Louie and the Prayer (that wasn't)

Last week it was announced that Louie Giglio would deliver the benediction prayer for the upcoming Presidential Inauguration.

The following day Thinkprogress ran a story titled, "Inaugural Benediction to be Delivered by a Pastor Who Gave Vehemently Anti-Gay Sermon."

This set the interwebs ablaze with questions regarding whether or not Louie would still give the prayer.

Giglio, if you don't recognize the name, was one of the founding pastors of the Passion movement (which greatly shaped my own life over a decade ago) and is now the founding and lead pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta.

Then, two days after the announcement of Giglio's selection, and a day after the "anti-gay sermon" stories ran amuck, Giglio informed the White House that he would "respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation."

And I don't know how I feel about it, yet.

But for now, here are 6 thoughts that come to mind as I sort through this morass.

1) Hey, that's OUR litmus test, not yours!

Sometimes I get the feeling that some Christians in the more conservative end of the spectrum want to be able to utilize the issue of "homosexuality" as a litmus test for who's in and who's out, but if people on the OTHER side suggest a similar move, then all hell breaks out.

For instance, here's some excerpts from a blog post from Albert Mohler on the Giglio situation:

The imbroglio over Louie Giglio is the clearest evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually “tolerant” age. During the infamous McCarthy hearings, witnesses would be asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?”

In the version now to be employed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the question will be: “Are you now or have you ever been one who believes that homosexuality (or bisexuality, or transsexualism, etc.) is anything less than morally acceptable and worthy of celebration?”

The Presidential Inaugural Committee and the White House have now declared historic, biblical Christianity to be out of bounds, casting it off the inaugural program as an embarrassment.

By its newly articulated standard, any preacher who holds to the faith of the church for the last 2,000 years is persona non grata. By this standard, no Roman Catholic prelate or priest can participate in the ceremony. No Evangelical who holds to biblical orthodoxy is welcome. The vast majority of Christians around the world have been disinvited. Mormons, and the rabbis of Orthodox Judaism are out. Any Muslim imam who could walk freely in Cairo would be denied a place on the inaugural program. Billy Graham, who participated in at least ten presidential inaugurations is welcome no more. Rick Warren, who incited a similar controversy when he prayed at President Obama’s first inauguration, is way out of bounds. In the span of just four years, the rules are fully changed.

*cue the eye rolls*

Singling out one issue as being a sort of litmus test to determine if you're 'in' or 'out' is infuriating. So with that said, perhaps on some level I DO see what Dr Mohler is saying, and I semi-sorta-agree (ouch! please don't quote that...) with the principle behind his words.

Because this is precisely what happened to me. And ironically it was precisely on this issue. And even more ironically, perhaps, it was those who would stand in solidarity with Mohler who executed the same sort of litmus test.

I was fired from my pastoral job because I don't hold to what Mohler says is "historic, biblical Christianity" on this issue. Interesting that "they" (and I use that term loosely) can use this issue to determine who is 'in' or 'out,' but if the OTHER side wants to employ similar tactics? Well, then, it's the new Moral McCarthyism! How dare they!


2) I wish people on the "left" would relax a bit.

I type these next words with great caution: Might I suggest that those who are fighting for LGBT rights and equality perhaps lighten up a bit on this?

Don't get me wrong. I totally disagree with the sermon that Giglio gave 20 years ago. He was wrong, and his words were/are very damaging to many people and they perpetuate very damaging theology. So of course the LGBT community and us straight allies would stand up and say, "that's not okay!"

But for one, that sermon was 20 years ago. And for two, the dude is doing some pretty amazing things in this world.

Are any of us in the same place on this issue (or any issue, for that matter) as we were 20 years ago? I understand that he hasn't necessarily come out and renounced anything, or said he thinks differently. But that's his own prerogative and he has to calculate that carefully for himself, his ministry, his vocation, his family, etc.

I just have to believe that many of the same people who were appalled that this guy could be chosen by the President to say a prayer because of what he said 20 years ago, might not ALSO have a history where they believed radically different about homosexuality decades ago. Let's proceed with caution any time we use someone's own words against them when they came from two decades prior.

Furthermore, does Louie receive any good graces for the work he has done to help eradicate sex slavery? The sex slave trade is a stain on our planet, and Louie and his ministries have worked tirelessly for years to fight against it. One need not be theologically accurate in the areas of sexuality to DO good work for the Kingdom. And evidently it was primarily on this basis, because of Giglio's amazing efforts, that inspired the President to even extend this offer.

So sure, he's not "your kind of guy," but relax.

3) I wish people on the "right" would relax a bit.

People from the LGBT community and other straight allies are NOT ridiculous for being opposed to Louie Giglio's selection. The President has made some significant strides towards equality for all, and it feels a bit counter productive to enlist a guy who seems so opposed to such equality. So it's only natural for some people and organizations to stand up and say, "hey, wait a minute... the President chose WHO?! What the... do you all KNOW what he said about gay people?! That's not cool... and we don't think he should've been chosen by the President. It communicates something different than what he has been saying."

This is not some sort of attack on the First Amendment. Louie has not been denied his freedom of speech (for a great write up on that, see Rachel Held Evans' blog, Four Myths about Louie Giglio's Inauguration Prayer).

Like Rachel says in her post, if the President would have chosen, say, Bill Maher to say the benediction, chances are that many on your side would be up in arms as well. And that's your right to do so. Just as it is Thinkprogress' and others rights, as well.

The world is not ending, and Christianity won't become illegal... even IF that might be the best thing to happen for us.  ;)

4) Let's not lose sight of the OTHER people scheduled for the Inauguration

All this brouhaha over Louie seems to be at the expense of celebrating the other people scheduled to participate in the Presidential Inauguration.

Like the President's selection of Richard Blanco to be the Inaugural Poet. He is Latino... oh, and also openly gay.

Or what about who is scheduled to do the prayer of invocation? Myrlie Evers-Williams, 79, is the former chairwoman of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the founder of the Medgar Evers Institute in Jackson, Miss. She is the widow of Medgar Evers, who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1963. She's not clergy, either, marking the first ever non-clergy to deliver the invocation.

So I kind of  feel like adding in a white, evangelical, decently conservative pastor actually created a pretty beautiful and diverse balance for this historic and sacred event. And choosing to focus so much energy on trying to get Giglio uninvited, or on crying about how Christians can't be in the public arena anymore if they're anti-gay, is really an adventure in missing the point.

5) I wish Louie and Obama would have stuck with their plan.

When I was fired over my theological differences, I desperately wanted my pastor to stand up to the church and say, "This is my friend, Colby. And we agree on a LOT of things, and have done some great work together these past 5 years. Recently, I've learned that we disagree on a few things. And although those issues we disagree on are, in my opinion, pretty significant issues, they are not cause to break fellowship over or to break Kingdom partnership over. So I invite us all to lean in to this moment and practice unity. Focus on the things that unite us, not divide us."

Or something like that, anyways.

And I guess I feel like this could have been a really cool opportunity for something like that as well.

6) This issue isn't going away, so we're going to have to learn to dialogue about it.

The issue of same-sex marriage in our nation, and gays in the military, and the theological discussion of God's feelings towards gay people are not going away any time soon.

The world is changing. The church is changing. As I've written elsewhere, I think we'll look back on these years with a sort of frustration... like, "how in the world could we have been so wrong, and what TOOK us so long!?"

But in the meantime we are going to have to learn to talk about it. And even more importantly, to listen.

This invitation-that-got-accepted-then-rejected moment is just the latest, and trust me there will be more on this issue. So let's do our best to stop lobbing fear grenades over the wall at our opponents, and start laying down our own agendas from time to time in an effort to find peace and a way forward.


What about you?

What are YOUR thoughts on this whole thing?