In case you haven't heard, there's a new reality TV series on A&E that has swept the nation. Arguably the funniest show on television, Duck Dynasty revolves around the creators of "Duck Commander," the duck-hunting call used by thousands of hunters today. The Robertsons, the family behind Duck Commander fame and fortune, are a special breed. Yes, they own trucks, wear beards (long ones), take pride in their guns, and are always wearing camouflage. But there's a lot more to these guys than what meets the eye: they value faith and family above all else. That's why they've stolen my, and millions of other viewers', hearts.
'Faith, family, ducks—in that order'
In his recent memoir, "Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander," Phil Robertson tells how he turned down an NFL contract out of college where he played first string at Louisiana Tech (ahead of Terry Bradshaw) to ultimately raise a family with his high school sweetheart on a river in Louisiana. But it wasn't always "faith, family, ducks." For a while it was "sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll," as Phil puts it. In an interview with the 700 Club, Phil and Kay talk about the decade-long struggle in their marriage. In his twenties, alcohol and anger took over. He kicked Kay and the boys out of the house and leased a bar; that's when Kay started praying. A year after her conversion to Christianity, Phil came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, too.
The rest is history. Today, Phil serves as an elder at his church, White's Ferry Road Church of Christ, where Kay came to faith years ago. Their oldest—and clean shaven—son, Alan Robertson (who hasn't appeared on the show yet), is also an elder there, having recently stepped down from a full-time ministry position to join ranks with the family business. Fortunately for the Robertsons, they don't see much difference between "church work" and "duck work."
"This is just a way," Phil says of his involvement with the Duck Dynasty TV show. "And it's not actually through the confines of a church building."
Phil says they receive weekly letters from people coming to Jesus Christ because of watching Duck Dynasty. Phil says just the example of a functional family can make viewers rethink life, turning them toward Christ.
The Novelty of a Functional Family
The Robertsons are not just a novelty for their beards. They are unique for a reality-television family because of the value they place in family and the Biblical covenant of marriage. The show is anchored by three couples: Duck Commander CEO Willie and his wife Korie, who have been friends since third grade; Jase and Missy, who have over 20 years of marriage under their belts; and Phil and Miss Kay. Phil is the family patriarch who created the Duck Commander call in 1973. He's been married to Kay for 45 years. "Uncle Si" is another lovable character who has been married to wife Christine for 43 years, though she's not featured on the show.
With the divorce rate currently hovering around 50 percent for all first marriages regardless of religious affiliation, this is a refreshing view of family to see displayed in mainstream culture. America doesn't see much longevity in homes anymore, and definitely not on television.
But Duck Dynasty is different. It's a new version of The Waltons; it's good, clean fun. In most shows on major networks, the Gospel seems to be far from most characters' scripts and minds: from Wipeout to Grey's Anatomy, you'll see an average of two steamy bedroom scenes per episode (usually featuring people who aren't married to each other). Yet Duck Dynasty seems to be doing pretty well without any bedroom scenes.
The family that prays together stays together
At the end of every episode, the Robertson family sits down to another of Miss Kay's home-cooked meals. Phil says the blessing—praying in Jesus' name—in thankfulness for the food they're about to eat. Willie recaps the episode's events, and the family partakes in the Phil-killed, Kay-cooked food.
This ritual showcases family dinners as sacred ground. It's one of the most natural, essential elements in a family. They put aside whatever happened at the workshop that day, stop arguing about whose hunting dog is better, and eat a meal together. Deep down, this is one of the things many of us want most: for families to come to the table and eat dinner together.
The Robertsons had to take a stand with producers on their prayers at the table, though. As the show came together, Phil noticed the "In Jesus' Name" part of their family prayers around the table was missing out of those last scenes. So he had a conversation with the producers, and now you'll hear "in Jesus' name" more often than not when they pray.
The Robertsons also asked editors to quit putting in fake bleeps. "If we're not using profanity, why make it look like we're using profanity? What's the point?" Phil recounted in another interview with Sports Spectrum. He chalks it up to spiritual warfare, and it is. But they're not backing down from the fight.
The Robertsons stand for much of what's missing in America today: family values, abiding faith, good, clean fun, and home-cooked food. As Phil says, bring them into our lives, and we'll be "hap-pay, hap-pay, hap-pay!"
Emily Gehman is a freelance writer from Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @emilygehman.
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