Yes and no. Two thoughts:
(1) This is a prime example of the intolerance of the new tolerance. The new tolerance asserts that all viewpoints are equally valid and thus any viewpoint that asserts itself right over and against another viewpoint, is deemed “intolerant” and unfortunately, is frequently silenced.
This is the opposite of true dialogue, cultural progression, and respectful tolerance. Russell Moore has said it well:
If the reports are true that the reality TV star’s suspension was due to his stated views on homosexuality then I hardly think silencing him can be called open-minded. In fact, it’s the sort of censorious cultural fundamentalism that is neither “progressive” nor “pluralistic.”
Let’s have the sort of cultural conversation that allows us to seek to persuade each other, not to seek to silence one another with intimidation. That’s what real diversity is all about.
2. Does any Christian really want to defend Phil Robertson’s specific comments? Even if you agree with his understanding of what the Bible says about marriage and sexuality (I do!), surely you must recognize that his comments were crude, wrong-headed and insensitive. There was nothing of the spirit of Christ about them.
I wonder if part of the problem is that many have actually not read some of his comments. I’ll copy them below, but warning: graphic language.
“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.”
On race and Civil Rights:
“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.”
We’re a long way from “let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt” (Col. 4:6). As Christians who believe in the authority of God’s Word in all of life (including sexuality and marriage), this is the kind of speech we want to distance ourselves from, not defend.
So should Phil Robertson have been fired? I don’t think so. It goes down as another example of the small-mindedness of the new tolerance–doling out censure in the name of openness, silencing in the name of conversation.
But should Christians defend Phil Robertson? Well, yes and no. Defend his right to express his viewpoint and certainly defend the Biblical understanding of marriage and sexuality. But let’s make it clear that we find this kind of attitude and speech reprehensible as well.
It not only matters what we say, it matters how we say it.
“But set Christ apart as Lord in your hearts and always be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you possess. Yet do it with courtesy and respect, keeping a good conscience, so that those who slander your good conduct in Christ may be put to shame when they accuse you. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if God wills it, than for doing evil.” (1 Peter 3:15-17)