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By the standards of contemporary news cycles, the controversy over the White House withdrawing the invitation of Pastor Louie Giglio from the Inauguration and Giglio’s voluntary withdrawal are old news. I’m late to this party. Substantive reflections have been made already in a number of places. As might be expected, the entire incident has risen to iconic status, representing the clashes of ideals and values in an ongoing “culture war” or even “civil war” between competing sides.

I don’t have anything to add to the culture war, at least not in terms of the long held orthodoxy of the warring parties. I respect Giglio’s decision and can understand why he would not want a decades long ministry to be redefined by an issue that has not been his priority. After all, when he did preach on the subject, he appears by all accounts to have preached a biblically faithful, gracious and hopeful gospel sermon. Well done! Many who regularly preach about homosexuality and consider it a defining issue for their ministries have regularly failed to preach about it as well as Giglio.

But, as I read the perspectives in the aftermath of the fallout, I did find myself wishing that Christians caught in positions comparable to Giglio’s would rather be fired than withdraw. Here are a few reasons why.

First, I believe blessing the country–with all her flaws–is more important than political agendas. I know not everyone believes that, or at least they act as if they don’t believe that. Political agendas are golden calves, and the frenzied idolaters insist that everyone bow to them. But we pastoral leaders who have enough clarity to denounce the country’s sins while also holding out the hope of God’s grace and salvation. That’s what Israel’s prophets did, and that’s what we need now in prophetic ministers. Louie did that in his sermon decades ago, and that makes him, in my mind, a perfect candidate for putting forth truth and grace in a moment like this. Bless the country, even when you call out her sins.

Second, I believe ending slavery is more important than homosexuality or political correctness. Ostensibly Giglio was invited to participate in the Inauguration because of his passionate work in this area. Praise God. May the Lord bless that effort with great zeal, wisdom, and effectiveness. It would have been a wonderful opportunity to stand and proclaim that some of our concerns, while important in their place, are in fact small compared to massive amounts of suffering going on in the world. Sex trafficking, slavery, and a host of other ills deserve out attention. And the representatives of those efforts should, in my opinion, take some hits for the team in order to score the points necessary. Those are issues worth being fired over.

Third, I believe Presidents and our highest leaders need to prove their principles and be held to them. President Obama promised to lead in an inclusive way. That’s a great goal. The difference, however, between a goal and a principle is that goals are goals the moment you write them down; principles must be lived out over time and across situations. That’s true of President Obama’s claims to inclusiveness and true of evangelicals claims to representing Christ in society. Here was a situation requiring the President to hold to his highest principles and include someone with whom he disagreed. And situations like this are also opportunities for evangelicals to bear the reproach of Christ gladly, proving that it’s a joy to be counted worthy to suffer mistreatment for the Name. Of course, there’s still the principle of humility and one could hope the President would humble himself to say he was wrong and re-instate the invitation and Giglio.

Fourth, it seems to me we Christians could always use good examples of how to live faithfully in the public square. Let’s be honest. There are a lot of bad examples abounding. We could use a few more good models. I think Giglio would have been a good model of graciousness and truth. That’s why I wish he would have “forced” the President to fire him rather than withdrawing.

Fifth, I don’t believe the pro-gay activists represent all gay people. I know they don’t. Capitulating to their pressure wrongly implies that they’re representative and that any offense to them is an offense to all homosexuals. As quiet as it’s kept, people with same-sex attractions are as diverse as the rest of us. That diversity includes the ability or inability to genuinely tolerate those of us who believe their lifestyle is wrong. I’ve had the privilege of working for a very upstanding and honest man who was a practicing homosexual. We worked together on public policy–including policies that affect the ability of homosexuals to marry or obtain civil unions. He knew my opposition and, more importantly, considered my reasoning. He disagree, of course. We had a wonderful friendship and working relationship. He didn’t bar me or censor me in any way. He often sought my opinion, and I trust he would say I considered his viewpoint, treated him with respect, and regarded him as something more than his sexual orientation. If President Obama wishes to represent gay and lesbian people, he should also represent the tolerant variety as well. If ever we’re in the unique and honorable position of offering an inaugural prayer, I hope we won’t withdraw for the sake of representing those that disagree with us but welcome us. We shouldn’t forget that such people are a part of the conversation, too.

I have great sympathy for Giglio. So much so that I agonized about whether to even write yet one more opinion piece. I’m sure he’s already moved on and wants the rest of us, too. But I’m writing here for myself more than Giglio. I’m praying that were I in a position of this sort–whether as high profile or more every day–that I would think about both alternatives as fully as possible. Withdrawing is honorable, and so is being “fired” when it’s for all the right reasons.

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30 thoughts on “Why I Wish Giglio Had Not Withdrawn”

  1. Melody says:

    Thank you for this point of view. I, like Obama, am guilty of thinking they are all the same.

  2. Mike epp says:

    Homosexuality is more wicked than slavery.

    Slaves can be paid, or were paid. Today, if you pay employees, then it is not much different, because they are working for you, and you treat them well, and kind and pay them to their benefit. But evil slavery is if you abuse and use and take advantage of people. This is condemned in Scripture, but Homosexuality is much more wicked than slavery. This author is incorrect!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for dropping by and leaving your comment. I appreciate you engaging the discussion.

      But, I have to say it’s very likely no slave would agree with you that homosexuality is more wicked than slavery. It seems ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

      But whether or not one is “more wicked” than the other, my point stands. We need Christians giving a grace-and-truth witness in the places where Christians are most unwanted and at the highest levels of society for the good of both those who don’t want the witness and the society.

      Grace to you,

    2. With all humility and respect Mr. Thabiti, but Homosexuality and slavery are both issues of imago dei, and therefore cosmological issues. To place slavery over the issue of homosexuality is missing the greater picture. Homosexuality is the sacrament of a monisim, eliminating the gender binary, the picture of a creator/creation distinction: Which honors God as author and creator. Heterosexuality is the capstone of the creation, which pictures for us both the otherness of the creator and our communion with him.

      1. James says:

        That’s an interesting point showing that both are issues of image bearers of God. I would love to hear Thabiti’s comments on this. Great article brother Thabiti!

        1. Daryl Little says:

          I would agree with Thabiti on this one, in this way:

          Just like hatred and murder are, on one level, equal. Still, I’d rather you hated my kids, than kill them.
          In the same way, homosexuality and slavery, while equally evil…I’d still rather you did evil with a consenting adult, rather than selling or buying an unconsenting person.

          Both are evil in God’s sight, but one involves an innocent other, which changes that game significantly.

          1. Thabiti says:

            Very well put, Daryl. Thanks for joining the conversation!

  3. Aaron says:

    Thanks Thabiti,

    I would just say that we don’t know what went on behind closed doors here. . and it’s possible that the WH asked Giglio to step down so that it wouldn’t become contentious. Now, the spokesman for the WH made some comments afterwards that made it seem like they weren’t happy with Giglio and didn’t want him anymore. I don’t think Giglio withdrew without any input from the WH, that’s for sure.

    I’m just saying we don’t know what the decision points were in the “make them fire you/withdraw” conundrum. And, I’m sure LG is too classy to ever say what they were.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for your comments, friend. My comments in this post aren’t a criticism of Giglio or a speculation about what went on in private channels. I’m sure there were conversations, and I’m as sure Giglio and the White House are correct in not disclosing them.

      My only point is that sometimes there’s reason or principle to remain in spaces and situations where you’re not wanted. And sometimes those principles will outweigh ease and comfort. I don’t fault Giglio; I’m simply using this situation to reflect on some of the issues that would have made it worth, imo, staying in the game until “forced” to leave.

      I’m sure godly people can take a completely different perspective. It’s not a matter to be divisive or contentious or dogmatic about.

      Grace to you,

  4. Aaron says:

    One more thing. . . I don’t think, even if the WH let Giglio stay in the inauguration, that he would’ve been demonized as an “anti-gay” pastor, or caused a huge protest, etc. . The WH went through this with Rick Warren last time around. It would’ve quickly blown over. I wonder why this time was different, perhaps Warren pushed back a bit and was more persuasive. At any rate, it was a bad situation, . . I like this open letter, I wish it would’ve actually been written:

  5. Melody says:

    Okay men we are not talking about slavery in the form some menial labor with long horrible hours tho I’m sure that is included.

    We are talking about young children being bought and sold and RAPED. Used abused in every possible evil way. Children created in the image of God being used like a disposable sex toy in the most torturous way perverted men can come up with and the sick women that participate and enable them. I could get more graphic but you would probably have to censor it.

    I’m sorry but that reality put up against the philosophical high brow garbage that Joshua posted just makes me want to explode in anger. And then cry over the children that are forgotten in the debate. I’m sorry

    1. Thabiti says:

      Well said, Melody. You don’t need to apologize. Very well said.

    2. Tara says:

      I don’t think many Americans are aware of the evil that is included in the word “slavery.” So much more than we can fathom. A sin is a sin- but let’s keep in mind that when innocents are at stake- we always fight for them first.

    3. James says:

      isn’t that what Josh was saying? That these are image carriers of God and both are issues close to God. I thought the comment was a little rude. We should all weep for the sex trafficking, but the issue of homosexuality is just as heart wrenching.

    4. Cynthia Aldrich says:

      Thanks Melody This has been on my mind and in my prayers all day.

  6. Justin says:

    Maybe I’m just clueless, but are we assuming that if LG wouldn’t have withdrawn, he would have spoken on the topic of homosexuality? I thought he was just there to pray, and possibly speak on the slave topic.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Hi Justin,
      Thanks for joining the conversation. I don’t think you’re clueless at all. I don’t mean to suggest Giglio would have spoken on the topic of homosexuality. But if he continued rather than withdraw it might have been one gracious way to stand by the fine sermon he preached two decades ago while bringing our attention to other important matters via his prayer/blessing. That’s all I’m suggesting.

  7. Enjoyed reading your nuanced report concerning this issue and while you are right that it will quickly die a slow death in the ubiquitous news cycle that we stuck in, it was worth the while hearing you say what you said.

    I must however, disagree with your position that slavery is more repulsive (it is repulsive, just “not more”)than homosexuality, I cannot remember seeing that the slave trader was tagged as abominable and would reap in his body and for all of eternity the just penalty for the rejection of God. They are both worth our gracious and truth filled engagement. As one commentator mentioned they both mar the imago dei.

    That said I do appreciate the time you took to see this issue from another angle and the reminder to us that be maligned for the testimony of Jesus is a rare and precious gift, may we like Paul pray to share in the suffering of Christ so that in some way we can be conformed to His image and share in His inheritance.

    1. Thabiti says:

      Thanks for your comment, friend. Your emphasis on the word “abomination” makes me think that on the Day God comes in judgment and glory and we witness His righteousness we may just marvel at His facility with adjectives. I suspect that He will help us see that we missed the intensity of some of His word choices, appropriately grasped some, and dialed some others up too high. How could it be otherwise given our fallen, imperfect natures. For instance, don’t we tend to say “fallen” (as I just did in the previous sentence) with a kind of generic, run-of-the-mill sentiment rather than with the assured horror God feels at it? Or, when Paul says man stealing is “contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (1 Tim. 1:10-11), do we think that’s less than abominable?

      Perhaps we’re closer to the heart of God if we abhor all sin with an acute awareness of our own wretchedness. Perhaps we’re not able to really address our homosexual family, friends, neighbors and coworkers until we’re broken and contrite. I know we’re not able to approach God until we are (Ps. 51).


  8. Sam says:

    First of all, we need to clarify the fact that simply because the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination and doesn’t use the same word about slavery, DOESN’T mean that homosexuality is more offensive in God’s eyes. Jesus said those who insulted their brother with slur were in danger of hell; he never said the same of rapists. So does that mean Jesus views calling someone “fool” as worse than rape? Of course not.

  9. Joe says:

    Good piece, needed fresh perspective.

  10. Wade Baker says:

    I really appreciated your voice in this controversial subject, especially when you pointed out the real reason LG was asked to speak/pray at the inauguration. I’m not terrible familiar with his work in dealing with slavery, however if he is doing even the smallest bit of work in that area I think that is wonderful and we as Christians should rejoice. Slavery, while not mentioned in scripture as “abominable”, as some commenters have aptly noted, often result in “abominable” action on the part of the slave holders onto their “property”. If one of you want to tell me that the violent rape if 6 year old girls by grown men is not seen by God is abominable because He did not ecpliciy state that those where his particular feelings on the matter, then would you please give me your real name so that I may pray for you? Also, if you would like to express the idea that two grown men having consential sex is objectively “worse” than the systematic murder and torture of patents then the kidnapping and constant rape and brainwashing of young children, then I think you need to take a bit more care in your reading the Gospels. Jesus, he mentions homosexuality rxacy zero times. How about children? Quite a bit. In the parables he speak of loving and feeding children and, of course, tells his disciples to allow the children to come to him. So, please stop harassing Thabiti, it would seem to me that a man who had to face civil injustice just for the color of his skin and that fact that he has children, just might have a lot more concern for the issue of slavery and abuse of children than the more personal sins of those who practice homosexuality. Mr. Anyabwile I hope my remarks were inappropriate or out of line.


    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Wade,

      Thank you for joining the discussion. I appreciate your comments and, like those who disagree with me, you’re welcome here. Keep bringing the passion. May the Lord make us all as faithful as we can possibly be given our limited selves.

      Grace and peace,

      1. Wade Baker says:

        Just to clarify that last sentence, I meant to say that I hoped my remarks were not* inappropriate or out of line. I hope that if that was noticed t was taken as a typo.

        Again, thank your for your humility in addressing this side.


    2. luken Pride says:

      Pedophilia, what many of you seem so aghast at, is part of what legatimizing sexual deviancy as normal will lead to. Thus standing agaisnt homosexuality is part of standing agasint the defiency that leads to the rape and sex abuse that is excused.

      1. David says:

        When you say “lead to”, would you mind clarifying what you mean? Gay oriented people and peodphiles both exist simultaneously on the earth right now (and have throughout history) so is your suggestion that an individual who engages in homosexual behavior is on a “slippery slope” to pedophelia? Or is your statement simply an assessment of the broader cultural implications of the existence of gay people?

        Also, I hope that I don’t just “seem” aghast at pedophelia and child sex trafficking. I AM aghast.

        I appreciate you taking the time to clarify.

        And Thabiti, thank you for the humility and nuance of your take on this. Much needed.

  11. luken Pride says:

    We need to see the effects that homosexuality and, really, the bigger issues it’s a part of, sexual “freedom” have caused as far as damage if we’re going to compare the too. The effects of perverted sexual behaivor on a person are intense and not much lessned because they were desired by the person and not forced on them. Also, if sex slavery is the worst kind of slavery, it’s nescarry to state that the kind of politics that wants to deny their is a moral dimension to sexuality is, though they stand agaisnt sex slavery in practice, really devloping the fountain from which people can justify any sexual practice.
    Giglio’s withdrawing spoke louder than a passive, weak blessing on an evil regency would have ever accomplished. Of course, why he accepted in the first place is beyond me. When praying for leaders, we need to pray God’s will, his revealed will, and this would seem not possible at an innaugaration.
    I just need to ask, for those who say we need to pray Leaders and take that to mean we should even do so pubically, would they ever draw the line???? Would they pray to intiate Stalin’s reign, or Pol Pots?

  12. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    Pastor T: “Bless the country, even when you call out her sins.”

    Some folks think that calling out sins is an act of condemnation, and therefore, that calling out sins dilutes, degrades, waters down, or negates any overall blessing.

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Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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