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.

Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter

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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

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. Maureen

    Well said, Matthew

    January 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • Clarification

      Maureen is Matthew's mommy.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:57 pm |
  2. lol??

    "George Washington had to borrow six hundred dollars to pay some debts and to pay for a trip to New York City. The trip was to his own inauguration as a president."............Course that was before 600 smackers could only buy a family a nice meal in a decent restaurant. Public Servants, you've come a long way babies. You are now leaders and gods.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • midwest rail

      Delusional innuendo masked as intellectual critique. Stock in tradw for the Cowardly Liar.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:21 pm |
  3. alpeaston

    Bigotry is bigotry (even when flimsily disguised as religious dogma). If he had spoken similar racists lies about African Americans, no one would have any problem kicking his butt to the side. So tired of this new "religious martyr" ploy. Its very transparent and completely disingenuous. People aren't buying into the anti-gay blather anymore, time to find a new fundraising gimmick! "Hate the gays" isn't working anymore – move on...

    January 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • JV303

      Trust me – your hatred has given Christian churches all the fundraising tools they'll ever need.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
    • lol??

      Typical Socialistic bully.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
    • mama k

      Agreed, alpeaston.

      The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.

      Thirteen governments [of the original states] thus founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretence of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.

      (John Adams – from A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America [1787-1788])

      January 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  4. Eric

    "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."

    Well, no, no it doesn't. Because no one's freedom to speak has been curtailed. Need it really be said that speaking at the Inauguration is a privilege, not a right? That Giglio is still free to pray and speak wherever and whenever he wants? I get that you seem to want to tone down the rhetoric, but honestly, you are just the kinder, gentler face of those Christians who scream "persecution!" every time someone disagrees with them, let alone when they are no longer able to take their views for granted in the public square.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:08 pm |
  5. scootfl78

    Conservative Christians aren't actually Christian since they don't believe in the actual Jesus, but Republican Jesus. If they believed in the things that the actual Christian Jesus believed in, they WOULD NOT BE CONSERVATIVE.

    January 12, 2013 at 3:03 pm |
  6. lol??

    Indonesian style government. What could be wrong with that?

    January 12, 2013 at 2:54 pm |
  7. JD

    And I'm sure evangelicals would warmly welcome a benediction by a Muslim cleric, too... right...

    January 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • JV303

      I wouldn't be bothered by it – that would be a mark of inclusion (letting more people have a voice) rather than exclusion (letting fewer people have one, as this mess did).

      January 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm |
  8. Banjo Ferret

    Obama's benediction should be given by the Ferretian Ultimate Cardinal Knight since Ferretianism is the one true religion. Repent! (banjoferret d c)

    January 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
  9. Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

    Just in case you missed it, Doogie: did you and your boyfriend Blob hear the great news? Washington's National Cathedral has announced that it will allow gays to marry in its sanctuary! Actual Episcopal priests will be performing religious wedding ceremonies for GAYS!

    Bet you're overcome.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:30 pm |
    • Douglas

      Will gay coitus be allowed on the altar? Ooooooh, I hope so. I hope Bob washes his taint too.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:37 pm |
    • Douglas

      As Jesus said about the sinful business going on in the temple of his day in Mathew 23:27:

      "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean."

      January 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Suck it up, buttercup. Nobody cares what you think the bible says. About anything.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  10. Douglas

    Obama went to Rev. Wright's church for 20 years and said "Amen" during the sermons.

    When the news media digs up past Rev. Wright sermons denouncing America's sinful
    and racist past and present actions...bro' Obama throws him under the bus when the right
    wing whines about the truth.

    Rev. Giglio is honored as a modern day abolitionist, championing the end of human trafficking
    and invited to the White House for the Inauguration. When the news media digs up a past sermon
    in which Rev. Giglio openly expressed the Biblical position on the sin of gay coitus...bro' Obama
    throws him under the bus when the left wing whines about the truth.

    So much for "tolerance and inclusion".

    Truth is the first casualty in the PC war.

    January 12, 2013 at 2:24 pm |
    • Douglas

      Rev. Giglio was spot on in his analysis of a sinful nation's permissiveness to gay coitus.

      Take heart Rev. Giglio and remember what Jesus said in Matthew 13:57:

      " And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor."

      January 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Hey Doogie, did you and your boyfriend Blob hear the great news? Washington's National Cathedral has announced that it will allow gays to marry in its sanctuary! Actual Episcopal priests will be performing religious wedding ceremonies for GAYS!

      Bet you're overcome.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:28 pm |
    • Philip Douglas

      Hay! We share a name! The President didn't "Trow him under a bus", Giglio WITHDREW. Stop your lies. It doesn't further your cause. 9th Commandment, and whatnot.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Doogie isn't much of a fan of honesty.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • DemFromSC

      I see this, instead, as a perfect example of why church and state must be kept entirely separate. We don't need a preacher man at a political event – ever.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:51 pm |
    • Observer


      Unlike YOU, Jesus never said anything bad about gays. Keep the HYPOCRISY coming. Well done to try to quote Jesus. Ooops.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:04 pm |
    • truth be told

      The entire Holy Bible is the word of Jesus when Moses or Paul called the filth of ho mo se xuality an abomination those were the words of Jesus.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • Observer

      truth be told,

      Jesus and Paul were two DIFFERENT people.

      Obviously, if you had read the Bible you'd know better.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:11 pm |
    • mama k

      Maybe 'truth be told' can help answer this troublesome thing about slavery in Biblical times that's been nagging me. It's really quite simple and, for discussion's sake, just starts with an acknowledgement that slavery was as normal a way of life in Biblical times as walking was a mode of transportation.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:15 pm |
    • Observer

      mama k,

      Apparently truth be told is now claiming that it was Jesus that said raping captured women is fine and slavery is fine and killing unruly kids is fine.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • truth be told

      When you take the Holy Bible out of context and away from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who is God who is "JESUS" you show your ignorance of all things biblical. Repeat – for those whose lies will not allow them to ever recognize the Truth. The entire Holy Bible is the Word of God = Jesus.

      January 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm |
    • In the bible lot F's his daughters

      truth be told
      When you take the Holy Bible out of context and away from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who is God who is "JESUS" you show your ignorance of all things biblical. Repeat – for those whose lies will not allow them to ever recognize the Truth. The entire Holy Bible is the Word of God = Jesus.
      Is this enough context?
      Genesis, Chapter 19, Verses 30-38.
      30. And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters.
      31. And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth:
      32. Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
      33. And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
      34. And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father.
      35. And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose.
      36. Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
      37. And the firstborn bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day.
      38. And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Ben-ammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

      January 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm |
    • UncleBenny

      "The entire Holy Bible is the Word of God = Jesus."

      Such as:
      Exodus 21:7 – 9: When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not go out as the male slaves do. If she does not please her master, who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed; he shall have no right to sell her to a foreign people, since he has dealt unfairly with her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her as with a daughter.

      January 14, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
  11. End Religion

    "Blogging isn't writing, it's graffiti with punctuation."

    January 12, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Philip Douglas

      That I agree with. Most graffiti is better than the garbage I read here most of the time.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
  12. End Religion

    Prototypical Christians: Doug and Wendy Whiner


    January 12, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • End Religion

      "...but you're pointing out our bigotryyyyyyy...."

      January 12, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      sound Jewish to me

      January 12, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  13. PsiCop

    I must congratulate the author on his accomplishment. He single-handedly composed one of the clearest and most spectacular known examples of "the Christian martyr complex." Well done!

    Who knew that no one is ever allowed to think ill of a Christian because of his words, no matter how vile or hateful they might be? I hadn't known about that. I'm glad Anderson filled me in on it. I now understand that I cannot reach my own conclusions about Christians based on the things they say and do; I am required always to think the best of them, every time, all the time.

    Gee, this makes me want to return to being a Christian myself, so I can say the most outrageous things and not have to endure the consequences of having said them.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • JV303

      According to an interfaith conference last year in Hungary, there are over 105,000 Christians killed for their faith every year. Martyrdom is not a complex.

      January 12, 2013 at 3:33 pm |
  14. petemg

    So Christians should shrug this off hunh? well what is going to happen to people's thoughts when one day soon we will have to accept the new religion that Obama is creating Christianity and Muslim. Or shall I say the new religion of worshipping Obama. We are becoming a Socialistic country with Obama as the dictator and people deny it. Wait until we no longer have freedoms.

    January 12, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • End Religion

      You're aware Presidents only have a certain number of years one can serve? If Obama is creating a new religion it will have the shortest shelf-life of any previous one: @3 years.

      January 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • LKJopIYdjl

      I think it is great that there are things like FOX and Limbaugh that you can turn on every day to find out what your opinions are. I mean, if you didn't have them, you wouldn't know what to think!

      January 12, 2013 at 1:33 pm |
    • Philip Douglas

      Chicken little strikes again! Yeah, the Christians should shrug it off because THIS GUY QUIT. HE WAN"T TOLD TO! Moron.

      January 12, 2013 at 2:40 pm |
  15. Extra Medium

    So we invoke God to bless the nation then the next day enact laws, rules to allow the richest folks to pilfer ? Why not just invite billionaires to bless the inaugural and skip the farce.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
  16. My Take: It's Time For Separation of Church and Planet

    Once you institutionalize a bigotry into your religion, then there is no end of atrocity that can come from it.

    January 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
    • JV303

      Replace "religion" with "state".

      January 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  17. End Religion

    My Take: Christians ought to shrug off religion

    January 12, 2013 at 12:14 pm |
    • LinCA

      I'd be happy if they could keep it to themselves.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Extra Medium

      I LIKE, I LIKE

      January 12, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
  18. LinCA

    As long as evangelical christians keep insisting that others live by their delusions, they should expect to be shunned by the more rational part of society. It is high time these bigots get shown the door.

    If you believe that you imaginary friend doesn't approve of homosexuality, you better not engage in it. But, whatever you think your imaginary friend likes, or doesn't like, doesn't mean jack-shit for anyone else.

    January 12, 2013 at 11:48 am |
    • mama k


      During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What has been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry, and persecution.

      Every new & successful example therefore of a perfect separation between ecclesiastical and civil matters, is of importance. And I have no doubt that every new example, will succeed, as every past one has done, in shewing that religion & Govt. will both exist in greater purity, the less they are mixed together.

      The Civil Govt, tho' bereft of everything like an associated hierarchy, possesses the requisite stability and performs its functions with complete success, Whilst the number, the industry, and the morality of the Priesthood, & the devotion of the people have been manifestly increased by the total separation of the Church from the State.

      - James Madison, 4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Const</bitution & Bill of Rights

      Madison as president vetoed two bills that he believed would violate the separation of church and state. He also came to oppose the long-established practice of employing chaplains at public expense in the House of Representatives and Senate on the grounds that it violated the separation of church and state and the principles of religious freedom. (Library of Congress – James Madison Papers – Detached memorandum, ca. 1823.)

      Our most recent constitutional Amendment, number 27, adopted in 1992, was first introduced by James Madison in 1789.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:57 am |
    • mama k

      ( – James Madison, 4th POTUS, chief architect of the U.S. Constitution & Bill of Rights )

      January 12, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • It is Called

      New science standards created by a majority of 26 states for 2013. CNN has article. Stem Standards

      According to courts can't teach ID/creationism in public schools in US.
      NOVA | Intelligent Design on Trial
      Nov 13, 2007 – Featuring trial reenactments based on court transcripts and interviews with key participants, including expert scientists and Dover parents,

      January 12, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  19. Rational Libertarian

    Am I correct in saying that he chose not to give the benediction? Where's the problem?

    January 12, 2013 at 11:03 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The problem is christians have this persecution complex in this country that they need to feed so people like this guy come up with BS lines like....

      "Christians have often been on the margins of societies rather than at the center."

      Even though christians have been at the absolute center of European and American society for over 1500 years. Poor baby.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:12 am |
    • Origin of Life

      Origin of Life: Just add WATER !!!
      Hypothesis Traces First Protocells Back to Emergence of Cell Membrane Bioenergetics

      Dec. 20, 2012 — A coherent pathway – which starts from no more than rocks, water and carbon dioxide and leads to the emergence of the strange bio-energetic properties of living cells – has been traced for the first time in a major hypothesis paper in Cell this week.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:17 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Yep, many Christians do have an inexplicable persecution complex. They live in a country where virtually every facet of society favors them yet claim they are being persecuted on the rare occasions they don't get their way.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      I think it can be easily explained, their "holy" book has phrases like

      "Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

      Which then justifies them creating their own persecution. It is a type of cult logic that also ligitmizes supersti.tious beliefs.

      January 12, 2013 at 11:41 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Makes sense (why they do it of course, not what they do).

      January 12, 2013 at 11:50 am |
    • Derek Rishmawy

      To the various commenters on this post: Yes, Christians have been at the center of political culture and power for long time in the West. Yes, many have a persecution complex. That doesn't change the fact that:
      a. They live in an increasingly hostile cultural context in which a larger portion of the population wouldn't mind their religious freedoms being curtailed.
      b. Worldwide Christianity is the most persecuted religion on earth. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelly-james-clark/christianity-most-persecuted-religion_b_2402644.html
      You, oh so defiantly, quote Diderot about kings being strangled with the entrails of priests, but realize that worldwide people are actually getting strangled and slaughtered for their beliefs.

      That said, Anderson makes some great points. Whole-heartedly agree.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian


      Thanks for proving the point.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:46 pm |
    • midwest rail

      David – a. is only true if you do not live in the U.S.

      January 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
  20. Blessed are the Cheesemakers

    “Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”

    January 12, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Rational Libertarian


      January 12, 2013 at 10:59 am |
1 2 3 4
About this blog

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.