On Duck Dynasty, Empathy and the Right to Refuse

I am the voice crying in the wilderness “Can’t we all just get along?”

I don’t like conflict. I don’t know if that makes me a coward, or one of the peacemakers that Jesus called blessed. I don’t now if being anti-conflict is a strength or a weakness, and no more have I questioned this than in the last couple days.

It began on Thursday when, on my break at work, I had the misfortune of clicking on #DuckDynasty. I inhaled venom and vitriol like so much chemical fumes. They burnt my insides and left me feeling confused and ashamed to be part of the human race. I understand that Phil Robertson’s comments were offensive, but I don’t understand how his comments give license to be equally offensive. The level of cognitive dissonance displayed would have been funny if it had been on some more trivial subject. But it wasn’t funny at all.

I felt the need to take a side.

Thing is, like Phil, I am a Christian. I believe that, like a good father, God has set boundaries for his children and homosexuality is outside those boundaries. I do not hate gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people and I respect their right to act according to their beliefs, but I cannot agree with them.

According to comments I read, that makes me ‘hateful’.

On the other hand, having now read Robertson’s comments in the original GQ article, I agree that he lacked tact. Whether it was naiveté or simply not caring what people think I do not know, but I am appalled that he would say such things in an interview. That’s just asking for it.

That makes me ‘afraid to stand for the truth’, apparently.

My confusion continued yesterday. My coworker and I were assigned the cleaning of one of the coaters (I work in pharmaceutical manufacturing). In order to do this job well we are required to climb inside the coater, which is dangerous and often leaves us bruised and sore. The procedure does not tell us to do this, but we can’t get the coater clean without doing so. My coworker announced to me that he was ‘going to be a d***’ and refuse to go into the coater. As part of our employee rights, we can exercise the ‘right to refuse’ if we believe the task is unsafe. He explained to me that the management and safety committee knew that the job was unsafe, but when he protested to them they told him that we just needed ‘more training’. Well, he called that BS, and this was his formal protest.

I decided to stand by his decision, and also refused to go in. The supervisor was notified, and she was pissed. So was our senior operator, and he talked to me and asked me if I actually agreed with this whole thing. I said yes, more or less. He continued to wheedle, and I began to waver.

He was called away, and I walked away feeling like such a weakling. Yeah, I didn’t ‘change sides’ so to speak, but I felt that I was way too easy to persuade because I didn’t want to disappoint anyone.

I told my coworker that I wasn’t going to stand in his way, but I wasn’t going to be around when the feces hit the fan either. He didn’t mind.

Is there any happy medium? Is there a way to stand for truth without being offensive? Without alienating the other party? Without shooting my mouth off and looking like an jerk?

In the fallout of Robertson’s remarks, I found an article that really encouraged me and shed some light on a solution. The Huffington Post article is by Shane L. Windmeyer, an LGBT activist and founder of Campus Pride, and is titled “Dan and Me: Coming out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-Fil-A”. You may remember that Chick-Fil-A was at the center of it’s own controversy in 2012 when it came forward that Chick-Fil-A was funding anti-LGBT organizations. Windmeyer and Campus Pride advanced a national campaign against Chick-Fil-A.

But then Windmeyer received a phone-call from Chick-Fil-A president and COO Dan Cathy, and that hour-long conversation led to more and more conversations and texts between the two men. Windmeyer says:

Throughout the conversations Dan expressed a sincere interest in my life, wanting to get to know me on a personal level. He wanted to know about where I grew up, my faith, my family, even my husband, Tommy. In return, I learned about his wife and kids and gained an appreciation for his devout belief in Jesus Christ and his commitment to being “a follower of Christ” more than a “Christian.” Dan expressed regret and genuine sadness when he heard of people being treated unkindly in the name of Chick-fil-a — but he offered no apologies for his genuine beliefs about marriage.
And in that we had great commonality: We were each entirely ourselves. We both wanted to be respected and for others to understand our views. Neither of us could — or would — change. It was not possible. We were different but in dialogue. That was progress.

Neither man changed his views. Windmeyer did not agree with Cathy’s Christian views, and Cathy did not condone Windmeyer’s lifestyle. But, Chick-fil-a ceased to fund the most divisive anti-LGBT groups in favor of marriage enrichment, youth and local communities. Campus Pride dropped their campaign.

In my mind, this is true tolerance: to respect the other enough to hear them out, understand their views, feel sorrow for wrongs and right them where possible, and love them as a person, not a stereotype. That is the person I would like to be.

I believe that there will come a time where standing for the truth will be inescapably offensive, but I do not believe that must be the norm. Does that make me weak? Maybe. I will continue to explore this. But in the meantime, I wish to emulate the words of St. Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Read the full Huffington Post article by Shane L. Windmeyer at: