For both Christians and non-Christians it is worth reflecting on what the great evangelizer Bishop Robert Barron calls “the scandalous cross of Jesus:” how the crucifixion of a Jewish criminal from an irrelevant rural backwater became the saving moment for all of humanity. We have had 2,000 years to become inured to the sheer awesomeness of it all, and we’ve forgotten how it must have sounded to first-century Jews and Gentiles alike. It would indeed have sounded bizarre, insane, unbelievable, and blasphemous: in a word, scandalous.
But while the Christian religion itself was and remains something of a scandal—as outrageously subversive as it was and is—there is nothing particularly “scandalous” about being a Christian, not, at least, in the way that Cosmopolitan magazine uses the word.
Cosmo, you see, recently took a break from writing about the Fifty-Five Most Quantumly Mechanical Sex Positions Ever Created to write about “the 16 Biggest HGTV Scandals of All Time.” You may not have known that HGTV (a television station whose most iconic program involves people looking at several house, debating which one to buy, and then buying one) could ever possibly experience anything resembling a “scandal.” But I guess a television network isn’t legit these days unless it’s had at least 16 bouts of sordid drama.
Among all of the house-related ignominy, Cosmo writer Laura Beck touched on a “scandal” that seemed curiously out of place. Noting a BuzzFeed article written last month about “Fixer Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines, Beck reported: “Last month, BuzzFeed wrote about the Gaineses’ affiliation with a non-denominational evangelical church whose pastor, Jimmy Seibert, opposes homosexuality and gay marriage.”
Is that all there is to the “scandal?” Reader, that’s all there is to the “scandal.”
I suppose, in the insulated and insular bubbles of dime-store oral sex advice magazines, it might indeed be “scandalous” to express a few core tenets of orthodox Christianity, namely the sin of homosexual behavior and the reality of conjugal man-woman marriage. But it is wholly unsurprising for those of us who are Christian, or even those of us who have studied Christianity to a minimal degree.
A Christian church’s opposition to gay marriage isn’t “scandalous;” it’s not shocking; it’s not even mildly remarkable within the context of the religion itself. It’s just…Christianity.
But the bubble is hard to puncture. It seems to make no difference to Beck that she comes off as ignorant and aggressively parochial. Indeed, perhaps that’s a virtue for Cosmo writers. But she, and by extension Cosmo, is walking a familiar beat: the oblivious journalist who suddenly discovers the alien and inscrutable beliefs of the Christian people.
It is an intensely silly thing to witness, chiefly because, if taken to its logical extreme, there would be no end to the breathless scandal-mongering and obsessive paranoia. Pick any number of celebrities who either believe the same thing as the Gaines’s pastor or are at least involved with religions that profess the same: Mario Lopez, a Catholic who attends Mass every week; Alton Brown, who for years was a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church, a congregation that affirms the truth of man-woman marriage; Denzel Washington, who several years ago strongly implied he is against gay marriage.
Are these examples of “scandals?” Or is it possible to believe different things from the editors of Cosmopolitan without it being “scandalous?”
To the great credit of the Gaineses, they dealt with this low-grade muckracking with grace, asking only that their fans refrain from harassing the third-rate journalists who were probably trying to destroy their careers.
In the end, the fact that nobody really cared about the theological positions of the Gaines’s pastor, or those of the Gaineses themselves, says something potentially encouraging about American society. Perhaps, after years of this tawdry style of liberal activist journalism, Americans are finally tired of it. Maybe people are done with being constantly whipped into a frenzy over progressive activist hang-ups. It’s possible we’re nearing the end of this dumb charade. This would be a welcome change.
In any event, the rest of the HGTV “scandals” aren’t even all that good. If you want gold-plated drama, check out the tawdry affairs of the Food Network.