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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 watchers of "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 12:54 pm |
  2. ray

    why are the robersons working for a company that supports lgtb anyway?

    December 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • lol??

      All the Sons of the Beast do. It's a rule.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
    • Check this out

      The answer to that is simple. They get paid!!

      December 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
  3. Huntin Man

    Well, I hope that all you non believers out there are right; then you might have an afterlife you want. However if you're wrong and the Bible is right; you'll all burn in hell where you belong. I've fought for this country a number of times so I defend anyone's right to speak their mind. I don't like gays either and have the same beliefs Phil has. Now if you wanna be gay; that's great. You have your opinions and I have mine; we are a country divided afterall. The great thing about all of this is we have a right to an opinion and can agree to disagree. As for me, I like women!!

    December 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Some Antics

      Me thinks she doth protest too much, and would not be surprised to see this fellow "Huntin Men" at a nightclub a few towns over so no one in his town finds out...

      December 20, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • Former Xtian

      If the bible is wrong and the Koran is right, then boy, you are REALLY screwed. In reality there's no way to determine which is right and which is wrong, so Pascal's wager is terrible logic. Anybody who believes just to get a pass out of hell, isn't a true believer. Yeah, I guess you better go convert to Islam JUST IN CASE IT'S RIGHT! That's soooooo smart.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
    • Piccolo

      I like women too, but that doesn't mean that 2 men or 2 women can't love each other. To each his own. I agree about the right to have an opinion, however opinions rooted in hate are destructive to society. Just because the KKK is allowed to have marches and rallies doesn't mean that their primitive racist mentality is good. All it does is divide people when you target a certain group and speak out against them when they are not doing any harm to you. It's a primitive mentality, and it's sad that people like this still exist.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
  4. Brainwashed America under Obama

    This guy is free to say whatever he wants – and I hope he keeps saying it!

    December 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  5. Ed

    Cancel the god damn show. I hate stupid people.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:34 pm |
    • Nexus974

      If you don't like it don't watch it.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
  6. Ed

    What a bunch of losers There is no God. Man made all that up to control people like Quack head Phil because they can't accept someone might be different than them. He is nothing more than road kill along with all that religion crap.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
  7. Carrie Thomas

    From the look of some of the comments it's not Phil Robertson being the bully. People are allowed different opinions. Mature adults are able to discuss issues and respect that others have a different opinion. The Bible says we are all sinners. If you don't believe in the Bible or only believe in 'parts' that suit your lifestyle than it seems appriopriate to respect the others that do believe it in whole.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:26 pm |
    • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

      Uh,, Speaking of "RESPECT" , don't expect those who self-righteous thumpers like you and Phil INSULT to be "respectful" of YOUR imaginary delusions!... RESPECT goes BOTH WAYS! If you WANT respect, your need to SHOW respect! PHIL certainly DOES NOT show any at all and neither are you!

      December 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • Lou

      If you need the bible as a moral compass what you were lacking was empathy. When people shuck religion the world will improve, peace will break out. There can be no peace as long as we have religion...historical fact.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • And yet...

      should you respect the views of those who say "Eugenics proves the white race is superior!" or "History has been too harsh on Hitler, he was just trying to help his people establish a free white nation, whats so wrong with that?"

      I only respect other people opinions when those people have done or said something worthy of respect. Sadly, very few conservative Christians are doing and saying things I can respect. They obviously have a right to say those things, as I have the right to point out how insensative and hateful those words are as well as decide not to shop at Hobby Lobby or Chick-fil-A. A&E apparently still wants my viewership because they are distancing themselves from these words of hate and ignorance and it is the only sensible thing they can do.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • truthprevails1

      "only believe in 'parts' that suit your lifestyle"

      So are you saying you follow the entire bible? Including the parts where slavery is okay; where woman remain quiet in church; where selling your child is fine; where beating your children is fine.

      Not all of us our sinners, sin is strictly a biblical concept and for those of us not gullible enough to believe things strictly on faith, sin doesn't pertain to us.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  8. sqeptiq

    "When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross." -attributed to Sinclair Lewis (probably apocryphal)

    December 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
    • lol??

      DHS is preparing. with their clips wrapped, alright. FULLY AUTO.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  9. FrankyT

    I've got to go with Voltaire on this one. I don't like what he said, but I have to support his right to say it, and everyone elses right to support or pillory his statements, including his network suspending him. Free speach doesn't mean you can say anything without consequence, just that the LEGAL consequences will be minimal and consistent with First Ammendment principals.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  10. Lou

    Tired of the religious RW extremists. "Demonizing" gays encourages bullying , discrimination, and violence towards them. Helps deny them their happiness. Christians should move away from hating gays and focus on the poor. Dump supporting the Palins and Roves of the worlds.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:15 pm |
  11. pauleky

    Ah, bigotry wrapped up in the Bible and the flag. It doesn't excuse it and never will.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
  12. For all of those whining about free speech...

    We have the right to say "God hates gays" or "White Power!" or "Hitler is my hero" and it's everyone elses right to ignore, disassociate and distance themselves from that individual as well as private companies not handing them microphones anymore.

    Expect boycotts and other consumer backed dissent if you choose to associate with bigots, racists and chauvinists.

    December 20, 2013 at 12:05 pm |
  13. TYRANNASAUR

    Loloolololololololololo.......love this ...lol??

    December 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  14. TYRANNASAUR

    "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......

    What a waste of time....any reputable doctor will tell you that while praying makes the passive person think they are doing something for the victim...they are really just making themselves feel good....PRAYING has no actual effect on a disease...it's not even near possible....medical science is the only hope for the victim.....I've had 3 different cancer, 2 were deadly, and thank the universe I only listened to and let the doctors help me....

    December 20, 2013 at 12:02 pm |
    • Carl

      You are so wrong Tyrannasaur. So you are claiming that because you had cancer 3 times. I am really honestly happy that you are, I assume, cured. Medical science is wonderful and few Christians would argue that one should seek medical help for a disease, an illness or injury. God uses doctors as part of the healing process. In fact Luke who wrote one of the Gospels and the Book of Acts was a physician himself.

      As a pastor, I have had doctors tell me that when they do what they do, whether through surgery, or other medical treatments, their abilities to heal a body only go so far. They have said that after that, it often is in the hands of God as to whether the person lives or dies. Once they have done all they can, God takes over. Their words not mine.

      But then getting on a personal note. Back in 1994 my wife who had a rare form of mitochondrial Muscular Dystrophy was given 2-3 year to live. Most of her internal organs were slowly dying. Her liver was so large that it ran from her pelvis all the way to under her armpit. Her heart had problems. Her neuromuscular system was in complete chaos. She was in a wheelchair and on oxygen 24/7/365. At night she was on a BIPAP ST machine with a respirator so that if she stopped breathing during the night, which she often did, the respirator would pump oxygen into her. Before this new machine, it would be calls to 911, the emergency medical team would arrive, intubate her and rush her to the hospital in emergency respriatory failure. The doctors could do nothing except treat certain symptoms with meds, but overall she was terminal. She laughed at that. She told everyone that God was going to heal her, and God did. Now nearly 20 years later, she is out of the wheelchair, doesn't need oxygen, doesn't need the meds she once did to keep her alive. Hasn't had a respiratory problem for 7 years. She is 61 and going strong. We prayed every day for her along with many other believers. Prayer worked. No medical team could do anything. She had the best liver specialist in the country at the time and a team of Muscular Dystrophy doctors who could do nothing they said but help her survive as long as they could, but she was incurable, terminal. But God didn't see it that way. He is the Great Physician.

      Also back in 2003, I was diagnosed at the VA hospital in Fresno, CA, with cancer of the bladder. I had a large malignant tumor the size of a silver dollar located there. There were cancer cells in my urine which the doctors say can mean that the cancer is spreading elsewhere in my body. They scheduled me for surgery within two weeks. They did all kinds of tests before then...the usual. CTScans, blood work, biopsies, and other x-rays and such. When the day of the surgery came, my wife, brother-in-law and another pastor came with me and we prayed together.

      When the surgery was over, I woke up in the recovery room. The doctor was by my bedside as I came out of anesthesia. I asked the doctor how the surgery went. He looked confused, perplexed. He said, the four biopsies we took of other areas of your body showed that the cancer had not spread. So I asked him the important question, "Did you get all the tumor?" He went to his computer and brought up the video scope they did of my bladder just a couple of weeks before showing a large ugly mass on it. He showed me x-rays, the CTScan, the bloodwork, all showing the tumor. The other biopsy of the tumor which showed it to be malignant. Then he said, but when we went in to remove the mass, it wasn't there. It was gone. Not even one cancer cell from what was now a perfectly healthy bladder and no cancer cells in the urine as well.

      I had no cancer treatments at all. No meds, no chemo, no radiation, and the surgery which ended up being not needed except to show the doctors what God can do. Every year the VA in Fresno, and now in Dallas near where we live, make me come in and they scope my bladder and take a tissue sample or biopsy to keep checking if there are any signs of cancer there. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. None. These things do not happen by themselves. Only God can do what happened to both my wife and myself.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:31 pm |
      • Doc Vestibule

        The John Templeton Foundation funded a 10 year, $2.4 million dollar study involving 1,800 cardiac patients to measure the effectiveness of intecessory prayer.
        The patients were broken into three groups. Two were prayed for; the third was not. Half the patients who received the prayers were told that they were being prayed for; half were told that they might or might not receive prayers.
        Analyzing complications in the 30 days after the operations, the researchers found no differences between those patients who were prayed for and those who were not.
        Over the longer term, patients who knew they were being prayed for had a higher rate of post-operative complications like abnormal heart rhythms, perhaps because of the expectations the prayers created, the researchers suggested.
        A 1997 study at the University of New Mexico, involving 40 alcoholics in rehabilitation, found that the men and women who knew they were being prayed for actually fared worse.

        December 20, 2013 at 12:49 pm |
    • Prayer...

      is just mental mast.urba.tion clim.axing with a pat on the back.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm |
    • Piccolo

      Scientific studies have already shown that prayer only has a placebo effect. This means it's like taking a sugar pill and being told it will help, so that you trick your body into healing itself or feeling better. Based on all scientific studies about the effect of prayer, it only has an effect on people who KNOW they are being prayed for. It's a mood thing. When you think positive you always have a better chance of recovery. It's not because a bunch of people prayed and got decided that you were worthy of saving.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:25 pm |
  15. Dave

    Instead of putting Christ back in Christmas, how bout putting Christ back in Christians? It's a good start

    December 20, 2013 at 11:55 am |
    • Damocles

      I'd rather the lost art of Common Sense be re-introduced to people in general.

      December 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

        That is great idea, except the fact that "common sense" is apparantly NOT very COMMON!

        December 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
    • Former Xtian

      Agreed. Base your life on doing good deeds instead of judging others. That's what Jesus taught. The fact that so many Christians have no clue about Jesus' teachings speaks volumes. Judge not, turn the other cheek, hate the sin not the sinner, do unto others. These are the most important teachings of Jesus but they are often ignored.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:24 pm |
      • mk

        "hate the sin not the sinner"...I don't remember Jesus saying this in any form. I think it was made up by the churches as a way to slyly hate the sinner.

        December 20, 2013 at 12:32 pm |
        • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

          YOU are CORRECT! The fictional Jesus of the New Testament was never quoted speaking that phrase!

          December 20, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
  16. IDGAF

    Scientology is better

    December 20, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • All religion is...

      bitter.

      December 20, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • Former Xtian

      It's much more entertaining at least. It's still silly like most religions.

      December 20, 2013 at 12:25 pm |
  17. Chien

    Praise Lord Jesus. Come Lord Jesus, the Emmanuel. Come Lord Jesus, Maranatha !

    December 20, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • sam stone

      "come, lord jeebus, come lord jeebus, you gonna come....oh, jeeebus oh g-g-godddddd"

      December 20, 2013 at 11:54 am |
    • Church of Suicidal

      "Stop chasing Ghanesh! You're only going to get more wrath!"

      December 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
  18. AE

    Jesus said nothing on the topic of h.mos.xuality.

    He did have a lot to say about wealthy people like Mr. Robertson!

    December 20, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • Madtown

      I agree with you. Topher will not.

      December 20, 2013 at 11:55 am |
      • sam stone

        Got to remember, Topher/Gopher is god's personal spokesman

        in addition to being a lying, delusional coward

        December 20, 2013 at 11:58 am |
      • HotAirAce

        Topher seems to have run away -again.

        December 20, 2013 at 12:11 pm |
    • Religion is NOT healthy for children and other living things

      Bingo! You hit the nail on the head!

      December 20, 2013 at 11:57 am |
  19. Tom

    The problem with many non-Christians is that they do not know all of what we know and they don't care to know. When we try to tell them, they don't believe what we say. But the same thing was done to Jesus by the people of His day which led to His crucifixion. I simply say this: watch your world. It will not get better with the growing number of people turning away from God and righteousness. The quality of human relationships will become darker, and worse with the passage of time, and the rejection of the understanding that Jesus can make us all better if we turn to Him will be the main reason because the world will be turning away from its only answer and means of improvement.

    December 20, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • bostontola

      What do you know?

      December 20, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Damocles

      Yeah, I'm pretty sure that deep down inside, you don't want people to be more like your deity.

      December 20, 2013 at 11:53 am |
    • WASP

      @tom: then please explain why secular countries are happier than religious countries? not to mention have less violence, better education systems and no oppression?

      December 20, 2013 at 12:12 pm |
    • mk

      Except they've been saying that our world is doomed for 2000+ years.

      Did you know that violent crime in the U.S. reached a 40-year low in 2010? Teenage pregnancy is at an all-time low? Divorce rates are down 30%? Yet, there are more non-religious people now than ever. How is it possible that these "moral" issues are improving with less believers and no prayer in schools??

      December 20, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
    • G to the T

      It's funny because I get almost that exact same reaction from Christians when I'm trying to explain evolution to them.

      The difference is one fits the facts, the other tries to fill in the gaps with assumptions.

      December 20, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
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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.