Tangential thought (or, when my brother-in-law beat Al Mohler to the punch)

Lending my voice to the Duck Dynasty controversy would be something like offering a whisper to a windstorm. If you’re (un)fortunate enough to have real winter where you live and you’re just now emerging from a blackout and you want to know what all the shouting is about you can bring yourself up to speed here. On the other hand, if you’re (un)fortunate enough to be without real winter or blackouts you can sample some mature Christian responses to the fallout here, here, here, and here.

Since I have nothing original to offer how about a tangent instead? This morning I was thinking about the stark contrast between Phil Robertson’s declaration concerning sin & homosexuality and the mealy-mouthed statements we sometimes hear from an array of popular pastors (assuming they even speak of such things). By now every Christian in the public spotlight should expect to be solicited for statements regarding sexual morality. Like it or not it’s a major battle front for the American church today. So assuming media savvy preachers have a modicum of forethought what explains for some of their lackluster answers?

Enter Al Mohler’s post on the Duck Dynasty flak. Nearing the conclusion he writes:

So the controversy over Duck Dynasty sends a clear signal to anyone who has anything to risk in public life: Say nothing about the sinfulness of homosexual acts or risk sure and certain destruction by the revolutionaries of the new morality. You have been warned.

Could risk aversion explain why a man who makes his living speaking God’s words offers less clarity on a matter of biblical morality than a man who makes his living by quacking? Set aside the uncouth comments, the camo, and the grooming habits (or lack thereof). Maybe the key difference between Phil Robertson and the media mogul pastor is that Phil doesn’t need positive press to keep the business (i.e. Duck Commander) running. After all, if the media doesn’t help you make bank it’s unlikely they can break your bank. The prime time pastor on the other hand may have significant capital tied up in the market of public opinion. Should the media turn on him the costs would be too great to bear.

Too cynical? Maybe the aversion to risk is fueled by misguided altruism–a desire to protect staff, a ministry platform, or connections that you can leverage for the greater good. My brother-in-law made this very point about a year ago and now that Mohler has seconded the notion I guess I should give it more consideration.

Positive press can be a blessing and a curse–especially when a Christian leader thinks he needs it.

 

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Author: Jonathan P. Merritt

Happily married father of six. Associate pastor for education at Edgewood Baptist Church (Columbus, GA). Good-natured contrarian and theological Luddite. A student of one book.

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