Reprinted from The Deliberate Agrarian. Part I and Part II
Back in August of last year my oldest son was telling me about the Duck Dynasty television show. He said he would like to read Phil Robertson’s book, Happy, Happy, Happy, and suggested that I could get him a copy for Christmas. I said I might do that, and ordered it from Amazon that day. It’s rare that one of my boys say they want to read a book, and I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity to help them do so, especially if I think it has a good message.
Then, come December, Phil Robertson was in the news because he dared to (in his own unique way) assert his opinion that homosexuality was deviant, morally reprehensible behavior. He was, of course, simply reflecting God’s viewpoint on the matter, as clearly (very clearly) expressed in the Bible. However, based on the biblical record, I think it’s safe to say that God’s opinion about, and response to, homosexuality is far more extreme than Phil Robertson’s.
As you know, Robertson’s remarks ignited a firestorm of indignation from sodomy-rights advocates. At one time, militant sodomites just wanted equal rights, but that seems to have changed. Now they also want everyone to agree with their behavior, proclaim it as good, and help promote it. And if someone does not kowtow to their expectations, well then, a brazen, organized cadre of rabid activists will do everything they can to destroy that someone’s livelihood and reputation. Which is exactly how it played out with Phil Robertson.
I found myself drawn to the controversy because I know that most Christians (including most pastors) are afraid to publicly side with God on this matter of sodomy. They have a lot to lose if they do. Besides that, no Christian really wants to even think about homosexuality. It is, frankly, repulsive (especially if you know some of the things homosexual men do with each other, beyond what Phil Robertson said). Thinking about homosexuality is also not one of those things Christians are instructed to put their thoughts on in Phillippians 4:8.
Nevertheless, we who take our Christian faith seriously are called to speak the truth in love, and if you read Phil Robertson’s “controversial” quote, he was not expressing his opinion with anger or hate. I dare say, it could be argued that, in speaking the truth, Robertson expressed more love for homosexuals than those who hold their tongue.
The fact that Phil Robertson was, and is, unafraid to speak his mind, even though it is contrary to the dictates of mainstream cultural expectations, reveals more than just his opinion about sodomy. It reveals that Phil Robertson is a free man in the truest sense of the word.
I believe all men are attracted to examples of other men who are free, who are untamed by the industrial-world culture, who are fully capable of taking care of themselves and their families without needing a 9-to-5 job, or government handouts, who hold fast to traditional moral standards, and who bravely speak their mind. Such men are few and far between.
Even the author of the GQ magazine article that led to the December brouhaha, a man who is clearly an indoctrinated disciple of modern culture, admits that he himself is a wimp, and that Robertson’s manhood is admirable.
I was so intrigued by this controversy that I spent some time one day, while working in my shop, listening to several short segments of the Duck Dynasty program that are on YouTube (I’ve never watched a whole episode of the show).
My impression of the show is that it’s silly and mostly vapid. But it does have some very endearing moments, like, for example, when Phil and Miss Kay speak to each other at their 50th wedding anniversary. What they say is not Hollywood. It’s real, and it put a real lump in my throat. That was my emotion because I had read Phil’s biography (I finished it off very early on Christmas morning). I know something of his pre-Christian past, and the hardships he inflicted on his marriage and family years ago.
You may be wondering what all this has to do with reestablishing the family economy, as the title of this essay states. Well, it turns out that it has a lot do with it.
When you read Phil Robertson’s biography you will immediately see that he grew up within a family that had very little in the way of material goods. But the family worked together to provide the necessities of life from the land, and the woods, and the waterways around their home. That’s a family economy. He grew up in the 1950’s but he says his family lived like it was the 1850s.
If you read Phil’s book (and I recommend it), you’ll be treated to the story of a contra-industrial man. In addition to that, he’s a man who went from being a proud, selfish, irresponsible, backwoods hellion to a humble, repentant, responsible, backwoods husband and father. You’ll also learn about Phil’s entrepreneurial side.
Phil Robertson is a college graduate and was once a school teacher. But he left that job to be a fisherman. He supported his family for several years fishing for catfish, and it sounds like he was pretty good at it. The book says he brought in around sixty thousand pounds of fish a year. The whole family helped with the fishing business.
Phil and Miss Kay and the four boys lived in the boondocks back then, next to a river (they still live there). Phil’s parents (who he refers to as Granny and Pa) lived in a separate house on the same property.
The story goes that Phil told Kay to find a riverside property where they could live and he could fish from. She found just the right spot but they couldn’t afford the down payment. So Phil’s parents used their savings as a down payment on the 6.5 acre property (with two houses on it). The agreement was that Phil and Kay would be responsible for paying the balance over time. That’s how it worked, and the arrangement allowed the four Robertson boys to grow up with their grandparents right next door. Pa and Granny were there to help Phil and Kay, and Phil and Kay were there to help Pa and Granny. That’s a family working together. That’s a family economy. That’s the way families used to do it way back when. It’s a beautiful thing.
Phil did good at the fishing, but he dreamed of building a business making duck calls. He started making the calls in a shed on his property. His boys helped make the calls, and Pa helped too.
As you probably know, Phil Robertson is now a wealthy man, but he sure didn’t start out that way, and it didn’t come easy. But the man had an exceptional work ethic to go with his entrepreneurial mindset.
In the book, Phil tells about how hard it was to sell his duck calls in the beginning. There was no internet back then to help with marketing. He walked into a WalMart and tried to sell calls to the sporting goods department. That’s not how you sell to WalMart and he didn’t get anywhere. Most people would have given up after being rejected in one WalMart, but Phil went to other WalMarts, changing his sales pitch each time, and he finally made a sale. A man’s gotta have a lot of chutzpah to do that!
Phil’s duck call company, Duck Commander, is now a great American success story. I want to make the point here that it all started with a godly, entrepreneurial man, living close to the land, and establishing a family economy that included a home business. I believe the Robertson’s are the close-knit family they are today because they have all worked towards a common goal as a family, under Phil’s leadership, and their Christian faith has been central to the whole thing.
Now here is the point I want to reiterate about a man who lives free and establishes a family economy business…. Such a man is more free to speak his mind than a man who is a slave to the corporation, or a government job.
Phil Robertson is much like the yeoman farmers of early America. They were hard-working men of the land who were morally upright and independent-minded. As such, they could speak their conscience freely. Such were the kind of men that Thomas Jefferson believed must be the backbone of the Agrarian Republic he helped to forge.
I declare… America needs more men like Phil Robertson.
P.S. This YouTube Clip is the best interview I’ve seen with Phil and Miss Kay.