Louie Giglio in the news.

I did not imagine that the day after I wrote an entry about Christians, family values and LGBT people that something like this Louie Giglio news event would occur but here we are. This news story is yet another example of what Christians and evangelicals (my faith) will have to deal with in coming months and years and our response is clearly vital not just for the practice of our faith but also our relationship with the greater culture as a whole.

Some background for folks who have not been following: Giglio is a well-known pastor from Georgia. His main focus has been Passion conferences and a movement to end sex trafficking. This anti-slavery work garnered an invitation from the Obama Inaugural committee to offer a prayer at the ceremony. A couple days ago a website publicized a sermon by Giglio from the 1990s that preached negatively about homosexuals. After much outcry, Giglio released a statement respectfully declining the invitation to speak.

Full disclosure: I have watched a few sermon series by Giglio and went to one of his conferences when I lived in South Africa in 2008. I have not kept up with his Passion or anti-slavery movement but by most accounts I find him to be an engaging speaker and a great and thoughtful man of God.

Unsurprisingly the battle-lines have been drawn after this event. Somewhat unexpectedly though they are calling each other out about the same thing: tolerance and inclusiveness. LGBT advocates denounced Giglio as someone who is “anti-gay” and unworthy of the inaugural stage. Evangelicals accused LGBT advocates for promoting tolerance for everyone except them and other conservative religious followers. The question has been raised, is there any space in the public square for the conservative evangelical pastor or leader? Giglio himself expressed the issue concisely in his statement backing out of the invitation saying, “…individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.”

As an evangelical christian these are tough issues to think about and navigate. I foresee these issues continuing to come up in the days and years ahead. Here are just a few thoughts on things I think both sides could be thinking about in the days ahead.

Evangelicals need to realize that the standard “Christian” response to homosexuality is largely untenable to large segments of our present society. Most LGBT people have no desire to change, do not believe it is possible and are gravely insulted when Christians tell them that they can. This does not make them “anti-christian” as much as it makes them “pro-themselves.” In a nation that values “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” Christians need to accept that some will find all those things outside of the “evangelical” model. In addition, they need to accept that while they believe they are speaking “truth in love” this truth can be and has been incredibly hurtful, unhelpful, and destructive to people trying to not just live their lives but also find Jesus. Evangelicals also need to accept that the “Biblical” model of sexuality is not their own exclusive domain. There are many churches now that openly accept and affirm LGBT people and their relationships. We can debate and argue about who is right but are we willing to condemn all these other churches even as they preach Jesus as well? “…for whoever is not against us is for us.”

 

On the part of LGBT advocates I am sure it is wildly frustrating and even infuriating to hear over and over again how destructive their lives are from people who do not even know them. Realize that most have no idea how hurtful their words are and are often genuinely trying to simply follow their faith. I have no doubt in my mind that Giglio is not a bigot. He is however, trapped by his set of circumstances. If he were to disavow that sermon from the 90s he would likely have to give up his entire life’s work up to this point. He would lose his pastoral job and with it the leadership of his Passion conferences and leadership of his anti-slavery movement. Please understand I am not comparing his troubles to the myriad injustices LGBT people face simply existing in the world today but simply noting this is a tough issue that will take time. I personally feel it was unhelpful and unwise for Giglio to refer to LGBT people’s desire for acceptance as an “agenda” yet again yesterday. But I also think that labeling him a “bigot” does little to respect the great good he has done in his career or move the conversation forward.

I guess what I am calling for is a dose of humility from both sides. The more entrenched we become the less likely we will be able to meet each other going forward as citizens and Christians.

 

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5 thoughts on “Louie Giglio in the news.

  1. “But I also think that labeling him a “bigot” does little to respect the great good he has done in his career or move the conversation forward.”

    Well, let’s go with the hypothetical that he is a bigot. I don’t know if he is or isn’t, but it’s possible. If he is, he still might have done great good in his career. But that great good does not erase the fact (hypothetical, in this case) that he’s a bigot.

    Also, no one forced him to turn down his opportunity. He chose to do so rather than deal with criticism, or ignore it.

    • Your point and comment is well-taken, thanks! To reference your last thought it is something I think I addressed in my entry but perhaps not as fully as I could have. My entry was getting long and being concise wins in blogging.
      My point is he realized he had few other options. If he apologizes and rejects his sermon, he loses everything he currently does, job, ministry, the works. It can be well-argued that perhaps he SHOULD do exactly that but the fact that he did not simply reflects his desire to continue the status quo. If he gives the prayer and ignores the protests he probably guessed people would be talking about his old sermon instead of Jesus.
      I recognize this is more a problem of evangelicals own making rather than others but it has to be understood that most of these pastors and leaders have much to lose by speaking up about this and challenging church orthodoxy.
      He may in fact be a bigot, you are right but simply calling him that without considering his wider situation seems unhelpful to me.

  2. Biblical compromise in the interests of ‘peace’ or ‘unity’ is the surest pathway to the ditch. Jesus said ” Let the blind lead the blind and both shall fall into a ditch.” Speaking the truth in love does not mean people will appreciate the truth, but we speak truth ( Your word is truth, Jesus said) because we do love men and womens souls.If we fail to warn sinners what their continued rebellion will everlastingly cost them, perhaps we might need to examine ourselves and see if we be in faith.

    • Hi Karen,
      Thanks for your comment. Instead of, “Biblical compromise in the interests of ‘peace’ or ‘unity…” how about Biblical truth in the interest of justice and reconciliation? Telling people the good news, including the reality of sin is obviously important. If we do it and people reject it that is ultimately on God but is it not worthwhile to consider our strategies in doing so?

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