As a non-native Texan, for years the only thing I associated with Waco was David Koresh.
That was before Chip and Joanna Gaines entered my living room.
The quirky couple needs no introduction: They are only the stars of one of the most popular reality shows on cable TV, HGTV’s Fixer Upper.
For an hour each week, the Gaineses help a Waco family buy a dilapidated old house (usually for a song) and then proceed to transform it into an absolutely beautiful home, full of rustic charm and unpretentious warmth.
There’s a dramatic reveal, and the new homeowners usually cry.
While it’s a formulaic presentation, Fixer Upper has enjoyed unparalleled success.
The show’s ratings are through the roof; the Gaineses have been able to parlay their popularity into multiple businesses and product lines; and the couple’s Waco store has become a central attraction of the city’s downtown.
But Fixer Upper isn’t simply good TV.
The Gaineses’ popularity certainly benefits from Joanna’s unique aesthetic, but the real magic behind the show’s success is Chip and Joanna themselves.
They are just so darn likable.
Because it’s evident throughout the show that they not only like their work, they genuinely like each other — a rare quality in reality TV couples.
They spend at least half of each program playfully teasing each other and talking about their brood (they have four beautiful young children).
The Gaineses are also conservative Christians.
In interviews they openly discuss how faith guides their decisions about family, the show and public life.
“Even today with the opportunities that are coming our way,” Joanna told People magazine, “I need [God’s] guidance. Otherwise I’d say yes to everything.”
And while not emphasized in the show, the strength and importance of their faith are subtly conveyed through their interaction with their clients and affection for each other.
Which is probably why some many people love the show.
It’s also why the Gaineses have become a target.
This week, Kate Arthur, a BuzzFeed reporter, decided she needed to inform the world about the views of the Gaineses’ pastor, Jimmy Seibert — specifically his opposition to same-sex marriage.
This unsurprising fact (Seibert is a pretty typical evangelical leader) inexplicably prompted Arthur to inquire, “So are the Gaineses against same-sex marriage?”
Arthur admittedly can’t answer this question, since the Gaineses have never made it a point to discuss their beliefs on this topic, yet somehow for her, speculation about their personal feelings becomes not only relevant but newsworthy.
Famous Christians possibly believing what other Christians are known to believe is hardly grounds for feature news articles.
It’s worth noting that such teachings are part of the theologies of many religions, including Catholicism and Islam.
Since the Gaineses have never used what is arguably a tremendous public platform to articulate their beliefs about gay marriage, it’s safe to assume it’s not something they feel compelled to address.
And their status as public figures doesn’t give anyone the right to demand they reveal their beliefs, either.
Federalist writer Hans Fience explains, “Liberal fans of Fixer Upper are in full-blown panic mode after learning that people they’ve fallen in love with are, by their own rules, unlovable.”
It’s as if one alleged belief of the couple and the religion of which they are a part eclipses everything else about them.
That doesn’t sound particularly liberal.
And it should hardly be a reason to attack the Gaineses, much less to stop watching their show.