How HGTV’s Chip & Joanna Gaines can avoid Duck Dynasty’s fate

How HGTV’s Chip & Joanna Gaines can avoid Duck Dynasty’s fate November 30, 2016

Cosmopolitan, BuzzFeed, and Jezebel have discovered that a well-known TV personality might believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. Actually, two well-known TV personalities: Chip and Joanna Gaines, stars of one of HGTV’s 38 house buying and remodeling shows, Fixer Upper.

There are lots of interesting angles here, but I want to focus on how people with religiously-inspired traditional views on marriage and sexuality should convey their beliefs in a cultural environment they may perceive as hostile.

Three years ago, the A&E network struggled with how to respond to comments one of its stars, Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson, made about homosexuality. Liberals complained, the network suspended Robertson, fans boycotted the network… It was a whole cultural thing for a while. Even Cracker Barrel got in on the flip-flop action.

Recall that Robertson, perhaps unfairly goaded by a hostile journalist, went off-script in expressing his own views:

“It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

It remains unseen what the fallout for Chip and Joanna Gaines will be. To my knowledge, they have not clarified or commented on their views. The whole thing is pretty bizarre and not newsworthy, though the Antioch Community Church’s pastor, the Reverend Jimmy Seibert, has made some unfortunate remarks.

But in a post-election atmosphere in which coastal liberals are reckoning with the fact that people in Middle America see the elite media as out of touch and culturally exclusive, you’d think BuzzFeed, Jezebel, Cosmopolitan and the rest would not publish “news stories” about what beliefs TV personalities may or may not hold. The headlines and angles in the Jezebel, Cosmopolititan, and BuzzFeed articles are absurdly stupid.

The Gaineses, for their part, are well loved. I predict they will weather this storm with winsome aplomb. If they disagree with their pastor, then they will receive endless adulation from the cultural left and scorn from conservative evangelicals. And even if they do agree with the traditional view, the way forward is pretty simple.

When asked, Chip and Joanna should just say that they believe marriage is the permanent, exclusive union of a man and a woman, ordered to procreation, and that sexual relations are properly reserved for these unions. They should reiterate that they do not discriminate against LGBT people in the conduct of their successful real estate business. And they should remind everyone that they do not speak for their church and their church does not speak for them.

Forty percent of Americans still oppose same-sex marriage, and a subset of those who support it as a matter of civil law actually hold conservative beliefs about sex ethics.

Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson has modeled an unhelpful way forward, forcing traditionalists into the awkward position of defending him in spite of obnoxious comments and association with right wing politics. If the Gaineses’ only crime is believing what most Christians have believed for 20 centuries, they’ll be fine.

From conservatives’ PR standpoint, Phil Robertson is a fixer upper. Sounds like a job for Chip and Joanna Gaines.

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