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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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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