My parents can tell you that one of my favorite indulgences when coming home for the Christmas holidays or breaks during college is plopping in front of the couch and turning on HGTV.
I’m a sucker for home improvement shows: decorating, learning what to avoid as a first-time home buyer, trying to understand landscape and curb appeal, not quite understanding the outlandish costs of living in tiny apartments for the appeal of big cities.
HGTV is my form of escapism, and, perhaps, one day when I am in the market for buying my first home, I’ll have learned a few things from my obsession.
While watching a friend’s baby, just as she was heading out the door, she flipped on the television. She told me I should feel free to watch anything while I was sitting on the ground entertaining with her almost 9-month-old.
The first channel that appeared was HGTV, as she sheepishly told me of her love affair with the network. We bonded instantly over our love of shiplap and the wholesome Gaines family, and the life and business that they share together on “Fixer Upper.”
This past weekend, while chatting after Mass, our families shared our concern over the recent scandal that has cast a shadow over the couple’s business and HGTV empire.
What I find most appealing about Chip and Joanna Gaines is their realness and their unabashed love for one another and their children. It’s a refreshing reality show that upholds the values of Christian marriage and the beauty of a loving and faith-filled family.
Glimpses of their relationship on the show feature friendly banter and eye-rolling, signs of exasperation that married couples know and share in their own lives. But underneath all the cameras, viewers witness the strength and foundation of the couple’s love and the joy they have found in loving one another.
None of that has changed in the three seasons that “Fixer Upper” has aired on HGTV.
Now, with the premiere of the show’s fourth season, the couple finds itself under fire for its religious beliefs. While they are not Catholic, the Gaineses are members of an evangelical community in Waco, Texas, that has been called to account for its belief in marriage between a man and woman.
The couple and the pastor have been cast as bigots, as anti-gay, for standing firm in their convictions and moral values. Refusing to conform to secular beliefs asking for diversity in marriage, the Gaines family has remained rooted to its Christian values. Chip Gaines tweeted most recently that “in times of trouble … you’ll find the Gaines family at church.”
And this is only the beginning. As our world continues to grow darker and more chaotic, the values that we uphold as Catholics, the values that have been passed down to us by Scripture, will continue to be attacked.
Increasingly, I think, we will find ourselves becoming more uncomfortable in a society that seems to disregard our beliefs and demand that we conform in the name of diversity. What will our response be? Will we stand firm, as the Gaines have done?
They use the media to bear witness that their values have always been the same: they have done nothing differently. Their show continues to focus on helping others and showing the joy that they find in their love of family. The only thing that has changed is society’s perspective.
The season of Advent reminds us that we must continue to watch and wait for the coming of our savior. We must be on our guard, be courageous and stand firm to the teachings of our faith. The example of the babe in the manger reminds us that he came into this world and left it with nothing: he came as an unassuming infant in a world that had no room for him, and he left this same world as on outcast, crucified on the cross. Jesus shows us that his path is not easy.
Where will we stand in the upcoming days of trial and tribulation? Will we stand our ground or will we be swayed into conformity?
Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.