Are Chip and Joanna Gaines anti-gay? Who knows.
Back in November Buzzfeed ran a highly-controversial attempt to take down the stars of HGTV's hit show, "Fixer Upper," Chip and Joanna Gaines, by suggesting that because they attend a church with a pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who is virulently anti-gay they must be too. The Buzzfeed hit piece was an act of journalistic malpractice – engaging in guilt by association – providing a vehicle for the actively anti-gay right to feed from, fundraise from, and to portray themselves as victims. But it did force HGTV to respond, sort of, to the question of whether or not "Fixer Upper" discriminates against LGBT people. They say they do not, that none of their shows do, and that Chip and Joanna Gaines will work with same-sex couples.
The problem with the Buzzfeed piece was it tried to create controversy where there was none, and smear people who are widely admired without any actual evidence. What Buzzfeed should have done was a deep dive into the practices and beliefs of the pastor who presides over the church the Gaineses happen to attend. That would have been far more enlightening.
Regardless, the brouhaha passed, HGTV insists none of their shows discriminate, but Chip Gaines this week published a blog post indirectly addressing the Buzzfeed piece – without even mentioning it – and the questions it raised.
Are Chip and Joanna Gaines anti-gay?
Chip's blog post, like the Bible, is subject to interpretation and the case could be made from it they aren't, or they are.
Take this passage Chip Gaines writes:
"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," he writes. "Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: we care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. 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. That’s all fascinating, but it cannot add or take away from the reality that we’re already pulling for you. 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."
Or this one:
"I think we are all here for a reason. I think we all have a call on our lives. Your role is not my role, and thank goodness, because there is so much unique and important work to be done. Jo and I feel called to be bridge builders. We want to help initiate conversations between people that don’t think alike. 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."
The right wing media is insisting the Gaineses are anti-gay, just not using that term, and stressing that does not make them bigots.
The important question is not so much what church the Gaineses attend, it's are they discriminating against LGBT people, or same-sex couples, or, really anyone?
The other important question is why were so many people upset that the Gaineses attend an anti-gay church, when the vast, vast, vast majority of churches in America are, to varying degrees, anti-gay.
What people should be upset about right now is not the Gaines's church's stance on marriage, but on conversion therapy – the fake practice of pretending through various means, including faith, people can turn from gay to straight – which every major medical organization has stated is at the very least ineffective and mostly harmful and dangerous. That's the real issue here.
The Buzzfeed article should have focused on that, and left the Chip and Joanna Gaines out of the debate, since there is no evidence they have discriminated (that we're aware of).
Here's what Buzzfeed did say about Pastor Jimmy Seibert's beliefs on the very harmful practice of conversion therapy:
Seibert then goes on to discuss sin. “Truth No. 1: Homosexuality is a sin. The lie: Homosexuality is not a sin.” He urges compassion for the sinners, though, because “the statistics say that 90% of people who are in a full-blown homosexual lifestyle were abused in some way. Physically, sexually, mentally.” He also says that gay pornography deserves some of the blame. “We have people and young people that never had any intention of a same-sex attraction et cetera, who have seen sexuality up front in pornography and now are trapped in the addiction of it.”
But LGBT people have a choice, Seibert says, and can change. “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.”
He tells the story of a playground conversation he recently had with a friend, who was wondering whether one of the kids in their charge was going to be gay or straight. He said to her, “Can I just tell you you don’t have to wonder? You can lovingly, carefully bring them back to Scripture, be compassionate in the journey. And help them direct their passions rightly to how god created them.”
He expands on that notion: “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.”
That's the real story, or should be, because people every day tell these lies to their friends and family and children, and children, especially, as a result of these lies, grow to hate themselves, or think they will never be accepted, and many succumb to the lies and the hate and the ignorance – and ultimately, to suicide.
That's the real story, one we must tell over and over and over again, until the evil practice – the sin – of conversion therapy is banned forever.
Image: Screenshot via YouTube