Yesterday the internet exploded with Louie Giglio’s ‘change of plans‘ as he respectfully withdrew his acceptance to lead the benediction at the President’s Inauguration on January 21.
ThinkProgress and others demanded the withdrawal in days past, as a sermon surfaced from the 1990’s in which Giglio advocated for dangerous ‘reparative therapy’ for gay and lesbian people and impelled Christians to ‘firmly respond to the aggressive agenda’ to prevent the ‘homosexual lifestyle’ from becoming accepted in society.
(For those who want a detailed breakdown of the past 72 hours of controversy, click here.)
Addie Whisenant of the Presidential Inaugural Committee responded to Giglio’s bowing out in a statement, saying:
‘We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural… As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.’
Adding a helpful voice to the conversation, Andrew Marin rightly pointed out yesterday that rather than circling the wagons to protect our point of view, or ensuring that one must first be ‘on our side’ in order to create peaceful and productive dialogue,
‘We instead need to start focusing our full political and religious efforts on building bridges over building armies. This doesn’t mean that at the end of the day we all need to agree. This also doesn’t mean that folks do not have a strong conviction by what compels their work, actions, beliefs and faith practices. It does mean that we must be bold individuals of reconciliation, who live in the tension, and refuse to allow hate, disagreements or past experiences cause irrevocable division in any community. If such things do cause irrevocable divisions, that is squarely on us.’
Yet ‘irrevocable divisions’ seem to be precisely what is taking place.
Blogger/researcher Ed Stetzer highlighted these divisions with a pie chart to emphasize the nearly 50/50 split in our country on the closed-ended, yes or no question ‘Do you believe homosexuality is a sin?‘ and included more research later in the day saying the same thing.
SBC heavy-hitter Al Mohler quickly posted an article entitled – The Giglio Imbroglio :: The Public Inauguration of a New Moral McCarthyism.
<it means :: an extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation: As in, ‘the Watergate imbroglio.’ I looked it up.>
There were a few other clever names floating around the inter webs ::Giglio gate, L’Affaire Giglio, or Deuce Bigalow, Male Giglio to name a few.
But I digress.
As one might expect, Mohler likened the ‘imbroglio’ as he called it (multiple times, in fact) to the infamous McCarthy hearings, in which witnesses were asked if they were or had ever been a member of the Communist Party, concluding ‘There is nowhere to hide.’
Declaring evolution on homosexuality is ‘precisely what biblical Christians cannot do,’ Mohler (and countless others) drove their wedges deeper, drawing an ever-increasingly-fierce line in the sand.
One blogger even called taking this stand against the normalization of gay relationships ‘the quintessential Christian Gospel.’
Words like ‘marginalized’ and ‘neandrathalized’ and ‘persecuted’ were peppered throughout social media.
Again, I ask – are we insane?
As Andrew said yesterday,
‘there is a need for our leadership in both politics and religion to tirelessly work ‘to bring peace in spaces that cause so much division – as unfortunately now a precedent has been set to remove people amongst pressure from those who don’t agree.’
But for the Evangelical community to cry ‘foul!’ seems at best hypocritical.
RLC friend Jimmy Spencer, Jr. suggested via Facebook, ‘Can Evangelicals imagine they’re simply reaping what they’ve sown w/ #Giglio events? Shoe’s just on the other foot now.’
The shoe is on the other foot, indeed. As our culture changes to a post-modern, pluralistic and even post-evangelical divided United States of America, the accepted medium of engagement between opposing worldviews is to essentially excommunicate those with whom we disagree.
It seems a bit odd that both sides of this conversation are fighting for their own inclusion in the marketplace, while simultaneously fighting against the acceptance of the Other.
If our job as Christ followers is to be ambassadors of reconciliation then we must be willing to live in the tension of building bridges rather than armies; of entering peaceful and productive dialogue with those with whom we disagree rather than retreating to foxholes filled with the faithful to our own preferred perspective.
Particularly in a conversation most often characterized by polarizing, back-and-forth, win-lose || us-them || right-wrong || in-out rhetoric, we must commit to setting aside our secondary convictions about issues and get about the work of helping people see God’s unconditional love.
While the easier path would be to try to persuade people to convert to a particular worldview or way of thinking about the gay community, I am convinced the better way – the narrow path – the way of Jesus – is to treat all people with dignity and respect – no matter their theological position.
We can’t demand someone change what they believe – but we should expect change in how we behave toward one another.
Perhaps that begins with a posture of humility, and the possibility that God may be up to something greater than our firm positions on sexuality.
Perhaps this ‘imbroglio’ can serve as a catalyst to push each of us toward a better way of engaging – to building bridges rather than armies, to finding respectful language and a true desire for tolerance (toward more views than just our own) and a commitment to create safe and sacred spaces which passionately promote peaceful and productive dialogue rather than a pontification of our preferred perspectives.
What do you think?
Michael Kimpan is the author of the WayWard follower blog, a site designed to inspire thoughtful conversation and movement among followers of Jesus Christ. Michael works with The Marin Foundation in Chicago, a non-profit organization which works to build bridges between the LGBT community and the Church.