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Damned by association: BuzzFeed 'news' story goes after the 'Fixer Upper' couple

Damned by association: BuzzFeed 'news' story goes after the 'Fixer Upper' couple

Yesterday, the quasi news-entertainment-gossip-vent site Buzzfeed posted a piece about a couple who has put together a very popular HGTV show about home remodeling. Their crime: They attend a megachurch where, the subhead said, "Their pastor considers homosexuality to be a 'sin' caused by abuse -- whether the Fixer Upper couple agrees is unclear." 

Buzzfeed was angling to rally a digital mob after this couple, but that's not quite what happened.

Yes, this click-bait piece did get a lot of traction on social media within a few hours, much of which was furious reaction from liberals and conservatives alike who felt the article was nothing but a hit piece. Responses on Twitter ran quite the gamut from calling Buzzfeed “the new Inquisition” to one poster who wondered, “I thought it was the alt-right folks who were bringing back McCarthyism.”

Here's how Buzzfeed started it all:

Chip and Joanna Gaines’ series Fixer Upper is one of the most popular shows on HGTV. The couple has recently graced the cover of People magazine; their book, The Magnolia Story, has been on the New York Times’ best-seller list for five weeks; and they were the subject of a long profile in Texas Monthly that credited them with revitalizing the city of Waco, Texas, where the show is set and where their businesses are located.

So far, so good. Then:

They are also, as they detail in The Magnolia Story, devout Christians — Joanna has spoken of and written about her conversations with God. (God told her both to close her store to spend time with her children, and then to reopen it a few years later.) Their church, Antioch Community Church, is a nondenominational, evangelical, mission-based megachurch. And their pastor, Jimmy Seibert, who described the Gaineses as “dear friends” in a recent video, takes a hard line against same-sex marriage and promotes converting LGBT people into being straight.

The Buzzfeed folks may not realize this yet, but a lot of evangelical pastors oppose same-sex marriage.

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Does the Trump phenomenon tell us something about state of American religion?

Does the Trump phenomenon tell us something about state of American religion?

The news media are understandably going ga-ga over Donald Trump’s unconventional campaign for president and its surprising success. What would analysts of U.S. popular religious culture tell journalists about the long-term trends this displays, especially regarding evangelicals who are at the heart of today’s Republican coalition?

Some themes to test out:

To begin, a mid-July Washington Post/ABC poll showed Trump is by far the current favorite among white Republicans who identify as evangelicals, at 20 percent (compared with 24 percent among Republicans as a whole). Yet Trump spurns characteristics thatpious churchgoers would have wanted not so long ago. Are those values changing, or is the old-time religion  losing its grip on the nationalsoul?

Let's leave aside Trump's signature issue of immigration, on which evangelicals hold various views, and turn to this:  A campaign joke making the rounds says Trump believes so much in traditional marriage that he’s had three of them. Some figure triple marriage and double divorce undercut Newt Gingrich’s Bible Belt showing in 2012. It’s possible  Democrat Adlai Stevenson was hurt by his divorce three years before the 1952 campaign, though he did not remarry. Hard to know since he was up against the Eisenhower tsunami.

Most pundits figured Nelson Rockefeller’s divorce and 1963 remarriage to Margaretta (“Happy”) Murphy doomed his 1964 presidential prospects. The remarried Ronald Reagan broke the taboo in 1980, yet he remains the only U.S. President to have been divorced. Along with that, actor Reagan overcame conservative Protestants’ longstanding suspicion toward Hollywood and the entertainment industry.

Marital issues lead into gender issues.

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