An interview with Phil and Kay Robertson
Television | Before being fired for his biblical beliefs on homosexuality, the <em>Duck Dynasty</em> star and his wife told WORLD what makes their life in Christ so happy, happy, happy
by Emily Whitten
Posted 12/19/13, 11:03 am
Yesterday, Phil Robertson of the Duck Dynasty clan became the latest media figure shot down over his stance against homosexuality. Duck Dynasty—which chronicles the life of the Robertsons, a Louisiana family who has made it big selling duck calls—recently finished its fourth season on A&E with record-setting audience numbers. More than 11.8 million viewers tuned in to the season opener alone, the highest ratings ever for a cable nonfiction show.
Yet Robertson’s popularity so far has been no protection against the hounds of political correctness. After he criticized homosexuality in a just-released interview with GQ, A&E’s producers put Robertson on “indefinite hiatus,” effectively firing him from the show.
It’s a familiar story. Just this fall, a devoted fan base could not protect Orson Scott Card, the award-winning author of Ender’s Game, who was targeted by pro-homosexual groups like Geeks OUT for his views on gay marriage and effectively made to cower in the shadows during the release of the film version of his popular science-fiction book.
Robertson’s colorfully blunt but biblical condemnation of homosexuality is now being repeated all across the fruited plain. And while his anatomy lesson on sex was more graphic than it needed be, Robertson’s clear testimony that homosexuality is sin (taken from 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) represents his real offense.
Many who watch the program won’t be too surprised. Robertson is characteristically matter-of-fact about a lot of things our culture prefers to ignore, and his stance against homosexuality is no mere personal prejudice. Instead, it represents a life submitted to the teaching of the Bible.
At the end of each Duck Dynasty episode, the family sits down at the table together. Robertson, the paterfamilias, asks them all to bow their heads—sons, daughters-in-law, brothers, grandchildren—and together they thank Jesus for their food, their family, and their many blessings. It’s a rare sight on any TV show, and one that represents the heart of the Robertson clan: faith, family and food.
As Duck Dynasty fans consider what it will mean for the show they love if Robertson is removed from that place at the head of the table, WORLD offers an exclusive interview with Phil and his wife, Kay, conducted via email on Nov. 21, where they talk about what Christ has meant to their relationship, as well as what makes their table scene so attractive.
Phil, your bestseller last spring, Happy, Happy, Happy, as well as Miss Kay’s new cookbook, reveal your life together hasn’t always been easy, considering Phil’s rowdy lifestyle before coming to Christ. What does it mean to you to be able to sit down with your family and pray and eat together? How does that represent your values as Christians?
PHIL: Two of the central ingredients to our family are food and faith, so sitting down together and thanking God for the food He’s provided means everything to us. Prayer is a natural part of our lives—not only around the dinner table but all day long.
Unlike many of us who sit down to a meal made with ingredients purchased solely at a grocery store, you often literally bring home the bacon, squirrel, or crayfish. What is your favorite animal to hunt/catch and eat? And do you ever taste the buckshot?
PHIL: I enjoy almost all of the game we kill. I only like to eat game that I have cleaned. I guess duck and dressing are still one of my favorites. We prefer fat green-winged teal or wood ducks for our dressing. I have bitten down or swallowed a few pellets through the years. My uncle had his appendix removed and there were over 100 lead pellets in it. He might have died of lead poisoning. Now that is eating a lot of game!
Kay, your kitchen and recipes remind me a lot of my grandmother’s—except for the frog legs! You’ve written that your taste in cooking as well as your faith came largely from your grandmother. How did she influence your cooking and your life early on? How did you come to own her faith for yourself?
KAY: I guess the main thing my grandmother did for me was spend time with me. Sometimes we’d just sit on the swing out front and talk—mostly not about anything important. But when you spend a lot of time together, the important things have a way of weaving themselves into your conversation. Nannie taught me all kinds of things about nature, and she taught me to love animals, especially dogs. My Nannie always seemed to be cooking in the kitchen. If someone was sick or had a death in the family, Nannie was the first one to take a comforting dish of food to them. Now as I pass my love of cooking down to my grandchildren, I make sure to wrap our cooking in my unconditional love for them.
Though you’ve been married nearly 50 years now, your early life together was often rocky, and for a time you were even separated. Phil, what did it take for you to become the head of the household you are today? Why was it so hard for you to really love your wife early on? What have you learned since then?
PHIL: That’s an easy one. It was hard to love my wife and kids because I was all wrapped up in loving only myself. I did what I wanted, when I wanted, without any real concern for them. After becoming a Christian, I was still a bit rough around the edges, but gradually Christ has worked in my heart to change me into a man who knows how to love others—putting their needs above my own. The new way is better than the old—hands down.
KAY: Christ has meant everything to our marriage. It was my commitment to Christ and the words from my grandmother that made me stick with Phil when there wasn’t much to hold on to. How has Phil changed? Do you have a year to hear about it? His love for the outdoors, his pioneer spirit, and his quest for adventure has not changed. But his heart has been turned inside out. He’s a new man in every way that involves relationships.
Phil, you went to some lengths to get the show’s writers and produces to let you include the words “in Jesus name” during the closing prayer. Why do you think it was originally left out? Why was it so important to you that it be included?
PHIL: What use is being in front of millions of people if you don’t use the opportunity to portray life in Christ that will save their lives? I’m all about sharing the Good News of how our bodies can one day leave the grave that is facing every single one of us. There is a way out.
PHIL: I make a mean pecan pie, and I have a great recipe for pralines—also using pecans. Pralines take a lot of patience, and patience is a must in the duck blind as well as in the kitchen. Good things come to those who wait. Kay and I make a great team in the kitchen, but I do have my specialties that I like to handle myself.
KAY: I love having Phil in the kitchen! Not only is he a great cook, but it means less work for me!
In your life together now, you have many opportunities to invite people to Christ and the marriage supper of the Lamb. How have you seen God working through you to build His family and His kingdom? What has surprised you most about that?
PHIL: In our experience, people are eager to learn the good news of Jesus. In a world that is skeptical about all things religious—especially Christian things—when the message of Jesus’ love, grace, and salvation is shared, hearts are changed, marriages heal, addictions are overcome. Even though we see it every day, we are continually awed by the power of the gospel to melt a heart.
Emily is a book critic and writer for WORLD. She is a World Journalism Institute and University of Mississippi graduate, previously worked at Peachtree Publishers, and developed a mother's heart for good stories over a decade of homeschooling. Emily resides with her family in Nashville, Tenn. Follow her on Twitter @emilyawhitten.