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Dear Teacher,

For the January 2 entry on the blog site of Joanna Gaines, who stars with her husband Chip Gaines on the HGTV series Fixer Upper, she yielded space to Chip for his response to an earlier BuzzFeed article. In the judgment of many readers, the BuzzFeed piece seemed intended to stir up controversy about something Joanna and Chip had never mentioned on air or on record.

We'll provide details in the "In the News" section below, but for our discussion today, we're more interested in the tone and words of Chip's comments, which members of The Wired Word team saw as helpful. We think his refusal "to be baited" models a practice that could serve our society well these days, especially after the divisiveness of the past year. So for this installment of The Wired Word, we will consider the matter of "not taking the bait" and look at biblical support for that idea.

If you'd prefer a different topic, look at our second lesson, which begins with a BBC report about efforts in the Indian city of Bangalore to clean up many illegal dumps and glaring eyesores. We look at how and why we allow "garbage" to pile up in our personal lives, and what is necessary to get rid of it.

You are now able to email the student version of either the first lesson or the second lesson to your class members, depending on which lesson you prefer to use for your class time. To do so, click here.

May God bless you as you teach the scriptures this week.

The Editorial Team of The Wired Word.

Chip and Joanna Gaines Aren't Taking the BuzzFeed Bait

The Wired Word for January 15, 2017

In the News

Back in November, BuzzFeed, an entertainment and social news website, reported that Chip and Joanna Gaines, the popular couple who are the stars of the HGTV series Fixer Upper, attend a church that does not support same-sex marriage and views homosexuality as a sin.

On the show, the Gaineses specialize in helping couples looking for homes find one that can be redesigned by Joanna and remodeled by Chip's crew to match the client couples' wishes and needs. The Gaineses have never commented on air about LGBT people, same-sex marriage or their religion. On the show, they appear to enjoy being husband and wife, as well as being parents to their four young children. One of the ways Chip and Joanna describe themselves is as best friends.

Many of the reader responses following the BuzzFeed article took issue with the media company's motives in reporting the story, some describing it as a "witch hunt." One respondent, Matt Holden, wrote, "You are inciting a wave of negative attention on this couple for something that indirectly links to them. That's not journalism, it's petty bull----."

HGTV responded to the BuzzFeed article by saying, "We don't discriminate against the LGBT community in any of our shows."

The Gaineses did not immediately make a statement. But on January 2, they released on Joanna's blog some comments by Chip, titled "Chip's New Year's Revelation." In it, Chip said that he and Joanna don't always "see eye to eye." He added, "If Joanna and I, who are best friends, don't see lots of things the same way -- how on earth do we expect a world of strangers to magically align? The reality is, we may not all get on the same page and I think that's okay."

Chip continued, saying, "This past year has been tough. In my lifetime, I can't recall humanity being more divided. Plenty of folks are sad and scared and angry and there are sound bites being fed to us that seem fueled by judgment, fear and even hatred. Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world.

"If there is any hope for all of us to move forward, to heal and to grow -- we have got to learn to engage people who are different from us with dignity and with love," Chip Gaines said. "Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: We care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It's not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith. That's all fascinating, but it cannot add [to] or take away from the reality that we're already pulling for you. We are not about to get in the nasty business of throwing stones at each other, don't ask us to 'cause we won't play that way," Chip said.

"We have decided to change the conversation," Chip said. "You wanna talk about how to build bridges between people that disagree? We want to be a part of that conversation. Do you want to talk about healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? We're in the restoration business, we can for sure make time for that."

Chip continued, "I think we are all here for a reason. I think we all have a call on our lives. Your role is not my role, and thank goodness, because there is so much unique and important work to be done. Jo and I feel called to be bridge builders. We want to help initiate conversations between people that don't think alike. Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate[;] don't believe that lie."

After saying that his family "wants to fight for a world that knows how to lovingly disagree," Chip stated, "We believe it starts when we operate from a position of love in all things." He said, "We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you. Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified."

He concluded, "This could be one of the greatest restoration stories of all time."

BuzzFeed article and Chip Gaines' full response can be found at these links:

Chip's New Year's Revelation. At Home

Chip And Joanna Gaines' Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage. BuzzFeed

Applying the News Story

The news topic we are addressing today was sparked not by anything the Gaineses had said or done, but by BuzzFeed's assertions about the teaching of the pastor of the church the Gaineses attend. The pastor maintains that, in his words, "homosexuality is a sin," and he and his church do not support same-sex marriage.

However, we want to say upfront that neither homosexuality nor same-sex marriage is the topic of this lesson. (TWW has had several other lessons on the latter topic. See our website.) Rather, we're pursuing a line Chip Gaines used in his new year's comments on their blog: "Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world.

At The Wired Word, we recognize that there are many social matters about which Christians disagree. There are sincere Christian believers on both sides of more than one issue of concern in our culture today. But we do think that the Gaineses are saying something helpful when Chip says they "refuse to baited" into deepening the hurt and divides in the world today. (And, if we may speak frankly, it does seem to us that "baiting" is precisely what the BuzzFeed article was attempting to do.)

We suspect that there are many circumstances in life in general and regarding social and political issues in particular where not "taking the bait" is the most helpful response.

By the way, when Jesus told his disciples they were going to "fish for people" (Matthew 4:19), we don't think he was talking about using this kind of bait.

The Big Questions

  1. When have you responded to someone's "loaded" comment and afterward realized your response only deepened a division? What, if anything, did you do subsequently to bridge the divide? What are some responses you've received when you "baited" someone? What, if any, were the most effective calming responses?
  2. In your opinion, what media practices seem to bait division? Where does baiting show up in political discussions? What personal practices tend to bait division? How can you avoid being baited by others or baiting others yourself? Where specifically do you need to stop taking the bait?
  3. Are there circumstances where "baiting" others is the right thing -- even the Christian thing -- to do? If so, give an example.
  4. What things do we do in church that deepen divides unnecessarily?
  5. How do you deal with the conflict that comes when church teachings on social issues do not agree with your own beliefs? What should you do? Why?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope

Here are some Bible verses to guide your discussion:

John 8:4-6

[The Pharisees said to Jesus,] "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" ... Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. (For context, read 7:53--8:11.)

Luke 20:22-25

Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?" But he perceived their craftiness and said to them, "Show me a denarius. Whose head and whose title does it bear?" They said, "The emperor's." He said to them, "Then give to the emperor the things that are the emperor's, and to God the things that are God's." (For context, read 20:20-26.)

Mark 14:60-61

Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" But he was silent and did not answer. ... (For context read 14:53-65.)

John 18:37

Pilate asked him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice." (For context, read 18:28-38.)

We don't usually clump four passages together like this, but we've done so here because all four are examples of Jesus not taking the bait that opponents were dangling in front of him. In fact, Jesus was a master at not taking the bait.

In the John 8 case, Jesus perceived that the Pharisees didn't really want his opinion about what to do with the woman caught in adultery, but were rather aiming to put him on the spot. He first just let their question go unanswered by writing in the dirt, and when he did reply, he cut to the heart of their two-faced actions.

Likewise with the question he was asked in Luke 20 about paying taxes. With his reply, Jesus effectively displayed the hypocrisy behind the controversial question.

Both of the remaining texts are about the period when Jesus was being questioned by the authorities before being sentenced to die by crucifixion.

In the verses right before Mark 14:60, some witnesses gave false testimony about Jesus, and Jesus did not respond to the bait. So, in verse 60, the high priest tried to set the bait again: "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" But again, Jesus did not rise to the bait: "he was silent and did not answer."

In the John 18 reading, Pilate tried to goad Jesus into claiming kingship, which would be a chargeable offense justifying crucifixion. Here Jesus answered, but by saying "You say that I am a king," he didn't take the bait.

Questions: Where specifically might the example of Jesus in these passages help you?

Have you ever responded honestly about your feelings in a social media post or at a social gathering and suddenly found yourself sucked into a one-sided conversation where you were on the other side? Did you try to extricate yourself? Did you continue to argue? What was the result of such conversations?

Proverbs 15:4

A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit. (For context, read 15:1-7.)

It's telling that this verse contrasts a "gentle" tongue not with a "rough" one or an "angry" one but with a "perverse" one. Since perversity implies an intention to go contrary to what is acceptable or helpful, the verse appears to be saying that speaking out of such motivation is something God's people shouldn't do.

Questions: When is baiting a form of perverse behavior? When is it not?

Philippians 2:3

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. (For context, read 2:1-11.)

This verse speaks about the motivation behind our actions and can also apply to our speech.

Question: How might you apply this verse to your discussions with others with whom you disagree over political, social or religious matters? How would you apply this verse to how you seek to persuade others to change their ideas or attitudes?

Romans 15:17-19

In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast of my work for God. For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to win obedience from the Gentiles, by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, so that from Jerusalem and as far around as Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the good news of Christ. (For context, read 15:14-21.)

Here's the apostle Paul saying that he personally limits his pronouncements to things intended to move forward his work on behalf of God and Christ and the mission given him. In a sense, he's speaking of a kind of self-imposed "tunnel vision," but one illuminated by the Spirit of God.

Question: Where might your interactions with others be more welcomed and healing by limiting the scope or the tone of your conversations? Where might that not be helpful?

For Further Discussion

  1. Respond to this. On the taking the bait topic, TWW team member Mary Sells says, "Oh my, how many times I pray the Lord's Prayer -- lead me not into temptation -- and, wham: Every day I get a little or big bump on the head.

    "Today it was via Facebook. A truly dear friend and I posting opposing views on a current event issue that had me thinking that maybe I just didn't know this person after all -- even though we have shared some intense life experiences as friends, -- illnesses, death of family members and other really significant stuff. As soon as that thought popped in, I had the voice in my head, surely God, saying 'Really? Is what you disagree on now really more revealing than the love and supporting friendship you have shared?' Well, that helped me to avoid the bait of the day … and realize I am blessed with a good friend with whom I do not need to always agree."
  2. Discuss this: The BuzzFeed article says the pastor of the church the Gaineses attend "urges compassion" for homosexuals because, he says, "the statistics say that 90 percent of people who are in a full-blown homosexual lifestyle were abused in some way. Physically, sexually, mentally." TWW editorial team member Malia Miller who has been a high-school counselor and is now a counselor educator says there is reason to question the stats the pastor used about abuse. Miller says, "Of the homosexual students that I know well, that is not the case in any of their pasts, and many of the students I have counseled over time have come from loving and stable families. In my professional work, I have never read research that supports this statement."

    Miller goes on to say, "But I realize that is not the point of the articles. Somewhere along the way, Christ's message of love and acceptance can get lost and is replaced with judgment that leads to hatred and division when there is disagreement. Chip is right -- this past year has been a one of division, not restoration. We need to take steps in a positive direction."
  3. TWW consultant James Gruetzner tells that the author of a blog he often follows wrote about her experiences at a party hosted by her friend, when the other guests just assumed that she'd agree with their bashing her own politics and others like her. The blogger wrote, "Although I was enjoying other aspects of the party and didn't want to leave, I became more and more uncomfortable and very weary. The exhaustion came from three things: the feeling of estrangement I felt, the realization of the overwhelming difficulty of ever trying to challenge their worldview and get them to actually listen to what I might have to say rather than merely reject what I had to say, and the awareness that it would be impolite of me to even try in that particular venue."

    Have you ever been guilty of assuming that everyone automatically agreed with you and therefore might have inadvertently insulted someone? What might you do to ensure that doesn't happen?

    Gruetzner suggests the following possibility: 1) Make a clear and countering -- but very civil -- claim from the other side. 2) Place it into the context of the situation: "But we both know that good people can differ about such things." 3) Then -- and very importantly -- offer a way out: "Let's talk about something else and avoid arguments and disagreements." How might that work and what modifications might you suggest?
  4. What statements in Chip Gaines' remarks jump out at you? Why?
  5. In each episode of Fixer Upper, Chip and Joanna show a client couple three available houses, all of which cost less than the amount the couple has budgeted, usually because the structures have various shortcomings or need significant repairs.

    Joanna, who is a designer, describes for the couple what can be done within the clients' remaining budget after purchase to make the house a home the couple will love. After the clients select one of the houses, Chip, who is a builder-contractor, sets out with his crew to remake the home to match Joanna's vision for it. When the client couple returns, they typically declare themselves more than happy with the results.

    Whose vision guides the spiritual house you are building?

Responding to the News

This is a good time to rethink how you handle your political, social and religious disagreements with others.

Prayer (based on Psalm 25:21)

O Lord, may integrity and uprightness preserve us, for we wait for you. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Copyright 2017 Communication Resources

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Student Lesson

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Your subscription will also provide you with a student version of the weekly lesson, which you can freely edit prior to sending it out to your class members. Here's a sample of what your students will get:

Dear Class Member,

For the January 2 entry on the blog site of Joanna Gaines, who stars with her husband Chip Gaines on the HGTV series Fixer Upper, she yielded space to Chip for his response to an earlier BuzzFeed article. In the judgment of many readers, the BuzzFeed piece seemed intended to stir up controversy about something Joanna and Chip had never mentioned on air or on record.

The details are provided in the "In the News" section below, but for our discussion today, we're more interested in the tone and words of Chip's comments, which members of The Wired Word team describe as helpful. We think his refusal "to be baited" models a practice that could serve our society well these days, especially after the divisiveness of the past year. So for our next class, we will consider the matter of "not taking the bait" and look at biblical support for that idea.

If you wish to start thinking about our topic in advance, below is some introductory material.

The Wired Word invites us to contribute news story suggestions for upcoming lessons. If you have a story you'd like to suggest, post it to The Wired Word forum at TheWiredWord.squarespace.com.

Chip and Joanna Gaines Aren't Taking the BuzzFeed Bait

January 15, 2017

In the News

Back in November, BuzzFeed, an entertainment and social news website, reported that Chip and Joanna Gaines, the popular couple who are the stars of the HGTV series Fixer Upper, attend a church that does not support same-sex marriage and views homosexuality as a sin.

On the show, the Gaineses specialize in helping couples looking for homes find one that can be redesigned by Joanna and remodeled by Chip's crew to match the client couples' wishes and needs. The Gaineses have never commented on air about LGBT people, same-sex marriage or their religion. On the show, they appear to enjoy being husband and wife, as well as being parents to their four young children. One of the ways Chip and Joanna describe themselves is as best friends.

Many of the reader responses following the BuzzFeed article took issue with the media company's motives in reporting the story, some describing it as a "witch hunt." One respondent, Matt Holden, wrote, "You are inciting a wave of negative attention on this couple for something that indirectly links to them. That's not journalism, it's petty bull----."

HGTV responded to the BuzzFeed article by saying, "We don't discriminate against the LGBT community in any of our shows."

The Gaineses did not immediately make a statement. But on January 2, they released on Joanna's blog some comments by Chip, titled "Chip's New Year's Revelation." In it, Chip said that he and Joanna don't always "see eye to eye." He added, "If Joanna and I, who are best friends, don't see lots of things the same way -- how on earth do we expect a world of strangers to magically align? The reality is, we may not all get on the same page and I think that's okay."

Chip continued, saying, "This past year has been tough. In my lifetime, I can't recall humanity being more divided. Plenty of folks are sad and scared and angry and there are sound bites being fed to us that seem fueled by judgment, fear and even hatred. Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world.

"If there is any hope for all of us to move forward, to heal and to grow -- we have got to learn to engage people who are different from us with dignity and with love," Chip Gaines said. "Joanna and I have personal convictions. One of them is this: We care about you for the simple fact that you are a person, our neighbor on planet earth. It's not about what color your skin is, how much money you have in the bank, your political affiliation, sexual orientation, gender, nationality or faith. That's all fascinating, but it cannot add [to] or take away from the reality that we're already pulling for you. We are not about to get in the nasty business of throwing stones at each other, don't ask us to 'cause we won't play that way," Chip said.

"We have decided to change the conversation," Chip said. "You wanna talk about how to build bridges between people that disagree? We want to be a part of that conversation. Do you want to talk about healing and compassion and kindness and restoration? We're in the restoration business, we can for sure make time for that."

Chip continued, "I think we are all here for a reason. I think we all have a call on our lives. Your role is not my role, and thank goodness, because there is so much unique and important work to be done. Jo and I feel called to be bridge builders. We want to help initiate conversations between people that don't think alike. Listen to me, we do not all have to agree with each other. Disagreement is not the same thing as hate[;] don't believe that lie."

After saying that his family "wants to fight for a world that knows how to lovingly disagree," Chip stated, "We believe it starts when we operate from a position of love in all things." He said, "We propose operating with a love so real and true that you are willing to roll up your sleeves and work alongside the very people that are most unlike you. Fear dissolves in close proximity. Our stereotypes and vain imaginations fall away when we labor side by side. This is how a house gets unified."

He concluded, "This could be one of the greatest restoration stories of all time."

TheBuzzFeed article and Chip Gaines' full response can be found at these links:

Chip's New Year's Revelation. At Home

Chip And Joanna Gaines' Church Is Firmly Against Same-Sex Marriage. BuzzFeed

Applying the News Story

The news topic we are addressing today was sparked not by anything the Gaineses had said or done, but by BuzzFeed's assertions about the teaching of the pastor of the church the Gaineses attend. The pastor maintains that, in his words, "homosexuality is a sin," and he and his church do not support same-sex marriage.

However, we want to say upfront that neither homosexuality nor same-sex marriage is the topic of this lesson. (TWW has had several other lessons on the latter topic. See our website.) Rather, we're pursuing a line Chip Gaines used in his new year's comments on their blog: "Jo and I refuse to be baited into using our influence in a way that will further harm an already hurting world.

At The Wired Word, we recognize that there are many social matters about which Christians disagree. There are sincere Christian believers on both sides of more than one issue of concern in our culture today. But we do think that the Gaineses are saying something helpful when Chip says they "refuse to baited" into deepening the hurt and divides in the world today. (And, if we may speak frankly, it does seem to us that "baiting" is precisely what the BuzzFeed article was attempting to do.)

We suspect that there are many circumstances in life in general and regarding social and political issues in particular where not "taking the bait" is the most helpful response.

By the way, when Jesus told his disciples they were going to "fish for people" (Matthew 4:19), we don't think he was talking about using this kind of bait.

The Big Questions

Here are some of the questions we will discuss in class:

  1. When have you responded to someone's "loaded" comment and afterward realized your response only deepened a division? What, if anything, did you do subsequently to bridge the divide? What are some responses you've received when you "baited" someone? What, if any, were the most effective calming responses?
  2. In your opinion, what media practices seem to bait division? Where does baiting show up in political discussions? What personal practices tend to bait division? How can you avoid being baited by others or baiting others yourself? Where specifically do you need to stop taking the bait?
  3. Are there circumstances where "baiting" others is the right thing -- even the Christian thing -- to do? If so, give an example.
  4. What things do we do in church that deepen divides unnecessarily?
  5. How do you deal with the conflict that comes when church teachings on social issues do not agree with your own beliefs? What should you do? Why?

Confronting the News With Scripture and Hope

We will look at selected verses from these Scripture texts. You may wish to read these in advance for background:

John 7:53--8:11
Luke 20:20-26
Mark 14:53-65
John 18:28-38
Proverbs 15:1-7
Philippians 2:1-11
Romans 15:14-21

In class, we will talk about these passages and look for some insight into the big questions, as well as talk about other questions you may have about this topic. Please join us.

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