duck-dynasty-getty2Unless you didn’t scan a newspaper or watch cable news the week before Christmas, you’ve probably heard of Duck Dynasty by now. My guess is that most Americans first came across the family of millionaire rednecks, not on TV but in a retail store.

Revising Abraham Kuyper’s famous quote about Christ’s sovereignty, J. D. Greear tweeted last month:

Per latest trip to #walmart, I’m pretty sure there’s not 1 square in of the commercial cosmos over which the Duck Dynasty has not said “mine”

So what happens when patriarch Phil Robertson makes some crude remarks about homosexuality to GQ magazine? You get a storm of publicity that is every marketer’s dream. A&E was so outraged about Robertson’s remarks that they ran a Duck Dynasty marathon all weekend, I guess so people could see what the fuss was about, and of course, tune into the season premiere next month.

Meanwhile, fans flocked to Twitter and FaceBook to express their support of the show and the Robertson family. And, just as I predicted, the suspension of Robertson backfired. The patriarch was quickly reinstated.

It’s been a couple weeks since the brouhaha, enough time to get a little perspective on the controversy. There are several elements in this discussion that deserve to be revisited.

The Unpopularity of Biblical Morality

First off, let’s not be melodramatic. It’s hard to make Phil Robertson out to be a martyr and when there really are such things as martyrs.

If anything, the debacle simply shows us how unpopular it is to say that homosexuality is a sin, but also how unpopular it is to suspend an outspoken, self-proclaimed Bible-thumper for, well, thumping the Bible.

The omnipresent panels on news shows had fun with this event. After playing a clip of Phil Robertson preaching a few years ago, some of the talking heads seemed shocked that Robertson would lump homosexual offenders with swindlers, gossips, and God-haters. They might have been even more shocked if they’d realized Robertson was simply paraphrasing Romans 1.

Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly supported Robertson’s right to express his views but thought he crossed the line when he said homosexual offenders wouldn’t inherit the kingdom of God. Apparently, O’Reilly missed 1 Corinthians 6 in his reading through the Bible this year.

Here’s the thing to remember: it is always unpopular to talk about sin. But Christians are a sin-talking people.

We believe that human beings are rebellious and flawed at the core of our being. We are all intrinsically disordered. Our loves are out of whack. We believe the world is a messed up place. Because of humanity’s failure to give glory to God, shalom has been disrupted.

Sure, we believe sexually immoral people are under God’s condemnation. But that’s what we believe about ourselves, too. We’re all in the same boat here.

There aren’t two paths to heaven and hell, one hetero and one homo. There’s only a broad path with all kinds of sinners, and a narrow path with all kinds of repentants.

The Popularity of a TV Show

The popularity of Duck Dynasty is a double-edged sword for evangelicals. The show reinforces the stereotype that devout Christians are a bunch of backwards rednecks. For progressives who live by a calendar that claims sexual enlightenment occurred in the 1960’s, Duck Dynasty is a throwback to an older time. The characters are harmless. That’s why so many liberal commentators were happy to give them patronizing pat on the head and and say, roughly, “Oh, they’ll come around.”

Stereotype or not, this does not mean I recommend we join the sneering class of “sophisticated” evangelicals who want the Robertsons marginalized because “we’re so much more articulate and sophisticated than their version of fundamentalist Christianity.” There are real gospel issues at the heart of this controversy, not least the nature of repentance, the need for faith, and the grace of God that is powerful enough to rescue us from our sinful tendencies. To look with disdain on Christians who boldly proclaim their convictions, no matter the fallout, is to risk adding to the ostracism such convictions engender. In Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, “city-fied” and “redneck.”

Phil Robertson Is Not Our Spokesman

So, even if I’m glad that Duck Dynasty has an audience, and that this family is seeking to remain faithful to their religious convictions, I would still caution evangelicals against making Phil Robertson our spokesman. He’s a brilliant marketer and businessman, but he shouldn’t be our mouthpiece.

First off, he was unnecessarily crude in his remarks.

Secondly, he minimized the pervasiveness of sin in the way he commented on the issue. (He implied that sexual sin was an irrational choice. But isn’t every sin irrational? And should we continue to imply that same-sex attraction is nothing more than a choice?)

Third, though Robertson talks about salvation through Christ without mentioning baptism, he belongs to a church that believes baptism is essential for salvation. The theology of the Churches of Christ cuts against the grace he appears to proclaim. And many people in that movement believe their salvation is sustained by their own works. Look to Phil for “family values” if you like, but look elsewhere for theology that is biblical and grace-filled.


In the end, let’s take a deep breath and get some perspective. We don’t pin our hopes to a television show, no matter how popular. And we don’t adjust our convictions to fit the culture, no matter how unpopular. Celebrity television stars come and go; it’s the Word of the Lord that stands forever.