I don’t know what it is about Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments on ISIL* that infuriated me the most. His statements struck a chord for many Americans sickened by the militant group’s beheading of two American journalists and the Obama Administration’s allegedly insipid reaction to it [I included the word “allegedly” because I am not passing judgment, pro or con, on the administration’s response]. Robertson’s solution for how America should handle ISIL is, to me, as sickening as ISIL itself. Yes, I feel that strong about it.
Let me be clear about what I’m not saying. I’m not saying America should not respond to ISIL. I’m not saying our response should not be decisive and unequivocal. I’m not saying we should not eliminate the threat any way that we can. At the same time, I’m no expert on Middle Eastern politics (neither is Robertson, by the way). I would like to see this handled intelligently. Robertson’s solution is not intelligent. It is abhorrent to any decent thinking person whose views are governed by reason rather than bloodthirsty passion.
Here’s what Robertson actually said:
Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com
In this case you either have to convert them, which I think would be next to impossible. I’m not giving up on them, but I’m just saying, either convert them or kill them. One or the other.
Convert them or kill them. Note that I’ve linked to the Fox News video and transcript of Robertson’s comments, and I invite you to watch and read them in context. I will be quoting from that transcript, but lest I be accused of taking his comments out of context, I strongly urge you to read them in context before deciding whether you agree with me.
I’d much rather have a Bible study with all of them and show them the error of their ways and point them to Jesus Christ, the author and perfector of having your sins removed and being raised from the dead. I would rather preach the gospel of Jesus to them. However, if it’s a gun fight and a gun fight alone, if that is what they’re looking for, me, personally I am prepared for either one.
Honestly, I doubt Phil Robertson is prepared for either one. I doubt he’s prepared to preach the gospel to ISIL, and I doubt he’s prepared to enlist and take the fight to them, “personally.” But I do think his sentiment is honest.
Look, I’d much rather have ISIL converted to Zen Buddhism if it will stop the violence. To me, the key is getting ISIL to stop and renounce the violence. Religion has nothing to do with it. The problem with ISIL is not Islam, it’s what ISIL has shown it will do in the name of Islam. Changing religions is meaningless if it won’t change their behavior.
You can speak your mind, Rev. And I can criticize what you say. It works both ways.
But make no mistake — Phil Robertson’s comments had nothing to do with peace and everything to do with imposing his religion at the end of a sword (or the barrel of a gun). Don’t believe me? Read his words IN CONTEXT. Here’s what preceded “convert them or kill them”:
Worldwide, planet-wide, Biblically speaking, two groups of people, the children of God, and the whole world is under the control of the evil one. That’s First John 5:19. The evil one works in those who are disobedient. Galatians 3, they are prisoners of sin. Second Timothy 2, the Bible says they’ve been taken captive by Satan to do his will.
Listen, let me show you one. I’ve got the old — hey, America, Declaration of Independence, it’s my book marker. Don’t forget that. Listen to this, Sean. Solomon, one of the wisest men on earth if not the wisest, he’s speaking of wisdom, “Whoever finds me, wisdom finds light. Watch and receives favor from the lord. But whoever fails to find me,” this is the God of the Bible, “harms himself.” Now, listen to this on this ISIS thing, “All who hate me love death.”
So you scratch your head and you say, well, why is it that when we’re not even over there in the Middle East, why do they continue to slaughter each other when we’re not even on the premises? They can’t blame us. We left Iraq. You said what happened in Egypt and Syria, you say in Libya. They just slaughter each other. You say, what? “All who hate me love death,” Sean.
Did you catch that? If you’re not Christian, you’re under the control of the evil one, taken captive by Satan to do his will. ISIL, to Robertson, is just an example of evil. If you’re not a Christian, you’re another example of evil. If you’re not a Christian, you harm yourself. If you’re not a Christian, you love death.
Robertson has a right to his religious beliefs, and I have a right to call his application of his religious belief slanderous, barbaric and dangerous. I’m not criticizing Robertson’s religion. I could care less what he does on Sundays (or any other day, for that matter). I’m criticizing his views on what America should do in his religion’s name.
[Side note: I do find it odd that Robertson can slander all non-Christians in such a blanket fashion, while anyone who criticizes him is accused of attacking his religion. My view is, if your religion makes statements and judgments about me, then I am entitled to respond to it without being accused of “attacking” it. But we can handle that double standard another day].
So when we piece his comment together, here’s what he’s saying: ISIL is a threat because ISIL hasn’t found the God of Christianity. What we need to do is make them Christian. If they don’t want to become Christian, we have to kill them.
There is nothing laudable about that position.
ISIL is a threat because ISIL is willing to wage war and commit atrocities in furtherance of its vision of an Islamic State in the region. What we need to do is stop them from waging war, by convincing them it’s not in their best interest or by crushing them until the threat is eliminated. Millions of Muslims live in the United States peacefully, and in the world, peacefully. The quarrel is not with Islam, per se, as much as it is with what certain people are willing to do in its name. It is a political battle, not a religious war.
A friend of mine suggested the following: “I think he is pretty much saying..let’s kill them. And really…what are the other options? He is really stating the obvious…convert them so that they no longer act on hatred and bloodshed OR do unto them what they are doing unto others. What is bothering you the most about his statement? That he is speaking of Christianity or that he believes they should be killed? These are barbarians. Plain and simple. If he would have left out religion completely and simply said I would rather change their minds on how they feel about us but if I can’t and all they want is a fight then that’s what they will get…would that be more acceptable?”
Let’s clear something up: Robertson DID NOT SAY “convert them so that they no longer act on hatred and bloodshed OR do unto them what they are doing unto others.” His solution was not focused on changing their behavior, it was focused on changing their God.
That’s the fallacy in his comments: it presents us with a false dilemma. Convert or kill, as if there are no other options. There are oodles of other options, all of which have one goal in mind: a peaceful alternative to the need for force. “Convert” is arguably the least peaceful alternative on the list, one almost guaranteed to instigate further hostility. THAT’s why it’s dangerous and repugnant. Robertson himself admits that “convert” is not even remotely likely. He’s right about that. But the alternatives he ignores, the ones that don’t make any religious demands, have a greater capacity to bring peace, assuming ISIL wants peace (which doesn’t seem to be a reasonable assumption at this stage).
Anyone who thinks the solution to a problem in the Middle East is to force Muslims to change religions under threat of death is a first class, grade A, bona fide moron.
The solution to murder in the name of religious extremism is NOT to threaten war in the name of another religion.
So, the answer to my friend’s second question [“if he would have left out religion completely and simply said I would rather change their minds on how they feel about us but if I can’t and all they want is a fight then that’s what they will get…would that be more acceptable?”] is an unqualified YES!
“Convert or die” was the cry of the Crusades and the Inquisition. It is also ISIL’s m.o. It has no place in enlightened civil dialogue in the 21st Century.
*ISIL and ISIS are the same organization. I use ISIL because as an acronym, it more accurately reflects what the organization claims to be: The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Click here for an explanation.