DALLAS (Christian Examiner) – Christian leaders are pushing back against a Buzzfeed article that questioned HGTV stars Chip and Joanna Gaines for attending a church that opposes same-sex marriage.
The Nov. 29 story quickly was labeled a "hit piece" by critics, who questioned why it was newsworthy that a famous couple's church holds to traditional beliefs that have been affirmed by Christians for 2,000 years.
The Gaines are the stars of HGTV's highest-rated program, Fixer Upper.
The story carried the headline: "Chip And Joanna Gaines' Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage" and said in a subhead: "whether the Fixer Upper couple agrees is unclear." It has been read more than 500,000 times.
Glenn T. Stanton, director of family formation studies at Focus on the Family, said such accusations should be answered "bluntly."
"If being for husband and wife-only marriage is bigoted, then you better be ready to call Jesus a bigot -- as well as call Christianity, Judaism and all other major faiths in the world bigoted," Stanton told the Christian Examiner. "The advocates of marriage redefinition will simply not tolerate freedom of dissent on this issue. It's important that the Church see and call this for what it is: a new fundamentalism."
The Gaines discuss their faith in a new "I Am Second" video and in a book, The Magnolia Story, which was released by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson.
The Buzzfeed story noted the Gaines are "devout Christians" and that their pastor, Jimmy Seibert of the nondenominational Antioch Community Church, has called the Gaines "dear friends" and that he "takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight."
"So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage?" the Buzzfeed story asked. "And would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show, as have HGTV's House Hunters and Property Brothers? Emails to Brock Murphy, the public relations director at their company, Magnolia, were not returned. Nor were emails and calls to HGTV's PR department."
The story quotes Seibert as saying "homosexuality is a sin" and that gay and lesbian people can change.
"I have seen hundreds of people personally change their direction of same-sex attraction from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle," he is quoted as saying. "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."
Owen Strachan, associate professor of Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said Christians – and the culture in general – should be troubled by the Buzzfeed story. Strachan also serves as director of the seminary's Center for Theological and Cultural Engagement.
"Chip and Joanna Gaines are rightly beloved for their charm, kindness and happy family," Strachan told the Christian Examiner. "Yet Buzzfeed demands they must answer for their crimes: believing in man-woman marriage and attending a religious congregation that celebrates it. If this is worthy of censure, the jails will be full of perhaps four billion Protestants, Catholics, Jews and Muslims. That's a building project that even HGTV couldn't take on. Instead of police-state tactics, how about we Americans go back to the basics of our founding: respectful disagreement, principled give-and-take, and religious liberty for all? Christians should cheerfully work and pray for this spirit, and above all for the spirit of Christ, in times like these."
The story, Strachan said, is another indication that the "self-appointed tolerance police have no clothes."
"They defend a Muslim terrorist at Ohio State University, calling for empathy for him, while they aggressively target a Bible-believing evangelical couple that builds low-cost houses for single women who have fallen on hard times," he said. "This is the height of hypocrisy, and a fountain of irony."