Why all the fascination with “Duck Dynasty” these days? Is it just another example of mindless cultural fluff, or is a profound spiritual message somehow involved? My purpose in this blog post is not to wade into the recent controversy about Phil Robertson's comments on homosexuality, but rather the larger cultural context: How can a believer "keep it real" and walk in God's truth in a politically correct world?
The A&E Network’s unlikely hit series is the second most watched original series on a cable channel. As you probably know by now, the show chronicles the Robertson clan, the rags-to-riches family that has turned making duck calls into a lucrative company called Duck Commander.
On a recent media blitz in New York City, the bearded stars were asked by Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” whether “Duck Dynasty” episodes were “real” or scripted. Family patriarch Phil Robertson replied, “Most of the time we ad-lib. Think about it: Some TV producer out of L.A. is fixin’ to put words into our mouth? Gimme a break.”
Jase, one of the Robertson sons, described the culture shock between the TV producers and the fiercely independent Louisianans: “They come up with ideas, and we just get to be ourselves in the situation.”
Is that the secret to the amazing success of the Robertsons, after all—the fact that they “just get to be themselves”?
In various other interviews, the Robertsons have discussed how crucial it is for them to “keep it real,” even in the face of constant pressure to compromise their faith and values. Success has its own temptations, but it would be deadly to the show’s success if the family tried to fit into some mold set by TV gurus.
But I’ve admitted to some friends lately that I don’t always like “reality.” Yes, the truth will set us free (John 8:32), but first it often brings pain and dismay. I can see why some people prefer to live their whole life in a fantasy world.
And have you ever wondered what people would see if YOUR life was a TV reality show? Would it be the most boring program ever, because you never do anything heroic or adventurous? Would you be embarrassed if hidden cameras caught a behind-the-scenes look at what’s really going on in your family or career?
Perhaps the reality show cameras would reveal that your public persona is far different from who you truly are. As Jesus described the Pharisees, maybe you’re a hypocrite…a play actor…wearing a religious mask or “happy face” to hide your inner reality.
Jesus once told a Samaritan woman who had bounced from one immoral relationship to another, “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). There’s an important message here about whether we’re living lives that are authentic or phony.
The Greek word translated “truth” is alētheia. In addition to meaning “truth” in terms of what is right and wrong (e.g., the truth of Scripture), alētheia has a much broader meaning. It can be translated as “reality,” and one Bible dictionary defines it as “candor of mind which is free from pretense, simulation, falsehood, or deceit.”
Many people today are yearning for reality. Perhaps they’ve never classified themselves as a “seeker of truth,” but they’re tired of the phony, the fabricated, and the hyped.
Yet, sadly, not everyone is ready to face the truth. Jack Nicholson’s character in “A Few Good Men” may have been right when he famously said, “You can’t HANDLE the truth!”
Let’s be honest: At the same time as we applaud the “reality” of a program like “Duck Dynasty,” millions are also watching the un-reality of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.”
Do we even have a clue as to what is “real” anymore? Do we even care?
As you’ve probably guessed, my concern isn’t whether the Robertsons or the Kardashians are living in reality or phoniness. My concern is for you and me.
I pray you have some true friends who are helping you “keep it real”—people who refuse to allow you to drift into unreality and self-deception. Even though it’s unlikely you’ll ever be offered your own TV program, may the reality of Christ be evident in your life. Although people will be impacted little by what you PROFESS, they can be impacted greatly by the reality of what you POSSESS.
While the Robertson clan has made a mark on the world through manufacturing duck calls, you probably won’t be attracting any ducks through your sincere walk with Jesus. But I predict you surely will succeed as a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19).