the Phil Robertson controversy resolved itself depended on one man and one man only: Phil Robertson. Ultimately it was Robertson’s resolve—his willingness to stand firmly behind the views he openly expressed even at the risk of sacrificing fame and fortunate—that determined the outcome.
Because he was willing to sacrifice the money, fame, and perks that come with being one of the stars of the hugely successful “Duck Dynasty” program rather than renounce his Christian beliefs, Phil Robertson won the much ballyhooed contest with the miscalculating, politically-correct executives at the A&E Network. As things turned out—predictably in my book—A&E executives are more dedicated to money than the LGBT agenda. They are probably still scratching their heads and wondering where they got it wrong. After all, isn’t it standard procedure for stars and politicians who run afoul of liberal orthodoxy to come groveling on their knees in contrition rather than risk losing a big payday? Perhaps they have never met a Christian. The only good thing that can be said for A&E executives is that they held out longer than Cracker Barrel.
Looking back on their rush to judgment two questions come to mind about the ill-advised decision of A&E executives to suspend Phil Robertson: 1) Did they misread their audience and over-react? and 2) Were they so cowed by the bullying tactics of the LGBT community that they reacted out of fear. The answer to both of these questions is an unqualified “Yes.” However, there was more to the decision than just misreading and fear. In point of fact, A&E executives looked at the bottom line and adopted what they thought was a winning strategy. To placate that element of the LGBT community that specializes in high-volume, highly-publicized attacks any time someone questions their agenda, A&E executives quickly suspended Phil Robertson. This move was intended to quiet the attack dogs from the LGBT community. But what about the Christians who make up the bulk of “Duck Dynasty’s” audience? This is where A&E executives—obviously unaware of how a Christian thinks—outsmarted themselves.
Phil Robertson was suspended indefinitely because A&E executives were counting on the controversy to do what controversies of this sort almost always do: blow over. Their problem is that they didn’t know how long it would take for the controversy to blow over; hence, the indefinite nature of Robertson’s suspension. But that was not much of a problem for the double-dealing executives at A&E. After all, time—they thought—was on their side. It turns out that suspending Robertson was not the courageous act of principled leaders at the A&E Network as portrayed by the LGBT community and its lap dogs in the media. When he was suspended, nine of the ten new “Duck Dynasty” episodes for next season had already been made. In other words, A&E executives were free to suspend Robertson and let the controversy dangle unresolved for a while since his services wouldn’t be needed again until March of 2014 or later. By this time, A&E executives expected the controversy to be well behind them.
Further, A&E executives were banking on the predictable effect that money always seems to have in these situations. The American public has become accustomed to hearing scripted apologies that practically drip with artificial sincerity from public figures forced to choose between their professed beliefs and their wallet. Invariably the wallet wins, and A&E executives were cynically counting on Phil Robertson to fall in line with this trend. This is the gamble A&E executives knowingly made when they suspended Phil Robertson, and this is why Robertson held all the cards in this little winner-take-all game of chicken.
If Robertson truly believed the things he said and believed them deeply enough to sacrifice fame and fortune to stand behind them, A&E was going to lose and lose big. This was the gamble A&E executives were willing to make. Further, they knew how vocal the LGBT community can be in these situations but they had never heard—unfortunately—of the Christian community being so vocal. Christians do not adopt the types of coordinated bullying tactics A&E executives feared from the LGBT community and its supporters on the left, but they do know how to use their remote controls to change channels and they do know how to use email and social media to express their opinions. This is where A&E executives outsmarted themselves. A&E executives actually thought that a month or so down the road they would craft one of those scripted apologies that are now so commonplace in these situations and Robertson—out of fear of killing the goose that laid the golden egg—would deliver it with all the artificial sincerity he could muster. If executives at the A&E Network would have put down their “We-Support-the-LGBT-Agenda” signs for a few hours and asked a real live Christian for advice, they would have known they were miscalculating.
When Phil Robertson publically aired his Biblically-informed views on homosexuality, he was speaking for tens of thousands of Christians who agree with him but have neither the platform nor the fame to be heard on the subject. These are the same Christians who cannot turn on their television sets without being exposed to programming that is not just offensive, it is often demeaning. They are tired of seeing Christians thrown to the lions for professing their views while practitioners of blatant vulgarity and tripe like Miley Cyrus get a pass. One of the ways Christians have expressed their frustration over being marginalized and demeaned in contemporary society is by faithfully tuning in to a television program built around the lives of professing Christians. Consequently, the calculus governing the outcome of the Robertson controversy boiled down this: If Robertson stuck to his convictions he might have lost his show as well as the fame and fortune it brings to him and his family. On the other hand, if he caved in to the predictable pressures, he would lose his Christian audience, his credibility, and possibly his soul. Mr. Robertson, made the right choice. Let’s hope and pray this is the start of a trend rather than a one-time flash in the pan outcome.