Alan Robertson, star of the popular A&E reality television series "Duck Dynasty," received a standing ovation Saturday after giving a sermon to a packed crowd at The Compass Church's Hobson Campus in Naperville.
The show has been mired in controversy over comments made by Robertson's father and co-star, Phil Robertson, about homosexuality and race relations in a December article for GQ Magazine.
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Alan Robertson briefly acknowledged the firestorm raised by his father's comments with a quip about spending a low-key family Christmas despite igniting a national controversy. He said the show's fans have sent his family messages of support from all over the country.
The controversy barely registered in the minds of many in the crowd of more than 2,500 worshippers who laughed at Robertson's humorous anecdotes about family members and were moved by stories about his own failings.
"I think it boils down to some miscommunication and the context of what he was saying was not fully communicated," said Wayne Miller of Downers Grove, who watches the show religiously. "We need to be able to listen to both sides of the argument."
Miller said he appreciates Alan Robertson candidly sharing stories about his own failings.
"It takes a lot of courage to talk about your own downfalling and your own struggles," he said.
In Phil Robertson's GQ interview, he spoke about contemporary society, "Everything is blurred on what's right and what's wrong ... sin becomes fine. Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."
Robertson also made comments about picking cotton with blacks when growing up in Louisiana before the Civil Rights Movement. "I never heard one of them, one black person, say, 'I tell you what: These doggone white people' -- not a word! ... Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues."
Sales of Phil Robertson's book "Happy, Happy, Happy," originally released last May, increased in the days after the interview hit national news.
Sherry Gaskill of Bolingbrook, a member of Compass Church, said she followed the controversy on Facebook and thought it was "stupid."
"The media blew everything out of proportion," she said. "There needs to be more talk about family and less talk about nonsense like what (Phil Robertson) spoke about."
Dan VanderWal, one of about eight pastors at the Naperville church, said the church invited Al Robertson, a pastor for the last 20 years, to kick off its series about the Bible and family dynamics, and organizers expected a packed house even before the Robertson patriarch's controversial comments made headlines, said
It's the first of a series of sermons titled "Who's Your Tribe: Faith, Family and Friends," with prominent personalities planned this month, he added.
VanderWal said church officials haven't received any comments or complaints from members about having Alan Robertson as a speaker.
"We're just excited that he's here to kick off this series for us," VanderWal said. "Whatever we can do to create something that's inviting for people to come out. 'Duck Dynasty' is one of the most popular shows on television. It's a show about families."