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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. bostontola

    Most historians regard Jesus as a real historical person. There is precious little objective evidence, but if historians agree then ok.

    Virtually every single biologist regards evolution as a fact. There are libraries full of objective evidence, confirmed by direct observation and countless experiments. It is also confirmed by paleontology, archeologiy, geology, and chemistry/physics.

    It is interesting that there is many times the objective evidence for evolution than for the existence of Jesus, yet some Christians believe in Jesus but not evolution. This God spell distorts human perception. Worse, it distorts morality. It compels bigotry, justifies slavery, justifies subjugation of women, distorts justice punishing the innocent.

    That is one powerful spell.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  2. You get what you ask for

    I don't get the controversy. You put a religious person on tv and worship them until they talk about their religion. These "reality" shows focus on people for the very reason they are outrageous and controversial. Or they are just different enough that the rest of the people are fascinated watching them. A&E put a redneck from below the bible belt on tv and made him a "star." (BTW, he calls himself a redneck). He then gets asked about his beliefs and answers the questions. Now people that loved the guy hate him. What did you think you were getting? I don't agree w/his views, but he has the right to speak about them.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • bostontola

      Who said he didn't have the right to say his peace? He has every right. That right doesn't restrict others from reacting the way they want.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:57 am |
  3. Name*Kim

    I am getting tired of CNN and them blocking out people who are on Phil's side. You have a debate and clearly allow the person who hates Phil to go on longer stating his crap. CNN is going to lose viewers as well as A&E. Clearly the reporters for CNN are among the worlds puppets. Phil was not making 'anti gay comments'. He was stating his beliefs. Period.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:28 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      there's no blocking you lemming! you're just using words that are automatically blocked.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:29 am |
    • Live4Him

      Kim – Here are some words that are blocked:

      h.o.m.o – as in ho.mo.se.xual
      s.e.x – as in ho.mo.se.xual
      a.p.e – as in ra-pe
      c.u.m – as in doc-ument
      t.i.t as in ent.itle or consti.tution

      If you break-up the word to avoid the filters, then you can post them. However, if you become offensive, then your post could be deleted for abuse (when others report it).

      December 20, 2013 at 9:55 am |
  4. NKBL

    The most disturbing thing to me is that people actually believe in a God who is so vengeful and hateful. I was taught God was about love. Huh, guess I was wrong.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      Back when He was exclusively focused on the Israelites, He was a pretty vindictive, vengeful, smitey kinda God.
      Loving gods don't generally demand blood sacrifices.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:32 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        he likes the smell when you burn the sacrifices too. 🙂

        December 20, 2013 at 9:35 am |
    • Dyslexic doG

      you can rest assured that everyone's god is exactly who they imagine him or her to be ... because god is imaginary and fills the fears and the needs of people who are missing something in their lives.

      that's why people pick and choose phrases from the bible to justify their own needs, wants, fears, hatreds, etc.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:33 am |
    • Charm Quark

      NKBL
      Redneckedness trumps the teachings of Jesus.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • Cindy

      You don't understand God or the Bible at all.

      December 20, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
      • NKBL

        I understand that the bible is not accurate, it was written by man. I also have come to realize and understand God in my own way and your view does not count for me.

        December 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm |
  5. Jen

    Phil Robenson has a lot of character. If people can't be who they are then pick people who don't have strong personalities to be celebs, A and E. I don't even agree with his viewpoint but I definitely respect the character of that family.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:07 am |
  6. ChristLike

    I encourage you, before making a general summary of what is in the Bible go and read it yourself. You might be surprised what it says. It doesn't matter if you believe or not. Don't make comments about something you've never read or studied. I hope you read it and come up with your own conclusion. I was one of those people who just 'knew' Jesus from the stories. I called myself a Christian but I didn't even know Christ. I had never studied Him. Being a Christian literally means to be Like-Christ. I decided I'm actually going to pick up the Bible and figure out who this guy is for myself and it changed my life. I fell in love with Jesus. You can hate me if you want, even though you don't know me, but I support Phil and his comment on what is sin. Sometimes the truth is hard.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:06 am |
    • sam stone

      and, sometimes what people call truth is just bigotry

      December 20, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Roger that

      "I hope you read it and come up with your own conclusion. "

      That's the quickest way for a Christian to become an atheist. Actually read the Bible. You need to read it again.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I applaud anyone who seeks to emulate the character of Christ in their day to day life.
      What you can say against The Sermon on the Mount?
      That's why people should toss their King James in the trash and pick up a Jefferson Bible.
      He cut out all the supernatural chicanery and left only Jesus' teachings.
      Faith in miracles, divinity, resurrections, and other fantastical flourishes isn't required to live a life of pacifism, charity and humility.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:26 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Many of the non-theists here have read and re-read and even studied the Bible. There are surprises there, including a God who wants a relationship with people, his Creation it seems, but always wants the role of despot in its relationships. There's genocide, human sacrifice in there as well. Women are completely subordinate to men who can rape or offer them up for rape as they will. Slavery is taken as a normal institution. Homosexuality is to be punished by death. All in all it's quite a dangerous book for sociopaths and weak-minded people who need to be told how to live.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:32 am |
      • jp ceire

        You dwell on the Old Testament, which is essentially the Jewish Bible. Try reading and understanding the New Testament, especially where Christ says he is here to end the Old Law and bring forth the new covenant: peace, love, understanding and humility. That's where the evangelicals and radical so called Christians get lost. They cling to the Old Testament and pick and choose what doesn't apply to them but what they can use to belittle others.

        December 20, 2013 at 9:54 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          How can you just dismiss the Old Testament?
          "Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
          – Matthew 5:19

          "It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid."
          – Luke 16:17

          December 20, 2013 at 9:59 am |
    • Matthew Grant

      I totally agree with you I think everyone should read the Bible. I did and is one of the main reason that I turned away from Christianity. Not only is it full of contradictions but also endorses some horrible events such as slavery, genocide, killing of first born babies, etc. After reading this book from beginning to end I realize that I can no longer accepted it. So please, everyone read the bible.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:33 am |
      • Dyslexic doG

        well said Sir!

        December 20, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  7. JLS639

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

    Do you know anyone on the receiving end of this "big difference"? The way "love the sinner, hate the sin" works in practice is that the person acts the same way they would act if they hated the other guy, but claims to not hate anyone. If you hate what someone is, you hate them. If I hated someone being Christian, then I hate would him because I would hate what he is. Be honest with yourself, Evenstar: if you hate that people are gay, then you hate gays.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • SciGuy

      Nonsense.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:17 am |
      • Matthew Grant

        Why is it nonsense? Is it because you do not want to believe it? People are flawed individual. If a person does not like how another person live their life, it will influences their behavior towards the person. They will view these people through a bias filter and it will negatively impact how the person feels about the person.

        December 20, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  8. RB

    From a Christian perspective all humans are sinners. If a sinner has been saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, they gain forgiveness and a new t.itle, saint. These saints are still capable of sin the same as any human, it just simply means that they are forgiven. An unsaved sinner is lost.
    Phil was asked what he thought was sinful, he responded. You will notice there wasn’t a lot of controversy about him naming adultery as sinful. He didn’t express any ill will toward sinners, he just stated what he thought was sinful. Christians are called to love their neighbors as themselves. He was expressing his love for sinners by letting them know the danger they are in.
    Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. A sinner won’t accept they are one until the Holy Spirit begins to convict their heart. So, when anyone hears someone calling for them to repent and turn to the Lord, they are doing it out of concern for you. They are loving their neighbor.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      So when a vitriolic preacher spews invectives and points a condeming finger your way from his fiery pulpit, it is being done out of love.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:16 am |
      • Joel

        It should be done out of love. If it's not then he or she is not a very good preacher – a hypocrite I dare say.

        December 20, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Joel

      One if the most beautiful and well-said comments I've ever read. Kudos to you! God bless!

      December 20, 2013 at 9:19 am |
    • sam stone

      get back to us when people start using the other sins as an excuse to deny others their civil rights

      December 20, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  9. greystoke

    I am so tierd of the gay propaganda....its wrong period. Do i hate them? No! BUT! Iam tierd of the media raming this crap down our throats....i do not support them and will never support them or anything with their ways....time to start giving theHiatus to AnE...and those like carol costello.

    December 20, 2013 at 9:03 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      So you don't hate gay people, you're just virulently opposed to everything they are and everything they do?

      December 20, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • You get what you ask for

      This time it was anti-gay propaganda.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:36 am |
    • Matthew Grant

      What gay propaganda? I never had any gay person approach me and preach to me that being gay is the way to live. But I have had many religious people approach me, telling me that I will go to hell unless I listen to them. So I am tired of all the religious propaganda.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:45 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        What is supremely funny is that some of the nuttier Christian groups (like the Westboro Baptists) cited an Onion article as evidence of a vast gay conspiracy.
        "Spokespersons for the National Gay & Lesbian Recruitment Task Force announced Monday that more than 288,000 straights have been converted to hom.ose.xuality since Jan. 1, 1998, putting the group well on pace to reach its goal of 350,000 conversions by the end of the year."

        December 20, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • mk

          They actually believe that people are being recruited to be gay? That is just so unbelievably ignorant. As if gay people are just conspiring to pi$$ off the religious. Why would their all-powerful god let such a thing happen?

          December 20, 2013 at 10:10 am |
  10. AvdBerg

    For a better understanding of the latest controversy of Phil Robertson's gay remarks and a United Methodist pastor being defrocked for officiating his son's gay wedding, we invite you to read the item 'Ho-m-o-ex-uality and Same-S-x Marriage' listed on the Current Events page of our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca

    It is listed as the 14th item from the top. All of the other pages and articles explain how and by whom this whole world been deceived and that the members of the g-ay community are of the same spirit as all of mankind, including so-called Christians (Luke 9:55).

    The website provides answers on every social issue, including the imploding Health-Care System.

    December 20, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Science Works

      No thanks but just reported that the quacks might boycott their own show without papa quack.

      Say AvdBerg did you hear about the 1.4 million year old hand bone that closes the gap on human evolution ?

      December 20, 2013 at 8:53 am |
      • AvdBerg

        @ Science Works

        Please read the article 'Creation', it explains all. May I suggest that a next time you review people's comments before you allow your emotions to take over. After you read the article then comment. It explains the millions and billions of years being part of God's Creation.

        December 20, 2013 at 8:58 am |
        • Science Works

          Just like the people walking with dinosaurs right ?

          December 20, 2013 at 9:03 am |
        • Dyslexic doG

          keep reading your propoganda

          December 20, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      You love and accept gay people in the same way that Catholics and Mormons do.
      All they have to do is admit that how they feel is a damnable sin and either remain alone the rest of their lives or repress who they are, grit their teeth and find themselves a spouse of the opposite gender.
      There's room enough for everybody in God's closet, right?

      December 20, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • AvdBerg

      @Science Works

      That is right. Get the facts first before you comment.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:08 am |
      • Science Works

        The facts you say are not the quotes from the bible !!

        December 20, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • AvdBerg

      @ Science Works

      That is right. Educate yourself first!

      December 20, 2013 at 9:10 am |
      • Science Works

        And Texas is right next door and creationists lost the educational battle with text books !

        December 20, 2013 at 9:15 am |
  11. Laura

    Freedom of speech only means that a person cannot be arrested and put in jail for stating their personal beliefs. It doesn't mean that a privately owned company which employs that person can't discipline or fire them for publicly making comments that could reflect badly on the company. A&E will probably lose a lot of viewers, at least temporarily, over their decision, but they had every right to do it.

    December 20, 2013 at 8:45 am |
  12. jesusfraud

    Haha...jesus was the biggest fraud that was cooked up in history.

    December 20, 2013 at 8:44 am |
  13. Boo

    Another hypocritical "christian"....whatever

    December 20, 2013 at 8:37 am |
  14. Hugh Jass

    Who really cares what some duck hunting weirdo thinks anyway? Waste of time.

    December 20, 2013 at 8:32 am |
  15. Rev. Rick

    Phil is known for speaking his mind, so A&E is dumb if they didn't see this interview as a potential mine field. Or maybe they did? While I respect Phil's right to state his beliefs, he could have made it clear where he stands with regard to his beliefs and faith, without being so offensive. I suspect the GQ interviewer smelled blood and perhaps coaxed more out of Phil than was necessary, but I suppose that's what interviewers are trained to do, eh? Mission accomplished.

    December 20, 2013 at 8:30 am |
    • midwest rail

      Yes, this is all the fault of that evil interviewer. Good grief.

      December 20, 2013 at 8:32 am |
      • Rev. Rick

        The interviewers fault? Wow did you miss the point! I was paying the interviewer a compliment.

        December 20, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • jesusfraud

      Just like katie couric exposed the Palin fraud.

      December 20, 2013 at 8:50 am |
    • sam stone

      he had to know that stating this would be controversial

      December 20, 2013 at 8:56 am |
    • You get what you ask for

      Please don't compliment the interviewers; it only encourages them.

      December 20, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  16. crakkka

    I support Phil Robertson..

    December 20, 2013 at 8:24 am |
    • Evenstar

      I support anyone who supports the word of God!

      December 20, 2013 at 8:36 am |
      • sam stone

        you mean the word of man?

        December 20, 2013 at 8:43 am |
      • jesusfraud

        Your god is a fraud. Jesus never existed. That is why they're is no evidence of his existence to this date and none of the bibles mumbojumbo had been proven.

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

          Jesus definitely existed lol! You should pick up a history book. He's in there.

          December 20, 2013 at 9:12 am |
        • Doc Vestibule

          @AC
          Just like Gilgamesh.
          But just becuase there really was a King of Uruk, that doesn't mean that he was a demi-god.

          December 20, 2013 at 9:19 am |
      • Charm Quark

        Evenstar
        The word of which of the gods? I like Dionysus, myself, He always had very fine wine. That crap that jesus was supposed to have changed from water was the worst kind of almost unpalatable plonk; so the story goes.

        December 20, 2013 at 8:49 am |
      • mir

        Hey., if God say gotta be true. And really doesn't matters what bunch of capitalist think about the Word of God.
        Who knew you can't say what you think. Who knew that America will go thus far to belittle Biblical teachings.

        December 20, 2013 at 9:01 am |
    • kelly

      When Phil and his family jump ship from A & E I will follow them. I enjoy their shows BUT I really enjoy the prayer around thre Table at Suppertime. We would all be better if we learned from their example of this Family time

      December 20, 2013 at 9:24 am |
  17. Charm Quark

    If Phil cleans himself up he can always run for Congress, oh wait, northern Louisiana, no need to.

    December 20, 2013 at 8:14 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.