Why Christianity Doesn’t Need Duck Dynasty (or other Celebrities).

I like Duck Dynasty. I like the show. I even liked it before it became the hot commodity that it is today. The Robertsons are my type of people, redneck people, my tribe. The first time I saw Phil Robertson pray before the meal (back in Season 1 when they were still editing out ‘in Jesus name’ at the end), I could tell the man had prayed a time or two in his life. But what I saw in the Robertsons was what I saw as common place in the Bible belt; cultural Christians.

What I don’t mean to say is that the Robertsons are not actual believers. But here is what I’ve perceived from the show: The Robertsons, although giving a hat-tip to Christianity by the closing prayer at every show and an occasional reference to their church, there is nothing inherently different from the Robertsons’ lifestyle (a better judge of faith than a testimony rehearsed for a Lifeway promo) from any neo-pagan family in the Bible Belt.

‘Duck Dynasty’ displays – as a central theme of the show – a gratuitous flaunting of wealth on the part of the show’s main character, Willy. It’s hard to believe the “down to earth” tagline in the magazines when the Robertson clan is flying into the swamp on helicopters, traveling the highway in a ridiculously expensive RV with their face plastered on the side, cruising the lake in an uber-expensive bass boat or purchasing a pair of matching four-wheelers with fancy rims (like what you see on low-riders in the city) – all of which have been highlighted in the reality show. Willy’s infatuation with all things monetary borders on a financial fetish and love of money.

Or take for example the entire episode laced with the incessant jokes about the size of Miss Kay’s breasts (probably the only term not used to refer to the woman’s chest during the episode). Is that the behavior of a godly woman or godly women? Or how about the episode in Season 1 dedicated to then 13 year-old Sadie Robertson dating? Or Grandpa Phil asking her, “How long did you make [your boyfriend] wait until he kissed you” and her response, “not long.” Which, of course, raised nothing from Grandpa Phil except an eyebrow. By the way, Sadie now has her own line of prom dresses in case you were interested (she’s had a busy summer, what with famous musicians singing at her Sweet 16 party and everything). And, of course, the consistent course-jesting (Ephesians 5:4) and bathroom humor that – to be honest – even gets a smile out of me once in a while.

Do all of these things make the Robertsons bad? No – not at all. And neither do they make a family that has seemingly lassoed the American Dream role models for Christians.

What is it about Duck Dynasty that has denominations, Christian magazines, churches and every segment of cultural Christianity clamoring to cash in on the Robertson’s popularity? For example, I was startled to see Lifeway (which is Southern Baptist) promote the Robertsons, who believe in baptismal regeneration. Theirs is not ‘faith-alone,’ but ‘faith plus baptism.’ Of course, Lifeway traded sound doctrine for profitability a long time ago. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t call the Robertsons heretics or unbelievers or insincere. However, as a Baptist, I sure would find somebody else to promote (if Jesus didn’t suffice).

To answer the aforementioned question, I doubt that it’s the pure and unadulterated Gospel that comes through the show. After all, Phil Robertson has said that the producers take out almost everything spiritual in editing. Synergism Today recently posted, “Indeed, one hears more than duck calls on the show. One hears the call of the gospel reverberating…” Really? You hear the Gospel on the show? Is that because Si never leaves without his tea glass or his Bible? The Gospel doesn’t make the editing cut – period. The Robertsons may articulate a ‘Gospel + baptism’ message in churches or other venues in their free time, but there has never been – in any form or fashion – the Gospel presented on the show.

Then what about ‘Duck Dynasty’ creates all the fixation from evangelicals?

1. Evangelicals love celebrities. We love our Tim Tebows and RGIII’s. We love our country stars that become Christian artists (until they get their third DUI). We love them. I think it’s because we don’t have very many celebrities to begin with. We feel left out of celebrity culture, and so we highly esteem Christian celebrities. And every time Disney presents one of their young stars as a “Christian teen” we fall for it hook, line and sinker until they start getting tattoos and dancing at stripper poles (remember, Brittney Spears, Jessica Simpson, Miley Cyrus, and Justin Beiber were all billed to us as ‘Christian kids’).

2. There’s a rumor out there that evangelicals are lame, boring, losers, fuddie-duddies. It makes us feel good to have somebody that’s “cool” on our team.

3. There has been a very purposeful (*ahem*) strategy the last 20 years to look at the lost world and say, “see…we’re just like you.” We want to be like the world even more than we want the world to be like us. Having ‘our people’ at the front and center of popular culture makes us feel like we’ve really achieved that.

4. We confuse the American Dream with the Gospel. The Robertsons have a pretty wives and pretty kids, lots of fancy toys, big houses and money. That’s the appeal. Oh, yeah – I forgot…they also have Jesus. There is a cold and dark place in the American soul that thinks the American Dream is a Biblical concept. The Robertsons are our apple pie. They have it all. Sure – they love the big cars, expensive houses, flaunted wealth and let their 13 year old daughters go about dating outside of their supervision, but so what? They’re Christians. They’ve got it all.

We feel like Christian celebrities are our ticket to a party in popular culture that we rarely get invited to. We have ‘ugly girl syndrome’ (forgive the expression); as evangelicals, we rarely get asked to the prom, and this is our chance.

Consider the Duggars. They are Baptists, solid believers, teach their kids work ethic, don’t fetishize money, teach courtship, and their lifestyle matches their preaching – and had a popular reality show. Most evangelicals are hesitant to be associated with the Duggars at all, like they’re the weird third-cousin at the family reunion everyone is ashamed of. Could it be that the Duggars are slightly “less cool” (and more sanctified by any discernible standards) than the Robertsons? Could it be that the world would rather have cool trucks and boats and helicopters than a house-full of godly children?

Comparison aside, I can’t help but wonder if the evangelical infatuation with ‘Duck Dynasty’ has more to do with our admiration of funny rich people who’ve achieved the American Dream than with devout believers. At the end of the day, we just don’t need celebrities. We need Jesus. And if we truly find the baptismal regeneration preaching of Phil Robertson to be more compelling and articulate than virtually any other man on earth, then let’s value Phil for his commitment to the Bible and not for his toys, wealth, or fame.

If it makes you feel any better, I think Phil might agree.

16 Comments on “Why Christianity Doesn’t Need Duck Dynasty (or other Celebrities).

  1. You sir are an accidental Pharisee. You judge the Robertson’s while you sit on your high throne of righteousness. “Judge not or be judged.” If Duck Dynasty has a positive impact on even one person it is worth it. How about you write about all the other garbage on tv we have to daily try to shield our children from and stop bringing down other Christians!

  2. I could have predicted Jeramie’s response to be the first. And majority. Jeramie is the typical ignorant Christian who is zealous in his defense of error as he views it from his own perch in the tree of error. He completely misquotes Scripture, although, “Judge not or be judged” is close to what the NIV says in Matthew 7:1. But the disregards the rest of what Jesus says in Matthew 7 and anyone can see by reading verses 2 through that Jesus never commanded JD to “never judge”. Jesus says to JD and to all of us, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

    So, if JD is living in unrepentant sin of some sort, he ought to take care of his own sin before dealing with the Robertson clan. With that said, once JD has a clear conscience and clear vision, unhindered by hypocrisy, then he is SUPPOSED to make judgments and exhort his fellow believers to live according to God’s words. But few Christians are taught this Biblical truth and that is why Jeramie’s response is to be expected, as wrong as it is.

    Bottom line? Very good article. But this generation, with little exception, is not willing to hear it. Thanks for voicing it, any way.

    • You are just like the Pharisee with your condemning holier than though attitude. Young people are leaving the chuch in droves because they only see people constantly judging and ridiculing others. If you spent more time loving and showing compassion than judging than the world may have a more positive view if the church. By the way, we are all sinners and are never in a state of purity. So how can we ever be in a position to condemn others? Instead we can show love and mercy. Jesus is the ultimate judge of man.

  3. Jeramie, would you take time to pray/think/contemplate whether or not calling several people ‘pharisees’ might make you guilty of having a “condemning, holier than thou attitude”? I would also ask you to pray/think/contemplate whether or not young people are leaving the church in droves because the church “judges” others or if it’s because they’re lost people whose hearts are set on flesh and at enmity with God. I presume it’s true that if the church tolerated more sin, there would be more sinners in church. Sinners, unfortunately, is what they would remain and that kind of defeats the purpose. I appreciate your sentiment (although inherently flawed) and would like to think that I haven’t ridiculed anyone in this post. I would also like to think that pointing people beyond the American Dream and onto Christ is both merciful and loving. But you are quite right; the thrice-holy God is the ultimate judge of man… but if that thought comforts you in any way, I suggest you do not fully grasp the gravity of that statement. Grace and Peace.

  4. In light of your comments on baptismal regeneration (“Theirs is not ‘faith-alone,’ but ‘faith plus baptism.’”), how do you explain Mark 16:16? “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (ESV)

  5. Jordan,

    I would explain that belief leads to baptism the same way that justification leads to sanctification. The question isn’t whether or not a believer will be baptized, but if the righteous man lives by faith…or by baptism. This is inherently a question about justification, which is by faith alone.

    • JD,

      Thanks for taking the time to reply to my comment. I would like to raise a couple other points in response. First, you say that “belief leads to baptism,” but that actually contradicts what Jesus says in Mark. Jesus doesn’t say “whoever believes will be saved and then baptized.” Rather, He says that “whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” The most straightforward reading of the text indicates that whoever does both “will be saved.” Second, you assert that justification is “by faith alone.” How then do you explain James 2:24? “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (ESV) I can’t imagine a more direct, explicit rejection of your assertion that justification is “by faith alone.”

  6. Let me get this right. Are you arguing – just to be clear – that we are NOT justified by faith alone?

    • Well, James 2:24 says we are not, so I was curious how you would explain that passage.

  7. Jordan, the orthodox explanation is that James is teach that if one has “the kind of faith” that produces no works, that faith is dead (and in Greek culture, to be dead was “to be absent of life,” hence inanimate objects would be considered dead, not meaning your faith has died, but that it was never alive). Likewise, the type of faith which justifies it not the type of faith that comes by itself, but comes accompanied by works. The issue isn’t if the believer will have good works, but by what specifically we are made right with God. The demons believe, James points out here, but the type of faith that justifies is the type that has works.

  8. I sit here debating on leaving a comment or not. I will only say that the attitudes that I take from most of the people posting and the article that I read above only do MORE damage for the causes you all espouse to follow than good! Period. Call me judgmental, call me what ever, please, prove my point.

  9. I have to thank you for posting this, as this was an issue of mine. I suppose my comment is a bit late, but I just want to share it. JD, you have ht the nail on the head here with this show. I remember watching it in pleasure because my husbands family is southern and he is also an avid hunter. Then I went into this stage of being angry at God and thus beginning to hate “traditional” Baptist Christianity, such as the Duggars. I couldn’t handle the modesty, the purity, the status quo of fundies. But then it hit me. Even as I was drifting away because of my anger against the hypocrisy that I discovered in the traditions, I discovered it was everywhere. God laid it upon my heart to re-discover him in a way of his peace. I began to question what kind of woman I wanted to be for my husband and for God. Oddly enough, I found my answers in the Duggars. I learned then it wasn’t about tradition, but being a transformed creature, and that I wanted to be a woman of godly character.

    It is nothing against the Robertsons, but I do not see God in the abundance of merchandise that is promoted in Walmart, the fancy houses, the dolled up and (in my opinion) immodest women. Regarding Sadie and her “modest” clothing line, I remember in one of the episodes she was complaining that willie wouldn’t let her wear certain dresses because they revealed too much. Then the women proceed in their clothing which I find is quite immodest for mothers at least. More often than not you see this women criticizing their husbands and often being dominant to them. The kids have not much to say in unless they want to do nothing, just like the men are shown during the show.

    Honestly, I thought about it as much, and I decided not to follow the show anymore because it became more of monopoly rather than about God. If they really wanted to represent God, I would think they would have told the film crew, You can’t sensor out God and his message.. But I guess it shows where their priorities lie. The Duggars receive much more criticism because they do not stoop the worlds level. I would rather take modesty advice from the duggars than Sadie because I see God in the Duggars lives more than the rich and camo printed lives of the Robertsons.

    Once again thank you JD, you have helped move further along in my spiritual growth, God Bless

  10. Bill,
    I understand your concern regarding the post as damaging rather than uplifting. I can let you understand why this has helped me. I once thought I would like watching this show. It had everything I was looking for. No sexual content, no swearing, no adult behavior that I wouldn’t let children watch. I loved that they would pray at the end, they stood for common american values. However, that changed when I watched the episode when Sadie was going to homecoming and Willie had to help her dress shopping. She kept complaining that Willie wouldn’t let her wear the dresses that were too short, too tight, to low cut, etc. I couldn’t help but be upset at her, and then even be more upset when her mother scolded Willie for wanting to her to change her dresses. As Christians, we should focus on more what God would be concerned of rather than the world. Sadie obviously made it clear she didn’t want to be ridiculed for covering up. I find it more upsetting that Korie was allowed to go against her husbands wishes, and Si then had to explain that he needed to let Sadie “grow up.” You really think that is the kind of example I would want my children to see. That if Daddy seems to old fashioned and won’t let you be cool, go ahead and ask mommy to do it for you. Where is the respect for the parent, the respect for the husband, the respect to God?

    So after that happened, I began to wonder, is this show really Christian. As I began to see how the men and the women are potrayed, how Phil is seen as old fashioned and dated because of his views, that the women are in control of everything, that old people are ok to make fun of, and other things that push the envelope. Sure we can laugh at it, but when you put God in it, then you begin to wonder, is this who God is? For a country that is lost and without God, it can be so easy to show them a group of people you wouldn’t guess for Christians, but then they are. Then you can say, well, I don’t have to do much else if I become one. I don’t have to change. That I can be rich and have fancy things in life. I know how Phil has changed as he has referenced it before. But we don’t get to see that change in the others as when they accepted Christ in their life. All we see on the show is juvenile behavior and prayer at the end.

    As far as legalism goes, criticizing the points because they are there is not wrong. I only wear skirts and dresses, so legalism for me would be not watching the show because the women wear pants, that they work outside the home, and that the men have long hair. I can look past the outside of those things. However, when Korie comes out in a strapless mini dress to go to a reunion with her husband, and her kids reverend how hot she looks rather than representing herself more on her works of Christian mother and wife to a businessman, I can only wonder where the sense in this is at.

    When people buy duck co. shirts and camo print fashion, do you think they are doing it to represent Christ that is shown on Duck Dynasty, or is it merely a fad. These people say more with their actions rather than their words. And as I mentioned before, instead of protesting A&E for not letting them say the Gospel and express their faith in God more on the show, they decided to continue and with it and just spread the gospel outside of it.

    I understand your concern, as sitting here and talking about it may not help. But I have to wonder, do people want to be Christians because of what God can do for them, or just to be like the Robertsons. God Bless

  11. I read dribble like this and then I see a video like this and I’ll tell you this much, I’d MUCH rather follow the God they do than any God you claim to follow. I dare you to post a link to this video if your man enough!

  12. Thank you for questioning my manhood and suggesting I worship a different god than the Robertsons. I think that speaks for itself.

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