I'm not going to blog about Phil. That's being handled by others.
I would like to point out that all the controversy boils down to an old man telling an old dirty joke. I mean he didn't tell it the usual way, but at it's root it is the same as hundreds of other gay vs. hetero dude jokes. I heard them all in middle school. The underlying humor is more about mechanics than morality.
It is a lame joke that, judging by the writing of the GQ journalist, would go over well with their target readers. It is politically incorrect and irreverent. The journalist makes it clear he would never say such a thing, but he doesn't go so far as to say he wouldn't laugh at it. Way to play it safe.
Actually, I think the most interesting part of this story is Magary's extensive self-referencing in the story. It comes across to me as his attempt to brag about the time he met the legendary man of the swamp and got to shoot his guns and ogle the old man's bare feet on the recliner. It switches schizophrenically between admiring the manly, adventurous life of a rags-to-riches pioneer and snickering behind his back because the preacher talks a lot. There are moments where the journalist shows his skill as a writer describing landscapes and characters. Then, just in case his readers had lost interest or started to think him uppity, he awkwardly drops profanity like a nerd trying to earn street cred. My guess is that Magary is potentially a good writer but is inclined to lower his standards to appeal to his readers (or editors, judging by the crude pun of a headline).
The reaction to all this should cause Christians to check themselves. Are we willing to listen enough to understand why his remarks are offensive to some? Sure, this is mostly media blow out and headline seekers looking to cash in to gain some political capital or perhaps a few more mouse clicks. But there is a percentage of people who are shocked and hurt that a "nice guy" could say such a thing. Honesty is a good thing, but it doesn't keep people from getting hurt. Phil wasn't given the luxury of a face-to-face conversation with the people he was talking about. If he had been, perhaps he would have pointed out that we are not only the perpetrators of sin, but also its victim. What sounds to the world like condemnation from a self-righteous fundamentalist, is more likely meant to be a wake-up call from someone who knows and has experienced the power sin can have over us. If the world isn't hearing the message about grace then we have to speak it more clearly. They can't get past the "you're a sinner going to Hell" part to hear the whole "But God who is rich in mercy..." part of it.
We are in danger of doing the right thing for the wrong reasons. It is probably good for so many to come to the defense of Phil, but I would argue that we don't need to do so to protect the rights of Christians. It's not really about free speech. If we are going to stand with Phil then let it be on the part of the interview that isn't being talked about. I'm talking about the part that is truly offensive where he shares the Gospel with his interviewer. My prayer is that people are offended at the interview, but not because of a lame dirty joke. I pray they are offended by the Gospel because then I know they have heard the truth. Remember, friends, the Gospel is an offence to those in rebellion against it. At one time that included all of us.
"BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE,
AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.”
New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ro 9:33.