A ‘Duck Dynasty’ profile that actually gets religion

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The Tennessean had a story this weekend that made me “happy, happy, happy.”

In a March post titled “Duck, duck, goose: Media miss faith angle on ‘Duck Dynasty,’” I complained about the media’s failure to get religion in its coverage of the Duck Family Robertson. Ever shy about touting my own stories (not), I referred to the “Faith, family and ducks” piece I wrote for The Christian Chronicle.

Well, as a leading newspaper in the heart of the Bible Belt should do, the Nashville daily nailed the faith angle (and Godbeat pro Bob Smietana wasn’t even the one wrote the story). It’s also the lead story at this moment on Gannett flagship USA Today’s home page.

Let’s start right at the top:

It took only days for famed Florida Gators quarterback Tim Tebow to sell out a Nashville lecture at Lipscomb University in 2010.

“Duck Dynasty’s” Robertson family did the same thing this year. Only they did it three times over.

They’re so popular, Lipscomb has to have one of their appearances for the Don Meyer Evening of Excellence in the afternoon.

Friday night marked at least the third time since December a member of the popular A&E reality-show clan took a Nashville stage to spread hunting tips and their brand of “happy, happy, happy” Christianity, to steal a phrase family patriarch Phil Robertson made popular. He’ll speak again this afternoon and tonight with wife Kay and brother Si.

Their third-season finale Wednesday set an A&E series record with nearly 10 million viewers. More in the Nashville market watched “Duck Dynasty” than any other show that day, said Mark Binda, program and research director for WTVF-Channel 5.

I’ll acknowledge that I’m not entirely “happy, happy, happy” with the reference to “happy, happy, happy” Christianity because I think some readers could misconstrue it and link the Robertsons to prosperity gospel theology, which I don’t believe they preach.

But I like that The Tennessean explores the religion behind the Robertsons’ appeal:

It’s the Robertsons’ authenticity that attracts viewers, media watchers say. But the Bible Belt particularly loves the Robertsons, because evangelical Christians get messages from the show that other viewers might not. They see faith in Phil’s interactions with his sons, in the boys’ marriages and in the way they run Duck Commander, the business that made them millionaires.

And the paper even allows Phil Robertson to refer to “the Almighty” in a quote:

Phil Robertson’s speaking career began when hunting enthusiasts invited him to demonstrate his world-famous duck call. As his faith grew, the demonstrations’ content changed.

“I’d say, ‘That concludes the duck call demonstration,’ ” he said in a phone interview this week. “I’d bring out my Bible and say, ‘While I’m here, based on my observation of the mischief in America, I need to preach the gospel.’ The audiences just keep getting bigger, bigger, bigger. Obviously, the Almighty put the Robertsons on the road, sharing the good news of Jesus, and do people ever need it.”

“Duck Dynasty” first aired in 2012. Phil Robertson said he initially tangled with producers over the portrayal of the family’s faith, insisting the word “Jesus” not be edited out of prayers. For a time, they bleeped out language that wasn’t actually foul, attempting to make the family look more edgy. Robertson put a stop to that.

Feel free to weigh with a comment, as long as it’s “happy, happy, happy.” (Or even if it’s not.)
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About Bobby Ross Jr.

Bobby Ross Jr. is an award-winning reporter and editor with a quarter-century of professional experience. A former religion editor for The Oklahoman and religion writer for The Associated Press, Ross serves as chief correspondent for the The Christian Chronicle. He has reported from 47 states and 11 countries and was honored as the Religion Newswriters Association's 2013 Magazine Reporter of the Year.


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