(RNS) The pastor to “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson rushed to his defense Thursday (Dec. 19) after the reality TV star came under heavy criticism for his graphic comments about homosexuality and the Bible.

Willie, Korie, Miss Kay, Jase, Phil & Si Robertson of the A&E series Duck Dynasty. Photo courtesy Art Streiber/A&E ©2013 A&E Networks

Si, Kay, Jase, Korie, Willie and Phil Robertson of the A&E series Duck Dynasty. Photo courtesy of Art Streiber/A&E ©2013 A&E Networks


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Robertson, who leads a clan that revels in Southern Christian stereotypes, was suspended by the A&E Network after an interview with GQ magazine was published. Robertson, 67, was asked: “What, in your mind, is sinful?”

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there,” Robertson said. “Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men.”

“Duck Dynasty” follows members of the extended Robertson clan, the family that runs the Duck Commander hunting supply company in Louisiana. The GQ interviewer says Robertson is free to say whatever he wants out in the wild, “maybe a little too free.”

“It seems like, to me, a vagina — as a man — would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer,” Robertson said in the interview. “I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

The church that the Robertsons attend and where Phil Robertson is an elder, White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., has received hundreds of phone calls from fans across the country, said Mike Kellett, the senior pastor.

“It seems to me people are tolerant of views except Christianity,” Kellett said. “I don’t have anything to say about the wording in it. I would express things differently, but that’s Phil.”

The Robertsons are part of Churches of Christ, a conservative group of 13,000 U.S. congregations that says that “God remains consistent in His condemnation of homosexuality as He does for all other sins.”

Members of Churches of Christ generally believe that God reserves sex for a marriage between one man and one woman. 

A&E is free to do what it wants with the show, Kellett said.

“It’s a free country,” Kellett said. “We’re not a protest kind of people. We don’t go out in front of people’s office with signs.”

Southern Baptist leaders Russell Moore and Al Mohler, as well as advocacy groups such as Alliance Defending Freedom and the Family Research Council, also came to Robertson’s defense, saying he should not be suspended for voicing his views.

“Free speech is endangered species; those ‘intolerants’ hatin’ & taking on Duck Dynasty patriarch for voicing personal opinion take on us all,” tweeted former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Robertson skipped Barbara Walters’ “Most Fascinating” interview on Wednesday, with his wife saying he was out hunting.

Some Christians said the Robertson situation showed the need for caution in both tone and substance when speaking about sexuality.

“Just because someone quotes 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 and is opposed to same-sex marriage doesn’t mean that they’re speaking up for a theologically informed, humane, pastorally sensitive view of what it means to be gay,” Wesley Hill, who describes himself as a celibate gay Christian, wrote for the journal First Things.

Brandon Ambrosino, an openly gay Christian who writes about religion and sexuality, noted that Robertson and Pope Francis probably share the same views on homosexuality, but there’s a noticeable difference in tone.

“Pope Francis has positions on sexuality but when he does bring them out, he does it in the most accepting way possible,” Ambrosino said, referring to the pope’s famous remark about “Who am I to judge?” on the issue of homosexuality.

However, Ambrosino said, Robertson should not have been suspended.

“Whether or not I think his understanding of desire is primitive and brute, there are lot of people in America who hold his opinion,” Ambrosino said. “Dismissing an idea is not engaging a debate; that is not even entering into one.”

Update: The Robertsons have made a public statement addressing Phil Robertson’s remarks.

“We have had a successful working relationship with A&E but, as a family, we cannot imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm,” the statement says. “We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of Duck Dynasty.”

The Robertsons said they are first and foremost a “family rooted in our faith.”

“While some of Phil’s unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the Bible,” the statement says. “We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right.”

Update 12/20: “Duck Dynasty” is not only a TV show. It has become a publishing phenomenon. “Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen” is on the New York Times bestseller list, and previous books like the show’s Uncle Si’s “Si-chology” and Phil Robertson’s “Happy, Happy, Happy” have been on the list. A spokeswoman for Howard, a division of Simon & Schuster that publishes the books, said it will continue to sell “Duck Dynasty” related books.

“While Phil Robertson has always been known for his opinions, we do not condone his recent remarks, nor do they reflect the views of Howard Books or Simon & Schuster. In our experience publishing the Duck Commander books he has always treated one and all with the utmost respect regardless of political leaning, sexual orientation or religious views,” the statement says, quoting Robertson.

“Phil-osophy” by Phil Robertson is listed on Amazon for release September 2014.

KRE/MG END BAILEY

26 Comments

  1. We seem to be in an age that requires an individual to say politically correct phrases. We are afraid to be honest with each other. We are afraid to offend. Instead of addressing the issue in the open we cower to our comfort zone. Our “true views” only surface when talking with likeminded people and even then there seems to be topics that cannot be talked about. Although I can’t agree with Phil Robertson’s belief’s he has a right to express them. In fact, individuals who watch the show should know where he stood on the issue. It wasn’t as if his religious affiliation was hidden. We need to start being honest with each other and begin having constructive conversations about key issues.

    • Where is the notion of personal responsibility foriInes actions. Of course he had the rights to say something stupid and offensive. He exercised it to his fullest extent. Nowhere in such a right is to avoid the consequences of doing so.

      You are never immune to criticism or to the reaction of those who take offense. He works for a company depending on advertisers who are generally controversy averse. it was either great publicity for Phil or just monumentally stupid and self destructive. When your job depends on public image you have to watch yourself. That is the nature of the job.

      • “When your job depends on public image you have to watch yourself”

        That in itself is a problem in this world. We are so eager to cast judgments on those who say or do something that is questionable while we say and do the same things in the shadows. There should be no difference between public and private persona.

  2. Check out these numbers baby: 62,000 signatures for Phil Robertson on Change.org already, and 420,000+ “likes” on the “Bring Back Phil Robertson” gig via Facebook.

    (Source: Christianity Today.)

    You crooked A & E censors, do you see all those Americans talking to you? Do you see that mass free-speech uprising that YOU created?

    So you better head on down to the Duck Pond and get some things right for a change, or it’s A & E’s goose that will get cooked this Christmas!!!

  3. I support his right to believe and say what he wants. I want the same right therefore I would not sensor the man. It would have been nice if the language had been different, but I suppose that is how the man expresses himself and I appreciate honesty. I am pleased to hear the family is sticking together and forcing A&E buy all the family are none. If they lose that ‘cash cow; A%E are fools.

  4. I fully support Phil’s rights to free speech. However, he was employed by A & E, and acting as an employee at the time. No one would have even wanted to interview him if he wasn’t in the DD show. Therefore he had an obligation to speak in a manner that protected the interest of A & E. What he said could have been said with far less vulgarity, and controversy. If I were to say things in a public format that were against the interests of my employer, even in this comment, they would have the right fire me, and I would expect them to.
    That being said, I agree with Tom Martin, A & E has a cash cow in DD, and this situation will be allowed to cool down, and then they will resume business as usual. Phil however will have learned a valuable lesson in the mean time.

  5. I have never seen the show. But as an “outsider” looking in, it appears to me that the popularity of the show is in the fact that this family lives in a manner which is so foreign to most Americans: their behaviour, manner of speech, and dress is all unique and different. This is what cultivates the “originality” in the show and drives rates. Why are people (the network especially) surprised, then, when these people espouse ideas which are contrary to the mainstream or articulate things in a manner which is less than what is deemed socially acceptable?

    As consumers of media, we have taken an interest in what can only be described as “mind garbage”. Mindless entertainment. Instead of fussing about what is said in such a context, maybe we should just quit watching such trash.

  6. A suppose we can put ol’ Phil up on a cross now and stick a spear in him since he’s the new martyr for the Christian Right. Last year, it was the Chick-Fil-A Chicken being branded as the new saint of Christianity for standing up for all that is Holy Matrimony in the eyes of the Church. These folks want to be on the wrong side of history with their public criticism of homosexuality but cry fowl (pardon the pun) when their own bigotry is examined in a public light. Batter and fry all the nonsense at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/08/holy-rollin-poultry-on-cross-chick-fil.html

  1. […] The decision by A&E to suspend Duck Dynasty paterfamilias Phil Robertson for his comments on hom…. The Robertson family quickly found themselves supported by prominent evangelicals, some of whom have never watched the show. For sociology, the reaction by evangelicals should be completely expected–evangelicalism needs this controversy to survive and thrive. […]

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