The latest Evangelical outrage in the media is about the cancelled HGTV show “Flip it Forward.” The show was set to premiere in October, starring twin brothers Jason and David Benham. However, on May 7, HGTV unceremoniously announced via Tweet that they would not be moving forward with the show.
Evangelicals immediately took to social media calling foul. A right wing activist group, Right Wing Watch, was the source that had informed HGTV that the Benham brothers had made “anti-gay remarks.” One of the twins had protested in support of traditional marriage at the Democratic National convention, and the other had participated in a pro-life protest at an abortion clinic some years ago.
Left wing media has characterized these increasingly unpopular conservative values as hatred and ignorance. Evangelicals are complaining that if the script were flipped, and the brothers were LGBT activists, they would have been venerated and maybe even given a raise.
It should be no surprise to anyone who watches HGTV that the network is in favor of gay marriage. Most of their popular shows, including Love It Or List It, House Hunters, and House Hunters International, often feature gay and lesbian couples. As a private, for-profit company, they have every legal right to select whomever they wish to represent their brand. The same is true for Christian companies that maintain the right to choose not to hire people who they feel do not exemplify their values. The Benham brothers were not denied their first amendment rights to free speech; they were denied a television show contract. Anyone who expresses a counter-cultural viewpoint should be prepared to take the heat for it (Jesus did).
However, there is a razor sharp line between organizations having the right to hire and fire as they choose, and systematically oppressing opposing viewpoints in order to silence them. In the 1940’s and 50’s during the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement, citizens and the press had the “legal right” to speak out against the oppression of blacks, but if they did, they faced severe social consequences. They would find themselves blacklisted, ostracized, and would often lose their place in society and their income. White supremacists including the KKK and government officials would do all they could to make life hell for those who tried to speak up for the fair treatment of minorities. Even though they were “free” to speak, they were not really free to express their opinions. This is a very real possibility for the future culture of the United States if civil discourse about these issues continues to be muzzled.
The Benham brothers have been painted as bigots and extremists because of their beliefs. Here’s what they had to say about that (emphasis mine):
“The first and last thought on our minds as we begin and end each day is; have we shined Christ’s light today? Our faith is the fundamental calling in our lives, and the centerpiece of who we are. As Christians we are called to love our fellow man. Anyone who suggests that we hate homosexuals or people of other faiths is either misinformed or lying. Over the last decade, we’ve sold thousands of homes with the guiding principle of producing value and breathing life into each family that has crossed our path, and we do not, nor will we ever discriminate against people who do not share our views… We were saddened to hear HGTV’s decision. With all of the grotesque things that can be seen and heard on television today you would think there would be room for two twin brothers who are faithful to our families, committed to biblical principles, and dedicated professionals. If our faith costs us a television show then so be it.”
The Benham brothers graduated from Liberty University in 1998. When President of LU, Jerry Falwell Jr., heard about the HGTV debacle, he invited the Benham brothers to be his guests of honor at the LU 2014 Commencement ceremonies. The Benham brothers graciously accepted his invitation and sat in the front row as Falwell chastised their accusers and praised the twins for standing by their values, “no matter the cost.” Falwell said he wanted them to know that even if most of the country completely rejects them, they have brothers and sisters in Christ at their Alma Mater who will always support them. He even joked that he hopes HGTV will “Flip this Decision.” Falwell then asked the brothers to stand and be recognized with a round of applause for their outstanding steadfastness in the faith. Jason and David were moved to tears as they were saluted with a standing ovation from the packed stadium of approximately 34,000 attendees.
Falwell acknowledged that losing a TV show is hardly persecution compared to the life-and-death persecution that Christians face worldwide on a daily basis, but he grieves the fact that the American culture which was once founded on Godly values has now become hostile to those who still espouse these traditional beliefs. Though Falwell appeared to be incensed at the discrimination the Benham brothers received in the cancelling of their show, he stated that the college of Liberty University will never discriminate against those who don’t share their views. He encouraged the class of 2014 and all Christians across the country to “do the right thing, no matter what the cost may be.”