To boldly go where no one wants to go and even "Angels Fear to Tread", but God has sent you! Reflections of a Presbyterian minister on the sacred spaces called study hall, the high school cafeteria and the people you meet in those places.
I am not a fan of reality television shows. I have watched “Duck Dynasty” a few times. They seem, to me, to be a quirky bunch of guys who make duck calls and enjoy their lifestyle. I would never consider them Biblical Scholars or Theologians, though they certainly pray together as an extended family at the end of each show around a dinner table. I don’t think that is such bad thing and maybe something more of families should do together when they share a meal, though most of us don’t do it while being filmed for a television show. The first time I saw them pray, it reminded me a bit of the Walton’s holding hands and praying around their kitchen table. Most people might say that in both television shows, they were doing nothing more than modeling good family values at least on the surface. If you remember, after the Walton’s went off the air, Judy Norton Taylor, needing to break out of her wholesome Walton image as Mary Ellen, posed for Playboy magazine.
Now we have Phil Robertson making, what many people would say are, very offensive comments in GQ magazine. A&E has suspended him from the show. A firestorm has erupted on Facebook and other social media outlets from people defending him and those criticizing him. The Robertson has released a statement, saying they are praying together, rallying around Phil and hoping that through prayer (and fans outrage) that A&E will reconsider. I wonder if they are not also praying that they do not lose the financial benefits that come with being reality television stars? When you think about it, aren’t we all in some way on a “Reality Television Show,” mic’d and with the cameras rolling? Well, not literally, but since faith is a part of the controversy over Phil Robertson’s comments, let’s say, figuratively speaking.
The Psalmist sings out in Psalm 139:1-4: “O Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.” I wonder how many of us, in the shadows and recesses of our own lives, or maybe in very public places, have made comments or behaved in an inappropriate, maybe even scandalous manner, that would shock and offend our family, friends, and neighbors, let alone all of the social media world? I must confess, I have done said and done things I later regretted. What about you? Be honest.
When I was a child, I learned a little Sunday School song that went something like this: “O be careful little lips what you say, for God up above is looking down in love, O be careful little lips what you say.” Every now and then this childhood song pops back into my head, especially when I catch myself thinking or rather, not thinking about what I am saying or doing as I react to another person outrageous comments in public or on Facebook. In the letter to the Church at Ephesus, the writer says: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.”(4:29-32)
At the McFarland School District schools where I work, we talk with the students about the using such words as “compassion, empathy, respect, responsibility.” At the high school, our principal reminds students to “Make good choices that past the test of Spartan Pride.” I suppose if you are on a reality show that expects its “cast members” to say and do outrageous things in hopes of drawing in a large viewing audience – and making a nice profit for the network and sponsors, Phil’s comments are just par for the reality television show course. However, I am not sure they are par for the course as those who profess a faith in God whose sacred image dwells in all of us, on camera and off. I pray, Phil and the family Robertson might not “duck” this opportunity to reflect on and grow in faith and relationship with God. I hope we all might do the same, as we seek God’s grace while living in the Light that shines in the darkness of our lives and world, inviting us to love one another as God first loved us. Of course, none of this means A&E will reinstate Phil or that Duck Dynasty will live to see another season. If that is aim of our reflections and prayers, I wonder if we all “ducked” the real hope and pray of God?