My Take: Christians ought to shrug off inaugural pastor rejection
Rev. Louie Giglio withdrew from the inauguration last week.
January 12th, 2013
10:42 AM ET

My Take: Christians ought to shrug off inaugural pastor rejection

Editor’s Note: Matthew Lee Anderson is the Lead Writer at Mere Orthodoxy and the author of Earthen Vessels:  Why our Bodies Matter to our FaithHe is studying for an M.Phil. at Oxford University.

By Matthew Lee Anderson, Special to CNN

(CNN) – The news that Louie Giglio is no longer going to give the benediction at President Obama’s inauguration sent shock waves around the conservative Christian world.

Conservative Christians are right to be concerned about what these events mean for their welcome in the public square. But as Christians we shouldn’t be surprised nor even overly upset. Given the history of our founder, such marginalization is what we can expect.

Giglio is a pastor and runs the Passion Conferences, where some 60,000 college students gather to hear teaching and participate in activist causes.  Giglio has been one of the leading voices in the surge of evangelical opposition to human trafficking, which was originally why Obama picked him.

Over a decade ago, Giglio gave a sermon that prompted gay and lesbian advocates to denounce him as “anti-gay.”  Controversy ensued, a petition was started to replace him, and Thursday he announced he was no longer going to attend so as to not be a distraction.

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Giglio’s sermon on homosexuality was in an entirely different league than Charles Worley’s, who momentarily became famous last year for ludicrously suggesting that gays and lesbians should be fenced off.

Indeed, Giglio’s defenders have been quick to point out that his position on the question comfortably fits the main currents of what Christianity has always taught about homosexuality, and does so with a gracious, cordial tone.

Which is why the news that he was no longer speaking was so stunning to many conservative Christians.

Russell Moore, a leading Southern Baptist voice, suggested that the decision represented the establishment of a new “state church,” one that is hostile to traditional Christian teachings about sexuality. Albert Mohler denounced the new “moral McCarthyism,” suggesting that there is nowhere for conservatives to hide given the social pressure to conform to the new sexual orthodoxy.

They are right to be concerned.

Inaugurations are rare moments of unity in the American political order.  They express something about who we are and what kind of people we want to be, together.

That doesn’t mean that every demographic needs to be on stage. But pushing a traditional Christian position outside the boundaries of acceptability inevitably makes those who hold it more concerned that their freedom to speak will be curtailed in other ways.

In such moments, conservative Christians have been ready and quick to demonstrate their ample supply of passion for the truth.

The last imbroglio about homosexuality in our country was the Chick-Fil-A affair, which resulted in long lines of socially conservative people cheerfully waiting to eat their chicken sandwiches.  This time, the response has already been more strictly rhetorical, but just as swift and as strongly worded.  Russell Moore’s website crashed because of the massive amount of traffic, he wrote.

It is somewhat ironic that Giglio, the founder of Passion, stepped so quietly from the stage given the cacophony all around him.  His statement was gracious without changing his stance.  It did not denounce the White House or those seeking to dismiss him.

In fact, this sort of political dispassion is precisely what we could all use a lot more of, and conservative Christians have better reasons than most to lead the way.

In a political environment where passions are at their highest, every word and action takes on a heightened significance, which makes our communications with each other much more fragile.  Every aspect of our public figures’ lives is scrutinized with a moral rigor that we rarely apply to ourselves.

Preachers stand at a unique disadvantage in this regard: Sermons have been recorded and broadcast from the earliest moment possible. But if any of us were recorded with that regularity on the issue some 20 or 30 years ago, I suspect infelicities would be easy to find.  Hostilities toward gays and lesbians weren’t limited to the devoutly religious in American history, after all.  Among imperfect people, those intent not on exchanging reasons for their positions, but delegitimizing their opponents, will always have material to work with.

But when one of their leaders is pushed aside again, religious conservatives might consider instead meeting our rejection with something nearer indifference, rather than angry denunciation.

In the Bible, St. Paul suggests that as Christians “our citizenship is in heaven.”  While we can and should be loyal Americans, our concern for justice must primarily be a concern for justice for othersOur desire for our own justice is often deferred until heaven.

When we don’t receive justice ourselves, that is our opportunity to model the sort of political engagement Jesus enacted at his trial and on the cross.  The Gospel of Matthew suggests that when asked to defend himself, he said nothing (27:11-14).  His next words would be a cry of forgiveness, a cry that is as powerful as any he could utter.

Conservative Christians should not confuse my suggestion of a political dispassion with inactivity or a lack of involvement, with accepting “defeat” in the culture wars.  I am saying nothing of the kind.

Let Christians give their sermons, and let them be recorded and scrutinized.  Let us proclaim the Christian teaching about sin and salvation with respect to sexuality.

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But when our positions are not recognized publicly or welcomed at the inauguration, let us also remember that we were lucky to have ever had the opportunity to be present in such moments at all.  Christians have often been on the margins of societies rather than at the center.

By taking this approach, conservative Christians can model for our American political order precisely the sort of patient longsuffering that is required for justice to take root not merely in our legal code, but in our social structures.  And we can hold out the promise of reasonable discourse and communication with those who do not see the world as we do.  Which if this grand American experiment of religious freedom is to endure, we all need a lot more of.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Matthew Lee Anderson.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Barack Obama • Belief • Christianity • Church and state • Homosexuality • Politics

soundoff (335 Responses)
  1. Science

    Free speech helps educate the masses................POLITICIANS too !

    Where do morals come from?

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    For what...................... ? Make sure to read what the pope said !

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    By Kelly Murray, CNN


    Learning is fun with facts.......................... and facts work when teaching children.

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    By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor The concept of heaven or any kind of afterlife is a "fairy story," famed British scientist Stephen Hawking said in a newspaper interview this week. "I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when...


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    Make sure to read comments

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    Einstein letter, set for auction, shows scientist challenging idea of God, being 'chosen'

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    “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends,” Einstein wrote in German in a 1954 letter that will be auctioned on eBay later this month. "No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.”


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    February 1, 2013 at 10:39 am |
  3. Markus H

    Louie commented on the whole thing himself: http://www.passioncitychurch.com/blog/?p=1436

    There's no big agenda here. I think it's very understandable and decent that he withdrew in such a way.

    January 25, 2013 at 4:37 am |
  4. Douglas

    The best thing going is that the Holy Books of Othodox Christianity, Islam and Judaism are all firewalled against the
    sin of gay coitus and gay "marriage".

    Each Holy Book condemns these sinful practices and each provides numerous examples of why they are wrong and the penalties that will be paid by practioners of these wicked acts.

    Take heart, Orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims your faith is firewalled against the sin of gay coitus.

    January 15, 2013 at 9:37 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      January 15, 2013 at 9:43 pm |
    • mama k

      I'm really starting to think the best thing going for gay marriage are people like you and the pervert alert. You have no idea how crazy you sound in the midst of more moderate-thinking Christians and non-Christians. And if you live in the U.S., your copy of Gullible's Travels doesn't mean shit when it comes to civil law.

      January 15, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  5. lol??

    Psycho Sodomo.

    January 15, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  6. Lee

    Jeez, do any of you commentors and even the author of this article, know the definition of fear Mongering? Do you know what it is to worship a 2,000 middle eastern sky god based on a book everyone believes/quotes, without really knowing where it came from? Aren't most Americans white? The decendents of western europeans, not middle eastern jews from one of the poorest more religiously extreme parts of the world?
    I'm glad you idiots have all the answers and have all known EVERYTHING for 2,000 years because of an old book that says a spirit will give you eternal life if you worship it.

    January 15, 2013 at 12:16 pm |
  7. What is it?

    a.n al s.e x – intercourse via the an.us, committed by a man with a man or woman
    a.n al intercourse, bugg.ery, s0d0m.y
    s.e xual perversion, perversion – an aberrant s.e xual practice;
    Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.

    January 15, 2013 at 2:52 am |
    • It's . . . .

      It's what Douglas does in secret!

      January 15, 2013 at 3:00 am |
  8. Well the POTUS is just being smart

    Imagine a president that didn't have some religious clown praying at his inauguration? For the next 4 years any time anything went even slightly wrong anywhere, the entire christian world (all 2 billion of them)would stand up and scream "This is all the POTUS's fault. God is punishing us because he was not guest of honor at the party". Who needs that?

    January 14, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • lol??

      The Big O IS a wise guy from da city, Chitown.

      January 14, 2013 at 11:05 pm |

      But if somthing goes wrong after the prayer was said then all the atheists try to blame God.
      The athiests would all say what loving God would do this?
      NO... don't bother to give God credit for anything good that happened.
      Just the bad.
      The blasphemy i see on this blog makes me sick!

      January 28, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
  9. Douglas

    Thank you Rev. Giglio for speaking truth to the fornicators, sinners, and sodomites.

    It creates a real conflict when the yes men invite a religious man...an abolitionist of the highest order... to the inauguration and then find out he would not approve of the filth that goes on in Man's Country, in Chicago... the old playground of the man of the hour.

    Paul was spot on in Romans when he warned the faithful to avoid the wickedness and sin of the fornicators and sodomites.

    January 14, 2013 at 9:25 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Any more inside information on the "gay underground" today Doug?

      January 14, 2013 at 10:05 pm |
    • Douglas


      Yes...watch out for the bug chasers.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:19 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Ok Doug, I'll bite

      What is a "bug chaser"?

      January 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Douglas

      Barebacking is not the only phenomenon in the AIDS epidemic attracting media attention or gaining notoriety among the public health workforce. Bug chasers comprise another alarming new trend. Bug chasers have been defined as HIV negative individuals who want to become HIV positive through an anticipated and desired conversion carried out by a ‘gift giver,' an HIV positive individual purportedly willing to infect other individuals.

      Based on the belief that HIV/AIDS has become a chronic manageable disease, bug chasers and gift givers are creating a type of brotherhood in which the HIV virus represents life rather than death and unprotected s@x is the expression of true love. With the AIDS epidemic spreading into many countries worldwide the need for an HIV vaccine has never been higher. It is yet to be known whether phenomena like barebacking and bug chasing will acquire more significant proportions, compromising future vaccination efforts in some countries. It has already been predicted that an HIV vaccine will likely provide only partial efficacy, which could leave many vaccinated individuals with a false sense of protection. This will undoubtedly increase the risk of HIV transmission.

      Behaviors such as barebacking and bug chasing indicate how some people react under the erroneous assumption that AIDS is a disease under control. But that's not all. This kind of behavior also brings just another wrinkle to the developing debate on the risks, consequences and value of an only partially effective HIV vaccine.

      Thank you...Rev. Giglio.. for expressing Biblical common sense in the face of madness by the fornicators!

      January 14, 2013 at 10:26 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The very fact that you've researched this "topic," Doogie, says volumes about the closet you're in.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Jen

      Wow....just wow. Doug sure knows a lot about being gay. I wonder why that could be......

      January 14, 2013 at 10:30 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Never mind Doug,

      I looked it up....I think you might be gay.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I learn something new every time he posts. How is it that someone so grossed out by gays as Blob and Doogie spend every waking hour posting about them?

      January 14, 2013 at 10:32 pm |
    • Douglas


      We are trying to get this filth out of the church and back in the closet where it belongs.

      We release this information to let the public know what is really going on within the "gay" world.

      It is a walk on the wild side...tamed only by celibacy!

      January 14, 2013 at 10:33 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You fraud. You're gay as a day in May, Doogie.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:34 pm |
    • Douglas


      You spend a lot of time defending sodomy...I think you are the real gay here.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:36 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "You spend a lot of time defending sodomy...I think you are the real gay here."
      No need to be gay to stand up against bigots. Having a sense of decency is enough.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nah, Doogie. I didn't even know what the term "bug chaser" meant. If you're that interested in the subject, it suggests that you're doing some research on the very personal level.

      Nice try, though.

      By the way, you do know that heteros3xual couples engage in the very same activities that gays do, don't you? Oh, wait. You've never had a straight relationship, so you don't.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • Douglas


      There is nothing "decent" about playing around in the sewer pipe of the human body.

      There is nothing to defend about psychological disorder.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      It's not good when you hate yourself, Doogie. You really need some help with your self-image.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:51 pm |
    • LinCA


      You said, "There is nothing "decent" about playing around in the sewer pipe of the human body."
      Whether you like it or not, a lot of people seem to have a different opinion. Anal sex is very common among heterosexual couples.

      Regardless of what you think of it, you have no business trying to tell others what they can, or can't do with a consenting adult partner. Your infantile beliefs hold no sway over anyone who has the capacity for rational thought. The decent think is to let others remain free to determine who and how they love, and make love.

      You are free to deny yourself the pleasure of human sexual companionship, but you have no right to deny it to anyone else. You are free to remain blissfully ignorant and remain celibate because of your ancient fairy tale, but it sure sounds you could use a good fuck.

      You said, "There is nothing to defend about psychological disorder."
      That's why you won't catch me defending religion.

      January 14, 2013 at 10:54 pm |
    • Sanitary?

      A.n al s.e x can damage the a.n al tissue. Even when pe0ple use l0ts 0f lubricati0n during a.n al s.e x, there can be tearing 0f the tissue inside the an.us, which is n0t as well pr0tected as the skin 0utside the an.us. 0ur external tissue is "ker0tinized," meaning that it has layers 0f dead cells that create a thickened pr0tective barrier. The tissue inside the an.us d0es n0t have this feature. With0ut plenty 0f lubricati0n, a.n al tissue can tear quite easily, creating 0penings where bacteria and viruses can enter and cause disease pr0blems, such as HIV/AIDs transmissi0n. Repeated excess damage t0 a.n al tissue is als0 th0ught t0 increase the risk 0f a.n al cancer.

      F0r this reas0n, a.n al s.e x is the riskiest f0rm 0f s.e xual activity when it c0mes t0 the transmissi0n 0f HIV / AIDS. Tiny tears in the a.n al tissue are like giant superhighways f0r the HIV virus, all0wing them t0 get inside the b0dy and enter the bl00d system. a.n al tears pr0vide an 0pening f0r all the 0ther STDs as well. Included in STDs f0r this discussi0n w0uld be Hepati,tis. This applies b0th f0r the 0ne receiving and giving a.n al s.e x; the tears in the a.n al tissue all0w viruses 0ut, n0t just in.

      Als0, It may be p0ssible f0r repeti,tive a.n al s.e x t0 lead t0 weakening 0f the a.n al sphincter, which is the muscle that tightens after we defecate. 0nce weakened, fe.ces can escape the an.us against 0ur will. Th0ugh 0ne can expect the a.n al sphincter t0 require a few m0ments t0 cl0se after a.n al s.e x this is n0t an issue 0f c0ncern f0r y0ur first time. Large inserti0ns, and frequent inserti0ns like th0se seen in the adult industry may lead t0 this issue.

      Many viral, bacterial and parasitic diseases are transmitted fr0m pers0n t0 pers0n via a fe.cal-0r.al r0ute. Disease-causing 0rganisms are expelled in the fe.ces 0f an infected pers0n. The fe.ces then c0ntaminates the f00d 0r water 0f 0ther individuals, gaining entry t0 the b0dy thr0ugh inadvertent c0nsumpti0n. 0n a c0mmunity level, st00l-c0ntaminated drinking water 0r farming s0il can cause infecti0n 0f large numbers 0f pe0ple. P00r pers0nal hygiene, such as n0t washing the hands after a b0wel m0vement 0r bef0re preparing f00d, can sicken th0se in an infected pers0n's family 0r w0rk envir0nment. The medical reference text "Principles and Practice 0f Infecti0us Diseases" rep0rts that c0ntagi0us diseases typically spread by a fecal-0r.al r0ute include bacillary dysentery, amebic dysentery, ch0lera, salm0nell0sis, shigell0sis, typh0id fever, crypt0sp0ridi0sis, giardiasis, hepati,tis A and viral gastr0enteritis caused by r0tavirus, n0r0virus and many 0ther viral species.
      s.e xually transmitted c0ntagi0us diseases n0ted by the U.S. Centers f0r Disease C0ntr0l and Preventi0n include syp hilis, chlamydia, g0n 0 rrhea, lymph0granul0ma vene reum, gen ital warts, chancr0id, gen ital her pes, bacterial va.gin0sis, pelvic inflammat0ry disease and trich0m0niasis. HIV and hepati,tis B are bl00d-b0rne diseases that are c0mm0nly transmitted thr0ugh s.e xual c0ntact. s.e xual c0ntact can als0 serve as an unc0mm0n r0ute 0f transmissi0n f0r the bl00d-b0rne hepati,tis C virus.

      January 15, 2013 at 2:54 am |
    • McCarthy was jealous

      Douglas most definitely has Roy Cohn Syndrome.

      January 15, 2013 at 2:58 am |
    • End Religion

      @SnuggieDougie: the penis dumps waste as well. If your logic holds any merit, why would god have created us in a manner which depends on that "sewer pipe" for procreation?

      January 15, 2013 at 12:40 pm |

      That sounds gayer then a $3 bill.

      January 28, 2013 at 9:27 pm |
  10. Southern Humanist

    Don't mistake Christians being marginalized, with anti-gay bigotry being marginalized.

    January 14, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
  11. Jacob

    This write is nuts. He acts like Christians in America are some kind of long suffering minority. It is only from a position so supremely arrogant as to believe that an immortal, omnipotent being is behind your own opinions that one could become indignant about this.

    January 14, 2013 at 7:36 pm |
  12. highplainsparson

    On the one hand, within the scheme of politics, this event belies an alarming trend of the marginalization of Christians. But, as this article says, on the other hand, in the grand scheme of things politics are not our primary concern as Christians. For we know that King Jesus is working things out exactly the way He wills in His universe, and the opposition of those who are against Him will not last long. Thanks for this reminder.

    January 14, 2013 at 7:07 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "For we know that King Jesus is working things out exactly the way He wills in His universe"

      Reminds me of the kid who falls flat on his face and then as he gets up says "I meant to do that!"

      January 14, 2013 at 7:28 pm |
    • sam stone

      sounds like rationalization to me, parson

      January 14, 2013 at 7:32 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        Our God delights in bringing good out of evil. This is His way. Always has been. That's why evil exists. It's all ultimately for His purpose, for His glory.

        January 14, 2013 at 9:05 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      So your god MADE evil for his own glory....but he is good...and if we don't believe in your supersti.tion we deserve to be punished....because we think this is incoherant.....it is our fault.

      January 14, 2013 at 9:14 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        He did not make evil. Evil is not made. It's a corruption of what is good. But it is a part of his plan. If you don't believe in him, that is your loss, now and forever.

        January 15, 2013 at 12:05 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Isaiah 45:7 KJV

      "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

      Looks like you don't know your book. Plus, if god didn't make evil and yet eveil exists, then there are things in existence that god did not create and god would not be all powerfull, is that what you are claiming parson?

      January 15, 2013 at 1:27 am |
      • highplainsparson

        No, sir. God predetermined that evil would exist. But he determined that it would exist in such a way that he did not create it. The verse you quoted uses the term in a different sense, a different definition from the one you and I are discussing. In Isaiah 45:7 "evil" is the opposite of peace, that is trouble or pain. It does not refer to moral evil, with which God cannot be tainted.

        January 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      January 15, 2013 at 1:46 am |
    • End Religion

      @cheese: thx much, so funny!
      @HighPerson: if your god is so glorious, I really don't believe he'd need others to tell us that.

      January 15, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
      • highplainsparson

        He doesn't need anyone to tell you that. It is his mercy that he sends people to tell you, and your loss if you're not listening.

        January 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm |
  13. BlkPwr817

    Whatever the reason is, it's between himself & his GOD. If there is any disdain towards the President then he'll have to answer to the most high when that day comes. They can just replace him with Rev. Al Sharpton. Im sure the "right" will have something to say about that too huh?

    January 14, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
  14. MetheBLKman

    WOW i am searching deep inside me to give a DARN. The man removed himself, which should speak volumes to everyone who is NOT a con, christian or to 'right' of anyone. My President (Obama) shows that he is a very INCLUSIVE person, contrary to the repuks always referring to him (President Obama) as a 'far left Dem'. All good!

    January 14, 2013 at 5:04 pm |
  15. John the Historian

    Who cares if gays and lesbians can marry, doesn't affect my life. The Christian Right needs to stick to charity work and stay out of politics. Do unto others as they would have done unto you. A theocracy will fail.

    January 14, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  16. @Marita

    He CHOOSE to remove HIMSELF!! So, what's the problem?! – @Marita.

    January 14, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.