In a groundbreaking new documentary film coming to select theaters on October 7, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson challenges a modern, post-Christian worldview by proposing a walk through history in the light of faith.
In this visually riveting documentary titled “Torchbearer” by veteran filmmaker Stephen K. Bannon, Robertson proposes that civilizations that abandon God as the bedrock of their rights and liberties wind up falling into nihilism and decay.
The Duck Dynasty patriarch is an unapologetic witness to the Christian faith as the cornerstone of Western Civilization, which has earned him the undying ire of the right-thinking Left. The film begins with a series of vignettes showing some of Robertson’s more controversial comments and the righteous rage they have provoked among the politically correct.
Pilloried in the mainstream media for his traditional, biblically based views on topics such as human sexuality and religious liberty, Robertson has been labeled racist, homophobic, ignorant and bigoted—all for espousing positions that up to a generation ago were considered normal and mainstream in U.S. society.
Early in the film, one unidentified commentator says of Robertson that he “looks like a homeless lunatic who might shoot you.”
And yet, as this bearded modern Jeremiah expounds his case for Christianity and a return to God, he comes across as remarkably articulate and theologically nuanced, appealing variously to philosophy, history and common sense.
Striking the pose of a biblical patriarch, Robertson cuts an impressive figure, and even his critics will be forced to reckon with a man whose simple, rough-hewn appearance masks a subtle intellect and a keen grasp of perennial truths.
The documentary was filmed on location in sites as varied as Athens, Rome, Paris, Auschwitz, Omaha Beach and Rev. Martin Luther King’s jail cell in Birmingham Alabama.
In each site, Robertson offers a message, underscoring Christianity’s unique contribution to human history and civilization while also warning of the results when nations and societies detach themselves from belief in God.
“In the absence of God,” Robertson repeatedly intones, “man becomes the determiner of all things.”
Speaking within the framework of a biblically informed worldview, Robertson catalogs the consequences of sin and the rejection of God, resulting in wars, disease, hatred, corruption and death.
Attempts to replace God with Nietzschean nihilism or social Darwinism reduce man to just one animal among many, Robertson cautions, resulting in the brutal ethics of survival of the fittest and an ideology of eugenics that undergirds organizations like Planned Parenthood.
Robertson moreover rejects a false antagonism between Biblical belief and modern science, while also showing that science alone is woefully insufficient to explain the meaning and purpose of human existence.
Showcasing the early years of Christianity, Robertson compares ancient Athens to Harvard Yard, while casting the Roman Empire as an early version of New York City. To this city of Rome, the apostles Peter and Paul came to spread the good news of the risen Christ, Robertson notes, and this is where they met their end as martyrs for that same faith.
By abandoning and rejecting God, Robertson suggests, all civilizations are bound to decay and fall. “A civilization’s best chance of survival is to anchor itself in the God of creation.”
Bringing this conviction to bear on American society, Robertson applauds the wisdom behind the U.S. Declaration of Independence, which understands rights and liberties to be grounded in God.
“This link between human rights and belief in God is crucial,” he proposes. Yet “what happens when you strip away this belief in God as our Creator? What anchor do you have for human dignity and rights?” he asks.
Chronicling some of the worst atrocities in human history such as Robespierre’s Reign of Terror and Hitler’s Germany, Robertson concludes that “tyranny is man’s answer to anarchy,” since “both come from godlessness.”
“In the absence of God, man becomes the sole determiner of human worth,” he notes.
Nietzsche’s will to power means that “the man with the biggest stick determines who lives and who dies,” he observes, which ultimately led to Auschwitz, an “assembly line for mass murder.”
In this sweeping look at history, Robertson even takes a swipe at modern utilitarian ethics. “If you live by the utilitarian belief in the greatest good for the greatest number of people,” he asks, “what happens when the majority decides it’s the greatest good to kill all the Jews?”
“From the guillotine to the gas chamber to the gulag, the story is the same,” Robertson says. “When you take out God as the anchor of your civilization you open the door to tyranny. Instead of human rights you have the will to power of the ruler who makes himself the sole determinant of what is true and just.”
“When God is eliminated, human beings are no longer image-bearers; we are nothing more than ‘the masses,’” he warns.
Robertson’s walk through history eventually leads to the present day, a crossroads that demands an honest look at where we are now, and hard decisions about where we are going.
When society becomes self-absorbed and self-destructive, he cautions, it cannot forever endure. This is especially true when other violent forces hostile to Christianity and the West rise to destroy it, as can be seen in the escalation of Islamic extremism.
As we reject the worldview that gave us Western civilization, “rooted in liberty and love,” Robertson proposes, another worldview is rising to take its place, “rooted in dominance and submission, a death cult.”
Appropriately, the film poignantly ends with scenes of baptism in a river, suggesting that true conversion and going back to God may be the only hope for America’s future.
A return to God and to America’s Christian roots may allow it once again to become a City on a Hill, to once again take its place in a dark world as “Torchbearer.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter Follow @tdwilliamsrome