I want to make sure I have this right. A pastor is invited to give the prayer at the presidential inauguration. A hatchet man finds a sermon he gave 18 years ago in opposition to gay marriage. Some in the gay community are vehemently upset that a pastor selected to pray at the inauguration was opposed to gay marriage. So they feel, being that he is opposed to their lifestyle, they should call him a bigot and other fancy names because he has not met their criteria. So under pressure this pastor declines the invitation from the president.
End of story, right?
Not exactly. There is quite a bit of depth here and I believe it needs a bit of dissection.
If you haven't caught on at this point the pastor in question is Louie Giglio. Giglio was invited by President Barack Obama to give the benediction during his coming inauguration. Whatever your political persuasion the invitation is a great honor. I had the privilege to sit under Giglio's teaching in the late nineties and turn of the millennium when he ran a weekly ministry known as "7:22" out of North Point Community Church in Atlanta, Ga., for college students and young professionals. Giglio is responsible for co-founding the Passion Conferences, planting Passion City Church in downtown Atlanta, and playing a prominent role in an effort to end modern human trafficking. It is this last bit that caught the attention of Obama's inauguration team and earned Giglio the esteem of being requested to oversee the inaugural prayer.
Within 48 hours, Giglio withdrew from accepting the invitation. A firestorm erupted in the media and across the Internet. Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post called Giglio an "unrepentant bigot" being that he had not apologized for the sermon. Josh Israel at Think Progress referred to him as "vehemently anti-gay," while Laura Clawson at Daily Kos determined that was a bit off the mark and offered that Giglio was "virulently anti-gay." Thesaurus? Check.
Ironically, these writers and more engaging in the very act of intolerance to which they have accused the pastor and ultimately illustrating that in the current American schema that the homosexual agenda is of a higher import and caliber than that of human trafficking. This notion should be allowed to soak for a moment. Capehart, Israel, Clawson and others of the homosexual community and liberal movement defending homosexual marriage apparently find opposition to this lifestyle choice, or even simply the existence of people in the world that disagree with them, more ghastly than slavery. Tarantino could not have scripted this. I may, however, leave it to others to explain how the choice for members of the same sex to wed overrides today's Candyland.
Giglio is of course not "anti-gay." This is a phrase used to disarm people to get them to tuck tail and run. It's in the handbag next to "racist." No matter what the subject, when these two cards are dealt, the dealer wins every time. What Giglio can be accused of being is pro-Bible.
Those that don't adhere to the teachings of Christianity quite frequently run into a problem when dealing with its adherents. That is, the adherents believe it to be truth. They accept it. And then they try to live it out.
Here's an easy analogy. If you believe that if a knife sticks itself in your face you die, then generally speaking you would tend to try to avoid knives sticking themselves in your face. This would be sort of a life goal.
Well, in the same light, adherents to the teachings of the Christian scriptures believe that homosexuality is missing the mark of what God deems to be right. So why does there always seem to be so much surprise within the liberal community that a pastor of the Christian faith is in opposition to homosexual practice or homosexual marriage?
Frankly, I believe this is the fault of the Christian community itself. Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church, said not too long ago that the world sees Christians as, "Judgmental, homophobic, moralists who think they are the only ones going to heaven and secretly relish the fact that everyone else is going to hell." I tend to believe that Stanley is not too far off.
I fancy myself a Constitutionalist, and I am very much a proponent of our nation's Tenth Amendment. I've personally taken the stance that civil unions are a states' rights issue. But marriage is very much a right of the church. It is a suzerain vassal treaty between a man a woman that is thousands of years old.
So what we have are two groups of people who sit down to have a conversation about homosexuality. Both groups think they are having the same conversation and they simply aren't.
In 1989, what is colloquially referred to as "the homosexual agenda" was laid out in Marshall Kirk's book After the Ball: How America Will Conquer Its Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90's. The title may have jumped the gun a bit, but I digress. The book laid out a six point plan for homosexual activists to integrate the gay lifestyle into society transforming the perceptions of average Americans. You might call it the new normal.
The plan sets goals to use propagandist techniques during early childhood education, a consistent focus of making a member of the gay community out to be a victim and fighting for a just cause, and seeking out support from corporate America.
The Christian community has and will continue to take issue with such an agenda and for two main points:
One, this is not an issue with the existence of homosexuals in their communities; it's an issue with the lifestyle being forced upon them in every area of their existence or in their children's lives in ways they would prefer to control. This may be contextually associated to a similar thesis of a secular individual not wishing to have religion present everywhere and in everything they do. Most individuals do not care if churches exist in the world, they don't mind if there is a public prayer before a football game, but they are probably annoyed when the same guy at work hands them a tract every week.
Two, the Christian community will also continue to support traditional marriage between a man and a woman. This simply will not change. If an individual is an adherent to the Christian scriptures and believes them to be truth, then they will hold marriage to be between a man and a woman.
So like I said, these two individuals on either side are at that table and want to discuss the issue. They believe they are talking about the same thing and they are not. Both are coming from different rudimentary perspectives of the subject. And thusly the Christian community has slowly allowed the issue to grow from a faith issue to a political issue, which, was only inevitable as the Christian community attempted to protect marriage. But in doing so the ugliness of politics came in to play.
That is not to say that these type of issues should be out of politics or that religious or faith based issues have no place in politics. We must remember that political issues like these were faith issues first, not second. Way before they were discussed at the podium they were being discussed at the pulpit. But with the ugliness of politics came the protests, the shouting, the arguing, the hate.
This is where Stanley's hypothesis of how the modern world views the Christian, particularly on this subject matter, comes to fruition. We in the community have done it wrong. I'm not proposing to know how to do it right, but we certainly often have left love and peace and acceptance out of the conversation at some points.
That's not love, peace, acceptance, and unicorns of something that is antithetical to scripture, but prescriptive of scripture. If the Christian culture is pointing out the homosexual lifestyle while avoiding the subject of co-habitation, premarital sex, infidelity, pornography, or sexual immorality of any sort as anything other than equivalent then the Christian culture is wrong. In some ways we in the Christian community have set the homosexual issue out to the side as a "worse issue" than those of other issues of sexual immorality or other moral concerns within the church. Politically, we have often spent more time attempting to protect a document written by men than introducing those around us to Christ's grace.
I once asked my Facebook friends how many people had been won to Christ due to a marriage amendment. The conversation was wonderful.
The objective of the Christian should be to reveal the Father to those that do not know him and we do so by meeting the needs of those around us. Meeting those needs more often than not requires love, peace, acceptance, and relationship.
I really like Louie and his reasoning for backing out is fair. But in the end, here is one more pastor bowing to the wishes of secularism and the media, just adding to the ease of which they will get their way in the future.
I was distressed by Giglio turning down the opportunity, though there is another possibility here to be discussed in a moment. In a Passion City Church blog post Giglio withdrew his acceptance. He noted that his, "participation, and the prayer [he] would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration."
I don't disagree with Giglio on this point. His being used by God and his opportunity to provide the benediction and through it elements of the gospel would most certainly be attacked by some in the homosexual community. It would also be attacked by anyone else in the world that wished to attack it due to the subject matter ultimately being that of Christ. That's not a would-be prediction, but simply John 17.
What troubles me about Giglio backing out, if it was in fact his choice, is that in his blog post he attempts several times to seemingly distance himself from the entire homosexual issue. Several times he speaks of the issue as something he dealt with in the before time, in the long, long ago: "Clearly, speaking on the issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years." But he also hammers home that he wants his ministry to be centered around the love of Christ, "As a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else."
I connect with that last quote and said as much some paragraphs earlier. But at the same time I must wonder what message does backing down send? Many of us have heard over and over again from leaders within the Christian community that "this is what we believe and this is what we must stand firm on and defend." So when the average Joe Christian's feet is put to the fire and he is called a bigot and worse for not supporting homosexual marriage, why should he do anything different but take a similar tact of appeasement and just go away? And why shouldn't those in the media who turned up the flames this go round just use this as precedent in the future to defeat any Christian leadership?
Eventually this will not be the reputation of your pastor down the line. It will be your church's tax status. Then it will be a government official in attendance as a hall monitor to regulate "hate speech" from your pastor.
There is one last thing. There is a possibility that the Obama inaugural team back tracked on their invitation, but allowed Giglio to withdraw so that it would arguably save face for both parties involved.
The Presidential Inaugural Committee issued a statement to cover their tracks making it known that they were "not aware of Pastor Giglio's past comments at the time of his selection." But in noting that Giglio's past sermon did not align itself with the administration's vision for diversity, the selection committee said that the future participant would have beliefs that "reflect this administration's vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans." This is simply not possible.
By appeasing the positions of those that made the uproar, the inaugural team simply flip flopped its stance on acceptance. Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research questions whether mainstream culture is even tolerant of the beliefs of those of faith. What an ironic question.
Were I still working in D.C., I certainly would not feel welcome at the inauguration after one of the leaders of my faith was ousted by the president of my nation. The Obama Administration has created a Twitter hashtag #imthere for the occasion. But based on the assessment of the inaugural committee that members of the Christian faith are not diverse and not accepting, some may suggest we should be tweeting #imnotthere. But I'll overcome my frustration. I'm more encouraged to be tweeting #1Timothy2:1-4 on Inauguration Day.
Brown holds undergraduate degrees in Journalism and Political Science, a Masters in Public Administration from the Askew School at The Florida State University, and is currently a Masters of Theology candidate at Dallas Theological Seminary.
He can be found blogging at his website nickrbrown.com and tweeting @hownowbrowncow.