Interview with Alisa Franz
Alisa Franz is the author of Duck Dynasty: Hunting for Spiritual Truths, an interactive discussion guide for families and small groups. She is also the wife of Rich Franz, pastor of Central Christian Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, and the mother of a son, Avery, 15, and a daughter, Aubree, 13. She does not consider herself a “redneck.”
Duck Dynasty is a huge media phenomenon, the most watched show on cable TV. But it’s obvious from this book you are much more than just a fan.
I remember when I first saw a trailer for the program. I told my friend, “That will be a funny show.” When I began watching it, I realized it is the rare show the whole family can watch without fear of embarrassment.
How do you describe the program?
It’s about a redneck family with a grandfather who, 40 years ago, started a business that makes duck calls. When the next generation started getting involved, the business became really lucrative, so much that they became millionaires. All of this is for real. And they all happen to be Christians who profess their faith with no shame.
But it’s not a “Christian” program.
No, as a “reality show,” their faith is just an accepted part of their identity. When nonbelievers watch, they see how people can relate to each other humorously, but also in love, with respect for godly values.
This is certainly not smarmy love.
Oh no. They love, but they also pick at each other. They are rough on each other, but they are still family. When the A&E Network first planned the program, it proposed the theme of “money, family, and ducks.” The Robertson family changed it to “faith, family, and ducks.” But the network has restrictions on how much their faith can be directly expressed. Through my book, I try to fill in that gap to let the program serve people who are looking for faith, or wanting help in practicing their faith.
So your book has an evangelistic goal?
My book is a tool. I felt called to write something that would enable believers to bring their nonbelieving friends to their small groups or their churches to talk about gospel issues introduced by this show. The book is reaching this market. Christians invite non-Christians to watch an episode, knowing there will be a discussion about how scenes in the show relate to biblical values. I give some specific Bible references to help people dig deeper into the topics the show introduces. Very early, I got news that groups were using it in the way I had hoped.
I have to ask: does this appeal mainly to rednecks?
I’m sure there are some, but the show reaches across cultures and generations. People in their 80s and in their 20s are enjoying it. The crazy family dynamics connect with upscale suburbanites. The Robertson family comes off rather goofy and wild, but their faith and intelligence shine through. They reflect on ethical decisions and act out their personal lives in relation to their church and their faith.
Are you describing the real family or the show family?
They are the same. This show is more real than most “reality shows.” People can identify with these hard-working, fun-loving people. It’s almost the antidote to the Kardashians. The Robertsons are a functional family that has dysfunctional behavior, but they love God, pray together, and make no excuses for their faith.
I must ask your opinion about the recent controversy involving Phil Robertson, who started Duck Commander, the family business. His comments to a GQ magazine writer that he considers homosexuality a sin, and that he didn’t personally see any mistreatment of African-Americans while growing up in the South created quite a controversy.
Neither his comments nor the stir surprised me one bit. Phil is absolutely honest about his opinions. With 14 million Duck Dynasty viewers, the media is listening and watching for any immoral misstep.
The way I understand [the first controversial] quote, Robertson is simply stating his sexual preference and is calling sin illogical. You cannot argue with someone’s preference. And you can’t argue that sin is sin according to the Bible.
The second statement [about working alongside African-Americans in farm fields while growing up, concluded], “You say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.” How do his words declare him a racist for commenting on his personal experience in life? This is what he saw in his growing-up years with his own eyes.
Admittedly, Robertson could have used a little more tact in regards to the pre-civil rights era, but he never claimed to be politically correct or anything other than a Bible-believing Christ follower.
Did the incident impact your book sales?
Not really. My book is not trying to take on the big cultural questions, but I want to help people get into the Word of God that does address all of these issues.
You may be aware that Steve Skelton wrote a series of The Mayberry Bible Study guides, based on the The Andy Griffith Show. That provided inspiration, but I really developed this project in a distinct way. I used Willie Robertson’s statement, “When in doubt, figure it out—that’s the redneck way,” as my approach. Each study responds to an episode from the first year of Duck Dynasty. I open the door for discussing the theme of the show, then use quotations from the Robertsons to develop the subthemes. Phil Robertson has frequently said, “Happy, happy, happy,” and this phrase paves the way to what makes a family “happy.” When Phil says, “Now we’re cooking with peanut oil,” I offer some recipes that the small group, youth group, or family could enjoy eating together. In response to the family prayer that closes each program, I provide a prayer guide that the group can use to personalize their prayer time.
What challenges did you face in bringing this to publication?
Several things came up. I had to respect the copyright issues, and be careful of the copyright specifications with the Robertson family. I don’t expect their endorsement, but I want them to be pleased with what I do. The network was a bigger challenge. The network’s concern is to protect the “brand” they are offering.
Does your book take the program where the network dares not go?
A&E has been challenged by the show itself. Jase Robertson overheard a cameraman say, “This show will destroy this family.” He responded by saying that the network didn’t know this family. The crew once found the men fishing in the river, singing hymns—they had not seen anything like this before. The network has edited out many of the direct spiritual references, but the show still bears the stamp of the Robertson family values. I don’t think the network had any idea the show would attract such a following. The Robertsons are delighted that the show presents Christian values to non-Christian audiences. My work is in support of that bridge.
I have no plans beyond trying to offer this publication for ministry. But I am excited that some authentic Christians have gotten an audience and I would certainly support other efforts to reach people in the midst of pop culture. It is thrilling that a zany redneck family from Louisiana has people from all over the country in all different cultures thinking about biblical concepts. If we can get those same people to start reading the Bible—so much the better. This is a great adventure and God will lead the way.
Duck Dynasty: Hunting for Spiritual Truths is available for digital purchase only at the Kindle Store at Amazon.com. Cost is $3.99.
Paul Boatman serves as chaplain with Safe Haven Hospice in Lincoln, Illinois.