Catholic Spirituality,  Culture of Death,  Evangelization,  Homosexuality,  JPII,  relativism

Conform or be destroyed {but be not afraid}

No matter your political stripe, ethnicity, religion, or sexual proclivities, this one should concern you.

It’s the story of a family. Of a couple who have built an empire together, and whose concepts and innovation have almost single-handedly spurred the revitalization of a local economy and an entire community.

And their kids are pretty cute, too.

I’m talking, of course, about HGTV’s darling it-couple of the moment, Chip and Joanna Gaines, and of their wildly popular show “Fixer Upper” and the Magnolia empire behind it.

Their show, if you are unfamiliar with it, centers around showing prospective home buyers “the worst homes in the best neighborhoods” around Waco, Texas, before deciding on one crumbling property which they renovate and redesign on camera with a dramatic “reveal” at the episode’s end. The show is entertaining because while everything about reality tv is carefully scripted, the real star of their concept is their goofy, sweet, mutually respectful and supremely attractive marriage.

They like each other. They like each other a lot, it would appear, from the viewer’s perspective. And they like their children, and they like the life they’ve built together. There is friendly banter, there is teasing, there are eye rolls and sighs of exasperation, but there is no harsh cynicism. No passive aggression. No threats of divorce of ultimatums about behavior “or else.”

It’s just so refreshing.

The thing is, I think it’s as refreshing as it is because it’s real. I think they really do like each other as much as they play on TV. And it’s a beautiful witness to the joy of marriage.

Which is probably the precise reason they were targeted by a bigoted Buzzfeed writer with an anti-Christian axe to grind and a platform from which, she decided, was hers to lob grenades at unsuspecting victims from. Victims whose only crime, as far as I can decipher, is to hold a differing belief system from hers. And to hold it privately.

So basically tolerance in action.

The story gets a little weirder, though. Because the writer in question didn’t have a personal complaint about the Gainses themselves, but about the church they attend, and specifically about something their pastor preached in a sermon.

It’s pretty crazy what he said, though.

He said that God created men and women. And he quoted this radical text from antiquity called “the Book of Genesis.”

I know. Lock that guy up.

Here’s the thing. We live in a time of supposed plurality of beliefs, but some beliefs are more “free” than others. We give lip service to the concept of diversity, but the only diversity that is truly acceptable is narrowly defined and usually trending on Twitter.

Because the Gaines family attends a church that holds a biblical perspective on marriage (in line with the majority of Evangelical Christianity and the entire Roman Catholic Church, so not exactly a fringe-y minority), they are automatically cast as bigots. Excoriated for not vetting the guests on their show for their sexual behavior. Dragged into a career and life-altering witch hunt because a woman with a microphone can’t stand the idea that not everybody shares her belief system.

The Gaines family are probably hurting right now, but I very much doubt they are surprised. To be a Christian is to be a sign of contradiction in a confused and sometimes darkening world. And none of us are going to get out of it with our reputations or our egos intact. Which is a good thing. It really is!

What the Gaines family could use, however, from their fellow Christians is support. Vocal, enthusiastic support. Write a friendly message on one of their social media accounts (Unrelated: Chip retweeted Papa Francesco earlier this week.)Say a prayer for them. Drop HGTV an email saying how much you enjoy their show, or if you’ve never seen it, tune in for an episode this weekend and enjoy.

Hatred, bullying tactics and public lynchings are as old as the human race. In the era of the internet, the megaphone is bigger and the stakes are higher, perhaps, in terms of public notoriety and the heat being turned up, but in a week or two the news cycle with move on to a new victim, and they’ll be left to pick up the pieces and decide if it’s worth it to them as a family to continue to tell their story publicly.

I hope they do. But I completely understand if they don’t.

The stakes have ever been high to proclaim belief in anything, but particularly to proclaim belief in the One who made all things. Because the moment you stake your claim for Christ, you become an enemy to the world that “will hate you because it first hated Me.” We who dwell in reality, living in the world as it actually is, dwell in a place marred and scarred by actual sin. Sin, which in our time is a bigoted concept in itself (look for that storyline to play out in the not-so-distant future, coming soon to a headline near you) has actual consequences. Like pain. Division. Violence. Loss of friendships and reputation. Suffering.

But sin does not have the final word in this story. Not in the Gaineses story, and not necessarily in the angry Buzzfeed writer’s story, either. Wouldn’t it be a cool footnote in the annals of internet scandal one day to read that all this craziness ended in forgiveness and maybe even a change of heart?

Wilder things have happened.

In the meantime, do not be cowed into silence or surrender by the angry rhetoric or the public fallout being heaped upon this family. They are suffering, but they are suffering for Christ. And He can make something beautiful out of that. To be Christian is to suffer. Not because of a lack of love, but because of an abundance of it. Look to the cross.

And do not be afraid of what the world can do to you or take from you. The world took everything from Christ first, after all. And that ended rather well.

And seriously, pour yourself a peppermint mocha and get your shiplap on this weekend. A good family doing good work could use your support.

“When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.” – JPII, State visit to Netherlands, 1985.



  • Carol Ina

    Why give so much importance to Buzzfeed. Why not just ignore them and whatever they write? Aren’t you feeding the monster by giving them so much importance? If it was not news, you made it news by making such a big deal, no? It is some loser writer in Buzzfeed who cares what she says. I think there is power and strenght in ignoring the left. They bank on the fact we almost promote their garbage by getting so worked up, my opinion.

    • Jenny Uebbing

      I think a lot of Christians have gone this route and chosen not to engage/speak up, but in so doing have all but ceded the point in public discourse. Which means the issue is considered “decided” in the court of public opinion. So when a narrow minded “journalist” (and I use that term loosely here) gets the green light on a slow news day to publish a hit piece that has potentially career-destroying, life-disrupting implications, they’re able to get away with it. It’s not about promoting their garbage and feeding the monster, it’s about standing up and clearly, confidently proclaiming Christ in the public square. Not only in our churches, but in our lives outside of Sunday. On social media. In bars. Around dinner tables. If Christians continue to be bashful about speaking up, that option will soon enough cease to exist, and stuff like this will only multiply, “because look how easy it is to destroy someone’s livelihood/reputation/business and win our case?” Remember Brendan Eich? Or Sweet Cakes Bakery? Or Catholic Charities Adoption and Foster services in Rockford, Ill.?

    • Maria

      I first saw this Buzzfeed piece mentioned on a national network site (Fox), so it’s out there already. I think Jenny and anyone who has a voice- should speak up against this. As Jenny wrote below in her response to you- we have become silent in speaking up for what is right. What is the power and strength in ignoring the left to pave their way even further than they have already gotten? They’ve pretty much made an inter-state highway already.

    • Professor

      Because nobody expects the liberal inquisition. Bottom line is that buzzfeed is a shallow and de-intellectualized read of things. It attracts progressives. Theyir close-minded world rejects any dissent. It is how they are evolving and this is a dangerous and degenerate synergy that will close in on itself until it views all disagreement as heretical. They are in fact creating a media-based thought police. As a Catholic academic, I admit I feel forced into the closet and speaking out means hardship in my career and means a risk of termination. Be strong you say? I try. But it also means my family doesnt eat. Its a real challenge coming to an employer near you….in the name of open-minded tolerance and inclusiveness….

  • Terri

    You did not make this news but you did give it a voice of sanity. We have stayed silent for too long! It is time to be heard. HGTV got rid of a brother team of decorators that were Christian a few years ago. Thanks for a great article!

  • Carol Petry

    I have watched their “Fixer Upper” shows with my grandchildren who are crazy about the show. What a clean, educational, and entertaining show that the whole family gets involved in. THANKS to the beautiful Gaines family! Wish we had more family shows with some that shows a family working together who are not afraid to be examples of their faith! Don’t give up!

  • Nicole

    Love this, Jenny. It’s nearly unfathomable that any sane person would choose to paint the Gainses this way and then trumpet how “tolerant” they are. Also, it’s not like the Gaineses solely feature people or families “just like them” on the show. I’ve seen single moms, divorced people, widows, mixed marriages, etc. I’d hardly call that narrow-minded.

    I’m so not surprised they were targeted though. As you said, they’re so unabashedly committed and proud of their marriage and each other on a hugely popular show. I hope their supporters do come out in droves to prove that the Buzzfeed “writer” is actually in the minority here.

  • TerryC

    Love this show and the Gaines. Joanna Gaines has a really great Christian witness video on YouTube that everyone should see.
    However you should also know that they have already made the decision to stop making their HGTV show to concentrate on their business and family. This was announced months ago (though I think HGTV still had unaired shows to show for a while,) so I don’t think it’s a result of this screech owl blasting them on social media.
    Their work in the local community is revitalizing neighbourhoods and if they keep doing that, while I will miss being able to see their antics, its all good.

  • Bley

    People who live in darkness can’t bear to see others living in the light and flourishing. I expect Chip and Johanna realize this, and have great compassion for the author of the unfortunate article. I must be a cynic, because it almost seems like a good sign that they are being persecuted for their faith. It must be real:)

    They are so very endearing too.

  • LisaM

    When this popped up in my feed my first thought was, “oh no, they went the route of Jen Hatmaker.” Glad to see that isn’t the case! And I hope the Gaines’ supporters come out in droves!

  • jeanette

    CitizenGo has a petition that can be signed to state opposition to the BuzzFeed piece, requesting a retraction and apology. Never hurts to join others in stating the obvious.

  • Laura

    Thank you for writing a well-thought, kind article. I, too, think it would be really cool for the end of the story to include a softened heart and forgiveness. Prayers for all involved and please continue your commentaries.

  • JMC

    It seems to be a sad characteristic of the breed. I have a brother who is a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. Yet he stands out from the rest in that he’s the only one I’ve ever known who retains his reasoning ability. In the run-up to the election, we had some stimulating, and even entertaining debates about the candidates. He had good things to say about Trump and bad things to say about Clinton, neither demonizing nor deifying either one. His votes are clearly based on intelligent reasoning, not party line. The day after the election, he complained vocally about his peers’ reaction to Trump’s win. Every last one of them was going on and on about how he’s “anti-woman” and a “bigot” and everything else. He debated the point logically with them, and was astounded that they kept coming back to the bigotry charge.
    If you don’t agree with a liberal, you’re automatically a bigot, even if the issue has nothing to do with anything one can possibly be “bigoted” against. One Christian journalist put forth the theory of “projection:” He posits that most liberals are bigots themselves, bigoted against anyone who doesn’t share their views, and therefore can’t even imagine someone NOT being bigoted. They’re like the thief who always expects other people to rob him, because it’s all he knows; the habitual liar who never believes a word anyone else says.
    It’s a sad state of affairs, and the far right is just as bad. It’s just fallen human nature, I suppose. Such people are always going to be offended by the mere existence of people like us. All we can do is pray for them.

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