On Self-Censoring Christians
I have been only vaguely aware of an Atlanta minister by the name of Louie Giglio. What brought him to my attention today was an announcement he made concerning his voluntarywithdrawal from participation in President Obama’s upcoming inauguration on January 21. He had been invited to offer a benediction—an invitation he at first accepted, but has since declined. And why did he decline? Because an organization called ThinkProgress uncovered a veritable scandal. It seems that Giglio, the pastor of Passion City Church, committed a heinous offense. What grave misdeed did he commit, you ask, to move him to offer this voluntary penance? Nearly twenty years ago he preached a sermon in which he said—oh, the horror of it!—that homosexual acts are sinful. ThinkProgress posted excerpts of the sermon, which they characterized as “disturbing” and “rabidly anti LGBT”. They were nothing of the sort, of course. The excerpts clearly show Giglio’s concern for people ensnared by this particular sin and call the faithful to “lovingly but firmly respond to the aggressive agenda of not all, but of many in the homosexual community.” His comments were really pretty tame. One hardly gets the impression of a preacher pounding the pulpit and frothing at the mouth. But that’s how ThinkProgress represents the situation. But then again, groups like ThinkProgress are not known to give a fair representation of Christians.
My concern, however, is not so much with ThinkProgress, as it is with Giglio. He should not have withdrawn his acceptance of the invitation to pray at the president’s inauguration. Doing so gives the impression that he agrees with the assessment that it was wrong of him to preach against homosexuality and that someone who upholds the biblical standard of sexual morality is not fit to participate in the public square. He said that he was afraid the controversy surrounding his participation would detract from “the core message and goals” of his ministry. He further stated that he did not wish to be “in a fight on an issue not of our choosing.” This is not an issue that I particularly relish either, but we must fight wherever the enemy is attacking. Martin Luther is reported to have said,
If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.
I wish Giglio had something of the spirit of Luther in him. Luther was anything but tame. Of course, if Giglio should write or preach like Luther, it’s doubtful that he would have been invited to pray at Obama’s inauguration in the first place.
Giglio’s withdrawal smacks of moral cowardice. If the invitation was to be terminated, he should have waited for the White House to terminate it. Then it would have been seen just how radical the president is, and just how intolerant he is of orthodox Christianity. When the world is doing everything in its power to silence and censor Christian speech, the last thing we need is a self-censoring pastor.