The ducks are back. Twenty-two days after global media corporation A&E suspended Phil Robertson for freely speaking his mind on the obvious and superior God-given attractions that men rejoice to discover in women, the 5th season of Duck Dynasty premiered with back-to-back episodes Wednesday at 10 p.m. In that span of three weeks and one day ago, the men and women of the Robertson family successfully repelled A&E's suspension, GLAAD's upset, Twitter's blocking, and Cracker Barrel's cave-in, not to mention the absolute wrath of relativistic media.
All of which suggests a memo to Time: Men are not obsolete. And to feminists: Moms, dads, and families are bonafide blessings. And to homosexualists: Wake up and smell the diversity. Yes, the ducks have returned. But you do not have to be a fortune-teller gazing into 2014 to know this controversy is far from over.
For one thing, A&E has said so, even while admitting defeat. For another thing, the Robertson family has said so, even while celebrating victory.
The network showed its hand when it announced in the Hollywood Reporter December 27 that "A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family." The next sentence reveals that A&E has also mobilized to unleash a velvet-gloved counterattack: "We will also . . . launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance, and acceptance among all people, message that supports our core values as a company and the values found in Duck Dynasty."
This is mediaspeak for: "We will bury you."
A&E thereby positions itself as promoting "unity, tolerance, and acceptance" and invites the conclusion that those who disagree are on the wrong side of these "values." It's rhetorical camouflage and may deceive some, but will the hunters of West Monroe be fooled by it?
The Robertson family also knows the struggle is not over. Mom Korie Robertson, wife of Duck Commander CEO Willie, said as much New Year's Eve on Fox when the couple was interviewed by Bill Hemmer and Elizabeth Hasselbeck.
When asked about what to "expect from the Robertson family" in 2014, Korie said they hoped to continue going public with their message: "At the end of the day we sit down and thank God for our blessings. . . . Hopefully we can spread that message. . . . As a country, if we can come back to that a little bit, maybe we'll have a great 2014."
"Spread that message"!? Not if A&E's "public service campaign" achieves its objectives. But should it?
Let's take a deeper look.
A&E claims to promote "unity," but what does it practice? Division.
The network suspended Phil Robertson, not only dividing him off from the show, work, and income, but also striking at the unity of his family. Would the Robertsons move father Phil aside in favor of money, fame, a national platform to share their message? Or would the family maintain integrity in the midst of controversy?
The word "unity" means "oneness of mind among a number of persons." A&E may wave the banner of "unity," but it swings the sword of division, trying to impose "oneness of mind" by pacifying the Robertson family into submitting to A&E's secular belief system. "Divide and Conquer," not "unity," seems a more accurate description of the network's real message.
What about "tolerance"? A&E says it promotes tolerance, but what does it practice? Intolerance. "Tolerance" denotes a "fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions and practices that differ from one's own." Clearly, A&E was unable to endure the diversity of thought expressed by Phil Robertson. Instead of tolerating him, they cut him off.
But the family rallied and refused to surrender. Instead, they acted upon the unalienable, God-given right to speak out and take a stand. Thankfully, the network reinstated Phil, but its maneuvering is revealing, taking one step backward in retreat but two steps forward in attack. If "politics is war by other means" (Clausewitz), A&E's "tolerance" is culture war by other means.
"Acceptance"? Here again, A&E contradicts itself. Instead of acceptance, the network famously rejected the Robertson patriarch. And when, in the face of massive public support for Phil, that rejection was undone, A&E then wrapped itself in the banner of "acceptance."
When a media company of global reach deigns itself worthy to disciple Americans about "acceptance" but then thunders down lightning bolts of rejection, a free-thinking people do well to doubt its message. Over against A&E's flawed belief system stand several reality-oriented principles affirmed by the Robinsons. I'll mention three.
First, they affirm the family. Recall Korie's statement that the Robertsons try to "stick together and have fun . . . . laugh at ourselves and forgive each other."
In America today we have a federal government working against families sticking together, going so far as arguing, for example, that children do not need a mother or a father. We also see secular activists campaigning against marriage and family, echoing the likes of lesbian Masha Gessen, who admits that while she promotes so-called "marriage equality," she understands full well this effort is a lie (her word) and that the endgame of "marriage equality" is marriage extinction.
But "family" per se is not a social construct that can be changed at will by majority vote, a court of law, a presidential pen, or a tyrant's sword. Rather, family is a liberating community embedded into the very architecture of creation. As such, it can be a source of great strength, as the Robertsons are helping A&E appreciate.
Second, the Robertsons respect the Creator. "At the end of the day," Korie says, "we sit down and thank God for our blessings." Family practices such as this are ways to recognize the Creator as the center of gravity for human existence. They help connect human beings with the ultimate source of all that is good, true, and beautiful, and to give an adequate basis upon which love can rise up to overcome the bad, the false, and the ugly.
Note also that Korie's statement places the Robertson family within the mainstream of the American ethos, which as the Declaration of Independence makes clear, is also founded upon the Creator as the basic integration point for human freedom and dignity.
Unfortunately, secularists today have lost their way and look instead to some aspect of the created order to organize their world – to nature, sexuality, race, the state, and so on. But none of these is the Creator, and all of them lack the intellectual and moral strength needed to overcome evil with good. To trust in them is to rely on gods that fail, and when those gods fail, those who rely upon them fail as well.
Finally, the Robertsons embrace the public nature of truth. A&E and other secularists seek to domesticate Biblical content from the Creator by redefining "faith" as a "personal matter" for so-called "religious people." This effort reflects the modern reduction of "faith" to a private "belief system" or "religious feeling" and is the product of anti-Christian secularism, not of a robust, pro-verification Christianity.
Instead, the Biblical record concerns testable information regarding objective reality and is meant to be acted upon by free-thinking human beings across the whole of life, including public life. This emphasis is echoed by Korie when she says: "As a country, if we can come back to that a little bit, maybe we'll have a great 2014." The Christian worldview is decidedly not "religious" in the dumbed-down modern sense of the term but rather challenges people to "test everything," to evaluate truth-claims, and to think and see for themselves.
Yes, my fellow Americans, what this planet needs is men who stare at ducks and women. And families who get that. Progress can be a wild thing. Sometimes it shows up on TV.