Whether you are a fan of Duck Dynasty or not, you cannot help but notice their popularity and presence everywhere. I don't begrudge the Robertson family at all for realizing that reality show fame is fleeting and taking every advantage of their "fifteen minutes." The real-life characters in this family have become caricatures somewhat, and yet, millions still love to watch their antics on television.
The show has definitely taken off and allowed a cable network previously known for Biography and Horatio Hornblower to suddenly become one of the most watched cable and satellite channels on televisoin.
When A&E approached the Robertsons about doing a reality show based on their family, even those in the family were shocked. The patriarch, Phil Robertson, was reluctant and not so sure anyone would watch. He theorizes in his autobiography, Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander, why he believes the show has garnered such a following:
Everything else on TV nowadays is dysfunctional and for the most part has been that way for forty years. The last TV shows we saw that featured functional families were The Andy Griffith Show, The Waltons, The Beverly Hillbillies (don't laugh), and Little House on the Prairie. That was a long time ago! (Robertson & Schlabach, 1)
He may be right, but whatever it is, the audiences are responding. Millions tune in weekly and just recently, the Season 4 premiere broke cable/satellite ratings records with 11.8 million tuning in to watch. That means there were millions of people wearing T-shirts purchased at Walmart with pictures of the bearded ones on it, sipping iced tea from Uncle Si Tupperware tumblers watching the Robertson family welcome their clean-shaven, preacher brother to the show for Phil & Miss Kay's renewal of vows. (Yes, I was one of the 11.8 million, Jack!)
IT WASN'T ALWAYS "HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY."
The folks at "I Am Second" released one of the most watched film shorts in their library this year as well. This one featured Phil, his son Jep and grandson Reed. These are real stories, of real men, struggling with real issues and it's refreshing to hear them speak honestly.
PHIL HAS NEVER BEEN KNOWN FOR BEING SUBTLE
Phil and the Robertsons faith in Jesus Christ has never been a secret. It's evidenced in the above "I Am Second" trailer. Fans of the show know that each episode closes in prayers ending in "Jesus' name" which, amazingly, is signficant in our culture today. When Phil surrendered his life to Christ, everything changed. At hunting conventions, he would take the time to share the Gospel which garnered him the nickname "The Billy Graham of Duck Hunting."
THE FIRESTORM HAS BEGUN
Well, it was inevitable. Phil has been featured on numerous talk shows, news shows, and magazines. He's a character and speaks his mind. Today, social media is blowing up over statements made by Phil and the response of A&E. The statements were made in a recent interview with GQ Magazine and they are controversial, at least to some.
The writer of the article, Drew Magary, interviewed Phil. You can read it here, but be warned, this is not an article for Christianity Today. The author uses words that. . .well, you probably wouldn't say in Sunday School. Some in social media are angry at Magary for the wording of the article, calling it "baiting" and worse. I'm not sure why people ever expected an article in GQ to be anything but what this is. Nevertheless, it seems that Phil's opinions have moved from being categorized by the mainstream as "quirky, old fashioned, and plain-spoken" to "hateful, anti-gay, and divisive."
It was inevitable.
Based on Phil's remarks, A&E has put him on "indefinite hiatus." That means, for now, he's been fired. Fans of the show, especially Christians are up in arms.
Though Phil used some pretty graphic anatomical descriptions (which I believe were unnecessary) as to why he views homosexuality as unnatural, his quote in the article that has led to the firestorm is below. This statement follows a question by Magary to Phil asking him to define what he believes to be sin:
“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”
That was it. Partnered with the graphic descriptions he gave earlier and his questions as to why any man would ever want to be with another man sexually, the flame was lit. . .and the firestorm has begun.
MAYBE ALL PUBLICITY IS NOT GOOD PUBLICITY
I don't disagree with Phil. His statement is a pretty accurate paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. Therefore, it is truth. He even has the right to state his beliefs. His follow-up comment that has been released today gives clarity of his love for "all humanity" and the grace that God gives all of us.
The cable network has responded by atttempting to distance itself from their current cash cow, so as not to find themselves in trouble with GLAAD and other LGBT rights groups. This should not be a surprise to anyone.
THE "CHRISTIAN" RESPONSE
Here's the challenge as we now see it. Hundreds, if not thousands, of those who claim to be Christians are responding with new Facebook pages and postings supporting Phil, tweets and blogs about the story (this one included.) The anger at A&E, GQ and the "liberal media" is spewing. On the other side, anger at Phil and his family grows as he's labeled a bigot, homophobic, anti-gay and un-Christian.
We have seen this before. When Christ-followers share their opinions and beliefs in a culture that professes to be tolerant, it is soon realized that this tolerance is really one-sided. Tolerance for every belief other than biblically grounded ones are celebrated.
Dr. Albert Mohler, Dr. Russell Moore and Micah Fries and others have written some good posts today related to this story. Rather than restate what has been said so well by these men, I recommend you read their postings, linked below.
- Dr. Albert Mohler - "You Have Been Warned - The "Duck Dynasty" Controversy"
- Dr. Russell Moore - "Duck Dynasty?"
- Micah Fries - "Phil Robertson and Christian Dissent"
- The Gospel Coalition - "Duck Dynasty Star Fired Over Comments on Homosexuality"