10 Questions For Buzzfeed

After reading Buzzfeed’s “expose” on the evangelical teachings of the church that evangelicals Chip and Joanna Gaines attend, I have a few questions for Buzzfeed, Kate Aurthur (the writer of the piece), and for publications that do this kind of thing:


1. How many evangelical Christians do you personally know? How many evangelical Christians are employed by your company? If the answer to either of these questions is “None,” why do you believe that is?

2. Why, in your opinion, would your readers want to know what the pastor of the Gaines family preaches about sexuality? Based on what you know of your readership, how are your consumers likely to respond to a piece like this?

3.  As a journalist, what is your hope for this piece? Would you hope that it results in the Gaines losing their show? Publicly disowning their pastor? Receiving a public outcry? If none of these, what?

4. Which do you consider more journalistically noteworthy: The belief that all who do not worship Jesus Christ will eventually be in hell, or the belief that sex is meant only for a man and a woman in marriage? If the first, why is that not the story here? If the second, why is this teaching more significant than the first?

5. Do you believe that people who have the same religious convictions as Jim Seibert are capable of having genuine friendships with those who disagree with them?

6. As the piece notes, many people, including LGBT Americans , watch Fixer Upper. Why do you think this is?

7. Does this piece necessarily reflect an editorial position of Buzzfeed? If not, should HGTV feel like they are being represented by the religious beliefs of the Gaines?

8. Would Buzzfeed (or Cosmopolitan) be willing to publish a perspective on this story by a person such as Wesley Hill or Eve Tushnet? If not, why not?

9. Would Buzzfeed fire a staffer for expressing beliefs similar to Jim Seibert? Would Buzzfeed fire a staffer not for expressing such beliefs, but upon discovering the staffer attended a religious gathering that taught them? In your opinion, does being wrong on LGBT make one a bad person?

10. If Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, Jim Seibert, or another evangelical Christian asked you why they or their family and friends should trust what they read reported in Buzzfeed, what would you say?

12 thoughts on “10 Questions For Buzzfeed”

  1. These are very good questions for Buzzfeed, I just wish they would answer them which I’m sure they won’t. They just want to attract someone who believes different them, They preach tolerance but have absolutely none for others who do not believe the same as them.

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  2. The answer is in the name: Buzzfeed. This is an organization that does not exist for any other purpose than to stir up drama and get clicks.

    Also I might suggest you use quotation marks around the word “wrong” in question 9.

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  3. I’m not Buzzfeed, and I’m actually an evangelical Christian, but I think I understand Buzzfeed’s position fairly well and I’m not nearly as critical of it as (appear) to be. So I’d like to take a stab at answering your questions from their perspective.

    SJ: 1. How many evangelical Christians do you personally know? How many evangelical Christians are employed by your company? If the answer to either of these questions is “None,” why do you believe that is?

    BF: Don’t know very many. The one guy down in accounting is supposedly an evangelical Christian, but I don’t know him very well. Why, you ask? Partly because there just aren’t that many of them where I live and work. I’m a young professional in the field of journalism; most of the evangelical Christians who fit that bill work for expressly Christian outlets. Also, evangelical Christians tend not to enjoy the things I enjoy (going to clubs, drinking to excess, watching Game of Thrones, etc.) Honestly they seem a little judgey to me; even if I naturally came into contact with more of them, I’m not sure I’d want to hang out with them or they with me. We just don’t have that much in common.

    SJ: 2. Why, in your opinion, would your readers want to know what the pastor of the Gaines family preaches about sexuality? Based on what you know of your readership, how are your consumers likely to respond to a piece like this?

    BF: They would want to know because the Gaines’s pastor’s position is abhorrent, and by virtue of the Gaines’s choosing to attend that church, it’s likely that they share this abhorrent view. Our consumers will either be shocked and outraged to find out that the Gaines’s hold this view, or they will be shocked and angry at the readers who are shocked and angry at the Gaines’s. Either way we get a lot of page views.

    SJ: 3. As a journalist, what is your hope for this piece? Would you hope that it results in the Gaines losing their show? Publicly disowning their pastor? Receiving a public outcry? If none of these, what?

    BF: Honestly, my hope is that the piece generates a lot of page views. In that respect it’s been a success. If the Gaines’s are unaware of their pastor’s views and, upon becoming aware, chose to leave their church, I would not be unsatisfied with that outcome. That’s because their pastor’s views are abhorrent. I’d be pleased if everyone left his church. However, it is unlikely that the Gaines’s are unaware of their pastor’s views. Most likely they hold the same views themselves. In that case they’re terrible people, and I think its appropriate that they be held accountable by their viewers.

    SJ: 4. Which do you consider more journalistically noteworthy: The belief that all who do not worship Jesus Christ will eventually be in hell, or the belief that sex is meant only for a man and a woman in marriage? If the first, why is that not the story here? If the second, why is this teaching more significant than the first?

    BF: The latter is more noteworthy. Look, everybody knows evangelical Christians think we’re all going to hell. They’re wrong, but if that’s the worst thing they believe then it’s no big deal. Maybe it gives rise to some awkward “witnessing” conversations, but honestly it doesn’t have much impact on how any of us live our lives. However, when someone believes homosexuality is wrong, that gay parents shouldn’t adopt, that parents should try to de-gay their kids, that gays should be denied the right to marry, etc. then we’re talking serious stuff. Unlike the delusion that we’re all going to hell, those beliefs actually translate into political choices that have a real impact on peoples’ lives.

    SJ: 5. Do you believe that people who have the same religious convictions as Jim Seibert are capable of having genuine friendships with those who disagree with them?

    BF: Yes. But it’s tough. Mainly because many people (rightly) regard their views as abhorrent. Hard core racists are also capable of having genuine friendships with those who disagree with them, but most everyone who disagrees with them wants nothing to do with them. So it’s hard for these friendships to form. Because most everyone thinks they’re terrible people, and who wants to be friends with someone who’s a terrible person?

    SJ: 6. As the piece notes, many people, including LGBT Americans , watch Fixer Upper. Why do you think this is?

    BF: It’s an entertaining show. That, and they had no idea the Seiberts held the views they apparently hold. Now they do.

    SJ: 7. Does this piece necessarily reflect an editorial position of Buzzfeed? If not, should HGTV feel like they are being represented by the religious beliefs of the Gaines?

    BF: No, it doesn’t reflect an editorial position. The Gaines’s views reflect on HGTV whether HGTV likes it or not. It’s up to HGTV whether the show’s popularity makes it “worth” all the bad press the Seiberts are getting because of our article. Maybe it does; I’m sure HGTV will be crunching the numbers.

    SJ: 8. Would Buzzfeed (or Cosmopolitan) be willing to publish a perspective on this story by a person such as Wesley Hill or Eve Tushnet? If not, why not?

    BF: Probably not, because people wouldn’t want to read it, and we’re all about the page views. Also, our readers would be outraged if we provided a platform for evangelical Christians to promote views like the Seibert’s.

    SJ: 9. Would Buzzfeed fire a staffer for expressing beliefs similar to Jim Seibert? Would Buzzfeed fire a staffer not for expressing such beliefs, but upon discovering the staffer attended a religious gathering that taught them? In your opinion, does being wrong on LGBT make one a bad person?

    BF: We wouldn’t violate federal employment law. It’s up to our lawyers to figure out whether firing someone for expressing views like the Seiberts constitutes actionable religious discrimination. If it did not, then we might consider firing someone who strongly advocated against same-sex marriage. Being wrong on LGBT doesn’t *necessarily* make one a bad person, but most of the time folks who are “wrong on LGBT” also hold other views that *do* make them a bad person. Such as, for instance, the view that same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry.

    SJ: 10. If Chip Gaines, Joanna Gaines, Jim Seibert, or another evangelical Christian asked you why they or their family and friends should trust what they read reported in Buzzfeed, what would you say?

    BF: I would say they should trust what they read in Buzzfeed because, in the case of the Seiberts, we’re not reporting anything that isn’t true. The Seiberts attend Antioch, and the pastor of Antioch preaches the things we’ve said that he preaches. They may disagree with our author’s position that his views are abhorrent, but that’s not the same as *distrusting* what we reported.

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    1. What do you mean when you say you’re an evangelical Christian? You say you don’t have much in common with evangelical Christians so I’m curious as to why you identify as one.

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      1. “What do you mean when you say you’re an evangelical Christian?”

        That I agree with the generic evangelical Christian on most points of faith. Biblical inerrancy, virgin birth, resurrection, substitutionary atonement, sola fides, that sex outside heterosexual marriage is sin, etc.

        “You say you don’t have much in common with evangelical Christians so I’m curious as to why you identify as one.”

        Because, when it comes to faith issues, my views are more in line with them than with anyone else. It’s basically come to mean, “Someone who is Christian, isn’t Catholic, and holds to a more or less traditional view of the faith.”

        To extent I don’t have much in common with evangelical Christians, it’s with respect to politics (particularly environmental topics, safety net programs, same-sex marriage and drug law) and the roles of men and women in marriage.

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