There are two notable differences between the Pope’s views on sex, and Phil’s. First, the Pope is a trained philosopher, and has undoubtedly spent countless hours examining, challenging and refining his views. Phil — if we are to take his brief statements on homosexuality as representative of his position — seems to hold a view on sex that manages to reduce the entire orthodox understanding of “desire” down to nothing more than a juvenile “tooshie = bad, vagina = good.”
The second difference has to do with tone. In fairness to Phil, the tone of his off-the-cuff statements may not accurately represent his philosophy on this issue, but I do think it’s a fair representation of what many see as his Southern charm. There’s a way to disagree with majority opinion without coming across as disagreeable. The Pope knows how to do this. Phil does not. As a result, we respect Papa and shame Phil.
For the record, I’m undecided on whether or not I think Phil actually is homophobic, although I certainly think his statement was offensive, and not only to the LGBT community. But I also think that if I were to spend a day calling ducks with Phil, I’d probably end up liking him — even in spite of his position on gay men. It’s quite possible to throw one’s political support behind traditional, heterosexual marriage, and yet not be bigoted.
I’m reminded of something Bill Maher said during the height of the Paula Deen controversy: “Do we always have to make people go away?” I think the question applies in this situation too.
Why is our go-to political strategy for beating our opponents to silence them? Why do we dismiss, rather than engage them? One of the biggest pop-culture icons of today just took center stage to “educate” us about sexuality. I see this as an opportunity to further the discussion, to challenge his limited understanding of human desire, to engage with him and his rather sizable audience — most of whom, by the way, probably share his views — and to rise above the endless sea of tweet-hate to help move our LGBT conversations to where they need to go.
G.K. Chesterton said that bigotry is “an incapacity to conceive seriously the alternative to a proposition.” If he is right — and he usually is — then I wonder if the Duck Dynasty fiasco says more about our bigotry than Phil’s.