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duck-dynasty-getty2Unless you didn’t scan a newspaper or watch cable news the week before Christmas, you’ve probably heard of Duck Dynasty by now. My guess is that most Americans first came across the family of millionaire rednecks, not on TV but in a retail store.

Revising Abraham Kuyper’s famous quote about Christ’s sovereignty, J. D. Greear tweeted last month:

Per latest trip to #walmart, I’m pretty sure there’s not 1 square in of the commercial cosmos over which the Duck Dynasty has not said “mine”

So what happens when patriarch Phil Robertson makes some crude remarks about homosexuality to GQ magazine? You get a storm of publicity that is every marketer’s dream. A&E was so outraged about Robertson’s remarks that they ran a Duck Dynasty marathon all weekend, I guess so people could see what the fuss was about, and of course, tune into the season premiere next month.

Meanwhile, fans flocked to Twitter and FaceBook to express their support of the show and the Robertson family. And, just as I predicted, the suspension of Robertson backfired. The patriarch was quickly reinstated.

It’s been a couple weeks since the brouhaha, enough time to get a little perspective on the controversy. There are several elements in this discussion that deserve to be revisited.

The Unpopularity of Biblical Morality

First off, let’s not be melodramatic. It’s hard to make Phil Robertson out to be a martyr and when there really are such things as martyrs.

If anything, the debacle simply shows us how unpopular it is to say that homosexuality is a sin, but also how unpopular it is to suspend an outspoken, self-proclaimed Bible-thumper for, well, thumping the Bible.

The omnipresent panels on news shows had fun with this event. After playing a clip of Phil Robertson preaching a few years ago, some of the talking heads seemed shocked that Robertson would lump homosexual offenders with swindlers, gossips, and God-haters. They might have been even more shocked if they’d realized Robertson was simply paraphrasing Romans 1.

Meanwhile, Bill O’Reilly supported Robertson’s right to express his views but thought he crossed the line when he said homosexual offenders wouldn’t inherit the kingdom of God. Apparently, O’Reilly missed 1 Corinthians 6 in his reading through the Bible this year.

Here’s the thing to remember: it is always unpopular to talk about sin. But Christians are a sin-talking people.

We believe that human beings are rebellious and flawed at the core of our being. We are all intrinsically disordered. Our loves are out of whack. We believe the world is a messed up place. Because of humanity’s failure to give glory to God, shalom has been disrupted.

Sure, we believe sexually immoral people are under God’s condemnation. But that’s what we believe about ourselves, too. We’re all in the same boat here.

There aren’t two paths to heaven and hell, one hetero and one homo. There’s only a broad path with all kinds of sinners, and a narrow path with all kinds of repentants.

The Popularity of a TV Show

The popularity of Duck Dynasty is a double-edged sword for evangelicals. The show reinforces the stereotype that devout Christians are a bunch of backwards rednecks. For progressives who live by a calendar that claims sexual enlightenment occurred in the 1960’s, Duck Dynasty is a throwback to an older time. The characters are harmless. That’s why so many liberal commentators were happy to give them patronizing pat on the head and and say, roughly, “Oh, they’ll come around.”

Stereotype or not, this does not mean I recommend we join the sneering class of “sophisticated” evangelicals who want the Robertsons marginalized because “we’re so much more articulate and sophisticated than their version of fundamentalist Christianity.” There are real gospel issues at the heart of this controversy, not least the nature of repentance, the need for faith, and the grace of God that is powerful enough to rescue us from our sinful tendencies. To look with disdain on Christians who boldly proclaim their convictions, no matter the fallout, is to risk adding to the ostracism such convictions engender. In Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, “city-fied” and “redneck.”

Phil Robertson Is Not Our Spokesman

So, even if I’m glad that Duck Dynasty has an audience, and that this family is seeking to remain faithful to their religious convictions, I would still caution evangelicals against making Phil Robertson our spokesman. He’s a brilliant marketer and businessman, but he shouldn’t be our mouthpiece.

First off, he was unnecessarily crude in his remarks.

Secondly, he minimized the pervasiveness of sin in the way he commented on the issue. (He implied that sexual sin was an irrational choice. But isn’t every sin irrational? And should we continue to imply that same-sex attraction is nothing more than a choice?)

Third, though Robertson talks about salvation through Christ without mentioning baptism, he belongs to a church that believes baptism is essential for salvation. The theology of the Churches of Christ cuts against the grace he appears to proclaim. And many people in that movement believe their salvation is sustained by their own works. Look to Phil for “family values” if you like, but look elsewhere for theology that is biblical and grace-filled.


In the end, let’s take a deep breath and get some perspective. We don’t pin our hopes to a television show, no matter how popular. And we don’t adjust our convictions to fit the culture, no matter how unpopular. Celebrity television stars come and go; it’s the Word of the Lord that stands forever.

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79 thoughts on “Duck Dynasty Debrief”

  1. I don’t have a TV so I’d never seen this show before this big flap and didn’t really have any desire to. Not that I thought these were horrible people, but I just figured pretty much anything claiming to represent Christ could not possibly be all that authentic if it were this popular. I had also read some cautions albeit not TOO bad from Christian who had seen it.

    Two things have come out of this for me.
    Number one, I HAVE gained some respect for this guy. He was willing to give up quite a bit to stand on biblical morality even as theologically untutored as it may have been. I wasn’t even THAT bothered by his crudeness. I certainly wouldn’t have said it that way and it showed some immaturity in wisdom and sanctification, but it’s not like he used the profane street slang versions. THAT would have all but wilted his witness to nothing. It was humorous watching a media that knows absolutely NO limits in filth and debauchery posting warnings to his remarks because they employed clinical anatomical terms. LOL!

    Number two, I still have never seen one second of this show and still have no desire to. Actually I’ve never see one second of ANY reality show. Just don’t care. I have far more than enough in my own life to handle by God’s grace than to spend my time watching someone else live theirs in front of television cameras. It also seems like a violation of them as people even if they’re so lacking in self respect as not to recognize it.

    All in all I agree with your conclusions Trevin. This man is neither a giant of theological or spiritual acumen to be venerated, nor is he an opportunistic weakling who bends with the breeze. I just find reality tv as a whole to be inane and distasteful.

    1. Stephen says:

      I’ve watched every episode 2-3 times each. On an HD flat screen and Bose speakers. It’s fun and I think the show Duck Dynasty is a hoot. I like the prayer and family meal at the end of each show. I think Phil is a brother in Christ. Seems to me it’s just not a good idea to ask a guy like Phil what he thinks about the gay issue. It’s actually more stupid to pretend to be shocked by his response. Phil doesn’t seem hateful but ask him a nastey question…
      What seems out of proportion is the hate from the libs. Make no mistake the libs respond with what they make believe is intellectualy superior hatred. It takes people like Phil to ignore them…ignore lib they hate it.

      1. Stephen says:

        I am always reminded to speak out the gospel; Jesus died on that Cross for you and “any” person “willing” to “receive” the sacrife for sins that He gave and God accepted.
        He is a very kind and just God. Jesus does really love all people and He does want all to love Him and seek Him. He promises if you seek Him you will find Him. Remember;He was crucified for sin. He will not turn away a gay or any other sinnful person from repentance.

      2. stephen finley says:

        If you think being Christian and being anti-“lib” or a “lib”-baiter are the same thing, you’re not paying attention.

  2. Norm says:


    I agree with you assessment of the media’s reaction to Phil’s comments on homosexuality, however I think you may have been a bit too harsh on him in his comments.

    First, it was GQ that brought up the issue, not Phil.

    Second, as you said yourself, Phil is not a trained theologian (which is not always a bad thing in my humble opinion.

    Third, I think the public support for Phil was not just from Christian circles, but also from general, average Americans. I think people are just fed up with radical views being forced on us constantly by every form of media and entertainment outlet. They are also sick of the intimidation used to shut all oppositing views down or from even expressing a non-PC opinion.

    In that sense, Phil was a martyr to the Constitutional right to free speech. Freedom of speech, in particular, religious speech, is under full assault these days. I think the support for Phil was an expression of some push back against the past 30 years of Gay activist attacks on not only morality, but common sense as we’ll – which was part of Phil’s point. He graphically pointed out how biologically men and women are obviously designed for each other. Homosexual “sex” made no sense to him. That strikes a chord of common sense to a majority, a vast majority of Americans.

    1. Norm says:

      I meant to spell your name correctly, Trevin. My ipad has a “correcting” function that added the “o” to your name. I didn’t see it until I posted it. Very sorry about that.

      1. Trevin Wax says:

        No problem, Norm. I answer to anything. :)

    2. stephen finley says:

      A “martyr to the constitutional right to free speech”? Please. When somebody arrests him and puts him in jail, then you’ll know the constitutional right to free speech is “under assault.” That’s what the Bill of Rights is about, in case you hadn’t noticed; it enumerated the rights to certain statuses and actions for which you could not be penalized by the federal government. If the federal government isn’t putting you in jail for saying what you think (within certain extreme limits), then freedom of speech is alive and well. You’re not exempted from other people’s criticism of what you say or from the consequences of what you say.

      Seriously, I wish conservatives who happen to be Christian (or otherwise religious) would knock it off with this talk. It’s whiny, for one thing, and it evidences an ignorance of what free speech really is.

      Having said that, I’m pretty close to Trevin’s view on this matter, and not all that far from yours. I’m thinking pretty much everybody with a working brain would’ve figured that these were approximately Phil Robertson’s views long before he did the GQ interview (certainly A&E knew it), so the problem seems to be mostly that he said them — that he spoke the words. What do we want here? We want people running around holding ideas that they don’t articulate? Right or wrong, I’d rather somebody be honest.

      I am almost certainly on the opposite side of the political aisle from you, but the truth is that too many of the professionally apoplectically offended on my side of the aisle were in absolute hog heaven over the comments, because it allowed them to be apoplectic in a way that they thought invalidated everything about the Robertsons and their fans. Which is why, IMHO, we lose so many millions of voters, because we mix cultural affinities with political practice (sort of parallel to how Christians often alienate people by attaching so many cultural markers to the idea of being “really Christian”). They were ready to trash everything about Phil Robertson, to turn him into their own cartoonish whipping boy rather than a real person who loves his wife, has been married all his adult life to the same woman, has raised a nice family, started and been very successful with a business based on making something better than other people made it, and is obviously loved by his grandkids. If we think he’s wrong about gays and generalized too much from his own experience about African Americans, fine. So he’s wrong. But he is not top-to-bottom evil or ignorant, no matter how much some people seem to need that to be true.

      In short, if Phil Robertson had advocated mistreating gays or blacks (which he specifically did _not_ advocate), I’d have been calling for his ouster too. But everything about his life, as far as anyone can tell, is about being decent to people. Maybe I’m wrong about his views on gays, maybe you’re wrong. We’re all going to find out in the end what we were wrong about. But I think tens of millions of viewers understand that the country would do a lot better with a lot more Phil Robertsons and fewer contemptuous, overreacting, hyperventilating, hipster-bespectacled critics — even if I think the guys in the specs are generally right on most policy issues.

  3. JD says:

    I am going to take issue with a tiny part of you article that is very important to me, and that is the last paragraph before your conclusion having to do with Phil and the Church of Christ. I am not a member of a Church of Christ and have never regularly attended one (I went to a Church of Christ one Sunday a couple of years ago).

    I believe you, and many many others, misrepresent their beliefs on baptism. While it is true that many individuals and churches of that movement believe that you are saved in baptism (that only the act of dipping into the water saves you) I believe this view is not the view held by most.

    You wrote, “The theology of the Churches of Christ cuts against the grace he appears to proclaim.” The problem I have with this is two-fold.

    First, there is no official Church of Christ theology because each church is independent. It is unfair to compare one Church of Christ to another because each one is autonomous. It isn’t like there is a headquarters that makes up the official creeds that all Church of Christ churches must adhere to. So I think, without asking Phil personally about it, it’s wrong to assume what he, or any other Church of Christ attender believes.

    Secondly, and more importantly I think, is this idea that so many share, and it is that baptism plays no role whatsoever in regeneration (I realize that some reading this will immediately check out and begin to tear me down in their minds, please finish reading first). Baptism is very often considered “just a work” that has no value in salvation. My guess is that because many (like many Churches of Christ) have swung the pendulum so far to one extreme and often consider baptism as THE thing that saves you so many have swung it the other way so as to say it has no part to play in salvation.

    No one would say that trusting in Jesus for salvation isn’t a part of conversion (I don’t think), no one would say that repentance isn’t an important part of salvation or that confessing in Jesus as your savior isn’t important. But those things aren’t talked about like baptism. No one says of repentance, “He is a repentance regenerationist,” if someone believes that repentance is a necessity for salvation.

    In scripture we see several things listed as things that save us: grace (Eph. 2:8), blood of Jesus (Eph. 1:7), believe (Acts 16:31, Romans 10:9), gospel (1 Cor. 15:2, name of the Lord (Acts 2:21; 4:12), resurrection (1 Peter 3:21), life of Jesus (Romans 5:10), hope of redemption (Rom. 8:24), Jesus (Romans 5:9), and others.

    I think we can agree with scripture that these things save us and to take one out of this list is foolish because they all correspond with one another. But, baptism too is on this list. Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16 all speak of baptism as being part of our conversion. This is illustrated by each and every conversion account in Acts. In every case baptism plays a part.

    Now, without question, some go too far and believe (through church training or whatever reason) that the act of baptism alone saves you; to their own demise. But it seems clear that baptism plays some part in our conversion and is no more an act of “works” as say, repentance, or trusting in Jesus.

    I think when we assume to know what someone believes, or a group of someones, without knowing first hand or by taking their beliefs to an extreme, we do damage to the Church and pain our Savior.

    1. Derek says:

      I think you nailed some valid points. Christians are not very good, sometimes, of using our words and theology with care. Especially when we’re afraid that someone’s trying to sneak works-based salvation in the back door. People in the reformed tradition are of particular fault here. Baptism is an undervalued part of most soteriologies and often sidelined to mere symbolism (which, one wonders, why we need to emphasize it any more than foot washing if that’s the case).

      And I took some umbrage with Trevin’s comment about what people in the Church of Christ believe. I have a friend who’s a well nuanced pastor in the Church of Christ. There are some members in his congregation who adamantly believe that Baptism is the essential ingredient to salvation. But he has tried to correct them with a far more nuanced and biblical expression of baptism. Something much more closer to how, maybe, someone in the anabaptist tradition my express it.

    2. Hi JD,

      I have actually documented White’s Ferry Rd. Church of Christ’s position that baptism is essential for salvation. In fact, one of their evangelism training pieces, from Jase Robertson’s father-in-law, teaches how to lead someone to be re-baptized who believes they “Were baptized to show you had already been saved.”

      1. Trevin Wax says:

        JD and Derek, I agree that there is a variety of beliefs represented under the Restorationist churches. The type of Church of Christ that the Robertsons belong to however seems to be the kind I mentioned in the post. That said, it appears (at least from statements they’ve made) that the younger Robertsons at least do not affirm everything their church says. Neither are they as isolationist as the type of Church of Christ that has particular views on baptism.

        1. Lee says:

          One need only look at Phil Robertson’s own writings – the devotional book he recently released – to see his view. I regret I don’t know the page number, but the book clearly states, “They didn’t understand I was speaking of my new birth that occurred when I was baptized.”

          Since this conversation is mostly about Phil Robertson, it is important to realize that he does believe that he wasn’t regenerated until he was baptized.

          1. Mike McCann says:

            When you examine the Scriptural teachings on baptism, after Jesus’ resurrection, you will see a persistent connection between baptism and salvation or the elements of salvation (forgiveness of sins, reception of the Holy Spirit, being resurrected/raised with Christ), being clothed with Christ, and even salvation itself. (Especially note: Acts 2:38, 39; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-7; Galatians 3:26, 27; Colossians 2:12, 13; 1 Peter 3:21; Mark 16:15, 16.) To be sure, the water itself does not save, as 1 Peter 3:21 indicates It is the response of faith that secures the salvation and its accompanying blessings, by the grace of God because of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection. But baptism is the normal point at which these blessings are applied. That does not make baptism a saving work on our part; in baptism we do not work at all, but God works in us, raising us up with Christ and forgiving our sins based upon our faith. If you read the great faith chapter, Hebrews 11, you will see people who received great blessings by faith…but in each instance, it wasn’t until the responded in faith that the blessings were apprehended. The people received the promise by faith…but it required a response. Similarly, we are saved by God’s grace, through our faith…but the response of that faith is to include baptism. And Scriptures suggest, in multiple passages, that these salvation blessings are received, not because of baptism, but in baptism. Baptism is not the cause of salvation…but it is the normal occasion in which it is received. By the way, Martin Luther had much stronger statements on the necessity of baptism than what I have just suggested…and he emphasized faith as the means of receiving forgiveness and salvation.

      2. Amy says:

        I’d love to see your documentation. I come from the coC denomination (and my experience is they loathe being considered a denomination and think all people in denominations are going to hell) – but I come from a more conservative (those who consider instrumental music and having a church kitchen sins that will damn you to hell) branch that actually believes the doctrines of grace are apostasy.

        The Duck Dynasty phenomenon has scared me from the start – especially when so many people think they’re so wonderful and godly. And I’ve tried to find any hint that the Robertsons believe in Grace as an element of salvation rather than the sort of grace that basically says God winks a bit at our sin in ways we don’t deserve, but we can’t count on.

        I’ve tried to find some hint that the Robertsons believe that the Gospel includes what the Holy Spirit does other than maintain the integrity of Bible translations (another coC doctrine in conservative circles). As far as I’ve ever heard them say, Jesus died for our sins and was resurrected. The end.

        The other thing that bothers me about this is that he didn’t present a biblical view of sexuality. The biblical model is not “look at a woman’s vagina and look at a man’s anus and decide which can do more for you.” That’s crude and degrading enough that it seems scandalous to me to type that out loud, but that’s what he said. He defended Jim Crow laws. I don’t believe he has a God-honoring view of the Gospel, marriage, sexuality, race or suffering. What he did was lob a grenade at what some of us apparently feel is the enemy – homosexuals – and just because he modified a verse out of the Bible somewhere in the midst of it doesn’t make him a champion of all that’s good and holy.

        But now every person who struggles with homosexuality – practicing, non-practicing, and those who struggle with sexual identity because of sexual abuse – now are flooded with support of this crude person who simply labels them illogical (because really, that’s the biblical view on sin, right? That if it doesn’t make sense we can just stop it?) and one step closer on the slippery slope to beastiality. That actually makes me sick about this whole deal. So to anyone who has posted your support of Phil Robertson’s views, how likely do you really believe any person struggling with sexuality is going to be to see you, your church, and/or your God out for help?

        1. Stephen says:

          I’m sorry but it sounds like your relating a gay persons struggle to go to church or not is if it’s Phil Robertson’s fault. Because Phil made it clear that gay sex is unnatural. Have you read Romans 1:18-32 “The Wrath of God is revealed against those who suppress the truth.” They trade the truth for a lie, they worship the creature not the creator. God gave them over to a reprobate mind. They lust men for men. I’m sorry but that is factually a dreadful condition to be in.
          So did you imply that because of Phil’s stated position a gay person won’t go to church? Your talking about a person who has completley rejected God. I’m thinking Phil has nothing to do with that.

          1. Phil Robertson might be misguided, but I don’t think he’s rejected God.

          2. Stephen says:

            You may have misunderstood the statement.
            A person that has completely rejected God; God turns them over to a reprobate mind those people go off the deep end as per Romans ch.1.
            That has nothing to do with Phil, misguided or not.
            Accept God, Believe in the gospel of the Cross of Christ and the evidence of that faith begins to surface. That is true for anyone.

          3. Sorry. That still sounds like a description of Phil to me. ;)

        2. Stephen says:

          I wonder if that is why CofC was listed in Walter Martins KofC.

    3. Kevin says:

      I do not believe in baptismal regeneration (don’t stop reading if you have another view). I think you make a good point about baptism, in my view it is not required FOR salvation; but it is certainly required AFTER salvation. Baptism should not be treated as optional. It is the first step of obedience in our walk with Jesus. Baptism alone cannot save anyone, I think we all agree on that. Jesus alone can save but being baptized as soon as possible after repentance is what should be happening.

  4. The difference between Phil Robertson and gay activists is tolerance. Phil stated his beliefs but didn’t demand nationwide conformity to them. Gay activists state their beliefs and demand nationwide conformity. And then they quickly demonize anyone who disagrees — repeatedly accusing people like Phil of being racists bigots for holding a different viewpoint. How did we fall for this? Why do we allow it? This is a question that needs far more attention. One thing to realize is how the language changed from sexual preference to sexual orientation (

    1. If you’re fighting for equal rights, you kind of need everyone everyone to tolerate those rights for you to achieve them. Let’s say the issue is a mixed race couple. No one ever complains about same-race couples But people did persecute, arrest, and even kill mixed race couples. Over time the nation realized their error, so now only the most racist people refuse to tolerate mixed race couples. So asking mixed race couples to tolerate racists makes no sense. It’s the same principle for gay couples.

      1. Andrew Orlovsky says:

        In light of that statement, if it is true that the goal of the LGBT movement to not just be tolerated but to transform our society so that everyone sees people who believe in the traditional Christian sexual morality as the equivalent to racists, I do not see how any Christian could say that we need to stop fighting the battle, as people like Rachel Held Evans have declared. This is not about forcing non-Christians to adopt a Christian worldview, important religious freedoms are at stake.

        1. Racists are still free to believe that mixed race couples are immoral. They’re not free to discriminate against them. Freedom of religion doesn’t mean society has to obey your moral code.

          1. Hodge says:

            It’s not his moral code. It’s God’s. And if what you say is true, society doesn’t have to obey any moral code, including the one that prescribes freedom of religion.

          2. Try disobeying laws you don’t believe n and see what happens.

      2. The entire agenda of gay marriage depends upon the comparison of same-sex behavior as an unalterable and necessary condition of a person’s nature equal with race and gender. The comparison, however, is false and manipulative.
        Sexuality is inseparable from behavior — not a condition of birth like race or gender. As with all sexuality, we should speak of homosexuality in a context of human choosing — not as a civil right. Two men could be caring friends with a deep affection for each other without being homosexual. Homosexuality is not part of their relationship unless they choose to engage in same-sex acts with one another.

        What do we say to the many people who have left a homosexual lifestyle on moral grounds? What do we say to people who willingly try to resist homosexual lust out of obedience to God?

        Even if I could prove that I was born genetically conditioned to be sexually attracted to women, it wouldn’t mean that acting on the attraction would always be the ethically right decision.

        Sexuality is necessarily connected with volition. As long as we make laws that regulate sexual behaviors, we are implying that sexuality is not the same as race or gender (no matter how much one claims that the laws step on his rights by refusing him equality).

      3. stephen says:

        So do you get any of your thoughts from reading the Bible? Because you sort of sound like a rob bell follower.

  5. Scott Shaver says:

    Trevin Wax writes “Phil Roberston is not our spokesperson, nor should he be.”

    What does Wax mean by “OUR” spokesperson. What constituency is he referring to and who should “OUR” spokesperson be in his opinion?

    Will take Robertson hands down over Lifeway, GCC or SBC if the objective is to identify mouthpieces.

    1. Matt Jacobs says:

      Scott, I think you ask a couple of great questions.

      I’m assuming that Trevin means orthodox believers for “our,” but I think the statement/warning should give us pause. When something like that is said, it begs two questions: (1.) How do we define “our”? and (2.) Who gets to define it? The first part is fraught with problems, of course, and the second part is a bit scary.

      Denying of the gospel, as Trevin suggests CofC churches do, certainly denies entrance into “our.” What about other, pretty significant issues? I’m a Baptist, so I believe that anyone who refuses to be baptized AFTER professing faith is living in unrepentant sin (not trying to get a side discussion going, just trying to illustrate a point). Living in unrepentant sin is an indication of lack of salvation, right? That said, I’m sure Presbyterians would disagree on my baptism stance, and I would definitely believe that John Calvin, Lig Duncan, and Sinclair Ferguson should be part of “our.”

      Tim Keller has left a lot to be desired in his responses regarding homosexuality as sin and whether its unrepentant practice would lead to hell. Is he part of “our”? Should he be our spokesman? Redeemer Presbyterian also has women teach men. So, now should Keller be part of “our” or be our spokesman? Are Robertson’s faults too much and Keller’s not enough, or are Robertson’s faults not enough and Keller’s too much?

      Carl Trueman already sees an “Evangelical Industrial Complex” ruled by the “Top Men,” as he calls it. I think Trevin’s statement would give him additional reason for his beliefs, even though I suspect that that was the last thing Trevin intended.

      This is a healthy conversation to have, and I hope it springs into a more full discussion over time. I also hope that the discussion involves everyone, not just the guy who doesn’t appear sophisticated or who isn’t a part of our appointed evangelical aristocracy. If a redneck Christian (like me) engages in public crude jesting, we should certainly condemn that. However, if a sophisticated, educated Christian downplays homosexuality as a sin (or, say, commits plagiarism), we should also condemn that.

      Otherwise, I think the “our” becomes much smaller than God intends, and I think someone has usurped God’s role as the sole determiner of who is a part of “our.”

      Matt Jacobs

    2. Truth Unites... And Divides says:

      Trevin Wax writes “Phil Roberston is not our spokesperson, nor should he be.”

      Hey, Phil Robertson never asked to be a spokesperson for the nebulous “our.” Seems like an unnecessary cheap shot. Agree with Greg Tiribulus and Doug Wilson on this dispute.

      1. Trevin Wax says:

        I am not taking shots at Phil Robertson, and I haven’t said he wants to be the spokesperson for evangelicalism. I’m commenting on the evangelical tendency to create spokesmen. This is something that happens often. We lift people up, only to find that they never wanted to be a spokesperson. They “became” such a thing because of their celebrity.

        So I say it again, it’s not Robertson who is at fault for being an evangelical spokesperson. It’s those of us who would rush to make him one. That’s what I’m cautioning against.

        1. Ryan says:

          Well said. I’ve seen enough “Choose this day whom you will follow, but as for me and my house, we will follow Phil Robertson” blog posts, articles, and Facebook statuses to indicate that there are at least some evangelicals out there trying to make him into a spokesperson – and in some cases, a martyr.

          I daresay Trevin’s words were quite necessary, if perhaps not in every context.

  6. Sam says:

    I still haven’t read anything I agree with more than Doug Wilson’s article. I am getting very tired of Christians who are “too sophisticated” for brouhahas like this one; who always show up to rebuke the Church for feigning persecution. Wilson was exactly right: What THOSE critics need is moral courage.

    Reminds me of a quote I enjoy: “Critics are those who watch brutal warfare from the safety of a tall hill, then come down and shoot the survivors”

    1. If I’m reading this right, I couldn’t agree more. We have saints like THIS who are paying with everything for their faithfulness and then we have cowards I won’t name like Derek Webb who find it hip n groovy to refuse to stand with the saints on God’s glorious covenant of marriage. EVEN when explicitly asked. I have far more respect for Robertson.

    2. Brian Watson says:

      In case everyone doesn’t know, I believe the Doug Wilson article to which Sam is referring is this one, which I recommend:

    3. Andrew Orlovsky says:

      Exactly Sam. I sure there are many yuppies out there that stereotype Evangelicals as backwoods rednecks but in fact the very opposite is true. Charles Murray’s book “Coming Apart” reveals that poor white people, although unlikely to declare themselves atheists in surveys, are actually very unlikely to attend church. George Barna’s surveys reveal that these people are also extremely biblically illiterate. I lived in a rural area with lots of “rednecks” and many had the attitude that “church boys are wimps”. As an “educated redneck” I avoided church for years because assumed the men were un-masculine nerds and did nothing but sit around and study their bibles. When I finally joined a Christian fellowship in college, I was pleasantly surprised at meeting so many other men who enjoyed rough sports and liked to hunt and fish. Of course, they studied their bibles too, and through the influence of these men, I developed a love for studying scripture myself (something I never though possible at age 20). In any way, to truely be missional we got to do more than simply reach out to urban yuppies who sip chai and wear skinny jeans. We got to reach out to the rough men who frequent honkytonk bars and whose idea of a good time involves illegal fireworks and semi-automatic rifles. The Robertsons seem able to do that.

    4. Trevin Wax says:

      Thanks for pointing out Wilson’s article.

      I too have tired of the “sophisticated” version of evangelicalism that seems to be easily embarrassed at people like Robertson. (I thought I made that clear in the article.)

  7. Jeremiah Henson says:

    Anyone else getting tired of how Christians are constantly criticizing each other and pointing each other’s sins out and saying they have it all doctrinally figured out? What must the world be thinking of us?

    1. Ryan says:

      That’s a losing battle. When we criticize one another, those outside the church say “Look, see? You can’t even agree on what you believe! How are we supposed to take you seriously?” When we don’t criticize one another, those outside the church say “How can you call yourselves the Body of Christ when people like that are in your midst? How can you talk about the sins of everyone else when your own house is filthy?”

      Criticize or do not criticize; the world will think less of you either way.

  8. Matt says:

    I get the funny feeling that one of the defining characteristics of the YRR movement is to ensure that Christianity appears hip. It is interesting that the ‘redneck’ word has now been used on a number of occasions with reference to this dust up. I am not sure of exactly where all the Robertson’s stand in their walks with the Lord but I do know many ‘rednecks’ that love Jesus, love doctrine, and desire to glorify God even though they would not fit into the YRR profile of what the new, modern Christian should look like, dress like, and talk like. Is it really the culture at large that is more concerned that we are ‘backwoods’ people or has evangelicalism fallen prey to the fear of man more than we would like to admit in our search to be accepted in the mainstream of society. Trevin, thanks for you attempts to balance this out in your article, but I get the funny feeling that many scoff at these Duck Dynasty guys because they wear camo instead of for what they believe.

    1. Andrew Orlovsky says:

      Exactly Matt, I made a similar comment in response to Sam’s post. I know a lot of intellectual guys who wear love hunting and a lot of hipsters who are dumber than a box of rocks. The Robertsons did not become millionaires by being stupid. And Rednecks need Jesus too.

    2. Trevin Wax says:

      That’s possible.

      And you’re right to warn against that mindset. We need to be careful that in all of the talk about “reaching the city,” we don’t simply mean “reaching the upwardly mobile, educated class of elites.”

      In Christ there is no “redneck” and cityfied. :)

    3. Matt says: “YRR movement”
      Don’t get me started. I don’t like the “new” Calvinism moniker either.

  9. Trevin, you’re missing two very important points:

    1) You’ve completely ignored Robertson’s comments about race, which played a big part in people’s outrage. You also need to factor in his recent comments about marrying off fifteen year old girls.

    2) This controversy has never been a Christians vs nonbelievers debate. Most Americans believe that sin exists. Most Americans identify as Christians and accept the basic tenets of the faith like sin, even if they’re fuzzy or misinformed on the details. So yes, you can talk about sin. If you suggest that Bin Laden should burn in hell for his sins, you’ll find very few people taking offense at your suggestion that sin or hell exist.

    How Christians talk about sin matters a lot. Too many evangelicals have bought into the cynical assumption that anything they say to explain/defend their faith will offend people, therefore they have license to be as offensive as possible. They’ve forgotten the very important fact that manners matter, and how one speaks about a subject matters.

    1. Andrew Orlovsky says:

      Phil did no say he supported segregation. He just said he did not witness whites mistreating blacks growing up but rather saw poor blacks and poor whites helping out each other. He does blame left wing social programs for the plight of blacks today. All I have to say about that is the out of wedlock birth rate among blacks was 15% in 1950, by 1970 it shot up to 40% and today is 72%. The 72% is responsible for a exceeding large portion of the rapes, murders, and domestic abuse in this country. Were left wing social programs responsible for this? That is up for debate, but we should be able to haver this debate without one side constantly crying racist.

      1. Trevin Wax says:

        I did not sense his comments about race were the cause of outrage. He has said unfortunate things, yes, (another reason I hope evangelicals don’t make him their spokesman). But it’s interesting that the one thing that set off the alarms was what he said about homosexuality. (Which shows how far things have moved… that his comments about race would be overlooked, but his comments about sex would cause outrage).

        1. Ryan says:

          I also found that the most interesting aspect of the conversation, and a little disturbing. The liberal media was outraged over his anti-homosexual remarks, the conservative media was outraged over his suspension due to his anti-homosexual remarks, but when it came to the racist remarks both sides kind of laughed it off and said “Oh, that’s just rednecks being rednecks.”

          I find it disturbing because to me it’s a reflection of the mentality that the issue of racism is a “closed book,” something that people had to deal with a couple of generations ago but that’s alive and well today (especially, not to point fingers, but in parts of America similar to where the Robertsons live). No one wants to hear about how the battles of fifty years ago are still ongoing. We are (rightfully and properly) outraged when someone is bullied or assaulted because of their sexual preference, but when the sorry state of Native reserves comes up, we all kind of whistle and turn to look at something else.

          I’ll get off my soapbox now.

      2. The premise is racist. It assumes that black people are less intelligent and responsible, and it is only out of the charity of whites who were kind enough to oppress them that they stayed out of trouble in the first place.

  10. Michael says:

    “And should we continue to imply that same-sex attraction is nothing more than a choice?”

    Uhh, because it is a choice. A sin actually, the same as lust. But modern evangelicalism has created its own phrase “same-sex attraction” to try and make it sound like an orientation or temptation, instead of what it is, a sinful thought, desire, lust.

  11. I’d just like to throw out there that if anyone is at “fault” for the stereotype of Christians as uneducated, rough around the edges rednecks, it’s Jesus. He started the whole thing by picking people like Peter, Andrew, James, and John as His disciples. Those guys ARE our spokesmen despite the fact that they put their feet in their mouths occasionally. And I’ll bet they had beards, too :0)

    Jesus is also responsible for saying how difficult it is for a rich (educated, sophisticated) man to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 19:24), for thanking God “that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;” (Matthew 11:25), and, through Paul, “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,” (1 Corinthians 1:27-28).

    So, maybe it’s not so much a stereotype as it is, well, true. We’re the ones who have become pridefully elitist. Grab the camo and embrace your inner redneck, brothers and sisters. It’s in our blood :0)

    1. By the way, I forgot to mention that, although the Robertsons may seem like uneducated hicks, Phil and all of his boys have college degrees, and I believe most/many of them have masters’ degrees as well. At least, that’s what I’ve read.

    2. Not bad Michelle! Solid stuff in there.

      1. Thanks, Greg. I expounded a little bit in a blog post here ( You might get a smile out of the picture at the top of the post, lol :0)

        1. I looked over your blog AND your Facebook page before my comment :) Plus you ripped off my 1st Corinthians 1 quote before I had a chance to post it. Very good. It appears you and I would get along. In a purely proper sense of course.

  12. Chris McLean says:

    Hi Trevin,

    Enjoyed reading your perspective and the comments above too.

    I was just wondering what you meant when you said same sex attraction could be more than a choice?

    In Jesus Christ

  13. Smartyf says:

    Could you recognize a Pharisee if you saw one?

    Be careful where you aim when you throw that stone. Someone else has one aimed at you and with good reason: we are all sinners. I have never known anyone who met all of Paul’s conditions for inheriting the Kingdom of God much less Jesus’s. I find it amazing how many leap to defend one who has judged another if the sin is one that does not interest us personally. When the same standards are applied to gossips, gluttons and those who serve mammon I may believe you are listening. But if you have more than you need while other’s do not then I know you aren’t. Our brothers and sisters are dying and you are wasting your time writing about a TV show that, truth be told, is not in the least bit Christian except in words, and those words are used to judge and condemn another? Man, who are you listening to?

  14. Michael Snow says:

    ‘In Christ there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile, “city-fied” [or] “redneck.”’ Amen.

    “First off, he was unnecessarily crude in his remarks.”

    Yes, those particular remarks made me gasp, as did some remarks quoted elsewhere from a celebrity pastor from the West Coast in his book about sex. I do not believe that either celebrity was attempting to be crude (as is so popular) but was, each, in his own way, sincerely trying to reach his audience without considering the immodesty/crudeness of his words.

  15. J Gibbs says:

    It is hard not be irritated by the undertow of this post, though I accept that you, T Wax, didn’t intend that. For a post that sought to provide perspective from a distance, transparently it failed. First, it supports P Robertson in what he said – as it should – but then deftly hamstrings his witness by insisting what was said was ‘crude’, and by criticising Robertson’s (unspoken) theological understanding of the role of baptism, and his theology in general.


    To the contrary, many have argued his explanations were plain and direct – excellent communication in everyday, working class, male environs, with nuanced use of natural law. As for his theology – or the only theology that actually counted in this circumstance – it was entirely sound, and astute. In the face of a subsequent media hurricane, he didn’t move an inch, with the clear impression that would continue to be his stance, win or lose.

    Why criticise him? Or advise the Body of Christ on where he is right or wrong, within or outside his published interview? Your robust confidence in your own opinion is admirable, but I am not sure I share it.

    Second, the undertow of this post is the very attitude discussed and warned against in it – the snooty idea that ‘we’ know better, and do it better, courtesy of a theological education. Are you sure? Was it that education that led you to your more advanced understanding of homosexual temptation – that choice isn’t involved?

    On the fruit displayed, I am sticking with Phil. And a previous comment above was right – Doug Wilson winnowed this much better.

    By the way, did you really mean ‘backwards rednecks’? Or was it backwater or backwoods you intended, and the spell checker trumped you? I sincerely hope it was the latter.

  16. Jon Marq says:

    I was raised in the CoC and served as a minister and missionary for several years. Early in my ministry I started to dabble in Reformed Theology and the rest is (redemptive) history. Trevin’s take on the CoC / Restorationist Theology is fair-minded and accurate.

    On Phil: True, he is not an evangelical spokesman, representative, or reformed champion, but he has a platform that few of us enjoy. Of course with that great privilege comes even greater responsibility.

    So I am happy, happy, happy that he points people to Jesus, (and I hope and pray they turn from sin and trust him), but I can’t help but feel more than a little concern about the CoC influences on Phil’s message.

    Like many laymen in the CoC Phil claims to be a preacher of sorts. In some ways he is; in some ways he isn’t. To the degree that he wants people to take him seriously as a *gospel* preacher he must learn the truth of the gospel more accurately and adequately.

    So let’s pray for him and ask the Lord to raise up an Aquila and Priscilla who will take him aside and explain to him the way of God more accurately (Acts 18:24-26).

    And let’s hope and pray that we will be (at least as) bold in our witness of the gospel and in our walk with Christ (as PR is in his).

  17. Amy said ABOVE: “The other thing that bothers me about this is that he didn’t present a biblical view of sexuality. The biblical model is not “look at a woman’s vagina and look at a man’s anus and decide which can do more for you.” … He defended Jim Crow laws. I don’t believe he has a God-honoring view of the Gospel, marriage, sexuality, race or suffering. What he did was lob a grenade at what some of us apparently feel is the enemy – homosexuals – and just because he modified a verse out of the Bible somewhere in the midst of it doesn’t make him a champion of all that’s good and holy.

    …But now every person who struggles with homosexuality – practicing, non-practicing, and those who struggle with sexual identity because of sexual abuse – now are flooded with support of this crude person who simply labels them illogical (because really, that’s the biblical view on sin, right? That if it doesn’t make sense we can just stop it?”
    Ya know this is also not entirely without merit folks.

    1. Ryan says:

      Thanks for pointing that out. I actually missed that post and I think it makes some great points.

  18. Billy says:

    Regarding Crudeness vs Sophisticated: These sophisticated evangelicals area product of the feminization of American culture and need a Biblical intervention. The last I checked Paul would have never been considered sophisticated. He not only said, but penned that he wished the Judaizers who were troubling the Galatians wouldn’t just circumcise themselves but go ahead and “emasculate” themselves – the Greek gives a clearer, a not so sophisticated picture. A few breaths later he writes about walking in the Spirit, the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Would anyone say the great Apostle Paul was “in the flesh” when he said what he did or “crude”? Communication never happens until the message is put in a language the other person understands clearly. Phil just communicated in no uncertain terms. This county needs some men to stand up and speak the truth in a way that people understand. Sincerely, unsophisticated redneck fellow-follower of Christ.

    P.S. Trevin, I appreciate you slamming the sophisticated condescension with an eloquent sophisticated condescension that they would clearly understand. It is the highlight of your article and gave me warm fuzzies.

  19. Mark says:

    True, Phil was somewhat crude. Ultimately though, he was basically giving an expanded version of Paul, calling homosexual activity “unnatural”. Furthermore, the Bible has its fair share of remarks that more than rival Phil’s, at least to our delicate western tastes. Few of these appear in today’s English translations but the original languages reveal more… ummm… descriptive language. We can sit here all day and say that he didn’t give a complete biblical theology on sexuality but from what I can tell, his arguments were all biblical. He said that homosexual behavior is against the law of God, that it is unnatural, and that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. So we can get all uptight that he didn’t present a 20 hour presentation on sexuality or the gospel but the fact is, he reads his Bible, understands it, and here proclaimed it to others. In fact, he sounded like the prophets. Tell people that their actions bring damnation before God and that if the repent and turn to God, they will be saved. While there is a time for further explanation of issues, I think that we something think today that we have to include all sorts of extra information to make the call to repentance less offensive.

  20. Ryan says:

    I have to be honest, the cynic in me is rearing his ugly head right now. I can’t help but think that the real winner in all of this is A&E, who cut Phil Robertson loose just long enough to generate a massive controversy, then brought him back once the show had garnered enough attention, gaining all sorts of viewers in the process. Tens of thousands of Christians who had no interest in the show previously are now tuning in. Sure, some of the ultra-liberal crowd will be alienated, but they were never the show’s target audience in the first place (I say ultra-liberal because most of my liberal friends who were into the show had no issue with Robertson’s statements, saying it’s par for the course for the guy and that things like that are half the reason why they watch the show).

    To me, this stinks like that whole Miley Cyrus business. “Miley Cyrus did an incredibly lewd performance! Whoops, she just happened to do that two weeks before her new song was released! What a strange coincidence that this song should be scheduled for release so soon after an immensely controversial performance! Whoops, her new song just set a world record for most views within 24 hours of release!”

    I dunno. Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe the whole thing is genuine, Robertson’s statements were totally unscripted, A&E were actually upset and planned on getting rid of the show, and the fan support genuinely changed their minds. And even if it is a marketing scam, I suppose I should give Phil Robertson the benefit of the doubt and assume that the marketing execs cooked it up all on their own, without his input or knowledge.

    But you know what? I just can’t bring myself to do it.

  21. Stephen says:

    I agree and think Phil would agree that he is not the spokes person for Christianity. But he did speak up on a position any real Christian should hold. Albeit some will have a different choice of words. Some would choose more sophiticated vocabulary and try another approach to the issue. Others are not even as nice as Phil. Yet when the Bible is quoted “It Is Written.” The Bible is it’s own defense, sola scriptura. I choose to stand for Phil on this one. I stand for the more sophisticated type as well. I stand for, not forgetting the more vulgar of my brethren. I don’t blush that easy and I’m not going to be embarassed because I’m a Christian.
    The first one single sin committed was wrong enough for Adam and Eve to die.
    It’s common knowledge that all sin is wrong and the wages of sin is death. The Cross of Christ is much more in heaven and earth with personal depth but metaphorically a lighthouse leading us to the shores of salvation through the fog of sin.
    This one sin has a name and it is the subject, homosexuality. It is a sin resulting from a dreadful spiritual condition I think worse than the sin itself. Either way there are two unnatural conditions invloved. The Bible describes it’s condition clearly in Romans 1. There is no compromise and no excuse.
    The gay and liberal activists that have declared war on Chritianity and the Bible demanding a complete and total surrender . They have a number of subtle strategies that include individual Christians to compromise.
    Another is to force Christians to submit to sequestration. They have some appearances of gaining ground [appearances can be deceiving]. I should be more mature and be serious but it’s kind of funny when they can’t make a country bumpkin like Phil keep his yap shut.
    Make no mistake gay marriage and gay soldiers and openly gay people is the result of an even worse spiritual condition. It’s a war against God against His word and against Christianity. Our battle strategy is to speak the truth in a world full of lies. Sometimes we speak the truth just right some times we don’t.
    The Apostle Paul said,”I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

  22. William says:

    Luke 9:49-50

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Trevin Wax

​Trevin Wax is Bible and Reference Publisher at LifeWay Christian Resources and managing editor of The Gospel Project. You can follow him on Twitter or receive blog posts via email. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.

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