On Monday, Chip Gaines of HGTV’s popular show “Fixer Upper” broke his silence on the non-controversy which BuzzFeed had stirred up in late November. After being attacked for his pastor’s views on same-sex marriage, Gaines shot right at the heart of the LGBT controversy by declaring that “disagreement is not the same thing as hate.”
“Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate, don’t believe that lie,” Gaines declared in a blog post called “Chip’s New Year’s Revelation.” This declaration — simple and non-controversial on its face — cuts to the heart of much LGBT rhetoric recently, which dismisses conservative Christians and those who disagree with same-sex marriage as “bigots” and “haters.” Rather than explicitly make the argument against such activists, Gaines decided to call for mutual peace and understanding.
Gaines and his wife Joanna, the stars of “Fixer Upper,” became the center of controversy after a BuzzFeed article reporting on the statements of their pastor, Jimmy Seibert of Antioch Church. BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur attacked Seibert for not only disagreeing with same-sex marriage (based on the “stone-age” belief that marriage is between a man and a woman), but also for thinking that God could rescue gay people from their sinful lifestyle.
Aurthur made it clear that such beliefs are beyond the pale, and hinted that if Chip and Joanna Gaines believe them, they should be ostracized. It remains unclear, however, whether the Gaines accept Seibert’s beliefs on these issues, which themselves are not as heinous as Aurthur claims.
In his post on Monday, Chip Gaines focused on mending division, rather than asserting his beliefs about same-sex marriage and homosexuality in general.
“This year has been tough,” Gaines acknowledged. “In my lifetime, I can’t recall humanity being more divided. Plenty of folks are sad and scared and angry and there are sound bites being fed to us that seem fueled by judgement, fear and even hatred. Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world, this is our home.”
Rather, “if there is any hope for all of us to move forward, to heal and to grow — we have got to learn to engage people who are different from us with dignity and with love.”
Gaines emphasized that he and his wife share personal convictions, and one of them is simple: “we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth.” He emphasized that his family’s Christian faith leads him to care about everyone, and that “it’s not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith.”
It’s not that those things aren’t important, they’re just irrelevant. “That’s all fascinating, but it cannot add or take away from the reality that we’re already pulling for you,” Gaines explained. “We are not about to get in the nasty business of throwing stones at each other, don’t ask us to cause we won’t play that way.”
The TV star explained that he and his wife “don’t want to hide, we want to live brave & bold lives and we wish the same thing for you as well. But words can cut deep and having someone misunderstand your intentions can hurt as much as just about anything.” Gaines insisted that “I would rather be loving than be right.”
“Our family wants to fight for a world that knows how to lovingly disagree,” he declared. “We believe it starts when we operate from a position of love in all things. If your position only extends love to the people who agree with you, we want to respectfully challenge that position.”
This challenge is important, because too many people — on both the left and the right — think everyone who disagrees with their perspective is evil. Rather than fostering such divisions, Gaines proposed “operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you.”
“Fear dissolves in close proximity,” he argued. While LGBT activists have said that those who disagree with same-sex marriage need to meet gay people, it is equally true that LGBT activists who think anyone opposed to same-sex marriage is thereby hateful need to meet convicted religious conservatives who really do love people and disagree with the LGBT narrative.
“Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified,” Gaines concluded.
While the TV star’s comments may leave some on the right unsatisfied — “why didn’t he defend the Christian position against gay marriage?!” — they are an important reminder that Christians are first and foremost about love. Jesus called us to love our enemies — even those who disagree with us or persecute us. The church needs to do better in making this message clear.
At the same time, Gaines’ remarks are a clear rebuke to those liberals who think everyone who disagrees with them, especially on same-sex marriage and LGBT issues, is a “hater.” Such a statement from the TV star could not have come out of malice, mistrust, or bigotry. It is emphatically clear that Chip Gaines does not “hate” gay people, even if he does agree with his pastor’s views against same-sex marriage and for the possibility that gay people can be redeemed from a sinful lifestyle.
Let us heed his words, no matter what side of the aisle we are on, and try to work together to end bias and bigotry — whether conservative or liberal.