I was honored to be invited to spend three days with members of the influential “Duck Dynasty” family. If you know anything about the TV show, you will understand the meaning of the invite to “spend time” with what many of their fans would call America’s Family.
From the first moment, Allan Robertson, the eldest son, and Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the family, greeted me like I was family.
In an exclusive interview with BNG, Al and Phil Robertson talked about what makes their family tick. They are all about Jesus and the Christian gospel.
As soon as Phil walked in the door, he was ready to talk about his faith. “The gospel isn’t complex. It is simple,” he explained.
Phil surrendered himself to God more than 40 years ago, long before he was a TV star. While we drove to the Duck Dynasty studio — nestled on 1,600 acres in the hills of West Monroe, La., Phil talked candidly about his background.
As the patriarch of the family, he has sought to leave a spiritual legacy for his sons and grandchildren. One aspect of that is owning up to his past.
Fans of the show learned last year that Phil fathered a daughter through an extramarital affair before his Christian conversion — a child he didn’t know about. When asked about her, he didn’t skip a beat. “She lives next door to our house. It’s been the best thing that has ever come from my past.”
Real-life stories like this — and the duck hunting, of course — resonate with the Robertsons’ fans on both TV and now on a podcast that is titled “Unashamed.”
“Most of the people who are listening to the podcast are young men,” Phil noted. “So we thought to ourselves, how we could turn that down in spreading the gospel?’’
This singular focus seems to be the driving theme for everything the family does. Although the podcast is broadcasting to millions, it feels at times like a church service. Phil is OK with this because, in his words, “where two or three gathered in his name, he is there.”
Phil is a pastor of sorts. He may scoff at the idea because he “never purchased a suit before in my life,” he said. “I’m not too sure the last time the pants that I have on has been washed.”
This down-to-earth persona may explain why men are drawn to the Duck Dynasty media. They also intentionally seek to reach men because, as Al explained, “church can be geared at times more toward women than men.”
“The truth is that the Robertsons reach men with their podcast who will not go to church.”
The truth is that the Robertsons reach men with their podcast who will not go to church.
When looking at the magnitude of the podcast and its reach, it may seem incongruent that Phil does not own a phone and never has been on the internet. During our interview, he leaned in to ask me if he was missing anything by not having a phone. Al said his father once asked him, “How do you turn on the internet?”
Despite his lack of tech-savvy, Phil is aware that people are watching and listening. He wants to make sure — just as the public saw on “Duck Dynasty” — that he and the family are pointing people to Jesus through the podcast.
Actually, he wishes the TV show had been more spiritual in nature.
“I didn’t enjoy myself filming the show,” he said. “I had a lot of spiritual matters that I talked about, but they never ran them.”
Nevertheless, he believes the show led “thousands upon thousands” to faith in Jesus, which makes him happy indeed. In his words, “there’s no downside to loving God.”
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.