Pastor Jason Helveston believes that telling a personal story that incites public anger means we have failed to consider who is listening.
They live in my grandmother’s hometown. So I feel like the Robertsons are family. Honestly, just about every episode of “Duck Dynasty” helps me understand my southern roots just a little bit better. Now, I enjoy writing about story and storytelling.
And so when the twittersphere went all a’Twitter, following the release of Phil Roberton’s interview with GQ Magazine, I considered the situation through that lens—the lens of storytelling. After all, at the end of the day, Mr. Robertson did nothing more than tell his story to Drew Magary, writer for GQ.
But once his story was told through the platform and perspective of GQ, things got real. A&E pulled the “Duck Dynasty” plug and social networks went nuts … and they continue to go nuts, and will probably be doing so for a while longer.
From a conservative perspective many suggest it’s completely out of bounds (if not constitutional heresy) to suspend or even criticize Robertson for his thoughts and beliefs about homosexuality. A more liberal point of view suggests a completely different angle. In their minds the duck patriarch communicated hateful stereotypes on par with racism. In fact other aspects of Mr. Robertson’s interview have been explained to be just so. Therefore, in light of the chasm between the left and right and their respective reactions, it’s my view–even with said ties to West Monroe, LA–the teller of the story, Phil Robertson would do well to understand his audience a bit better. In fact, we would all do well.
All of us have stories to tell. And we who have stories to tell must take great care to listen to our own prospective and respective audiences before we ever expect them to listen to us. Our audience my not be the entire country, like Phil Robertson’s but we all have an audience. And understanding how readers or listeners will hear our story is just as important as how we intend to tell that story.
So, how has the country listened to the Duck Commander?
A deeper look at two popular responses will help discern an answer.
Traditionalists are praising Mr. Robertson for his bold moral backbone. Christian or not, people who share his reservations concerning same-sex identity and relationships have communicated appreciation for the audacity of a man willing to speak his mind, especially when speaking comes at such a high cost. And so Facebook is filled with “I Stand With Phil” campaigns, likes, and comments and Twitter with likeminded hashtags.
Progressives on the other hand (including the GQ journalist himself), are starkly apposed to what they have perceived to be hateful slurs directed at a particular subset of the population. Regardless of spiritual habits, a growing percentage of the western world does not simply “accept” the LGBTQ community but have begun to carry an expectation that LGBTQ relationships ought to be viewed on par with heterosexual relationships and identity; not unlike the way we ought to view African-Americans, Caucasian, Chinese, and Hispanics all as people. So when a prominent celebrity communicates a view they consider narrow and antiquated, extreme offense is a natural byproduct.
So how can there be such a massive divide … over the same comments … about the same community … by the same person? How can people agree on exactly what was said, but not on how to respond?
The answer is that these two, albeit caricatured perspectives, are not listening or reading Robertson’s story in the same way. And in my opinion, it’s the teller’s responsibility to tend to his or her audience with extreme care. In other words an author has not sufficiently done her job if she only states information with boldness and clarity. There is a higher call—to communicate a message so as to be heard. That doesn’t mean we should avoid negative feedback at all costs. Nor should we shy away from publicly voicing
Photo: Public Domain