Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy

Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy January 14, 2014

I am always delighted to receive a guest post from David J. Theroux, who is Founder, President and CEO of The Independent Institute. His essays are often comprehensive, always thoughtful, and always worth reading. I divided the present essay into two installments, to publish the first today and the second on Thursday.


Duck Dynasty and the Secular Theocracy

By David J. Theroux

With A&E Network facing an avalanche of public protest and in just over one week of its decision to place family-patriarch Phil Robertson on “indefinite hiatus” from its megahit reality series Duck Dynasty, the network caved.

When the PC outrage industry went into high gear with an angry Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) demanding Robertson’s head regarding his comments on homosexuality in an article by Drew Magery in the January 2014 issue of GQ (the magazine commonly viewed as having branded the concept of “metrosexual”), A&E executives promptly suspended Robertson from the enormously popular, cable-TV program, and support for his suspension echoed throughout the conventional media with cries of his being “homophobic” and “antigay.”

In the article, when asked about his religious faith, Robertson noted that his own youthful debauchery was self-destructive and put his marriage on the rocks, and that these were reversed only by his conversion to Christianity. He added that he now considers sexual relations other than those between a man and woman in wedlock to be sinful. In so doing, Robertson did not support bans on homosexual advocacy or relations but instead paraphrased 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.”

In subsequent comments, he included himself as a “sexual sinner”:

“I myself am a product of the 60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom and accepted Jesus as my Savior. My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together. However, I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me. We are all created by the Almighty and like Him, I love all of humanity. We would all be better off if we loved God and loved each other.”

In contrast, Doug Ellin, creator of HBO’s Entourage, has actually tweeted a call for gays to shoot Robertson: “I think it would be a better show if gay people got to throw Phil Robertson [sic] up in the air and shoot at him then [sic] him shooting at cute ducks.” So much for tolerance and nonviolence, and will Ellin be booted by “progressives” for advocating a hate crime?  Just imagine if the reverse had happened or if someone on a major network TV program had been suspended indefinitely for making pro-gay comments. The outrage would be deafening.

Some have speculated that all this was just a brilliant and perhaps unprecedented publicity stunt by A&E. Was it?

Even before the show premiered in spring 2012, A&E well knew of Robertson’s views and warned him not to expound them, and it was A&E who arranged and oversaw the GQ interview. While the Robertson family has publicly stated they regret the “unfiltered” and “coarse” language Phil used, they believe that they have been “hung out to dry” by A&E in order to rein him in. The Daily Mail reported on December 21, 2013, that

A source close to the family, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline“You have to ask yourself, why this interview happened and why it ever became public. Someone from A&E was there and was aware of the kind of answers Phil was giving. But despite that, they didn’t ever try to stop it or control it. Instead, they let it hit the headlines and then released a statement condemning it. It is our belief that they knew what was going to happen and then used the situation to exercise control over Phil. It is our understanding that when the TV executives came up with the concept for the show they wanted it to be a case of people laughing at a bunch of backward rednecks. But when it didn’t turn out like that and people actually started identifying with the way the family behaved and were laughing with them, not at them, they became uncomfortable. It did not sit well with the New York TV types. We believe they were also uncomfortable with the family’s insistence that there would be a strong religious presence in the show. They knew Phil was the driving force behind this and we think they have used this situation to bring him in line so they could steer the show back down the path they originally intended for it. But they may have underestimated how united the family are and how committed they are to their beliefs. They also didn’t realize how much support Phil would get from the public, so things have backfired on them.”

A&E may well have believed that they could manipulate the family that was then under a new contract: season five had already been filmed for 2014 (to premiere January 15), and Duck Dynasty merchandise sales were breaking new records during the Christmas season ($500 million since the show’s first launch). Even after the controversy arose, A&E continued its plans to air a Duck Dynasty marathon on Christmas Day, and there was never any hint that season five would be altered in any way.

As the Los Angeles Times noted on December 20, 2013, “A&E said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ to read the GQ interview. Note, however, that the statement did not say ‘extremely surprised.’ The network knew all along about Robertson’s views, because he’s not shy about sharing them.”

However, disputes between the Robertson family and A&E over the Christian content of the show developed early on. Phil Robertson has pointed out that A&E editors “with no moral compass” initially tried to censor out the words Jesus and Christ from prayers on the show and even routinely manipulated the show’s footage to intensify the language and make the family appear more profane and unruly than they really are. “They inserted fake beeps like somebody had used profanity, but no one had used profanity. If you want that, you can get all of that you want. Just turn the station. There’s plenty of that! And if we’re not using profanity, why make it look like we’re using profanity? What is the point? Why don’t you just run it and say what we say?” Producers eventually gave in, he said, and “quit doing that.”

WND poked fun of A&E officials who were increasingly incensed by the Christian content of the show, even to the point of risking the financial rewards, with this spoof:

“We’re just sick of all this redneck Jesusy stuff,” A&E representative Moe Ronic told reporters. “And besides, making truckloads of money is really overrated,” he added, referencing the show’s No. 1 all-time ranking. “In fact,” he continued, “just the other day I was sharing an Appletini with Bob, our program director, and he was pining for the good ol’ days—back when we had ratings like MSNBC’s ‘Winter Solstice Generic Holiday Special.’ “You know, more money means more work—what, with the bookkeeping and all,” he pointed out. “Most of us at A&E are actually quite excited to get back to the utter irrelevance and obscurity from whence we came.”

As was the case with such earlier TV shows as Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Petticoat Junction, as well as NPR’s long-running Prairie Home Companion, A&E was seeking an entertainment show portraying Middle America as “hickville” in order to get people to disparage and laugh at those who do not subscribe to “progressive” culture (social liberalism achieved and policed through bullying and government mandates). What A&E was not expecting is that instead of the audience laughing at a self-described “bunch of rednecks from Louisiana,” the 14.6 million who view the program each week have been laughing with the Robertson’s at the hypocrisy, foolishness, and tyranny of “progressive” elites. As CNN’s Ruben Navarrette has duly commented, “The reason that ‘Duck Dynasty’ is on television is to make liberal studio executives at A&E, and parent company Disney, feel superior, while making big profits for the studio.  The Robertson’s are on television so that people in New York and Los Angeles—the kind of folks who refer to anyplace in between as ‘flyover country’—can feel progressive and enlightened by comparing themselves to simple country folks in Louisiana who, according to the elites, are neither. (And can make lots of money doing so.)”

 * Check back Thursday for Part II of this essay, “Phil Robertson’s Victory Over the Secular Theocracy *


David J. Theroux is Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Independent Institute and Publisher of The Independent Review and President of the C.S. Lewis Society of California.



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  • Nothing exceeds the “homophobic and antigay” bigotry of the Right as much as the “hoplophobic” and “anti-gun” bigotry of the Left. Bring up the “Pink Pistols” in one of the self-styled “progressive” channels here on Patheos. Observe the rabid animosity, even when one presents a rational defense of the Second Amendment from a perspective of egalitarianism, as evidenced by evolutionary biology and anthropology, as do I.

    • dtheroux

      Brian, In this regard, you may be especially interested in the following, widely acclaimed, new book from the Independent Institute:

      “Gun Control in the Third Reich: Disarming the Jews and ‘Enemies of the State’,” by Stephen P. Halbrook

      • Thanks! I’ve already got his Target Switzerland: Swiss Armed Neutrality in World War II in my personal library; he’s a good author.

        • SKPeterson

          That’s a good one.

  • Nemo

    Free speech means Robertson can say what he wants, but a private network can react to that as they will. Me? I would have kept the man on; he brings in money, and that is what the free market it all about. Besides, giving off the impression of creating free speech martyrs isn’t going to help GLAAD and their allies. It will only galvanize the religious right at a time when they truly need it (as has been the case). Most people don’t care for politics, but they love them some entertainment. Going after Robertson was a bad idea, which GLADD should have realized.

  • RustbeltRick

    This article paints A&E as the oppressive bad guy that hates religion. Which is ridiculous. Every episode of the show featured a prayer at the end, which if nothing else proves that A&E had no problem with the family’s Normal Rockwell moments. A&E’s discomfort with Phil’s “homosexuality is bestiality” comments lasted all of one week, and then they brought him back rapidly because the show is a cash cow. Do church folk understand that A&E is on your side — they love Phil as much as you do?

    • Idaho Bob

      me thinks you are on an alternate wave length when it comes to this situation. A & E merely kept them because they are the “cash cow” you mention. Certainly, they didn’t keep them because they are on the side of the church. That’s about as ludicrous a statement that anyone could draw from this. If A & E was on the side of the Church, than Phil Robinson’s statement would not have raised the ire of A & E as it did.

      • happy

        If A & E was on the side of the Church, than Phil Robinson’s statement would not have raised the ire of A & E as it did.

        So the whole “Church” is one big monolithic thingy that thinks the same things that Phil does. You might want to narrow it down a little but then you wouldn’t have the monopoly on the same big giant monolithic yes-man that agrees with everything you and Phil think.

        • Idaho Bob

          First of all let’s define what the “Church” is. The Church is the body of Christ, first and foremost. It is not a denomination or a building. This means that the true Church is going to be in obedience to the Word of God. There are many false churches and false christians out there. Any “church” who believes that ho mo se xuality is acceptable is a false church in the same way that any church that would teach that any form of sexual immorality is okay is a false church. Do all churches think alike? Not at all on every topic. There is room for disagreeing on such issues as music. The age old saying lets not major on the minors comes to mind. However, when it come to the majors there’s far less wiggle room. If you are going to tell me that Jesus is Michael the Archangel, or that Jesus is the spirit brother of the devil, as two examples, then we aren’t going to be able to agree or fellowship. These are both false teachings that characterize two of today’s false churches.
          As far as agreeing with everything Phil says, I don’t. I disagree wholeheartedly with his, and the Church of Christs, stance on baptismal regeneration, but I can still count him as a brother in Christ. Thank you.

          • happy

            So presumably neither one of you has a problem with Phil voluntarily making loads of (non greedy, obviously) cash from an immoral Church-opposed master. “Or what fellowship has light ducks with darkness dynasty?” Lol.

          • Idaho Bob

            Money. Money is amoral. It is neither good nor evil. This brings to memory an old song from my youth, “What do you do for money honey?” This is the crux of the problem. It’s not money that is the problem, it’s what a person does to get the money and/or how they use the money that is good or evil.

            I don’t know Phil, but from what can be ascertained from the information available is that he is a generous person who has gained the respect of the people around him including employees, church members, and towns people. This is because he has used his money in a wise way helping people have gainful employment and donating money to many local charitable causes.

            There is a great example of a wealthy man who is commended by God in the book of Acts. This man was named Cornelius, “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always (Acts 10:2)”. Then Cornelius saw the angel of God in a vision and said, “What is it, lord?” So he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God (Acts 10:4). It is plainly evident that a person who has been faithful in giving and prayer because their life has been turned over to God can do good with wealth.

            Wealth is not evil, wealth is not condemned by God. Instead, “those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition (1 Timothy 6:9)”. If a persons only desire is for self-fulfilled wealth they will bring destruction upon their self, that is clear. But, we also need to keep in mind that money is not evil, rather, the love of money. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows (1 Timothy 6:10)”. Some but not all.

            Here is God’s admonition to the rich, “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life (1 Timothy 6:17-19)”.

            Lastly, as you seemingly condemn Phil for being rich, what are you doing with your own money? Are you being generous with it? Do you give regularly of your own time and your own money to charitable causes such as feeding and clothing the homeless? Or, do you just pay taxes and believe that’s the governments domain? As for me and my house, we serve God with our lives and money by teaching, giving, and serving those in need on a regular basis. How about you?

            In Christ,

          • happy

            Yeah I’m dumb for condemning people for being rich lol. What an idiot I must be. Anyway if A&E are so immoral and anti “Church” then why the heck is he working for them and hows come you don’t care. The answer as far as Phil is concerned is that money and fame are more important for him and he’s full of baloney. It’s all baloney anyway so I actually don’t care one way or the other if he works for them or gets rich or whatever. It’s hilarious watching people completely ignore Jesus’s words when it suits them because the words are so inconvenient for them. Not that I don’t blame y’all since Jesus and Paul said some pretty damn stupid words sometimes. Have a nice day.

    • tearfang

      ‘Phil’s “homosexuality is bestiality”‘

      I call BS on your quote, and I can prove it.

      If you actually read the interview you would know that your quote is a lie. And that Phil said nothing of the sort.

      Let me repeat Phil never said homosexuality is bestiality. Nor did he even equate bestiality with homosexuality- tellingly his catalogue of sexual sins included heterosexual sins too. Gluttony and murder are both sins according to Christian scripture and no one has an issue knowing that isn’t equating gluttony to murder. The GQ article is online. It is easily findable (the quote is on page 2); there really is no excuse for such bald faced slander. If whatever media source(s) you used is willing to misrepresent Phil with such bald faced lies; how does that affect your faith in their integrity?

      The quote that mentions bestiality was part of a larger answer to what Phil viewed as sin and is a one and a half sentence quote GQ isolated outside of whatever larger context it was said in except a paraphrase to a larger list of sins in the bible, and even then, the half sentence tellingly includes heterosexual sins. Phil’s list was obviously intended to be a non-exhaustive subset of sinful sexual behaviors. No doubt the GQ author pulled the quote out bc even the topic of if homosexual sex is sinful is controversial.

      You may disagree with Phil and his actual views… but the ‘Phil’ you’re talking about above exists only as a phantom of your imagination.

  • Idaho Bob

    “A&E said it was ‘extremely disappointed’ to read the GQ interview”.

    How could they have been “extremely disappointed to read” when they were present during the interview? They already knew what had been said from first hand knowledge of being present. So, what I’m gathering from this is that A & E couldn’t handle the fact that the Robertson’s were likable Christians who held to Biblical morals and principles. Most of all, A & E couldn’t handle hearing the name Jesus Christ invoked in a way that wasn’t vulgar. It looks to me like A & E is lying about what happened and being disingenuous about their motive for allowing this to go forward in the manner that they did.

  • cvxxx

    Me thinks A&E knew exactly what they were doing. They had no intention of doing anything as the suits figured out that controversy would mean more money for them.

  • $23022903

    and anther post about Duck Dynasty making no mention at all of his statements that “pre entitlement/welfare blacks were godly”


    • B_Cody

      That’s because the media already made us aware of those comments with NO MENTION of the comment cited in this post.
      Why are you stirring up hatred for Phil Robertson?

    • dtheroux

      Instead of casting aspersions, I would suggest that you read Part 2 of the article that clearly discusses the issue of race. Part 2 is scheduled for publication at Patheos on Thursday.

  • It’s curious how the Evangelical side has to resort to hyperbole like ‘secular theocracy,’ ‘head on a plate,’ and’PCoutrage machine,’ while all anyone else has do to counter said claims is merely quote Robertson verbatim.

  • Fulton F Fortner

    I think this is all a ploy for enhanced market share. These guys know who they’re playing to. This is just their version of being Miley and the VMA’s. Controversy improves your numbers. Everyone who identifies themselves as part of the Christian right will flock to the show as de facto defenders of the faith. Then they’ll buy whatever the commercials are selling, A&E will enjoy an increased value for commercial slots, the Robertsons will get a better cut in their next contract, and everyone else will just be a cog in the wheel.

  • AmusedAgain

    We’re still rehashing Phil’s brilliantly timed publicity stunt? Twas the week before Christmas when this story popped, and Duck Dynasty brand has had nothing but free publicity since. I think it was super brave of Phil to write off the entire duck-hunting LGBTQ market in exchange for folk hero status with the rural white male gun-friendly market…quite the trade-off.

  • “…There is no escaping theocracy. A government’s laws reflect its morality, and the
    source of that morality (or, more often than not, immorality) is its god. It is never a question of theocracy or no theocracy, but whose theocracy….

    “People recoil at the idea of a theocracy’s morality being forced upon them, but
    because all governments are theocracies, someone’s morality is always being
    enforced. This is an inevitability of government. The question is which god,
    theocracy, laws, and morality will we choose to live under?…”

    For more, see online Chapter 3 “The Preamble: WE THE PEOPLE vs. YAHWEH” at

  • AshleyWB

    “The Robertson’s are on television so that people in New York and Los Angeles—the kind of folks who refer to anyplace in between as ‘flyover country’—can feel progressive and enlightened by comparing themselves to simple country folks in Louisiana who, according to the elites, are neither.”

    It is fairly amazing to me how blind you are to your own prejudice. You are committing the exact transgression you are complaining about – stereotyping millions of people based on where they live. Open your eyes to your own hate and tribalism before attempting to identify the same in others.