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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Messing up the Message

Social networking has hit our culture in remarkable and pervasive ways. Millions of people across the globe are active members of one site or another. From Facebook to Twitter people are using the sites for a huge and varied number of applications. This blog post, when I publish it, will be posted immediately to my facebook and twitter feeds allowing people to read my entire blog at the click of a button. No doubt social networking has done a number of interesting things to society. My motivation for this entry however is how Christians aren’t quite getting it.

For evangelical Christians such as myself it has always been pretty hip to show how hardcore you are for Jesus. Jesus freaks if you will. Whatever this may have meant in the past, for most Christians today this entails how loudly you can blare online how down you are with Jesus. We advertise how much we have been praying, or how great the latest Christian conference we have been to was. We post Bible verses by themselves. We post “Halleujah, Jesus reigns!!!!!!!!” We state how great our prayer and devotion time this morning was. None of these posts are bad in themselves. But lacking relational context with the people viewing them they only serve to widen the divide between people who know Jesus and those who don’t. Put more simply, regardless of their intention, posts like this do little more than reaffirm an “us vs. them” mentality that pushes non-Christians away from faith in Jesus, not towards. We tell ourselves (and are taught growing up) that its totally cool if people think you are weird and crazy and perhaps even bad because you are living for Jesus, not for people.  The problem with all this is not the acts themselves but the way people perceive them.

I’m a Christian. I love God and Jesus and going to Church. I really do think knowing Jesus is the best way to live. However I do not think expressing this with exclamation points in phrase form will result in ANYONE from America coming to these realizations. However that is what Christians do EVERYDAY!

50 years ago a well-placed Bible verse might really convict the random passer-by of a church. Today in a post-Christian, post-modern culture most people, especially young ones, will see something related to God online and simply say, “I’m glad I’m not one of the crazies.”  This has also been my experience. Most of my young adult life I have spent trying to figure how that yes “I’m crazy for Jesus but I’m not crazy.” It is HARD. And most people will stereotype you regardless, unless of course you get to know them well. Most Christians know that to effectively evangelize you generally need to build a relationship with a person. But how often do we actually practice it in America?

Christianity and church is not a social club. The point of going to church is not to thank God that you’re not a sinner like the Pharisees. It is to be overwhelmingly grateful that you are saved by the God of the universe and that you have the privilege and purpose to tell others about Jesus when you have the opportunity. Out of context Facebook posts declaring how much you love tithing isn’t going to cut it. We need to not just be radical in the fervency of our Facebook postings but in living them out with love toward and for his creation and humanity. We need to invest in relationships so that when people do find out we are Christians they are not put off but that they desire to know more.

I freely admit I have generalized a bit in this post. I welcome thoughts and comments covering any blind spots I may have missed. But my overall point is to start a conversation we need to be having about how we relate to the rest of our culture as opposed to merely demonizing it. This isn’t about pandering to sin but about effectively portraying Christ in our world for HIS glory, not our own.