This column first appeared in the March issue of the Anglican Journal.
Phil Robertson’s reality TV show Duck Dynasty changed my life-even though I’ve never seen the show, am only vaguely aware of its content and know nothing about its characters. I can’t tell you when it’s on, or even on what channel. And yet, for some reason, in late December the show presented me with an incredible opportunity for discussion, over Facebook, with high school friends whom I haven’t seen in years. Go figure.
As the discussion unfolded, I found myself wondering if there had ever been a time when a television show had landed me in the middle of controversy. Short answer: no.
It all started innocently enough. Discussing Robertson’s interview with GQ Magazine, which contained sexist, racist and homophobic remarks, my friend asked, “If you assume the Bible as your moral compass, is this acceptable?”
“It depends how you read the Bible,” I replied.
A lot depends on how we read the Bible. But trying to explain over the Internet how I read the Bible seemed especially complicated. The invitation to share my understanding of the scriptures with a friend who, along with Dawkins and Hitchens, would readily proclaim that God is not great, and whose understanding of the Bible appeared to be formed by a caricatured Christian fundamentalist, didn’t offer me a good starting point.
And yet, my friend’s question was a starting point-to a conversation. More than that, it provided me with an opportunity to respond to my friend’s very good questions about Christian faith. Along the way, it provided me with the chance to sit with those questions and really examine my faith in light of them.
It would have been easy to shy away from the conversation. Some days I feel that the easy way out is what I desperately need-why bother sharing my faith with someone who is antagonistic toward it?
My friend, though, has offered me space. And this space is an incredible gift. It’s a gift not because it’s an opportunity to defend the Christian faith for the sake of God’s honour. (I imagine God will weather this storm just fine.) Rather, it’s an opportunity for self-examination. It’s an opportunity to re-explore my relationship to Jesus, and to be asked the difficult questions I sometimes fail to ask myself.
In short, it’s a gift to encounter those who help me live an examined, reflective and faithful life.
I wasn’t expecting that a reality television show could have such an impact. I wasn’t expecting it to provide an opportunity to publicly share why I am a Christ-follower.
This experience has left me wondering: how many times have I ignored these opportunities? How many times have I been too scared to enter the self-reflective space that these encounters necessarily cause? And finally, what will it take to be more open to these opportunities in the days ahead?
Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada.