But I have to admit that I don’t understand the uproar around what Phil Robertson said in his GQ interview. I’m not here to judge what he said as right or wrong. I personally agree with what he said but I don’t feel like it needs a defense.
What does bug me is that a bunch of progressives have come out to denounce him as homophobic. They have labeled him hateful, vile, and even evil. But I think they are unclear as to what “homophobic” really means.
The Anti-Defamation League defines homophobia this way:
Homophobia is the hatred or fear of homosexuals – that is, lesbians and gay men – sometimes leading to acts of violence and expressions of hostility.
But I didn’t hear any hate in his statement. He was specifically asked a question by the interviewer: “What, in your mind, is sinful?” So he answered. He named homosexuality as a sin but he also named heterosexual sex outside of marriage, “idolaters, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanders, the swindlers.” That is what he thinks is sinful. I don’t get the illogical leap to “he hates the gays”. In fact, later in the article he specifically said that he doesn’t judge anyone. “That’s the Almighty’s job. We just love ’em, give ’em the good news about Jesus…”
I honestly feel like the condemnation of Phil Robertson is more politically motivated than anything. He is someone on “the other side”, a conservative Christian who said he didn’t understand homosexuality. He called it “illogical”. But he never said he hated anyone, never called on anybody to attack homosexuals. He in fact stated that he loved them. And somehow that is worthy of condemnation? But when someone like Alec Baldwin, who is “on the right side”, does it he doesn’t have GLAAD putting out press-releases denouncing him.
To be fair, Baldwin never said he disagreed with homosexuality or called it a sin. He did, however, use homosexuality as a slur. He used it as a weapon. He used it as a way to degrade another human being. That sounds much more hateful, much more like homophobia to me. Anderson Cooper summed it up well:
Phil Robertson never said anything about beating anybody up. He never demeaned anybody. He didn’t use homosexuality as an insult, as a weapon. Phil Robertson’s objection to homosexuality was principled without any sort of derision. But he gets a labeled a hate-filled bigot. According to when groups like the ADL and GLAAD choose to speak out, and when they stay silent, Roberston’s comments were “vile”, while Baldwin’s were perfectly acceptable.
It is just another example of politics being much more important than principles. I know conservatives do it too, both “sides” are incredibly guilty. But we have to stop it on both sides. Language has to mean something. We can’t apply a label of hate to someone just because they disagree with us. “Racist”, “sexist”, “homophobe”. We have to be much more careful in how these terms get tossed around, in how they get applied. And we have to be much more sparring in their use.