Many Christians in our country are finding themselves increasingly under attack by a culture that vehemently opposes Biblical values on everything from life to marriage to sexuality. This so-called “Cancel Culture” often targets affluent people—whether Christian or not—who do not prescribe or conform to what the popular culture deems appropriate. From Chick-fil-A to J.K. Rowling, those who go against the norm are likely to experience efforts to cancel their voices.
David and Jason Benham—The Benham Brothers—have first-hand experience with the “Cancel Culture,” after their HGTV reality television show was canceled due to the Brothers’ stances on Biblical marriage and the sanctity of life. The Benham Brothers were featured at NC Family’s first Virtual Event on August 24 on Christianity & the “Cancel Culture,”where they shared their inspiring story and encouragement for Christians in this difficult time. Their interview with NC Family President John L. Rustin from this Virtual Event is featured on this week’s Family Policy Matters radio show and podcast, in Part 1 of a 2-part show.
It wasn’t easy standing against the “Cancel Culture,” say the Benhams. In fact, the Brothers came close to being silent and going along with the culture. “Our heart goes out to people in the midst of this ‘cancel culture,’” says Jason. “We felt that pressure coming at us to a point where we almost caved, but we needed the band of brothers. We needed the Christian community around us and somebody close enough to us that was willing to call us out and say, ‘You’re being cowards, but God has raised you up to be courageous.’”
“Our goal is really to help equip and encourage Christians to stand faithfully in this moment,” continues David, “because the problem is not the presence of darkness. The problem is the absence of light. Light always overcomes the darkness, but you’re not going to shine the light unless you’re willing to live for Jesus whatever the cost.”
Jason wants to encourage all Christians to not despair, and remember that we serve a God who has overcome the world. “David and I say that today is a great day to be alive! We just need to be who it is that Christ made us to be and let our faith live through us. And when we do, people are going to notice that they’ve dealt with someone who’s been with Jesus.”
Tune in to Family Policy Matters this week to hear The Benham Brothers tell their story of facing and enduring the “Cancel Culture,” in Part 1 of a 2-part show. Be sure to tune in next week for Part 2!
JOHN RUSTIN: Today, we bring you Part 1 of a two-part interview with David and Jason Benham. The Benham Brothers were guests on NC Family’s August 27, 2020 Virtual Event on the topic of Christianity and the “Cancel Culture.” David and Jason are former professional baseball players, real estate entrepreneurs, authors, speakers, and pro-family and pro-life advocates.
David and Jason, welcome, it’s great to have you with us today. How are you and your families doing in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic?
DAVID BENHAM: Oh man, we’re doing fine. You know, I’ve got five kids; Jason has four. Two of my boys are in college, and so they’ve all come back, and it’s interesting. They’re at the ages now to where it’s a child and a friend. So, I basically had 10 kids at my house for the last five months. They’re back at college, which is good.
JASON BENHAM: With COVID, we’ve just been really praying to God that schools would open back up.
JOHN RUSTIN: Yeah, well, I’m in a similar boat. I’ve got a son in college, and we’re trying to figure out what to do with all of that. So, it’s a mess, but I guess the overall comforting factor is that God is not surprised and He is still sovereign and in control over all things, but everybody around the globe is dealing in some way, shape, or form with this pandemic. And so, we’re all in this together, so we can encourage each other and help each other out and just understand that when things get tough, we’re all dealing with the same thing.
DAVID BENHAM: It gives us an eternal perspective. I mean, especially in America, we’re a very wealthy country, and we got things pretty easy. And then all of a sudden COVID hits, and now it alters our schedules. It pales in comparison to what the third world is having to deal with, but it really gives us an eternal perspective. That’s been something that I’ve been talking through with my kids, “Hey guys, listen, this is not the end. We got to get our eyes above the sun and really think on things eternally.” So, it’s been awesome for our family.
JOHN RUSTIN: Yeah, that’s great. Well, there are some real silver linings to this, and I think the time that we are able to spend with our family and really dig in deeper, lean into them, and help them see how to address challenging issues like this. You know, it’s certainly really important.
So, David and Jason, for our viewers who may not be aware of your background, tell us a bit about yourselves, and particularly your experiences with HGTV.
DAVID BENHAM: Well, I’m David, and this is Jason. We’re identical twins. We’ll be 45 in a month.
JASON BENHAM: And I do talk. I just always let him go first.
DAVID BENHAM: He wears a hat because his hair is thinning. We live in Charlotte on the same street, five doors down. He can’t get away from me. Of course, we have nine kids. My wife is Laurie; his wife is Tori. We did not try that, but that’s just the way that it worked. We grew up in Dallas, Texas, played baseball. Our dad was a pastor, very strong pro-life leader up there in Dallas, even when it was unpopular. And we signed baseball scholarships at Liberty University. We went and played there four years. Then we got drafted. I was drafted by the Red Sox, and he was drafted by a lesser organization, the Baltimore something or another.
JASON BENHAM: Orioles, the Baltimore Orioles, they’re legit.
DAVID BENHAM: So, we never made it to the big leagues. And we got out of minor league baseball and relocated to the North Charlotte area where we started a real estate company. And we started it based on biblical principles. We had no business training, but we used the principles of the Bible, and we built our company. By 2012, we had a hundred offices across 35 states and just so many people working for us, and we’d been doing very well. But at that point in 2012, we started to really see a shift in culture. We started to see a shift on marriage. We started seeing Planned Parenthood really build a lot of momentum and expand. And then we started seeing that, you know, a lot of these business leaders and athletes and entertainers are coming out and speaking for a lot of these political and moral shifts, but where are the believers?
And so, Jason and I, at the height of our business, started speaking very strong pro-life, very strong pro-marriage. And that kind of gave us a little bit of a label, but it didn’t matter because at the end of 2012, HGTV reached out to us. And in 2013, we signed a contract straight to series reality show with HGTV, no pilot. And it was going to air in the fall of 2014. And we were filming five weeks into a ten-week film shoot, and that’s when the “thought mafia.” This is before “cancel culture” became “cancel culture.” This is six years ago. As a matter of fact, just to pause that story, just a few months before the “thought mafia” started circling Jason and me—our show hadn’t even come out yet, but commercials were going—they had circled around Duck Dynasty with the Robertsons and targeted A&E. Then A&E paused them, or they suspended Phil, but then of course they came back cause that’s too big of an expense to miss. So, they got him back on; that was kind of a big shot, and then Chick-fil-A getting targeted.
And so, we start seeing all these things. Now our show hadn’t even aired yet, and they started circling around HGTV, these activist groups out of California. And man, they were like, we’ll go after your advertisers; we’ll take these guys down. Why? Because we spoke vocally about pro-life, and we spoke vocally about marriage. Those were the issues and human sexuality. And so anyway, we ended up getting fired. And as a result of that, we wrote a book about it called Whatever the Cost, which we really believe with the gospel, Jesus Christ, people, if we call ourselves believers, we come to Christ and say, “Whatever the cost,” right? He who loves his life will lose it. He who loses his life or maybe reality show, or maybe you might get ridiculed on Facebook, or maybe you might even lose a job. We don’t want that, but if you lose your life for my sake and the gospel, you’ll surely find it.
So, that’s kind of our story up to this point. We’re still building businesses, and we’ve written four books. Our goal is really to help equip and encourage Christians to stand faithfully in this moment because the problem is not the presence of darkness. The problem is the absence of light. Because light always overcomes the darkness, but you’re not going to shine the light unless you’re willing to live for Jesus whatever the cost.
JOHN RUSTIN: You guys obviously have seen firsthand what’s come to be known as the “cancel culture.” David, you just mentioned that, where people or groups who don’t agree with someone’s perspective essentially mount a campaign to shut them down or shut them out. How intense, Jason, was what you all went through? How intense did things become in your situation?
JASON BENHAM: Well, it became so intense before we got fired that David and I actually drafted an email to HGTV and told them that whenever our show is released, and they’re putting us on talk shows, specifically they talked about putting us on the Ellen Show, we actually said that we’d be quiet. The pressure was so intense that here David and I were, you know, supposedly these bold Christians that actually decided in order to keep our platform, in order to keep our show, we’d be willing to be quiet about our faith. Now, fortunately, we never sent that email to HGTV. We sent it to a spiritual mentor of ours, who rebuked us and said, “That’s not who you guys are.” Our heart goes out to people in the midst of this “cancel culture.” David and I felt it. We felt that pressure coming at us to a point where we almost caved, but we needed the band of brothers. You know, we needed the Christian community around us and somebody close enough to us that was willing to call us out and say, “You’re being cowards, but God has raised you up to be courageous.” And so, we got down on our knees and repented. We asked God to forgive us. And then from that point forward, I’m telling you, John, we felt a liquid courage come into us that was like, I don’t care who says what. We’re going to speak the truth. We’re going to do it in love. And, most people probably aren’t going to like it, but we’re going to do it anyway because that’s what’s being called for right now is for Christians to stand boldly, no matter what the cost is.
And so, you know, David said the problem in today’s America and across the world is not the presence of darkness, but the absence of light, but in the church, we’ve got the wrong idea of light. And I remember speaking at your conference several years ago and saying that most of us grew up singing the song, “This Little Light of Mine,” and in that, you know, it says, “Don’t let Satan blow it out.” So, in that song, the idea of light is like a candle, but when the wind comes along and blows on a candle, the light goes out. We need to replace the image of a candle in today’s cultural context with the image of a coal like the burning ember inside of a fire pit, and when the wind comes along and blows on that, the very wind that extinguished the candle’s light ignites the coal’s light. And now this “cancel culture,” what David and I look at that as is Satan trying to extinguish our light. But if we’ve got the light inside of us, “cancel culture” is the very thing that’s going to allow us to become bright.
JOHN RUSTIN: Well, that’s awesome. I’ll tell you another recent example that made national headlines of this “cancel culture.” It was the field hospital that Samaritan’s Purse set up in Central Park to help treat people in New York City who had contracted COVID-19 early on. And of course, Samaritan’s Purse would treat anyone who was in need, and the city was quick to accept their help. But some people wanted them out when it came to light that Samaritan’s Purse required its workers to agree to a statement of faith that was in line with their biblical principles. I mean, even in situations that are as dire and significant as that if you take a conservative or Christian viewpoint, quite often, this “cancel culture” is going to come after you. So, just like what you’re saying, standing strong and having that vision of the efforts to extinguish it, igniting that coal, because we want to be the light for Jesus in this world to really stand firm and to be stronger.
So, David and Jason, we seem to be seeing more and more instances of this “cancel culture” and a growing level of intensity and even brazenness to silence people who don’t go along with the kind of cultural tides that we’re seeing today. What have you all noticed? I mean, have things ramped up more and more?
DAVID BENHAM: Definitely. It follows a pattern, and this is cause we kind of got into the belly of this whale and spent a lot of time before the Lord, even praying and fasting and just really, “God, please show us like exactly what’s happening,” and there’s various patterns that we see. What they want to do with a conservative voice—by the way, this free speech movement that was born in the sixties is not about free speech anymore; it’s forced participation. So, what we see is this radical agenda just wanted acceptance. And, then it says, “Oh no, no, no, we want appreciation.” Then they said, “No, we want you to celebrate; we want celebration.” And then, it’s become forced participation. In other words, if you’re not with us, you’re totally against us. And then they demonize us by saying we’re against people when nothing could be further from the truth. We love all people. And so, what happens is now conservatives and believers that are standing just simply on the principles of Scripture, which lead to God’s blessings, right? God’s boundaries lead to His blessings. And when those boundaries are removed, the blessings are replaced with burdens. But what they do is they marginalize your voice. Okay? Then if you keep speaking, they demonize your voice. But if you keep speaking, they’re going to criminalize your voice. That’s where we are; we’re in between demonized and criminalized. So, I mean, we did the marginal, you know, the marginalizing your voice, and all of that was 2014 with us. We have now shifted into something brand new in 2020.
JOHN RUSTIN: David and Jason, as men of faith, how does your relationship with Jesus inform the way that you live your lives and engage the culture, especially considering how challenging things are these days. I mean, you’re often on the front lines; you’re out there speaking, but you also have jobs and families, and you know, the rubber’s meeting the road every day. So, how are you navigating all of this?
JASON BENHAM: You know, David and I, we just painted that dire picture, but we draw strength from Scripture. We look at the book of Daniel, and we see Daniel Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, and they went through some things there that were much like what we’re going through today, even worse. And yet those guys, we like to use this analogy. They were the “chocolate chips” in the “cookie dough” culture. They mixed in; they didn’t blend in. They kept their distinct form even when put into an oven. So, you think flour and sugar and eggs and vanilla and all that stuff, and you blend it all together, and it becomes one new lump of something. You take a bite of it, and you don’t know if you’ve got flour, sugar, that’s a really good egg. I mean, it’s all blended in together. But, when you put the chocolate chips in it and you take a bite, you know that you bit a chip because the chocolate chips are made of something different, and even when they’re put into the oven, they keep their distinct form. And David and I say that today is a great day to be alive that we just need to be who it is that Christ made us to be and let our faith live through us. And when we do, people are going to notice that they’ve dealt with someone who’s been with Jesus.
– END PART ONE –