Many, many passionate, abundantly Biblically-cited sermons, teachings and theological treatises permeated the American south for hundreds of years arguing that slavery and racial discrimination represented God’s order of creation. There were many Biblical passages about “slaves being obedient to their masters,” and similar things, cited to strengthen such cases.
No one wants to go back and read those now, and how their fury often incited lynchings and angry kangaroo courts that convicted the oppressed of crimes that their white masters committed, even up through the recent period when interracial marriage was ferociously condemned.
Over in Germany earlier in the 20th century, imprisonment and mass genocide against the Jewish people were being justified on similar “Christian” grounds.
The long and short of it is that the “Duck Dynasty” people are remnants of those old days, and, for my money, what was said about racial minorities in the Jim Crow South were the most offensive because of how they were rooted in that history, a history in which prejudice and hate were sanctioned in the name of religion.
Now, we have the predictable legions of the Tea Party right – Sarah Palin, Glen Beck, Fox News commentators and others with Republican political ambitions – coming to the defense of the “Duck Dynasty,” saying the offensive comments by their patriarch, replete with his comical appearance of a 1960s Mad Magazine cartoon, are a Constitutionally-guaranteed expression of “religious freedom.”
What makes the current flap particularly distasteful, however, is the stampede among those in the mainstream media to rally to the “Duck Dynasty’s” defense, on the same “religious freedom” grounds.
Is this because of a bizarre kind of bond among those in the entertainment industry to defend one another one’s off-the-wall “politically incorrect” commentaries?
Without a doubt, there has been a perceptible decline in basic civility in our culture. More and more of what’s in the movies is either gratuitously violent or, in the case of humor, sophomoric and scatological. Fights over spaces in mall parking lots and angry horn honking on roads bely a fundamental loss of courtesy that used to be associated with apparently outdated notions of simple honor and decency.
Nowadays, it seems, no one appears to care that what spews from their own mouth and uncivil behaviors covers them, metaphorically, with their own feces, and it is especially true for those hiding behind veils of anonymity, as in the kind of unbelievable anger and trash that people write in anonymous comments on the Internet or when they cheer wildly at a football game for an injury suffered by their own team’s quarterback when he’s been performing poorly.
See, there is a Biblical notion that has some considerable merit: the Apostle Paul’s observation that it is not what goes into a person’s mouth that defiles him, but what comes out of it.
As religious author Rachel Held Evans wrote in a recent blog, entitled, “Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up Gluttony,” people like Mr. “Duck Dynasty” who spend their energy denouncing homosexuality, instead of gluttony or any other the many other sins the Bible condemns, are simply ganging up like a schoolyard bully on a vulnerable minority.
It can be argued the biggest sin, in Biblical terms, systematically overlooked in favor of picking on gays and other pet peeves, is that of usury. Now, usury, as described in Ezekiel 18 and elsewhere, is evil. It is the act of lending money at an interest, and of course this is so rampant and out of control in our culture now, that it is little short of a plague. The righteous person “does not charge usury or take interest,” Ezekiel says.
But Mr. “Duck Dynasty” is far too much of a coward to take on such forces of our culture, like Wall Street and the banking industry, bigger than he is.
So it goes with the mewling voices of the mainstream media, who, as they say, “on this one find themselves in agreement with Fox and Sarah Palin.” Having no sense of history, or decency, they defend bigotry as a right to “religious freedom.”
Nicholas Benton may be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.