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BuzzFeed's Fixer Upper Backlash Reeks of Persecuted Christian Myth

BuzzFeed's Fixer Upper Backlash Reeks of Persecuted Christian Myth

Chip and Joanna Gaines

The firestorm surrounding an article criticizing a Christian couple's antigay pastor unveils the insidious strategy to reframe the oppressor as the oppressed.

BuzzFeedwas criticized by conservatives this week for publishing an article on Chip and Joanna Gaines, the stars of the HGTV reality show Fixer Upper.

The Wednesday piece by Kate Arthur questioned whether the couple might be against same-sex marriage, due to the antigay views preached at their evangelical place of worship, the Antioch Community Church in Waco, Texas.

In her reporting, Arthur referenced a fiery sermon by the church's pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who argued, following the Supreme Court's ruling in favor of marriage equality, that marriage is only between one man and one woman and that business leaders should be willing to "lose their business" to defend this stance. The article noted that Fixer Upper, a show about home remodeling, has yet to feature a same-sex couple, and questioned whether it would ever do so, due to the views of the hosts' religious leader.

Chip and Joanna Gaines have yet to respond to the article. After the piece was published, HGTV released a statement defending its track record on LGBT acceptance.

"We don't discriminate against members of the LGBT community in any of our shows," the network stated. "HGTV is proud to have a crystal clear, consistent record of including people from all walks of life in its series."

Unlike the Gaineses, however, conservative critics were quick to respond, denouncing the article as unfair to the Christian couple. In an email to supporters of his political action committee, former presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee blasted the "bigots from BuzzFeed" for, as he framed it, perpetuating systemic small-mindedness against conservatives.

"Chip and Joanna Gaines appear to be model parents, loving spouses, funny, intelligent, likable, generous, highly skilled, and extremely successful," he wrote. "And maybe that's the real problem that BuzzFeed's writers have. Their popularity shatters the false image that liberal media outlets like BuzzFeed peddle of red state residents being a bunch of dumb, hateful, bigoted 'deplorables.'"

This outrage is rooted in more than just political views. Critics are painting the article as the latest attack on religious freedom from the mainstream media. As Jerry A. Johnson, the president of National Religious Broadcasters, told Fox News, "The real shame is not on the Gaines family, but on this media inquisition of Christianity."

Yes, BuzzFeed overreached in its antigay guilt by association regarding the Gaineses. And yes, the media must take great care to avoid casting residents of red states as "deplorables." However, for the most part, the media is not bigoted. And there is no "media inquisition of Christianity." This is a lie to discredit the efforts of media outlets like The Advocate to expose those who use religion as an excuse to discriminate against others.

In recent years, the right wing has attempted to flip the script regarding the discrimination of LGBT people. By their telling, it is they, not we, who are persecuted. The baker who refuses to make a wedding cake for a gay couple is now the victim. So-called religious freedom laws, like the disastrous legislation championed by Mike Pence in 2015, have risen to defend the right of bigots hiding behind Bibles. Meanwhile, hate crimes against LGBT people and people of color have skyrocketed in past weeks. There are no federal protections for queer folks against workplace discrimination. The murder rate of transgender women in the U.S. has never been higher. A ban on Muslim immigrants, as proposed by President-elect Donald Trump, may soon be a reality. So who is truly the victim?

Seibert, in the same Fox piece, said he wasn't bigoted -- he was just being helpful.

"We are not only not antigay, but we are pro-helping people in their journey to find out who God is and who he has made them to be," he said. "For us -- our heart has always been to love Jesus, preach the word of God, and help people in their journey."

This "journey," if he still holds the same views from his sermon last year, involves changing the "direction of same-sex attraction from a homosexual lifestyle to a heterosexual lifestyle," a reference to the debunked and harmful practice of conversion therapy.

Seibert is selling bigotry in sheep's clothing. And it should be called out by all those who believe hate has no place in their faith. That would be the Christian thing to do.

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