The wildly popular A&E show Ducky Dynasty has proven to be a juggernaut of marketing, with the stars of the show, the Robertson family, offering paraphernalia ranging from Christmas albums to hunting gear to a series of books written by various family members, including an upcoming devotional Bible.
The Duck Commander Bible, named after one of the family’s famous duck calls, is due to arrive in stores in early October, just in time for the holiday retail season. It will feature a series of devotions and reflections on Christianity from the Robertsons interspersed with the ancient text itself.
On some level this seems fitting, since Phil Robertson, the family patriarch with a beard to match, has never made a secret of the fact that he attributes the success of his family and business to his born-again experience as a young man. Alan Robertson, his oldest son and only beardless one, who is co-authoring the Duck Commander Bible, was until a few years ago a full-time pastor. He left the pastorate to join the family business, not the business of making duck calls, but the business of managing the clan’s celebrity status and licensing deals.
On their show the Robertson family showcases qualities that many Americans imagine that they themselves possess, values that aren’t often represented in typical, scripted network TV shows. Hard work (of the vaunted pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps variety), home-cooking, intact marriages, regular prayer, living off the land — all of it adding up to an American way of life aspired to since 1776: independence. Or at least the perception of independence.
The real problem with all of this isn’t that the Robertsons aren’t the people they claim to be. The problem is that fans of the show seem to view the Robertsons as heroes, following and defending their exploits both on and off the screen with a fervor usually reserved for superstars or politicians. The tendency toward hero worship is a human quality, what could be considered a human failing, but Christians — of all humans — are supposed to be inoculated against this failing, because we are the ones who understand this truth at the most fundamental: nobody is perfect. There is only One who is perfect, only One who is worthy of worship, and it is not any of us.
Christians follow Christ, not other people. Public heroes tend to fail their followers, usually very publicly. We know this. So why is it that, when we see a family of believers on TV, we are so eager to put these truths aside? As Christians, we put our money where our heart is, and apparently our heart is with the Robertson clan and the show they put on every week.
Duck Dynasty is designed to entertain us, and it succeeds. But with every new product release from the Robertson family, whether it is a coffee mug or the Holy Bible, the show seems less and less funny.