On Tuesday, BuzzFeed ran an exposé on Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of HGTV’s popular show “Fixer Upper.” But the article did not focus on any wrongdoing, or even on the celebrity couple’s views about a politically charged issue, same-sex marriage. Instead, it focused on their church’s teachings about marriage and homosexuality, and asked whether the Gaineses subscribe to the stone-age belief that (SHOCKER!) marriage is between one man and one woman.
And it’s not just one website either: On Wednesday, Cosmopolitan, US Weekly, and Jezebel joined suit — attacking the popular television couple for the unspeakable “hateful, anti-LGBT beliefs” of their pastor, Jimmy Seibert of Antioch Community Church.
Who cares? Chip and Joanna Gaines are famous for their expertise at “flipping” houses and having tons of fun while they do it. Their flirting on national television, and the work-family dynamic which drives the show have entertained and inspired people — and infuriated those who cannot live up to this impossible standard for human relationships (seriously, check out this hilarious tongue-in-cheek article from the Federalist’s David Harsanyi).
The Gaines recently graced the cover of People magazine, while their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks. A long profile in Texas Monthly praised the couple for revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas. The family owns retail space there, as well as a real estate company, a paint line, and a home decor line — and the couple recently launched a new magazine, The Magnolia Journal.
But this lovely, successful couple (with four beautiful children) also has a dark side, BuzzFeed can exclusively reveal. They are devout Christians (as revealed in their new film I Am Second), and they attend church on Sundays (oh, horror!). These particular sins might be forgivable — except their pastor doesn’t support same-sex marriage, and he thinks homosexual practice is a sin.
The BuzzFeed article’s subtext is clear (and the same can be said for the others in Cosmopolitan, US Weekly, and Jezebel): If the Gaineses also believe this, it’s over. They cannot be accepted into polite society, and the all-powerful liberal elites who run the world must ensure that they lose everything.
I’m exaggerating, but not by much. According to BuzzFeed, Pastor Jimmy Seibert’s beliefs are beyond the pale, and that matters because “hate” like his cannot be allowed to infect the American people through popular culture. Even if Chip and Joanna never mention homosexuality on the show, even if they are kind and charitable to gay people on television, their motives will always be questionable, because they listen to a preacher of hate like Jimmy Seibert.
Next Page: But what does Jimmy Seibert preach? The power of God.
BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur makes it very clear what Pastor Jimmy Seibert preaches that is so offensive and vile, and why she thinks it should make fans of “Fixer Upper” avoid Chip and Joanna Gaines like the plague. Seibert believes that God can redeem people from sin, and He can make “gay people” straight.
On the Sunday after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all fifty states in Obergefell v. Hodges, Seibert preached about homosexuality, saying forthrightly that marriage is between “one man and one wife.”
Aurthur quoted the pastor, who said, “God defined marriage, not you and I. God defined masculine and feminine, male and female, not you and I.” Seibert also explained the “Truth No. 1: Homosexuality is a sin. The lie: Homosexuality is not a sin.” The BuzzFeed writer acknowledged that the pastor urged compassion for homosexuals, however.
Then Aurthur came to the unspeakable, Seibert’s declaration of “Truth No. 2: God is able to give us power over every sin, including homosexuality. Lie No. 2: I am a homosexual in thought and action, and I cannot change.” Seibert expounded on this further:
We can change, contrary to what you hear. I’ve worked with people for over 30 years — I have seen hundreds of people personally change their direction of same-sex attraction from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle. It doesn’t mean they don’t struggle with feelings, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t hurting, it doesn’t mean it’s not challenging. But they have chosen to change. And there has always been grace there for those who choose that.
This is the fundamental claim that Aurthur (and the other liberal writers) say no good person can accept: that gay people can alter their desires or choose to ignore them, that there is such a thing as an “ex-gay” person. Indeed, right after quoting Seibert on this, Aurthur added this note:
(In 2009, a task force of American Psychological Association concluded that “efforts to change sexual orientation are unlikely to be successful and involve some risk of harm.” The Human Rights Campaign has also decried conversion therapy, linking it in minors to “depression, anxiety, drug use, homelessness, and suicide.”)
Note what Seibert was and wasn’t saying: He wasn’t forcing anything; these people made their own decisions. He was just saying that he’s seen people with homosexual attraction alter their lifestyle (not their “sexual orientation”) to one of heterosexual marriage and family. The American Psychological Association can warn against these efforts, and the Human Rights Campaign can attack conversion therapy (which does indeed have a mixed history), but Seibert is saying that he has seen the power of God work to save people from sin.
Seibert believes that Jesus’ love expressed by dying on the cross and rising from the dead can actually produce positive change in people’s lives and lead them away from moral failings. He happens to believe (and the Bible very much supports this view) that homosexual practice is one of those sins, and that God can save Christians from its power over them. He claims to have witnessed that power in the lives of others.
Next Page: Why Buzzfeed says this should matter to “Fixer Upper” fans.
Finally, Aurthur noted that Seibert called on business leaders to “be clear about who you are. And you will have to be willing to stand to lose even a deal or two or 10 or even lose your business” on these issues. Speaking the truth about homosexuality is more important than financial success, according to the pastor.
But even on this point, these are Seibert’s beliefs, not necessarily those of Chip and Joanna Gaines. They might even disagree with Seibert on important issues, such as: the importance of this particular issue, whether or not changes in sexual orientation are possible, and even whether or not homosexuality is a sin (some Christians might argue that homosexual practice, not homosexual desire, is a sin, and this position is supported by scripture).
In short, this exposé fails for multiple reasons: the Gaineses may not believe what Seibert says; Seibert’s beliefs are not as horrible as Aurthur seems to believe; and whatever position Chip and Joanna Gaines have on homosexuality and gay marriage, it has absolutely nothing to do with revitalizing homes, which is the subject of their show.
“Fixer Upper” has consistently led the ratings for HGTV, and this “controversy” is likely only to alert even more people to the Gaineses’ popular show. Ratings in the coming weeks will show whether BuzzFeed’s exposé actually drives an already record-breaking viewership. I suspect it might.