Pastor Louie Giglio, of Passion City Church and the Passion movement (conferences, concerts, anti-slavery activism, etc) was invited to give the Benediction at President Obama’s upcoming second inaugural. And then he backed out, under pressure, after a message he gave surfaced from almost 20 years ago that is anti-gay.
In Defense of Louie Giglio
Giglio is a successful, conservative evangelical pastor and leader. While his name may be new to the mainstream press and most Americans, he has been an influence within evangelical Christianity for well over a decade. I remember meeting him and hearing him speak in a small seminar at a conference in Boston over a decade ago.
Today, Giglio leads one of the most dynamic and fast-growing churches in America, continues to lead the Passion student movement, and is perhaps the leading voice (apart from these folks) against modern day slavery and sex-trafficking as there is. I have very good friends who attend the church and I can tell you that Giglio is the real deal — a serious Jesus-follower with vision, passion, humbleness and genuine love for people.
He is also 100% wrong theologically (as well as sociologically and psychologically) regarding his position on gays.
That said, I think it is wrong to pressure him out of or revoke the invitation to pray at the inauguration.
Here are my thoughts:
1. Let’s be clear: the theology and psychology expressed in his message (almost 20 years ago) is wrong and dangerous. And while it was a long time ago, he has not recanted, qualified or explained those statements and there is no indication that his position has changed. In fact, his view is (shockingly) pretty consistent with the position of traditionalists well beyond evangelicals, to include the Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, the Southern Baptist Convention, most evangelicals, fundamentalists, etc. It is based on sloppy exegesis, bad theology and hand-me-down cultural bias. Not only is his position wrong, it is also dangerous and contributes a culture that encourages LGBT people within the church to stay hidden in unhealthy ways, contributes to the unhealthy culture for LGBT teens that has produced such high levels of suicide among that population, and creates unnecessary barriers between LGBT folks and Jesus. To summarize, his position is wrong, wrong-headed and dangerous.
2. That said, I think we need to respect that it is okay for people to be wrong. I am deeply uncomfortable when we start casting out, demonizing and silencing those who we disagree with. The fact that Giglio is wrong on homosexuality does not mean he is an evil guy or discount the tons of good he does. It is not as if he was asked to become an advisor to Obama on policy — but just to pray. If I only prayed with people that I agreed with 100%, I would only pray alone. I believe in a Big Tent Christianity, and that means allowing bad theology and those who are wrong to still be part of the community.
3. For conservative Christians, you reap what you sow. The tone of the debate was set long ago by conservative Christians. No one is quicker to judge, condemn or boycott than the conservative Christians. Remember the boycotts against Disney because Disney allowed a Pride Parade at their park? Remember the protests against TeleTubbies? And you don’t need great memory… it still happens… (Hurricane) Sandy and Sandy (Hook) were both blamed on gays by conservative Christians — and influential people like Giglio (and Hybels, Warren, Stanley, Hunter, Keller, etc) were silent. While they didn’t make the statements, they should have led the charge to publicly condemn them. The first shots on this issue were fired from the right… and that is worth remembering.
4. The way forward cannot be the same as how we got here. As Justin Lee has pointed out in his book, the Gays-vs-Christians Debate is destroying the proclamation and witness of the Gospel. We learn to have civil dialogue about these issues and to love each in the face of disagreement, distrust and hurt.
One of the important lessons from the Gospel is that we must approach life with a posture of grace — not judgement. We must look for ways to include more and more, not exclude people from the Great Banquet. And one of the lessons of history, is that we are all a mixed bag. President Lincoln was both a catalytic leader for justice and guilty of racism. His racism does not cancel out the good he did; nor does the good he did clear him of his responsibility for his racism. But we must take the good with the bad with people.
Louie Giglio is both a great catalytic leader for justice, passion and compassion in the world — and anti-gay in a way that I believe makes Jesus weep. We are all a mixed though — and grace is to accept each other as we are, not as we should be — because we will never be as we should be.
The truth is that Giglio is a great leader. He is also wrong theologically on this issue — and he is on the wrong side of history with this issue.
Should we ignore it?
No. We should call him out on it, invite him into dialogue on the issue, and pray that he changes.
But we should not silence his voice or build bigger walls between the church and the LGBT community.
Under the status quo, we all lose.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? AM I BEING TOO EASY ON GIGLIO? WHAT AM I MISSING?