In my happy, happy, happy little world, what if the Robertsons of Duck Dynasty, overwhelmed by the tsunami of popularity and fame, picked up the phone to ask for my advice on how to avoid making a mess of it all?
Think Miley Cyrus and you’ll see how the best laid plans can go wrong in a hurry. The last thing we need is Willie Robertson on stage wearing latex in any form.
In fact, latex and Duck Dynasty probably shouldn’t be mentioned in the same sentence, unless it involves Si and — but I digress.
So what would I say if they asked me for advice? Funny you should ask, because I’ve found myself of late thinking about that very thing.
I seem to have special burden of prayer for the Robertsons. Sure, I’d love to hang with them. They seem like authentic, Christian people who might cause you to get muddy or break a bone or two — but you’d have a memorable time doing it. However, what fascinates me most is their potential long-term cultural impact as Christ-followers authentically living out their faith and having fun doing it. [ See my post Duck Dynasty: Top Ten Reasons Why the A&E Show Is Popular ]
So here is some advice for America’s favorite redneck family, though I confess it’s doubtful it will ever reach their eyes and ears. Maybe I should try a camo font.
You’re a cultural icon now. Act like it.
The temptation many people have when they gain recognition quickly is to think that the fame is mostly due to who they are. But being a cultural icon means that you represent something else, something much bigger than just you. That’s what icons do. You are popular because you represent greater cultural values and beliefs that a lot of people believe in but haven’t seen much of in popular culture. Perhaps the most important lesson — the one most often forgotten — is that icons can be replaced far more easily than any of us would like to think.
Keep your family first.
After God, your family is by far the most important priority you have. We’ve all read in the Bible of King David’s success as a cultural influencer — and of his abject failure as a father. Don’t be that guy. Think legacy. Be sure you continue to carve out intentional time for family, off-camera time. What good will it do if you dominate the ratings and merchandising sales but lose your sons and daughters? I hate to remind us all of it again, but what happened to Miley Cyrus could just as easily happen to Sadie, John Luke, and any of the rest of the kids. Faith and family got you here. Keep them first — or cancel the show.
Avoid political entanglements.
I like a good political discussion as much as the next guy, but those critics who oppose your values will try to isolate you by cramming you into a political category of Right or Left. Right now, Duck Dynasty transcends those categories as your authentic display of faith, family, and community should. This article, for example, seems an attempt to do just that — portray your audience as a bunch of right-wing Republicans. Who cares? Duck Dynasty is not about party affiliation, though I could make an educated guess which way you might lean on some issues. But avoid becoming a political pawn. It will only diminish your cultural influence in the long run.
Don’t become a Bible-thumping Christian.
I know I’ll offend some fellow believers by saying this, but there is a temptation in evangelical circles to feel compelled to start spouting explicit gospel messages whenever a spotlight hits you. I’ve even heard the argument made that God has given you these fifteen minutes of fame, so you have a duty to preach the gospel (and by gospel, they mean try to tell people how to be “born again” in a 15 second sound byte). But cultural influence comes from thinking long-term, bypassing the quick hit in favor of gospel implications far beyond that moment in the spotlight. Yes, people need to be reconciled to their Creator. But our culture also needs gospel-driven shaping influences that open the doors for such conversation.
Think of C.S. Lewis and the Narnia series or even of Tolkien’s LOTR. Both deal with distinctly Christian themes without Aslan ever pounding on the Stone Table or Gandalf ever quoting from Romans. Both Lewis and Tolkien used stories to show instead of tell. And that’s what we need from you. Stories that entertain while they show core cultural values of faith and family that we desperately need to see in action. As Christian cultural influencers, your stories can open doors for millions of other Christians to engage in conversations.
You are door openers. No one is going to come to faith in Christ by watching Duck Dynasty — nor should that be the goal. But the stories you share on the show may cause viewers to question their Christian neighbors about prayer, faith, and family issues, thereby creating an open door for the gospel. To put it in biblical terms, you may plant, someone else waters, but it is God who gives any increase. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t preach the gospel off-camera as given opportunity, just don’t make the show an extension of the Hour of Power with Billy Graham.
It’s not about you.
Which brings me to the final, simple point. It really isn’t about you. I know that seems obvious on paper, but when you’re riding the fame tsunami, it can be easy to forget. God raises up people for his purposes, not your own. I know you’ll agree that unless the Lord builds the Robertson house, you all are just wasting your time — or worse. So be intentional about making sure that in the midst of this meteoric rise that He must increase while you decrease. Otherwise, you’ll start believing your own press. And that ain’t good. Just ask Miley.
What do you make of my unsolicited advice for the Robertsons? What bits of wisdom would you add if the Duck Dynasty clan asked for your insight? Leave a comment below with your thoughts.