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Will All the Ducks Fly Away?

“God, Family, Ducks…in that order.” So reads the Twitter profile of Jase Robertson, one of the stars of A&E’s “Duck Dynasty” reality show. It looks like that saying is about to be tested. A&E has suspended Phil Robertson, father of Jase, Willie, and Jep Robertson and founder of Duck Commander, for his recent comments about homosexuality in an interview published in GQ.

A&E released the following statement:

We are extremely disappointed to have read Phil Robertson’s comments in GQ, which are based on his own personal beliefs and are not reflected in the series Duck Dynasty. His personal views in no way reflect those of A+E Networks, who have always been strong supporters and champions of the LGBT community. The network has placed Phil under hiatus from filming indefinitely.

Apart from the irony that Phil Robertson was doing an interview with GQ, the substance of his comments was not really surprising. In the interview Phil calls himself a “Bible-thumper,” and the author describes this commitment to the Bible by saying that Phil “thumps that Bible hard enough to ring the bell at a county-fair test of strength.”

The controversial statements that have led to his suspension from the blockbuster show revolve around the issue of homosexuality. The interviewer asked, “What, in your mind, is sinful?” Phil responded:

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. 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 a further discussion of homosexuality, Phil makes a somewhat crude biological case against homosexuality and concludes by saying, “But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

So now both sides have spoken. Phil spoke his mind on homosexuality and other issues, and A&E has spoken by indefinitely suspending Phil from future filming.

What should Phil and his family do now?

For the Robertson family, this will be a test of their family creed. From the beginning of the show, they have committed to “three no-compromises” of “faith, betrayal of family members, and duck season.” The first two are now on the line for the Robertsons. The patriarch of the family has essentially been fired from the show for expressing his religious views. The rest of the men, including Duck Commander president Willie Robertson (one of Phil’s sons), are about to have their allegiance to family tested. Do they go on without Phil or stand by him?

When asked about the sons’ views on morality, the youngest son, Jep Robertson, replied, “We’re not quite as outspoken as my dad, but I’m definitely in line. If somebody asks, I tell ’em what the Bible says.” It’s now time to see if the Robertson family sticks together through thick and thin.

What’s the right decision for the Robertsons? I think they only have one option—walk out on the show. Sure, the show could go on without Phil, but the family couldn’t. Either Phil is a part of the show or no one is on the show. That is the only option.

Perhaps Phil was being more prophetic than he realized when he told the interviewer that the show would not last forever. He said, “Let’s face it. Three, four, five years, we’re out of here. You know what I’m saying? It’s a TV show. This thing ain’t gonna last forever. No way.” This may be the end of “Duck Dynasty,” but it would solidify a family who is committed to no compromise on faith and betrayal of family.

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Drew Magary, “What the Duck?GQ, January 2014. (*Warning: This article contains profanity, not from Phil Robertson or any other members of the family but from the interviewer.)

A. J. Marechal, “‘Duck Dynasty’ Star Phil Robertson Fired Following Anti-Gay Remarks,” Variety, December 18, 2013.

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Evan Lenow

Assistant Professor of Ethics, Bobby L. and Janis Eklund Chair of Stewardship, Director of the Center for Biblical Stewardship, Associate Director of the Richard Land Center for Cultural Engagement, and Chair of the Ethics Department

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