Duck Commander Bible: sacred or profane?

This October, the Duck Commander Bible will hit bookstores and Amazon. While some have called it blasphemous, others are excited about the branded Bible, especially after the success of the Duck Commander devotional. But what can be gained from this reprint? 

The answer, for most consumers, is nothing. The Duck Commander Bible is the King James Version of the Bible with different marketing. The only new features the branded Bible appears to bring to the table are 30 “testimonials,” a “Bible-reading plan,” an introduction by the Robertson monarch, and other “supplementary materials.” 

It seems that this Bible will benefit no one but the Robertsons themselves, who will reap the financial earnings. 

It is easy to forget that publishing — even the publishing of Bibles — is a for-profit business. So is the Robertson family. The Robertsons are a family who have become rich on a product — duck calls — and have expanded their product line to include Duck Dynasty paraphernalia since the success of their show. The Duck Commander Bible, which father-and-son duo Al and Phil are so excited about, came after a slew of other Duck Dynasty products. The Duck Commander website sells everything from camo footwear, to mini duck call necklaces, to coffee mugs, to Phil Robertson’s Cajun Style Cooking Marinade, to books and DVDs. Only now are they getting around to putting their spin on the sacred word of God. 

From an outsider’s perspective, it seems that Scripture is another household item that the Robertsons can stamp with their now-famous logo and sell for more. 

If we establish that the rebranding of the Bible for a profit is a bad thing, the question remains: what do we do now? This Bible will be sold. Is this a situation that calls us to flip over the merchants’ tables in the temple? Or is it a situation that calls us to work quietly toward redemption, even in less-than-desirable circumstances?

I had a professor who called the Christian deity a “promiscuous God,” because he would hang out with anyone — prostitutes, tax collectors, the poor, and the lame. In this particular instance, the prof was discussing the prosperity gospel. “Of course it’s bad theology,” he said, “and hopefully their faith will outgrow it. But if it gets people interested in Jesus, we can’t ignore that.”

And here’s the crux of the issue. If the Apostle Paul was willing to humble himself and become “all things to all men,” shouldn’t we do the same? I will not be purchasing a Duck Commander Bible, but who am I to condemn someone who does? What if a certain demographic finds Scripture in this camouflage-wearing, gun-toting form, fascinating? Or less intimidating than a Bible with devotionals from St. Augustine or Bonhoeffer?

The Robertsons’ motivation for publishing such a Bible is debatable. We cannot know if they were motivated by money or by a genuine desire to reach out to people. But we aren’t called to arbitrate on this issue. We are called to see how “all things” — even a Bible stamped by bearded, controversy-prone rednecks — “can work for good.”

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of North Georgia. After graduating high school, I went off on a “young adult walkabout,” moving a lot and going to theological grad school. When I moved back to the South, I started an internship as a chaplain at a hospital in the Atlanta suburbs. I met all kinds of people —mountain people, wealthy Buckheadians, homeless, Yankee immigrants, soccer moms. The first thing I did with patients was establish a point of connection. I learned quickly that the best way to relate with these people was not by waving my master’s degree or my (poor) knowledge of Hebrew in their faces. I asked them about their lives. Usually connection came through simple things: our love of Chik-fil-A biscuits, our hatred of Atlanta traffic, “shop talk” about the Georgia Bulldogs. And from there — only from there — we talked about faith.

We need to be all things to all men, and if this means embracing The Duck Commander Bible, I’m game.

Photo (Flickr CC) by State Farm.