[Note: Things moved so quickly on this topic that I wrote the first draft of this piece under the title “Should Louie Giglio Be Praying at Obama’s Inauguration?” Literally hours later, he had withdrawn. This piece will now be a discussion of how the withdrawal was handled on both sides and whether he should ever have accepted the invitation in the first place.]
I like Louie Giglio, so I took notice when I first heard he was going to be praying at Obama’s inauguration. It’s been said that Obama likes his work against sex trafficking and knows he has an influential ministry, so he felt like “showcasing” Giglio for the rest of the country to see. In a classic turn of events, some liberals dug up an old sermon of his against homosexuality and vehemently protested his invitation. The protests were so numerous and urgent that the Obama administration was asked to “fix” this faux pas, and Giglio has now withdrawn his initial acceptance of the invite.
My position may not be popular, but I say this has all worked itself out for the best. I saw a few people expressing concern that Giglio accepted the invitation in the first place, and I felt a bit disappointed myself. One could say, “Come on, if you’re a preacher and you get invited to pray at the inauguration, what are you SUPPOSED to do?” I would reply that in certain cases, you’re supposed to say “No.” But perhaps I just have steelier nerves than most.
We’ve had ample time to observe Obama in action, and he’s proved again and again that he’s little more than an aspiring dictator whose hands are swift to shed innocent blood. His administration is hateful in the eyes of God. Should a Christian be seen having anything positive to do with it? I don’t think so. I wouldn’t even shake his hand if I got a medal from the man. Giglio would have been doing much more—praying a benediction over his entire presidency. It’s all very well to say, “Well, he could just pray that Obama would know what is right and make good decisions, and there’s nothing wrong with that even though Obama hasn’t so far.” But if we’re all (or mostly) agreed that in the words of Miracle Max, “it would take a miracle” for Obama to do a 180, then what’s the use of blessing the President’s inauguration in such a public fashion?
The problem is that Giglio doesn’t view Obama like another Hitler. Oh, he probably voted against him, but he’s not ready to say that Obama is evil. Psychologically, he hasn’t really taken that step. For that reason, he considered it an honor to get invited at all. And that’s a problem.
Much has been made of the ambiguity regarding who exactly initiated the change of plans. Was Giglio pressured by “the Committee?” Did he decide to withdraw all on his own? And if in fact he was kicked out, or pressured out, isn’t that big news for religious liberty in America? Personally, I don’t think these details really matter. So what if he was pressured out? “Wow, you got invited to speak at Obama’s inauguration, and then you weren’t invited anymore? Well, that’s just terrible… not.” In other words, whoop-de-doo. What IS of concern to me is how Giglio has responded to the matter. On his website, he reproduced his withdrawal letter to the White House. Let’s look at an excerpt. I’ve bolded items of note and added comments:
I am honored to be invited by the President to give the benediction at the upcoming inaugural on January 21. Though the President and I do not agree on every issue [There’s that “agree/disagree” stuff again], we have fashioned a friendship [a what?] around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms [Actually, the Obama administration has refused to cooperate with certain Christian organizations in the past on this very issue, so I’m not sure the President’s priorities are as neatly lined up with the Reverend’s as he thinks. But let’s waive that for the nonce.]
Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.
Now, I have seen quotes from the message that caused such controversy, and they were really good. So my question to the Reverend Giglio is, what happened in the last 15 years? The issue hasn’t disappeared. It’s become more relevant than ever. But somehow, speaking about it is no longer a priority for him. And frankly, it’s a bit alarming for him to set speaking on this issue in some sense AT ODDS with calling people to “ultimate significance” in Jesus Christ. But let’s let him speak for himself in this elaboration on his letter:
The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, 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 a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else. I’m confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterized as being opposed to people—any people. Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus.
In all things, the most helpful thing I can do is to invite each of us to wrestle with scripture and its implications for our lives. God’s words trump all opinions, including mine, and in the end, I believe God’s words lead to life.
Okay, so he’s kinda sorta half-implying that he still thinks homosexuality is a sin, and God’s word on that matter trumps our opinions. But he’s being deliberately coy about it. What he wants first and foremost to communicate is NOT the desperate urgency of calling out this sin and condemning its impact on society and souls. It is instead that he is “not opposed to any people.” As if that’s going to convince anybody left of center that he’s not a bigot.
Reverend Giglio, save your breath and use it to speak the truth instead of trying to get people to like you who will never, ever, ever like you. You used to understand that. In fact, in your old sermon you express a clear willingness to be called “a bigot” for speaking “the truth.” But perhaps, in the words of Gandalf, you have changed, and not entirely for the better.
Don’t duck. Don’t dodge. Don’t say, “Well, THEY’RE over there making a big deal about this, but I’m over here not talking about it.” It’s too late to change the subject. Now re-locate your spine and wade back into the conversation.