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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
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(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. Reality # 2

    To all the believers in "Duckdumb":

    The Apostles' Creed 2013: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    Amen
    (references used are available upon request)

    December 20, 2013 at 7:35 am |
    • Love My Lord

      Just like Phil Robertson...I too love you dispite our differences. I will be praying for your soul.

      December 20, 2013 at 7:59 am |
      • Reality # 2

        Soul? another unproven religious concept !!

        December 20, 2013 at 8:35 am |
      • sam stone

        what condescending tripe

        December 20, 2013 at 8:45 am |
    • Willie

      Your hate for us, and God will have a reward. Wait for it...

      December 20, 2013 at 8:03 am |
      • Chatm Quark

        Willie
        Duck! Too late god seems to have nabbed you, pity.

        December 20, 2013 at 8:09 am |
      • G to the T

        I don't hate Willie – it's a poison for all involved. I do feel pity though, lots of pity...

        December 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • CharlesP

      You guys point out a very important fact, that saying bad things about the dictator can lead you to trouble. Just ask the uncle of a certain North Korean leader.

      December 20, 2013 at 8:09 am |
  2. Wisdomforlife

    On many issues the public largely feels like we are given a choice between agreeing with a set of politically approved ideas or being labeled intolerant, irrationally phobic or even a hateful bigot. This has to stop. Reasonable citizens must say, "Enough is enough!"

    I am not suggesting that it’s easy to protect unity in the kind of diversity we have in our country. But we simply can’t promote unity by forcing everyone to see things one way under a threat of being demonized for disagreeing. I believe most people have had enough of this distortion of tolerance. http://thinkpoint.wordpress.com/2013/12/19/duck-controversy/

    December 20, 2013 at 7:22 am |
    • Sue

      That applies equally to the way the Christian Right demonizes and threatens basically everyone who disagrees with its set of religiously approved ideas, right? I don't automatically prescribe to everything that's deemed "politically correct", but I do recognize that this bigotry against gays is just plain wrong, even when you dress it in the sheep's clothing of piety.

      December 20, 2013 at 8:13 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        I take comfort in the fact that the next generation will view ho/mophobia with the same sense of shame and disgust with which insti/tutionalized racism is now seen.

        December 20, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Evenstar

      I don't hate gay people at all. I do however hate that they are gay. That's a big difference. Too many who hate that people are gay are demonized as being hateful people. A good Christian can hate that a person is gay and still love them as a person.

      December 20, 2013 at 8:42 am |
      • sam stone

        why do you hate that they are gay?

        December 20, 2013 at 8:47 am |
      • Saraswati

        "I don't hate gay people at all. I do however hate that they are gay. That's a big difference."

        That may be a difference to you, but not to any gay person I know, myself included. It's like saying "I don't hate you, only who you are." Or "I don't hate you, I'm just disgusted by the sight of you." Or "I don't hate you, just the fact you're a Christian." Or "I don't hate you, I just don't like your personality."

        So go ahead and tell yourself whatever you want, but when you say cr@p like this, well, we don't hate you we just think you have stupid ideas and a disgusting bigoted approach to life.

        December 20, 2013 at 9:34 am |
  3. Roger

    I wonder if he's Republican. Hmmm....really hard to tell.

    December 20, 2013 at 7:14 am |
  4. nic

    Why must people indoctrinate themselves with morals and principles from an ancient book? What happened to common sense and being honest with yourself?

    December 20, 2013 at 6:55 am |
    • yep

      Money.... and lot of it in the bu(sin)ess of hate

      December 20, 2013 at 7:02 am |
  5. Belinda Wing

    Star Jones Publicaly called Phil a Redneck that is bulling . Kick her off Cnn . Just Kidding. Everyone in the world is getting over sensitive people call each other names everyday Its not right but only certain people are critizied. Miley Cyrus says say what you want to in her song and acts up and its ok. Look at all the other trashy reailty shows that really pick on all people. Enough is engough sticks and stones. I was picked on as a kid never went tatle tailing to teachers. I ended up just trying to ingnore. I am fine and dont feel my life is messed up. To much drama in the world. by the way Merry Christmas

    December 20, 2013 at 6:29 am |
  6. saggyroy

    Put CHRIST back in Christmas? How about putting CHRIST back in so called "Christianity"?

    December 20, 2013 at 4:55 am |
    • Roger

      Amen.

      December 20, 2013 at 7:15 am |
    • G to the T

      Put the "Yule" back in "yuletide" and the "Fun" back in "Fundamentalism"! Remember – you can't spell "Slaughter" without "laughter"!

      December 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  7. postedbygeorge

    Robertson is a jesus hater, jesus no wife, no grilfriend, no children, onlyy was with 12 guys drinking wine, its in the bible, jesus fits robertson's description.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:27 am |
    • Sue

      That was brilliant...got any other deep thoughts?

      December 20, 2013 at 4:20 am |
    • Blake

      Probably the dumbest comment I have read. People better start reading and studying their bible and obey God rather than what "Modern Society" would want us to obey.

      December 20, 2013 at 4:23 am |
      • saggyroy

        Modern society? What are you? A hunter gatherer?

        December 20, 2013 at 4:57 am |
        • Wow

          that was dang funny saggy

          December 20, 2013 at 7:03 am |
      • HotAirAce

        Why? Why should we read and study The Babble, or obey an alleged supernatural god that no one can show conclusively exists, never mind actually cares about anything going on on Earth!

        December 20, 2013 at 5:09 am |
      • sam stone

        right, better to obey what iron age man wanted

        December 20, 2013 at 5:20 am |
      • truthprevails1

        So does this mean owning slaves and selling your daughter should be acceptable? Those are in accordance with the book you obey and somehow think has any authority in the real world.

        December 20, 2013 at 6:19 am |
  8. Coincidence?

    West Monroe, Louisiana, huh? Home of the North Louisiana White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.

    December 20, 2013 at 3:01 am |
  9. John

    So I would like to ask why wasn`t Roland Martin fired, why won`t any of your journalist or commentators ask their guest how they feel about the Muslim treatment of gays and what does Fareed thing about the LBGT community?

    December 20, 2013 at 2:42 am |
    • Observer

      John,

      Muslims aren't in our country collecting millions of dollars to deny equal rights to gays.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:59 am |
      • Fred

        And it has absolutely nothing to do with this at all. Usual right-wing tactic: demand others talk about what you want to talk about, which isn't the subject at hand.

        December 20, 2013 at 3:01 am |
      • sammy

        Lets see I dont believe that Phil was denying any body their rights. He quoted the Bible Gods word how can that be wrong. And even though some religious leaders dont agree with that what it says than maybe they are not really followers of Jesus or God at all.

        December 20, 2013 at 4:21 am |
        • sam stone

          man's word, sammy

          December 20, 2013 at 5:22 am |
  10. Hmmmmm

    "Phil led us in prayer," said Mike Kellett, senior pastor of White's Ferry Road Church

    Violation of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. As Jesus warned, no treasure for them.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:37 am |
  11. Yeah, that's definitely a guy to listen to. Not

    One look at that guy tells you he is a creep and a moron. If I shared any opinion with that dingbat, I would seriously re-examine it.

    Then again, he would win a Charles Manson lookalike contest.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:33 am |
    • saggyroy

      I don't think you can judge by appearance at all. It's when someone opens their mouth you can judge.

      December 20, 2013 at 5:01 am |
  12. grace

    I'm curious where all of you supposed First Amendment supporters were when various conservative Christian groups tried to get programs yanked off the air for being gay-friendly (Glee, for example). Where were you just a year or so ago when conservative Christian groups tried to get Ellen fired as J.C. Penney's spokesperson, not even for anything offensive that she did, but just because you found it offensive that a gay person was allowed to appear in innocuous ads that didn't even reference her being gay? You can't have it both ways. Personally, I think freedom of speech issues involve government censorship, not private companies deciding what type of product, spokesperson, or entertainer they are going to employ. p.s. One of the main reasons cited by younger Americans for leaving Christianity is the inordinate amount of time fundamentalists like this church spend on condemning gay people. So carry on with supporting bigots, fundamentalists. You're just hastening your own demise.

    December 20, 2013 at 2:32 am |
    • Put another way

      I'm curious where all of you supposed First Amendment supporters were when various conservative Christian groups tried to get programs yanked off the air for being black-friendly.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:34 am |
    • Troy

      Could not have said it better myself. You are 100% correct.

      December 20, 2013 at 2:46 am |
      • There just might be a crucial difference

        So it never dawned on you that those shows are not advocating the oppression of a group, while Christians are?

        Didn't notice that the issue here is hate speech, which is absent in the shows you are freaking about?

        December 20, 2013 at 2:50 am |
  13. Neo Atheist

    Such a stupid show in the first place. Tried watching and thought what the heck is the point of this trash and garbage?

    December 20, 2013 at 2:24 am |
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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.