[Trigger warning: statements that might qualify in some minds as offensive hate-speech will be quoted in this post. Heck, I might even throw in a few of my own!]
You know Joe. He’s the VP whose favorability ratings go up every time he puts on Ray-Bans. And you know Nancy: the 76-year-old former (first female) Speaker of the House to whose face the years, and allegedly plastic surgeons, have been kind.
Okay, then. You certainly don’t need the kind of three-paragraph, 344-word introduction for them that you might need for an article that one might write concerning, say, the married hosts of some home improvement cable TV show, whom, for some inscrutable reason, someone chose to profile in the “entertainment” section of a “news and entertainment” web site for the sole purpose of focusing on a religious belief, recently unpopular in some circles, that this couple may (or may not) hold.
So why not cover this in the site’s religion section?
Oh, right. This is BuzzFeed we’re talking about. It doesn’t have a religion section.
And despite its self-description, we’re pretty sure it’s not a real news site, either. But don’t take our word for it. As veteran religion journalist Julia Duin noted on the GetReligion blog,
This blog has long wondered why people even consider Buzzfeed a news source, as it’s a bewildering mix of entertainment, personal outrage and editorials with a sliver of actual reporting.1
According to Duin, the purpose of the article to which I have so obliquely referred was “to rally a digital mob after this couple.”2 And just what is this unpopular religious belief over which BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur calls us to accost HGTV’s Fixer Upper show hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines’ digital doorstep armed with virtual pitchforks, bricks, and broken bottles? Offering child sacrifices? Forcing little old ladies to perform snake-handling rituals? Subjecting Guantanamo detainees to round-the-clock binges of “Keeping Up with the Kardashians?”
This is all about the possibility that the Gaineses may be opposed to same-sex marriage because of the position of the church they attend.3
Can You Imagine?
I mean, how can any sane people in this enlightened age be expected to avoid an apoplectic seizure at the very thought that they may have inadvertently taken home improvement advice from someone who perhaps still believes the same thing that everyone including the Clintons and Obamas of the world believed until (relatively speaking) 15 minutes ago? Shouldn’t FBI Director James Comey be looking into this? There must be some investigation he can reopen.
Fortunately for everyone’s frayed nerves, since a couple of weeks or so after the open-minded, tolerant youth of our nation took to the streets to creatively express their existential angst over this year’s election results, using such artistic media as broken glass, flipped-over police cars, and the blood of their political opponents, the country has been experiencing a bit of mob fatigue. Sorry, Kate: your timing’s a bit off. No online beat-down of Christians for you!
True, some media outlets did appear to be joining the stoning party,4 but they looked pretty lonely when the hoped-for mob did not assemble as ordered. Perhaps the crowd was taking its cue from Ross Douthat of the New York Times who tweeted “Maybe don’t do this, Buzzfeed,”5 followed by a link to Aurthur’s article. Or maybe it noticed that even a gay writer for the Washington Post was calling it a “hit piece” that was “dangerous.”6 Within 24 hours the anti-BuzzFeed blowback had become pretty intense, and from sources you would not normally expect to defend a pair of right-wing evangelicals from Bush country.
But you could be sure that Kate Aurthur was not going to take this progressive pushback lying down. In a follow-up piece she called it for what it was: “a firestorm of criticism from Christians who argued that people who oppose same-sex marriage and LGBT rights are persecuted by the media.”7 (Cue: zoom in on Rod Serling standing in the corner and smoking a cigarette as the theme song to The Twilight Zone plays in the background.)
Uh, no. A facepalm moment if there ever was one.
Questions That Almost Answer Themselves
Now, there are several ways one might begin a post-mortem evaluation of the stillborn journalism of Aurthur’s hit piece. We might ask, why on earth would anyone with a smattering of journalistic intuition consider it newsworthy that a couple that lives deep in the heart of one of the reddest states on the electoral map attends a church that rejects gay marriage?8 Or we might ask, would it have killed Aurthur to wait until she got some kind of response from the Gainses before running with a story that ended up amounting to nothing more than insinuation?9
But probably more to the point: do Aurthur and her boss, BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith (@BuzzFeedBen), really expect us to believe that the whole point of the article was to ask (a) whether the Gainses are “against same-sex marriage” as is their pastor, and (b) whether they “would they ever feature a same-sex couple on the show”? If so, why wasn’t that the headline? Why did the headline instead scream out an implied guilt-by-association? Are Aurthur and Smith so ignorant as to be unaware that many people would not read past the headline? Are they oblivious to the fact that many people believe that the Gainses’ mere attendance at such a church is enough to condemn them? Are popes Protestants?
On that note, can we think of anyone else who attends a church that has been downright “severe” and “unmoving”10 in its condemnation of homosexual behavior, anyone whom Aurthur may have missed? As luck should have it, two rather prominent politicians, who happen to be darlings of the Same-Sex Marriage Industrial Complex, immediately come to mind: Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi. They are members of a church that is firmly against same-sex marriage: the Roman Catholic Church.
Now, wouldn’t that have made a more interesting story?
But, wait—there’s more!
We should hasten to add that in the current 114th Congress, which officially ends on January 3, 2017, 26 U.S. Senators and 138 Representatives—31% of Congress—are also Roman Catholics!11 Think about it: 164 members of our federal legislature attend a church that has gone on record classifying homosexual behavior as (here’s where that trigger warning I gave earlier applies) “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered,” “contrary to the natural law,” and declares that, “Under no circumstances can they be approved.”12 If you’re going to start an Inquisition based on church attendance, doesn’t it make more sense to start with those who represent about 100 million or so of your fellow countrymen rather than a couple viewed by a mere 1% or so of the nation in Tuesday prime time?13 Unless, of course, you find it a bit intimidating to go after people with major constituencies, preferring instead to play it safe as an online bully.
Now, in order to ascertain whether Biden and Pelosi agree with their church’s stance on same-sex marriage, we could harass their office staffs day and night while making all kinds of online insinuations until we get an answer. Or we could just Google it. And when we do, we find a fascinating study in contrasting approaches to dealing with one’s church’s very unprogressive position.
The Contemptuous Approach
Much to his boss’s consternation,14 Joe Biden “evolved” on the question of same-sex marriage faster than you can say “Hegelian dialectic.”15 Although Bill Clinton can always claim that he thought he was actually signing an authorization to hire more White House interns,16 it’s difficult to avoid the fact that Joe actually voted for that nasty, despicable, no-good 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), along with 20 other of his progressive-minded Senate Democrats.
So, when exactly did he change? That’s extremely hard to tell. It’s most likely that he never did and that his DOMA vote served the same purpose for him as signing it did for Clinton: to cynically navigate through a perceived political minefield. All we know is that 16 years later he thought to himself, “Self, what better way to position myself for a 2016 White House run than to ‘out’ the President on his true same-sex marriage view?”
Load gun. Aim at foot. Pull trigger.17
Things got mighty quiet politically for Joe after that.
Next thing we know, for the first time in his life, Joe “My Religion Defines My Life”18 Biden, officiated at a wedding—between two male White House aides.19 (Correction: according to the teaching of his church, which presumably defines his religion, he still has not officiated at a wedding.20)
The expected volleys of criticism from both the church hierarchy21 and Catholic academics ensued. Canon lawyer Edward Peters of Detroit’s Sacred Heart Major Seminary wrote:
Biden, a Roman Catholic, went out of his way22 to act with contempt for infallible Church teaching that marriage (everybody’s marriage, not just Catholics’ marriages) can only exist between one man and one woman.
In short, Biden is daring the Church to do anything about it.23
During the time since he publicly flipped-off his church’s hierarchy, Biden seems to be giving them the silent treatment. ’Twould seem that Joe “I Happen to be a Practicing Catholic”24 Biden needs a lot more practice.
Now, Joe’s soul sister in the House, Nancy Pelosi, has a quite different approach.
The Progressive Dementia Approach
I really wanted to call this “The Selective Ignorance Approach.” I really did. Honest.
But how else can you explain the claim of a 76-year-old life-long Catholic that not only is same-sex marriage “consistent” with Roman Catholic teaching, 25 but that you can support it from The Baltimore Catechism?26 For those who don’t already know, The Baltimore Catechism was for many years the standard summary of church teachings for Roman Catholics in the United States.
To understand just how many brain cells one would have to have lost to confuse The Baltimore Catechism with a document that supports same-sex marriage, one has to keep in mind two things. First, its very definition of marriage has now been branded “homophobic” by today’s cultural élites:
341. Q. What is the Sacrament of Matrimony?
A. The Sacrament of Matrimony is the Sacrament which unites a Christian man and woman in lawful marriage.27
Second, although the catechism does not use the words “homosexuality” or “homosexual,” it does use the word “sodomy,” which it lists alongside “willful murder, …oppression of the poor, of widows and orphans, [and] defrauding laborers of their wages” as “serious sins…that cry to heaven for vengeance.” 28 It’s kind of hard to square that kind of language with the Pelosi’s contention that the mainstream Catholic teaching on which she was raised treats same-sex marriage with “dignity and respect.” Either (a) she has completely forgotten what the catechism says, (b) she’s the most dyslexic person on the planet, or (c) she thinks we’re all too lazy or don’t care enough to check the catechism and she’s trying to play us for fools.
But you know, to dyed-in-the-wool progressives, none of this really matters. They couldn’t care less whether you take the Biden approach of showing open contempt for your church’s teachings, or take the Pelosi approach of misrepresenting them like a condescending swindler. As long as you treat opponents of same-sex marriage as troglodytes that you should keep away from your children, it’s all good. What they cannot tolerate is the approach taken by people like Marco Rubio.
The Integrity Approach
Rubio is right (no pun intended). In any progressive lexicon, referring to gay sexual acts as “acts of grave depravity” that are “intrinsically disordered,” “contrary to the natural law,” and which “Under no circumstances can they be approved,”29 qualifies as homophobic hate speech. It is either utterly deceitful or utterly moronic to argue otherwise. And yet when Rubio pointed this most obvious of facts out, Pelosi dismissed it as “a most unfortunate…polarizing statement,”30 demonstrating that she doesn’t understand the difference between those causing the polarization and those who are simply exposing it.
This is where we are right now in the current phase of the culture wars, and the only logical next step for progressives to take is to condemn the Catholic Church for its teaching on homosexuality, along with all Catholics who wish to remain faithful to their Church’s teaching. From the Church’s perspective, there is no way to remain a good Catholic while denying that teaching, while from the progressives’ perspective, there is no way to remain a good person while affirming it.
We now wait for the other shoe to drop. It is only a matter of time until the radical Left regroups for a fresh assault against believers in any denomination who continue to uphold the universal Christian morality of the past two millennia. Kate Aurthur’s antics at BuzzFeed are simply a dog-and-pony show designed to entertain the troops in the meantime.
© 2016, Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc. All rights reserved. Excerpts and links may be used if full and clear credit is given with specific direction to the original content.
- “Damned by association: Buzzfeed ‘news’ story goes after the ‘Fixer Upper’ couple,” by Julia Duinn, GetReligion, December 1, 2016, fifth-to-last paragraph; https://www.getreligion.org/getreligion/2016/12/1/damned-by-association-buzzfeed-goes-after-fixer-upper-couple ↩
- Ibid., paragraph 2. ↩
- “Chip And Joanna Gaines’ Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage,” by Kate Aurthur, BuzzFeed, November 29, 2016; https://www.buzzfeed.com/kateaurthur/chip-and-joanna-gaines-church-same-sex-marriage. ↩
- Duin’s article contains a link to the article by Cosmopolitan’s Gina Mei, “Chip and Joanna Gaines’s Pastor Preaches ‘Homosexuality Is a Sin,’” which reads as a condensation of Aurthur’s piece. ↩
- Duin, ibid. ↩
- “BuzzFeed’s hit piece on Chip and Joanna Gaines is dangerous,” by Brandon Ambrosino; https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/12/01/buzzfeeds-hit-piece-on-the-gaines-family-is-dangerous/?postshare=5941480594299951&tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.2e106b30f8c6. In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that Ambrosino is on Media Matters’ list of gays whom it is okay for progressives to hate. Cf. “Meet Brandon Ambrosino, Homophobes’ Favorite Gay Writer And Vox’s Newest Hire,” by Luke Brinker, March 12, 2014; http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/03/12/meet-brandon-ambrosino-homophobes-favorite-gay/198461. But Ambrosino is not the only gay journalist who thinks that Authur piece is unfair. Stephen Porter tweeted: “Chip and Joanna Gaines do not owe @KateAurthur & @BuzzFeedBen an answer about their views on same-sex marriage. Respectfully, A gay dude,” and other self-identifying gays chimed in in agreement with him. https://twitter.com/reporterporter/status/804171217846628352. ↩
- “LGBT Couples Welcome On ‘Fixer Upper,’ HGTV Says,” by Kate Aurthur, BuzzFeed, December 1, 2016; https://www.buzzfeed.com/kateaurthur/lgbt-couples-welcome-on-fixer-upper-hgtv-says. ↩
- This question was posed to Ross Douthat by a liberal tweeter. Duin, ibid. ↩
- Another tweeter wrote: “There was a time when reporters would actually ask people questions to confirm something before they wrote about it,” (Duin, ibid.), which of course Aurthur would claim that she did. She was just too impatient to wait for the confirmation. ↩
- Aurthur referred to the opinion on same-sex marriage held by the Gainses’ church and pastor as a “severe, unmoving position.” ↩
- Jennifer Manning, “Membership of the 114th Congress: A Profile,” November 15, 2016, Congressional Research Service Report Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress, 6; https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R43869.pdf. ↩
- Catechism of the Catholic Church §2357, (New York, NY, USA: Doubleday, 1997), 625. The text may also be found at http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a6.htm. ↩
- “HGTV’s ‘Fixer Upper’ Delivers Series High Ratings,” March 31, 2016, Multichannel News/New Bay Media; http://www.multichannel.com/prfeed/hgtv-s-fixer-upper-delivers-series-high-ratings/403754. ↩
- “Obama Froze Biden Out After Gay-Marriage Gaffe,” by Melanie Batley, Newsmax, February 28, 2014; http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/Biden-Obama-gay-marriage/2014/02/28/id/555289/. ↩
- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dialectic#Hegelian_dialectic. ↩
- That’s just about the only excuse that Richard Socarides didn’t offer in his apologetic titled, “Why Bill Clinton Signed the Defense of Marriage Act,” The New Yorker, March 8, 2013; http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/why-bill-clinton-signed-the-defense-of-marriage-act. ↩
- Kinda’ gives “Hey Joe, where you goin’ with that gun in your hand” a whole new flavor. (Apologies to Jimi Hendrix fans everywhere.) ↩
- “Biden: ‘My Religion Defines My Life;’ Pope: ‘There Is a Grave and Clear Obligation to Oppose’ Legalized Abortion Biden,” by Terence P. Jeffrey, CNSNews, October 12, 2012; http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/biden-my-religion-defines-my-life-pope-there-grave-and-clear-obligation-oppose. ↩
- “Vice President Joe Biden Officiates Same-Sex Wedding,” Associated Press, August 2, 2016; http://www.nbcnews.com/feature/nbc-out/vice-president-joe-biden-officiates-gay-wedding-n621551. ↩
- “Pope Francis offers hope to divorced Catholics, says no to gay marriage,” by Anthony Faiola and Michelle Boorstein, The Washington Post, April 8, 2016; https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/in-long-awaited-document-on-the-family-pope-francis-offers-hope-to-divorced-catholics-says-no-to-gay-marriage/2016/04/07/87be6dae-fb42-11e5-813a-90ab563f0dde_story.html?utm_term=.af7bc9117516. ↩
- “Top Catholic bishops criticize Biden for officiating at gay marriage,” by David Gibson, Religion News Service, August 7, 2016; http://religionnews.com/2016/08/07/top-catholic-bishops-criticize-biden-for-officiating-at-gay-marriage/. ↩
- This is no exaggeration. Biden had to obtain a special temporary certification from the District of Columbia to officiate at the wedding. Associated Press, ibid. ↩
- “Some canonical thoughts on VP Biden’s recent deed,” by Edward N. Peters, The National Catholic Reporter, August 3, 2016, italicization is the author’s; http://www.catholicworldreport.com/Blog/4970/some_canonical_thoughts_vp_bidens_recent_deed.aspx. ↩
- “Joe Biden: ‘I Happen to be a Practicing Catholic,’” by the CNSNews.com Staff, CNSNews, March 30, 2016; http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/cnsnewscom-staff/joe-biden-i-happen-be-practicing-catholic. ↩
- When asked by MSNBC’s Thomas Roberts why she brought her grandchildren to watch her receive yet another award from the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, she said, “It’s really important for them to see what the practice of our faith is, the dignity and respect, uh, that we have for all people, and that equality—marriage equality—is important. They’ve been hearing this their whole life. They go to Catholic school, and this is consistent with the dignity and worth we attribute to every person.” “Nancy Pelosi hits Marco Rubio’s LGBT comment as ‘most unfortunate,’” MSNBC, May 29, 2015; http://www.msnbc.com/thomas-roberts/watch/pelosi–rubio-s-lgbt-comment–most-unfortunate–454100035784. ↩
- After being shown a clip from a CBN interview with Marco Rubio in which he warned that in a culture where mainstream Christian opponents of same-sex marriage are labeled “homophobes” and “haters,” the next step is to label the Catechism of the Catholic Church “hate speech,” Pelosi responded: “I thoroughly disagree, uh, being raised in a Catholic family, raising a Catholic family, main street, uh mainstream Catholic—well The Baltimore Catechism, to get back to our hometown of Baltimore, is what we were raised on. And I think that this statement by Senator Rubio is most unfortunate. It’s a polarizing statement. The fact is, is that what we were taught was to respect people in our faith. And to say that this endangers mainstream Christian thinking is so completely wrong…. I don’t even think that Pope Francis would subscribe to what Marco Rubio just said.” MSNBC, ibid. ↩
- E.M. Deck, ed., The Baltimore Catechism, No. 3, 8th ed., (Buffalo, NY, USA: Rauch and Stoeckl Printing Co., Inc., 1933), 28. ↩
- Ibid., 34, 184. ↩
- Catechism of the Catholic Church §2357. ↩
- MSNBC, ibid. ↩