Phil Robertson, the controversial star of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty, appeared on Sean Hannity’s show last night, where he used predictably terrible theology to argue that radical Muslim militants in Iraq should only be given two choices: convert to Christianity, or die.
Robertson was invited onto the show to promote his new book “unPHILtered: The Way I See It,” but Hannity immediately asked the duck call mogul how the United States should respond to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the radical Muslim group currently terrorizing Syria and Iraq and beheading western journalists. Robertson responded by opening his Bible, pulling out his Declaration of Independence bookmark, and citing verses such as 1 John 5, which he said divides the world into “two groups of people,” — the “children of God,” or Christians, and those under the power of the “evil one,” who he implied was both ISIS and possibly all Muslims. He also cited Proverbs 8:36, or “all who hate me, love death,” before boiling down his understanding of the ISIS situation into a single grim choice.
“I think you either have to convert them … or kill them. One or the other,” Robertson said.
Watch the FOX News video of the interview below:
Although many Christians — including Pope Francis — struggle with how to respond to ISIS, there is an especially dark irony to Robertson’s comments: he claims it as a Christian position, but the dualistic “convert or kill” ideology is also known to be the horrific calling card of ISIS. Multiple reports indicate that ISIS soldiers issue hard-lined ultimatums to the denizens of cities they conquer, demanding that they either convert to their radical interpretation of Islam, pay a tax, leave, or die. They are especially ruthless to religious minorities they encounter, such as the thousands of the Yazidis recently trapped on Mount Sinjar and Christians who are regularly abused at the hands of their soldiers.
And while Robertson went on to say that he would “rather have a Bible study” than kill ISIS troops, his warmongering theology is an example of what many refer to as “proof-texting,” or the rapid-fire listing of holy scriptures — out of context — to make a specific point, even if the original scriptures don’t actually support one’s position. Robertson’s citation of 1 John: 5, for instance, which he used to draw a distinction between the children of God and “evil one,” is odd choice to justify the killing of others. Most scholars agree that 1 John was written to address the possibility of schism between different kinds of Christians, not to delineate a difference between Christians and other religions, such as Islam (which didn’t exist at the time). Robertson apparently sees this verse as an excuse for violence, but theologians such as John Calvin have interpreted this and similar passages to mean that the world as an irreparably broken place that can only be overcome through God and an adherence to a love-based “new commandment” mentioned in 1 John 2: 9-10: “Whoever says, ‘I am the light,’ while hating a brother or sister, is still in the darkness. Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling.”
Also, proof-texting works both ways. Robertson’s violent theology requires that he ignore dozens of explicitly peace-focused verses, such as Luke 6:27, where Jesus declares, “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” during his sermon on the mount/plain. There is also Matthew 26:52, where Jesus demanded that one of his disciples sheathe his sword and refrain from violence, saying, “All who take the sword will perish by the sword.” That verse, of course, echoes one of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, which reads, “You shall not kill.”
And despite Robertson’s claim to self-righteous violence as a member of the “children of God,” Christ had a slightly different definition in Matthew 5:9, where he declares to an assembled crowd, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
Later in the interview, Robertson claimed that he is “personally…prepared” for “a gun fight” with ISIS. Indeed, the United States is already engaged in an increasingly intense conflict with the Muslim group, and it remains to be seen whether the global community will endorse an increased military response. But if Robertson is looking for a fight, he’ll have a hard time finding it in Jesus’ biblical teachings.