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.