Duck Dogma

I’ve refrained from comment on the ongoing flap over “Duck Dynasty” partriarch Phil Robertson’s comments about homosexuality in part because it seemed that more than enough had been said, and in part because the whole thing just seemed too ridiculous.

Photo from A&E’s websiteNow that the Arts & Entertainment network has caved to the demands of the “I Stand with Phil” crowd and reinstated the crusty tribe leader after briefly putting him on hiatus (while simultaneously running “Duck Dynasty” marathons featuring the supposedly banned bearded one), perhaps a few comments are in order.

1. Robertson almost certainly knew that his comments linking homosexuality to bestiality and adultery would create a ruckus, but he didn’t care, because that’s his schtick. Millions of Americans love the Robertson clan precisely because of their claim to be America’s true “roots” people who reject all things politically correct and say what they think without fear of reprisal.

2. A&E should have known the same thing. Surely their market data has told them the demographic makeup of Duck fans. They knew all along that the folks who raised an outcry over Robertson’s comments are not the people who watch the show, which is not so much offensive as it is patently staged and largely vapid. (I watched two episodes some months back in hopes of discovering why so many people I know love the show. One episode centered on raiding a natural beehive in a swamp. The “boys” tried various methods of robbing the honey, including a night attempt based on belief that bees don’t sting in the dark, and an ill-fated attempt to suck the bees out with a shop vacuum plugged into a generator. Wise old Phil supposedly saved the day by using the well-known bee-keeper’s trick of smoking the hive (though I would bet the short “smoker” scene was a sham, and that the small jar of honey he showed up with came from a store). NOBODY is stupid enough to think bees won’t sting in the dark or that they can be tamed with a shopvac. The show may have its adlibs, but is clearly scripted for the clown-factor).

3. Both Robertson and A&E managed to turn the unfortunate comments into a coup, increasing the show’s popularity, allowing Robertson to play the role of martyr, and making gobs of money for all concerned.

4. Fundamentalist Christians were able to jump on the bandwagon and use the flap to further their unconvincing claims that Christians in America are being “persecuted” by liberal elites, so they got something out of it, too.

5. Here’s the thing: Phil Robertson has the right to believe that homosexuality is sinful, as a literalistic reading of certain Bible verses allows him and others to do. Obviously, he is not alone in that belief. Just as progressive folk seek tolerance for their views, they should acknowledge that others have a right to differing beliefs, even if they’re based on what some see as a naive interpretation of scripture.

6. Robertson’s views, while common, are biblically inconsistent. Like virtually everyone else who claims the Bible as their authority, he uses a system of picking-and-choosing. The same law codes in Leviticus that condemn same-sex acts also command that anyone who commits adultery — as well as any children who curse their parents — should be put to death. I don’t hear even the most avid literalists calling for those statutes to be enforced.

7. Many of those who have been strident in supporting Robertson’s views found themselves in a tight place of self-contradiction, because just weeks earlier they had been critical of the Robertson family for getting into the wine business, marketing Duck Commander label wines (Red Blend, Pink Moscato, and Chardonnay, if you’re interested). At least one Christian-based organization, Family Ministries, cancelled an event that was to have featured Willie Robertson because of it. The Bible clearly condones the use of wine while condemning drunkenness, but using Phil Robertson’s own logic (that homosexuality morphs into bestiality), one could argue that wine morphs into crack cocaine, and thus question his Christian values on gaining profits while opening the gate to habits that hit much harder than a Chardonnay buzz.

So where does that leave us? On the one hand, I think we should give the guy a break: he has the right to his superannuated perspective, as well as to the pursuit of greater fame and fortune — and people who share his views have the right to praise the Ducks and enrich their coffers. On the other hand, I won’t be wasting any time watching Robertson’s non-reality show, supporting his right-wing agenda, or purchasing any “Duck Commander” merchandise, whether it’s duck calls, camouflage recliners, bobbleheads, nor even one of their Grateful Dead knockoff beard-wigs — though it might come in handy in playing the role of Isaiah.


  1. Robertson clearly has the right to his own opinions, no matter how un-Christian they are. And A&E and Cracker Barrel have the right to agree with him. And other folks have the right to ride that bandwagon as far as they please.

    I have for more years than I care to count been a real fan and loyal customer of Cracker Barrel (I especially love their breakfast menu), but I also have the right — and now I think the solemn duty — to boycott that chain hereafter.

    I hereby resolve to do so.

    And I welcome the company of others who may join in my response.

  2. I appreciate you acknowledging that we all occasionally (yet consistently) employ some version of picking and choosing when it comes to interpreting Scripture. Your post is a perfect example of that hermeneutic.

    You say that "The same law codes in Leviticus that condemn same-sex acts also command that anyone who commits adultery — as well as any children who curse their parents — should be put to death. I don't hear even the most avid literalists calling for those statutes to be enforced." It's a clever scheme to tie the biblical ethic of prohibiting adultery, cursing of one's parents, and same-sex acts to the theocratic punishment of stoning. The intended result is that if one assumes stoning is not culturally acceptable, they must necessarily assume its antecedent (adultery, cursing of parents. same-sex acts, etc.) is similarly unacceptable. By your logic, then, adultery is now biblically acceptable, as is the cursing of one's parents. That's illogical, of course, so hopefully you wouldn't follow your own line of reasoning.

    As you're quick to point out when it bolsters your point (and only then), no clear-thinking interpreter of Scripture (not even the most literal) would assume that the theocratic perspective which applied to ancient Israel applies in the same way in our context. It doesn't, but the ethic certainly does.

    The bottom line is that adultery and same-sex acts are clearly condemned in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Wishing that wasn't the case doesn't make it so. What you've done is allow your personal politics ("homosexuality really is an acceptable alternative lifestyle") to inform your hermeneutic ("I don't think Jesus would disagree with me on this one") when the reverse should be true instead.

  3. I considered responded to Tony's self-righteous and hypocritical rantings, but DC did such a good job of exposing him, I'lll just say, Amen!

  4. I found this blog today while researching Tony W. Cartledge. I discovered he is the author of the commentary being used by a pretty smart women's Bible class at the SBC church I'm attending in Northern Virginia. But after reading this blog, I am terribly concerned for these women!!! Does Mr. Cartledge consider himself a "progressive" Christian??? SCARY!!! There are far more texts, sir, than Leviticus, that reveal the obvious fact that marriage was ordained by God and that homosexuality is outside God's design for us. You don't have to be a backwoods hick to know there is FAR more than that in Scripture – indeed ALL of scripture – that supports marriage as being between men and women.

    If Cartledge represents what "progressive" means, we are in BIG trouble in the SBC.

    For a true biblical understanding of marriage, John Piper speaks the truth here:
    It is doubtful one could find this a "naive interpretation of scripture" as Cartledge asserts.

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