Worst religion story of the year? AP trashes Phil Robertson

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Sigh…no context, just a quick Associated Press gotcha blurb. 

Yep, that reader’s email to GetReligion pretty much sums up an atrocious, 135-word piece of AP “journalism” on Phil Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame.

The headline:

New anti-gay remarks by ‘Duck Dynasty’ star emerge

The lede:

NEW YORK (AP) — A&E has declined to comment on new video of “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson reviving past anti-gay remarks.

His comments are included in a sermon delivered at his church in West Monroe, Louisiana, on Easter Sunday. Robertson includes homosexuals with other groups such as thieves and adulterers as hell-bound sinners.

What exactly did Robertson say? Did he quote the Bible inside a church (say, 1 Corinthians 6:9)? Why is it important for A&E — and not Robertson himself — to be contacted for comment?

AP provides no details at all.

Let’s keep reading:

Robertson is the bearded patriarch of a clan that manufactures duck calls and became reality-TV stars. In December he set off a firestorm after GQ magazine quoted him linking homosexual behavior to bestiality.

Here is what GQ originally reported:

What, in your mind, is sinful?

“Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

Is that linking homosexual behavior to bestiality?

More from AP:

He also made racist statements.

From the original GQ article:

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Politics, sin and serious reporting in La. bayou country

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As I’ve shared before, I spent a few years of my early childhood in West Monroe, La., where my dad attended the White’s Ferry Road School of Preaching.

That now-defunct school was operated by the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, now known nationally as the home congregation of the Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame. Through my work with The Christian Chronicle, I remain in touch with a number of White’s Ferry Road church leaders and members.

Given my personal connection, national news out of Louisiana bayou country tends to catch my attention. The latest headlines involve Congressman Vance McAllister, who ran on a Christian family values platform but got caught in a compromising video with a woman who is not his wife. (I met McAllister’s predecessor, Rodney Alexander, several years ago when he caught a ride on a private plane that the White’s Ferry Road church’s disaster relief ministry chartered to assess Hurricane Katrina damages.)

The brouhaha over McAllister prompted this Facebook post by my good friend John Dobbs, who preaches for the Forsythe Church of Christ in Monroe, La., across the Ouachita River from West Monroe:

I’m embarrassed for Vance and his family, sorry that he made some choices that have caused a lot of pain. I realize he lives a very public life. But we are all sinners, and I wonder how any of us would feel to have our sin video taped and put up for all the world to see? Vance needs to work that out with God and his family. He is working in a culture of adultery in Washington D.C. (does anyone doubt that?) and I pray that he can restore his family and keep his guard up.

Dobbs’ post generated lively feedback about sin, forgiveness, politics and media coverage, including this response from Keith Roberts, minister and elder of the Calhoun Church of Christ, east of West Monroe:

I’m disappointed. I like Vance and thought he would bring a bit of ‘fresh air’ to the process. Instead — more of the same.

And the aftermath of this incident isn’t about forgiveness (any of us can fall quickly) but about leadership.

A man who’s unwilling to keep the most fundamental promise in his life will have trouble keeping his word in other areas (I’ve always wondered why people didn’t see that in Bill Clinton’s case).

I need to pray for Vance & his family.

Overall, that Facebook discussion was serious and respectful in tone. Differences of opinion were evident. But each side was fairly represented. Believe it or not, I felt the same way about a New York Times story this week on how McAllister’s northeast Louisiana district is reacting to the scandal.

From the top of the NYTimes report:

WEST MONROE, La. — As she handed out garbage bags on Saturday as part of an anti-litter drive, Patsy Edmondson drew a parallel to Louisiana’s history of tawdry politics.

“If we grow up in litter, we accept it,” she said. “If we grow up with this kind of politician, we accept it.” Rolling her eyes, she said both were learned behaviors. “We’re trying to teach our children it costs us money to be dirty.”

Ms. Edmondson’s congressman, Representative Vance McAllister, is the latest Louisiana official facing demands for his resignation, after a leaked video last week showed him passionately kissing a woman who was not his wife.

After winning an election pledging to “defend our Christian way of life,” Mr. McAllister now faces accusations of hypocrisy as thick as spring mosquitoes on the bayou. Gov. Bobby Jindal, a fellow Republican, has called on him to step down, and the state Republican chairman labeled him “an example of why ordinary people are fed up with politics.”

A quick aside: What do you think of “hypocrisy as thick as spring mosquitoes on the bayou?” Clever or cliche?

Keep reading, and the NYTimes provides this background:

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Say what?!? Organ music at ‘Duck Dynasty’ church?

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The White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, La., is making headlines these days as the home congregation of the Robertson family of “Duck Dynasty” fame.

For me, mention of the White’s Ferry Road church brings back fond memories totally unrelated to duck hunting or reality television. That’s because — for two years during my early childhood — the Ouachita River community of West Monroe was my hometown and the White’s Ferry Road church my home congregation, as I shared in a 2012 column.

In light of the controversy over “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s comments on homosexuality, The Associated Press sent a reporter to cover Sunday services at the Louisiana church this past weekend.

The top of the story:

WEST MONROE, La. (AP) – “Faith. Family. Ducks.” It’s the unofficial motto for the family featured in the TV reality show Duck Dynasty and that homespun philosophy permeates nearly everything in this small north Louisiana town.

It’s perhaps most on display at the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, where the Robertson family prays and preaches most Sunday mornings.

The family — including patriarch Phil Robertson, who ignited a controversy last week when he told a magazine reporter that gays are sinners and African-Americans were happy under Jim Crow laws — were in a front pew this past Sunday. And standing by beliefs they say are deeply rooted in their reading of the Bible.

The rest of the flock, decked out in Duck Dynasty hats and bandannas, stood by the family and the sentiments Phil Robertson expressed.

Alan, Robertson’s eldest son, helped deliver a Christmas-themed sermon. He started off by referring to last week’s controversy.

“Hope your week went well,” he dead-panned. “Ours was kinda’ slow.” He was referring, of course, to Phil’s forced hiatus: TV network A&E suspended Phil last week after remarks about blacks and gays caused a public uproar.

So far, so good.

But then came this spit-out-out-your-Diet-Coke transition, if you happen to be a part of this particular branch of the Christian faith:

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Duck czar: World-class sinner who has been there, done that

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A long, long time ago — pre-World Wide Web — I wrote a column for the Scripps Howard News Service (RIP) and The Rocky Mountain News (RIP) that tried to explain why a very charismatic evangelical leader of national renown insisted on saying that homosexual acts were sinful.

The leader was University of Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney, who went on to lead the national Promise Keepers movement. During a 1992 press conference, he was asked about his links to Colorado for Family Values, a network that had taken conservative stands on issues linked to homosexuality (specifically whether homosexuals should be granted special group-status protection, equal to race and gender, under civil rights laws).

The coach was wearing a shirt with a CU logo. Later, he acknowledged that he was wrong to have answered this question while wearing that shirt. Nevertheless, he responded by saying — in part — that homosexuality was “an abomination of almighty God.”

Reactions were rather intense in the city that Colorado folks have long called “The People’s Republic of Boulder.” A Chicago Tribune piece at that time noted:

BOULDER, COLO. – The peace of the Colorado campus, in all its winter splendor, was shattered last February by the sudden appearance of handbills with side-by-side pictures of Adolf Hitler and Bill McCartney, the school’s football coach.

Underneath the pictures were the words, “Twins, separated at birth.”

As you would expect, McCartney’s use of “abomination” language quickly evolved into claims that he was, for example, a bigot who would apply Old Testament punishments (references to stones were popular) to homosexuals and others whose actions he condemned.

McCartney was also quoted as saying: “I did nothing more than call a sin a sin.”

What was missing from the coverage? Well, for starters, people missed that McCartney was well aware that Leviticus 18 called a number of sins “abominations” and the coach, himself, consistently referred to racism as an “abomination” before God.

Most importantly, I kept reminding other journalists, McCartney had — in the press conference that started it all — stated that “my own sins” are an abomination before God and just as horrible as the sins of anyone else. However, he was clearly saying that homosexual acts were sinful and as sinful as x, y and z in any biblical list of sinful behaviors.

What he said was clearly offensive. However, I argued that it was crucial to stress that it wasn’t fair or, in the best sense of the word, “accurate” to give readers the impression that McCartney had singled gays out for unique censure and had, in fact, stressed that his own sins were just as abominable to God. The coach stressed that he was a sinner in the eyes of God and needed to repent and be forgiven, just like everybody else.

McCartney’s words were, of course, offensive to many readers no matter how they were parsed. People had every right to protest. However, I argued, if anyone actually wanted to understand what the coach had said they would need to see his words in context, including his judgments on his own sins.

This brings us, of course, to Phil Robertson and his coarse, offensive and highly anti-evangelical (in the sense of serving as effective evangelism) GQ words on homosexual behavior.

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Pondering duck doctrines and our bubble-bound media elite

Let’s see. Where should we begin on this oh-so-bizarre morning?

What will it be, Pope Francis, Santa Claus or Duck Dynasty?

Pope Francis, Santa Claus or Duck Dynasty? As my favorite French History professor at Baylor University used to say, with a world-weary and exasperated sigh: “What a world.”

First, let me offer a few relevant confessions on my part.

I would like to echo the following Twitter comment by one of the scribes who often hangs out in my favorite coffee shop here in our neighborhood on Capitol Hill. Yes, this man is a bit of an elite Yankee, but he is what he is. Ross Douthat works for The New York Times. So, sue him.

I’m good to go with all of that, except for the “Merry Christmas” reference — since we are still in Advent, after all. Douthat must be one of those post-Vatican II Catholics (just kidding).

Another confession: I have never watched a single episode of “Duck Dynasty,” although I have tried to do so several times. It’s just not my style. Frankly, when it comes to the masculine virtues I favor Jane Austen’s Captain Frederick Wentworth over the the guys in the duck crew. I also lived in the mountains of Tennessee for six years (and plan to live there again someday) and I’ve never even watched a NASCAR race on television. I do, however, like barbecue. A lot. I also like ZZ Top and Eastern Orthodox bishops, so I’m OK with the beards.

There, I needed to get all of that off my chest. Now, I can confess that there is one element of the Duck Dynasty media storm that fascinates me.

Let’s try, for a minute, to ignore duck patriarch Phil Robertson’s reflections on genitalia — although I rather think that if he had rapped that stuff with a strong backbeat, it would have viewed as a kind of elderly Eminem thing. You know, Eminem has to keep his street cred. Elite media folks from places like Harvard and Yale tend to respect street cred way more than they do swamp cred.

No, I want to join the once and always GetReligionista M.Z. Hemingway in thinking that the key to this particular duck blind spot is found in this chunk of Robertson GQ prose:

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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:

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Duck, duck, ghost: Media miss faith angle on ‘Duck Dynasty’

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Do you speak duck?

Last Wednesday night, the Season 3 premiere of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” delivered 8.6 million viewers, beating Fox’s “American Idol” and ABC’s “Modern Family” in the important 18- to 49-year-olds demographic.

In a featured titled “Faith, family and ducks,” I profiled the Robertson family for The Christian Chronicle this past fall:

WEST MONROE, La. — Hollywood, meet the real Robertsons.

A&E’s hit reality series “Duck Dynasty” has made celebrities out of Duck Commander Phil Robertson, his wife Kay and their bearded, camo-clad sons Willie, Jase and Jeptha, not to mention “Uncle Si,” Phil’s younger brother.

As the network portrays it, the series — whose Season 1 finale drew 2.6 million viewers — follows a Louisiana bayou family living the American dream as they operate a thriving duck call and decoy business while staying true to their family values.

For the Robertsons, those values relate to the grace and salvation found in Jesus.

But for the show’s producers, the family’s strong Christian faith seems to be an uncomfortable storyline — one frequently chopped in the editing room.

“They pretty much cut out most of the spiritual things,” Phil Robertson, a one-time honky-tonk operator who gave up his heathen lifestyle in the 1970s, told The Christian Chronicle. “We say them, but they just don’t run them on the show.

“Hollywood has run upon the kingdom of God, and there’s a rub there,” said the Duck Commander, a tenacious personal evangelist who has brought hundreds of souls to new life in the Ouachita River. “Well, we have to be as harmless as a dove and as shrewd as a snake in the way we deal with them.”

The entire Robertson family is active with the White’s Ferry Road Church of Christ, which meets just a few miles from the Duck Commander/Buck Commander warehouse in this northeast Louisiana town of 13,000.

In advance of last week’s season premiere, “Duck Dynasty” got some free publicity: Singer and animal rights activist Morrissey canceled an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” because the Robertsons were scheduled on the same night.

From The Associated Press:

Morrissey says he can’t perform on a show with what he called people who “amount to animal serial killers.”

Phil, Si, Willie and Jase Robertson appeared on Kimmel’s show as scheduled and joked about Morrissey’s absence. But Phil Robertson’s comments also reflected his faith.

“Whoever he is, we love him as our neighbor, hey!” Phil Robertson told Kimmel. The patriarch of the Robertson family also offered to have a Bible study with Morrissey (as you can see in the above video).

Surprisingly enough (or not), the Bible statement — unlike the animal rights issue — did not make it into the mainstream media reports that I read.

Back in October, The New York Times featured the Robertsons and hinted at their faith:

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