“Fixer Upper” and Cultural Totalitarianism: 3 Ways Christians Can Respond

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This may be shocking, but I’m not the biggest fan of HGTV. I know, right? Still, I do enjoy the occasional foray into shows like Fixer Upper. It reminds me of all the things I am incapable of doing with a hammer and a saw while at the same time reminding me that God created mankind in His image. God created us to be living mirrors of His nature and to embody His communicable attributes: such as creativity. Fixer Upper only works because of the attribute of creativity that God has endowed Chip and Joanna Gaines with.

Fixer Upper isn’t perfect. Chip is always taking his shirt off, and that’s not good for anybody. Plus, parts of this “reality” television show are obviously scripted and (poorly) staged. Still, we can celebrate a show like Fixer Upper. Let me recount just a few reasons why:

  1. In an age of revived racial division, the Gaines family demonstrates that interracial marriage is not just acceptable, it is good!
  1. Our rabidly consumeristic culture often demands that we sacrifice our families on the altar of career advancement and financial gain. In this milieu, the Gaines family demonstrates that the prioritizing of family while pursuing one’s career/socio-economic advancement is vitally important.
  1. Millennials have become the punchline to virtually every joke regarding a lack of initiative and the proliferation of poor work habits. Yet, millennials love Fixer Upper, a showed based around a strong family unit that has an entrepreneurial spirit and a solid work ethic.

Nevertheless, BuzzFeed and Cosmopolitan have decided to target the Gaines family for absolute destruction. Why? For attending a church that holds to the historic teaching of Christianity on the definition of marriage. In short, BuzzFeed and Cosmo are pursuing the Gaines family because they attend a church that believes what Christians have always believed.

I recognize that the controversy partially stems from their pastor’s assertion that homosexuality is almost always the result of some form of abuse. Sweeping generalizations like that are most-often suspect, and we must discuss issues like homosexuality with great nuance and careful language. BuzzFeed and Cosmo have capitalized on this statement to attack the Gaines family, but the heart of their outrage is that evangelicals don’t immediately bend to the changing winds of culture on sexual ethics.

Cultural Totalitarianism

What this demonstrates is that the authors of these “news” pieces have never researched the historic position of Christians that tie the male-female definition of marriage to the very thing that makes us definitionally Christian: the gospel (Ephesians 5). However, what’s even more disturbing than this dereliction of journalistic duty is the undergirding worldview that BuzzFeed and Cosmopolitan are proliferating in their attacks on the Gaines family.

BuzzFeed and Cosmopolitan are celebrating and advancing a form of cultural totalitarianism. When moral and convictional disagreements are no longer allowed in a given culture, the inevitable next step is cultural totalitarianism. Cultural totalitarianism must always give way to political totalitarianism.

In short, taking offense at every dissenting opinion and moral conviction doesn’t ensure greater freedom; it guarantees the eventual rise of tyranny.

Those advocating for “freedom” by crushing dissenting thought are actually hastening the demise of freedom. The question that must be posited is what will be the endgame for BuzzFeed and Cosmo? Is their goal to give homosexual couples the right to legally marry in the United States? That’s already legal. What then is afoot? I propose it is simply this: Secularism doesn’t actually value diversity in thought because it can only withstand the sounds of an echo chamber.

We have nothing to lose in an exchange of ideas and a robust dialogue.

Beyond the Outrage

As Christians, how should we respond? Here are a few ways:

  1. Get out of your echo chamber.
    Most Christians are Christians by conviction. Theologically, that means the Holy Spirit has called us to Christ and Jesus has changed our hearts. Experientially, it means that we have considered the facts before us and we are convinced that Jesus is the Messiah and the Scriptures are true!

    Nevertheless, we must be willing to consider and engage with the arguments of those outside of our camp. Of course, we filter everything through Scripture (because it is our final authority), but we ought to be the people willing to interact with any and all ideas in the market place. Why? Because we are confident that we know the truth and we have no fear of any untruth supplanting the truth. We have nothing to lose in an exchange of ideas and a robust dialogue. Secularism is incapable of this kind of openness because it is a proverbial house of cards that is merely propped up by borrowed capital from other world views.

  1. Give grace to those opposing biblical morality.
    Without the regenerating work of Christ in our lives we too would find the moral convictions of evangelicals to be nothing short of revolting. All of mankind, by nature, conceals truth (Romans 1). As you engage with those who are enraged by Christian morality (grounded in historic orthodoxy), remember that these are souls bearing the Imago Dei who are in need of grace. Treat them with kindness and pray for their souls.
  1. Know what you believe and why.
    Sadly, many Christians fall into an emotional quagmire when a topic like this is raised in the media or over their dinner table. When we hold to a conviction without considering the supporting evidence for that conviction, our response to anyone opposing that conviction will usually be an emotionally charged, knee-jerk reaction. The end result is almost always anger and frustration mixed with a bit of ad hominem.

    Friends, this is what secularists do in response to Christian truth claims, and it is not becoming of the people of the cross to reply in the same unstable manner. Know what you believe, why you believe it, and then communicate it winsomely and persuasively.

Image Credit: 10chumphreys, Wikimedia Commons

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  • culture
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Dayton Hartman

Dayton Hartman is lead pastor at Redeemer Church in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He has a PhD in church and dogma history from North-West University (South Africa), and serves as an adjunct professor at both Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and Columbia International University. He is the author of Church History for Modern Ministry: Why Our Past Matters for Everything We Do. Learn more at

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