Phil Robertson Outspoken In Speaking Of His Christian Faith
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- for the Duck Commander, those fundamental principles mean the freedom to live life duck-hunting.
Phil Robertson doesn't just thank the Founding Fathers for that freedom, however. He's quickest to thank the One he calls Jesus of Galilee.
"You can only be who you are, and all you can know is Who you belong to," Robertson said during a Saturday-afternoon news conference at the General Morgan Inn.
"The proudest thing I am is that I have a great hope one day of being raised from the dead because of Jesus of Galilee. That's the greatest hope I have, and that's the one thing I'm more proud of than anything I know."
That's from a man who has a large family, a doting wife and bragging rights to the NFL's having tried to draft him in as a quarterback ahead of Terry Bradshaw.
Robertson made an appearance at Hal Henard School gymnasium on Saturday evening to give his personal testimony before an overflowing audience of more than 3,300.
He and his family have become popular nationwide in recent years for their A&E cable television reality show, Duck Dynasty, and their multi-million-dollar business making duck calls.
'HAPPY, HAPPY, HAPPY!'
Robertson rolled into the event in an SUV limousine -- the size of which seemed perfectly fitting for his booming voice and attention-capturing personality.
After demonstrating a dozen different duck calls for the adoring crowd, Robertson dove straight into his message with a biblical defense of hunting, followed by strong statements against abortion, homosexuality and taking Christianity out of the public school system.
Prior to his speech, his son, Allen, an ordained minister, took the stage to explain that his father had not always been a well-behaving Christian.
Robertson himself noted that his wife, Miss Kay, once called his past self a "rascal and a whoremonger" on national television.
He's not afraid or ashamed to share those past days of sin because now he's forgiven, he said.
"Once you become a Christian. all of your past sins have been removed and forgotten by God," he said. "That blood that cleansed you is there 24/7 to keep you cleansed all the time.
"It's the greatest thing that ever happened to the human race -- the greatest."
After becoming a Christian, he said he's now celebrating a new life that is "Happy, happy, happy!"
Mt. Zion United Methodist Church's Outdoor Ministry sponsored the event as part of its annual outreach dinner, "Sportsman's Night Out."
According to church member Gary Brooks, Saturday's sold-out gymnasium represented the largest number of people to have ever been inside Hal Henard at the same time.
The church moved the event from its Afton location to the school following an overwhelming response to purchase tickets.
Even with the increased capacity, the event sold out months ago, members reported.
This all came as a special surprise to the church; the Outdoor Ministry had booked Robertson for Saturday's event two years ago -- well before Duck Dynasty became of national interest.
"We could have sold 10,000 tickets without any problem if we'd had a place to put them," event organizer Pat Hankins said.
"The response was just overwhelming. We had people there from as far away as Florida."
A total of 29 individuals dedicated their lives to Christ after Saturday's event, and another 218 rededicated their lives, Hankins said.
Parking for the event took a massive amount of coordination, with volunteers directing traffic and parking areas completely filled at Hal Henard by 5 p.m., two hours before the event officially began.
A school bus painted in camoflauge with a caution sign declaring "Duck Xing" in place of the Stop sign began shuttling the crowds from Greeneville High School and First Church of God beginning at 3 p.m.
A barbecue dinner, gospel music and a Phil Robertson look-alike contest provided entertainment until Robertson took the stage at 7 p.m.
While many in the crowd came decked in camouflage, hundreds stood in a massive line to purchase T-shirts featuring various members of the Robertson family and their famous taglines.
'ALL ABOUT THE BEARDS'
What exactly draws so many people -- men, women and children of all ages -- to the show?
"It's all about the beards!" Mitchell Powers said from his spot standing in line for merchandise. "It's a nice family show to watch. It's a clean show."
"They're a bunch of rednecks," Dalton McLain said with affection.
'It's a whole lot like I am. I'm a hunter," David Cuthrell said, with an arm around his young granddaughter, Emily. "I enjoy the way they act. I like their spirituality.
"I'm a family man. They live in a Christian family, and they portray that."