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December 19th, 2013
01:49 PM ET

CNN Exclusive: Family pastor defends 'Duck Dynasty' star

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

(CNN) - While controversy swirled around Phil Robertson Wednesday evening, the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch was at his longtime church, praying for a young woman who suffers from cancer, the TV star's pastor told CNN in an exclusive interview.

"Phil led us in prayer," said Mike Kellett, senior pastor of White's Ferry Road Church of Christ in West Monroe, Louisiana. "There were greater things on our minds than the firestorm of controversy about this article."

Asked how Robertson is taking the fierce criticism of his remarks on homosexuality, Kellett said, "He's very calm, and very confident that if he serves the Lord, God will take care of everything."

Robertson, 67, was suspended by the A&E network on Wednesday after the publication of comments in GQ magazine. Citing the Bible, the outspoken Christian called homosexuality sinful and compared it to bestiality and drunkenness.

Robertson's remarks were a rough paraphrase of the New Testament, in which Paul catalogs a list of vices, including, in many Bible translations, homosexuality. Scholars and pastors disagree, however, about whether Paul's remarks should apply to modern gay and lesbian relationships.

Gay rights groups were outraged, calling Robertson's remarks "homophobic" and "hateful." A&E said it was "disappointed" by the comments, "which are based on his own beliefs and are not reflected in the series 'Duck Dynasty.' "

But Robertson, who looks a bit like an Old Testament prophet,  says conservative Christian beliefs and values have permeated every corner of his life ever he gave up his self-described heathen lifestyle as a honky-tonk operator in the 1970s.

"I myself am a product of the '60s; I centered my life around sex, drugs and rock and roll until I hit rock bottom Savior," Robertson said in a statement on Thursday. "My mission today is to go forth and tell people about why I follow Christ and also what the Bible teaches, and part of that teaching is that women and men are meant to be together."

‘Duck Dynasty’ reactions debate: Free speech or bigotry?

Robertson is an elder at White's Ferry Road Church of Christ, a nondenominational church that gathers around 1,200 worshippers on Sunday mornings. That means he offers spiritual counsel, helps teach the faith, hosts Bible studies and offers charity to the poor, Kellett said.

"He has literally helped bring hundreds of people to the Lord," the pastor added.

Robertson's son, Alan, co-pastored White Ferry with Kellet for eight years before joining the cast of "Duck Dynasty."

The show, which A&E says drew nearly 12 million viewers to the premiere of its fourth season in August, is enormously popular among conservative Christians, many of whom defended Robertson on social media Thursday. A online petition called "I Stand With Phil," garnered nearly 10,000 signatures by midday.

Opinion: ‘Duck Dynasty’ suspension doesn’t violate First Amendment

As Robertson's fame has grown, so has the size of his pulpit. He has preached at megachurch Pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in California. Publishers peddle "The Duck Commander Devotional" and churches clamor for guest appearances by the Robertson family.

“We’re kind of the John the Baptists of the 21st century," Alan Robertson has said. "It’s how you imagine, with the wild hair and the locusts."

Kellett said his church backs Robertson, whose family is nearly royalty in West Monroe, a city of 13,000 in northern Louisiana. "We support the Robertson family, and strongly believe in our Bibles and in Jesus Christ as lord."

The pastor said he agrees with Phil Robertson's comments about homosexuality and is concerned about his critics' treatment of Christianity.

"I think it's unfortunate that when you quote the Bible people get upset about one particular sin that always seems to get a lot of attention," Kellett said. "But sometimes the Bible is going to rub folks the wrong way."

Palin and Jindal weigh in

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Belief • Bible • Celebrity • Christianity • Culture wars • Discrimination • evangelicals • Faith & Health • Gay marriage • Gay rights • gender issues

soundoff (2,092 Responses)
  1. The Amazing Criswell Predicts!

    And now it's time for my amazing predictions for 2014! It's what you have all been waiting for!

    I predict that in 2014 Christians will still ignore whatever parts of the Bible they find inconvenient, but endlessly chastise others for doing the same thing!

    I predict Miley Cyrus will do an entire tour nude, and break all known records for ticket prices and sales.

    I predict Muslims will claim to be a religion of peace then detonate.

    I predict Anna Nicole Smith will resurrect and be heralded the true messiah. She will be the first of a series of zombie resurrections that will include Truman Capote, Fatty Arbuckle, and Pee Wee Herman, who was not aware he was dead. This will end when Danny Bonaduce does Zombie Rule #2 on them.

    I predict that the heads of Tea Party members will start exploding all over the country from the pressure of too much rage.

    I predict that the head of the Mormon church will receive a divine message that twerking is the true path to Kolob, and that their protective undergarments must now be thong panties.

    I predict that no matter who you elect to public office, the mess will get worse.

    I predict that the Constitution and Bill of Rights will be recognized as thoroughly bastardized, and be replaced with a menu from Chili's.

    I predict that Edward Snowden will release definitive information proving that the NSA sneaks in at night and fondles your children's naughty bits while you are sleeping. Many will be in favor of it because the threat of terrorism is just more important than a few silly rights.

    I predict that secularism will continue to grow rapidly thanks to the idiotic behavior of religious people and the absurdities of religious scripture.

    I predict Snooki Polizzi will become the latest Republican darling presidential candidate, but things will go badly for her. In the weeks up to November, her internal polls show doing very poorly. Her chief political adviser, Christine O'Donnell, will have her do an ad campaign claiming that she is not a demon squish-kitty in Austin's brain, which goes poorly too. Come November, she will lose the election Her concession speech will blame the libtards for not telling her it wasn't a presidential election year. FOX News will give her a well-paid position to share her fair and balanced views on the nefarious liberal War On Good Friday.

    And remember my friends, we are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives. And remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future.

    December 31, 2013 at 11:16 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.