The Unfortunate Public Shaming of Louie Giglio by the Gay Rights Community

Yesterday, Passion Founder and evangelical pastor Louie Giglio was selected by President Obama to perform the inaugural benediction. No surprise there, really. Last time around Obama selected orthodox Evangelical pastor Rick Warren to do the benediction. It seems to be a nice bridge Obama is trying to build with orthodox (dare I say, “conservative”) churches by these selections. Last time, it went off without a hitch aside from a few fringe folks on either side that see interaction with an ideological opponent as sacrilege (i.e. fundamentalism). But this year, with Giglio, the attacks came hard and heavy. Gay-rights activists, who seem to be always on the defensive, dug up a twenty-something year old sermon where Giglio echoed orthodox Christian doctrine, and then proceeded to kick the Pastor around like an empty pop can.

The New York Times even printed the term “anti-gay bigot” in relation to Giglio. Now, to be fair, they were quoting AMERICAblog, a GLBT rights blog, but it was still loudly understood that NYT wasn’t too far from that sentiment. And in this short little PR firestorm of gay rights media outlets, The Huffington Post and other reputable news outlets also trashed Giglio to the point where today Giglio announced that he would not accept the President’s offer to perform the benediction.

Giglio was not evaluated seriously, even by news organizations that I would expect some fair treatment from. Giglio was insulted and his position was assumed. Yes, Giglio confirms catholic teaching on the morality of homosexuality, but he is also one of the most ecumenical and compassionate faces within evangelicalism. Giglio may see homosexuality as a sin in his worldview, but I can guarantee you that he would never discriminate or show partiality as a ‘bigot’ would. This is because the foundation of Giglio’s teachings does not rest on homosexuality, but on the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who died for sinners of every variety. Because Giglio trusts in Jesus in the truest sense, evident in Giglio’s works, sermons, and humanitarian effort, he is willing to cooperate with those whom he disagrees with.

The homosexual community should have nothing to fear from a man like Louie Giglio. It reminds me of my latest read, The Brothers Karamazov. The youngest brother, Aloysha Karamazov, is a man seeking salvation in the words of scripture and the teachings of the church. The sincere, realistic faith of Aloysha leads him to deep conviction and rejection of the sin around him. But all along, with even the worst of scoundrels that he meets, he looks upon them lovingly, not as a bigot. In this situation, Giglio was no bigot. He seems to be much like Alyosha Karamazov in this whole ordeal, seeking earnestly for dialogue and deeply loving those who are not of his faith.

That Giglio stepped down says even more of his character. I sincerely believe that Giglio did not step down because of the pressure to conform because it would hurt his image or from outside pressure, but because he did not want to hurt his later chances for loving the homosexual community.

I commend Pastor Giglio – not specifically for his theologically orthodox position on homosexuality (which can and often is defended with little more than pride and a bible), but for his love and gentleness which is so in line with the character of God. And as for the homosexual community’s response to Giglio’s selection to perform the benedictions, I regret the lack of compassion shown to an ideological opponent.

I love my gay friends and I would bet you that Giglio loves his gay friends too, but that doesn’t mean that we deny the teaching of scripture; whether that be ungracious judgment against homosexuality or uneducated approval of a lifestyle that wont fulfill the longings of the soul. While I have been critical  of Giglio in the past, I must say that in the face of such opposition, he is an example of godliness in a tough situation.

About Nick Rynerson

Nick Rynerson lives in Normal, Illinois (no, seriously). In his free time, He writes, attempts to play mandolin, reads and hangs out with his groovy wife. Nick has a soft spot for any song with a banjo and thinks Bruce Campbell is the best actor on earth. However, he is a terrible golfer and has particular distaste internet controversy . Nick is passionate about the Church, (lower case) orthodoxy and whatever he's been reading about recently.

Follow Nick on Twitter: @Nick_Rynerson
or at his website: nickrynerson.com

  • Basil

    I’m sorry, but this just strains believability. Claiming Giglio “loves” his gay friends is like claiming a Klansman loves his black friends. You can’t claim to love someone if you get up an incite hatred against them, or talk about them as an “aggressive and powerful movement”, and claim that it is God’s will that Christians should equal rights for gay people.

    The only good outcome of this whole sad episode is that Giglio’s bigotry has now been brought back to public scrutiny. Hopefully the Presidential Inauguration Committee can ask one of the many inclusively minded clergy to deliver the benediction. As the committee said in their statement, it’s not appropriate to have a speaker who does not value “inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.”

  • Basil

    Typo alert: The last sentence of the 1st paragraph should read “that Christians should OPPOSE equal rights for gay people”

    I apolgize for any confusion

  • Brad Williams

    Basil,

    Are you saying that it is impossible to love someone you believe is making a morally irresponsible choice?

  • Nick

    Basil, thank you for your dialogue an willingness to see from a perspective other than your own. It is with such understanding and unity that dialogue between the homosexual community and the evangelical community can press on into a bright future.

  • Nick

    And*. Excuse my typo… And my sarcasm.

  • Bill

    I thought ‘chrisitans’ like Nick Rynerson were not supposed to tell lies.

    THis piece is FULL of them.

    Why not print the transcript of the sermon in question, Nick?

    That will clear up any confusion.

    By the way, my soul is completely satisfied, you schmuck.

    Also, neither you nor Giglio have any gay friends. You may know some gay people, but you are clearly no friend to them.

    Simply pathetic.

  • http://nickrynerson.com Nick Rynerson

    “Come on people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now”

    Also, to clarify my position on Gay Marriage is legalize it. The government is not the institution that decrees whether I am married or not, they just tell me how to file my taxes. I believe that gay rights are not necessarily bad. But I also believe that it is okay to think that they are not okay. Nobody wants to oppress anyone here. I just wish both sides could learn how to communicate and be nice to each other. You don’t have to preform same sex unions in your church to love homosexuals well. Look into Giglio a bit, Basil & Bill, he has singlehandedly raised millions of dollars to end sex trafficking. He disagrees with you, but he is not a bigot. Westboro Baptist- they are bigots. But Giglio isn’t a fundamentalist. Historically speaking or theologically speaking.

    But I plead with you, my fellow commenters. Be civil, be gracious, be generous. Nobody is threatening anybody else’s lifestyle/religion/political stance. It’s okay to disagree in the USA, the KGB is no longer a threat. Pluralism does not mean an absence of disagreement. I am a pluralist in the sense I hold to what I believe is truth, but love, listen and learn from those that disagree. But it must be done in respect and civility.

    And I am sorry for getting snarky in the comment above. But I would very much like not to be called names on a comment thread. That is the opposite of dialogue.

  • Todd Cunningham

    Gay rights organizations worked hard to get the President reelected. They have every right to criticize his choice of this pastor. I haven’t read the transcript of the pastors comments but as a gay man in the south I can only imagine. Making gay people out to be monsters as many of these “churches” do, giving kids tacit approval to go to school and bully gay kids, even to the point of suicide. It is a real problem in the south. To say he backed out so he can help gay people sounds a bit dubious, but once again I know nothing about the man.

  • Scott G

    Huh. I was going to challenge one point of this argument, but apparently the comments are going some place else.

    Critique coming anyway. But please note that I do believe you try to understand and love members of the LGBT community, first of all. I also understand there is a great difference between accepting a hard-to-understand commandment (gay sex is immoral, because God says so) and using such acceptance to foster a spirit of hatred or superiority. Still….I’m not sure I can agree with your article.

    I was particularly disturbed by the following passage:
    “Giglio may see homosexuality as a sin in his worldview, but I can guarantee you that he would never discriminate or show partiality as a ‘bigot’ would. This is because the foundation of Giglio’s teachings does not rest on homosexuality, but on the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ, who died for sinners of every variety. Because Giglio trusts in Jesus in the truest sense, evident in Giglio’s works, sermons, and humanitarian effort, he is willing to cooperate with those whom he disagrees with.”

    The thing I see here is that you’ve turned what is a nearly impossible (yet divinely mandated) commandment and a heart attitude of all who claim to follow Christ. It is one thing to say that the heart of Christianity is something that homosexuals need not fear. It is quite another to say that, individually, Giglio is therefore someone whom “the homosexual community should have no reason to fear.”

    The fact of the matter is that homosexuals have much to fear from the sort of preaching represented by Giglio’s 15-year-old sermon. Here’s why:

    1) He claims, for instance, that God will turn homosexuals straight if they repent. (“It’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.”) This lie’s damage has been recounted not only in the secular world, but by Evangelical Christians themselves.

    (C.f., on the traditional side: Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting. On the more liberal–but still orthodox and largely conservative–side: Justin Lee’s Torn.)

    2) He organizes his congregation against the LGBT-rights movement, quite explicitly. (Even though, thankfully, he points out that not all members of the LGBT community think or argue alike.) “That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day,” he writes, before going on to state the obvious fact that LGBT-rights activists do want to normalize the idea of homosexuality. This sort of rhetoric may do little to influence perfectly secure, perfectly beatified Christ-followers. But for insecure people seeking to secure their place in society through temporal power, it is a strong encouragement to fear and hate those using “any means necessary” to “seize” American culture.

    3) Most obviously, he preaches that homosexuality is a sin. Yes, this is the default position (with rather few exceptions) of orthodox Christianity. It is also something deeply offensive to anyone who believes that their intimate relationship with person X is in fact not a sin. This may be an irreconcilable difference between Christianity and GLBT members or their allies. Or their may be a way to get beyond it. (Perhaps, as some argue, homosexuality as described in the Bible is not the same thing as homosexuality as observed today; perhaps, as others argue, gay Christians have a higher calling foisted upon them, yet can take encouragement from close same-sex friendships and a host of gay Christians throughout history as they seek to work out their difficult salvation with fear and trembling.) But if we are to create dialog between Christianity and its current dominant victim, we have to start from one factual basis: the traditional view of Christianity, rather right or wrong, is deeply terrifying to homosexuals. No amount of pretending that every Christian is as accepting of the marginalized as Jesus was will unwrite that fact.

  • Scott G

    All of this is not to say that you are a liar, or that bringing out a 15-year-old sermon is a good way to critique a preacher. (Actually, if he hasn’t preached a similar sermon recently, I would expect that he has changed his mind about much of the content of his sermon–perhaps both points 1 and 2 above.) But I’m always nervous when people are defended ad hominem on the basis of making a claim to Christianity. Christians are, in fact, rather worse people than Christ, and frequently must be called to repentance, which itself may often require a public element. That is, to a certain extent, the point.

  • http://www.eyesopenwide.net Wes W

    Thanks for this post. One wonders why such an obviously militant, heavy-handed reaction from the LGBT community is so frequently accepted by the media (see CNN’s coverage of this issue today). As an aside, I’d only note that a “theologically orthodox position on homosexuality” doesn’t need more than a bible for defense.

  • MamaJulia

    “The plea to be tolerant is a tacit admission that the behavior to be tolerated is wrong. Why? Because you don’t need to plead with people to tolerate good behavior, only bad. No one needs to be talked into tolerating the behavior of Mother Teresa, only the behavior of some relativists. Likewise, no one makes excuses for acting like Mother Teresa. We only make excuses when we act against the Moral Law. We wouldn’t do so if it didn’t exist.”
    ~Frank Turek

  • Mitch Wood

    Mr. Rynerson, I note this passage from the pastor’s sermon: “In the mid-1990s sermon (whose location of delivery was not clear), he called homosexual relationships immoral and said gays and lesbians are “not entitled to be recognized as a married couple and a family under God that can adopt children and have co-benefits in your health insurance plans and live as if that were a normal thing in this society.” Please see http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/2013/01/10/25fb83bc-5b6e-11e2-88d0-c4cf65c3ad15_story_1.html

    Odd, but I do not at all recall Old Testament tribal taboos or Jesus’ admonitions in the Gospels against providing co-benefits in health insurance plans or the rights to adopting and raising children. Indeed, these words from Pastor Giglio represent the very essence of discrimination and showing partiality–and animus–against LGBT individuals and taxpaying American citizens.

    And the saddest thing is that by withholding the benefits and protections of government recognition to gay and lesbian households, the “protect traditional marriage” crowd harms the welfare and security interests of the (mostly heterosexual) children being raised in those families.

    If Rev. Giglio has changed his theological beliefs–but more importantly his views on whether LGBT people deserve to be treated as second-class citizens by their governments and treated with respect and inclusion by the larger social culture, he can repudiate those deliberately hurtful comments and publically work to soften the hearts of the rest of the fundamentalist Christian community–many of whom would seek to reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, recriminalize sodomy (only for gays of course, there will be no prosecution of acts of sodomy between straights), and whom openly advocate for harsh penalties for the slightest support for human rights being guaranteed to residents of countries such as Uganda, Nigeria, Russia, and Serbia–and force their legions of “gay friends” (that they are always talking about but never can actually produce in real-life) back into the closet or into psychiatric institutions.

    Mr. Rynerson, if you and Pastor Giglio love your gay friends, walk the walk: support our rights in the communities we share; celebrate our gifts and contributions to our families, our neighborhoods, our churches, our armed services and our cultural heritage; and call out your colleagues in the fundamentalist and evangelical faith communities when they deride, ridicule, shame, tolerate threats of violence, or state their support for governmental discrimination or oppression on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

  • Basil

    For the record Mr. Snarkypants (that would be you, Nick) — my typo was genuine (from typing too fast), and having no way to correct it (after I hit the send button), I had to post another message. I wouldn’t ordinarily, but it was actually material to the meaning of paragraph. Consider yourself scolded for cheap snarky response.

    As for Giglio, there are a couple of issues: Is he a bigot? Yes, he is. When you preach from the pulpit calling for Christians to oppose the civil, legal equality of LGBT persons — that pretty much a textbook definition of a bigot. Whatever his religious thoughts, we all deserve equal treatment under the law. Gays don’t have that today, in large part because of the political activities of so-called Christians

    Was he being respectful (let alone a “friend”) of homosexuals? Well, no he wasn’t. When you refer to being gay as a “malfunction”, ( didn’t we used to say similar things about people of different races?) it is not respectful in the least, and furthermore, it is not even accurate. You can be gay and still be perfectly functional. And if the reference is some kind of odd biology argument — that being gay is some sort of defect because you are less likely to reproduce — well that’s just bunk. Homosexuality is actually a fairly common trait in nature, it has been observed in hundreds of species (esp. more evolved animals, like chimpanzees), and it clearly is functional, or it would not be so common. I could go on, about the field of social biology, or about explanations of same sex behavior as observed by scientists in the animal world, but that would be belabor the point: A theologian like Giglio doesn’t know anything about biology or genetics or evolution or the functions of sexuality — so he really isn’t correctly placed to talk about what is “malfunction”. In other, he was being an idiot when he said that, and a disrespectful one to boot.

    Was his theology kind to homosexuals? I believe really strongly in the command (in the Book of Matthew) about loving your neighbor as yourself — because I think others should be treated as I would want to be treated. Giglio got up and threw Leviticus at the gays. Leviticus tells us that gays should be put to death. Leviticus also says we should execute children who curse their parents (which means we should have a lot of dead kids), and adulterers, among lots of other things. Unfortunately it seems commonplace, and theologically suspect to throw Leviticus at gays but ONLY gays. Why do Christians seems to feel that only gays have to comply with Leviticus, but they (and everyone else) get off scott-free?

    Was it compassionate for him to call for people to be “cured” of their homosexuality? No, it was not. It was cruel. At best, those “pray away the gay” quack therapies are ineffective. Often, that type of “therapy” deeply wounds gay people (often young people coerced by unaccepting family), and makes them much more likely to suffer depression, anxiety and suicide.

    How many gay kids in his congregation do you think got dragged into “therapy” by their non-accepting parents, who wanted to have their kids “cured” of “the gay” (which is not a disease)? What do you think that kind of treatment does to those kids?

    You know, we have lots of families that get broken apart by homophobia. There was a survey out last year — it found that 40 percent of homeless youth are LGBT — which is really shocking since only about 5 percent of the population is LGBT. And so many of those kids literally get thrown out by their families because they rejected them because they are gay. How many of the parents in Giglio’s congregation rejected their kids because they think that is what God wants? And here is Giglio reinforcing that message from the pulpit. How many families got ripped apart? That is why homophobia, not homosexuality, is a sin. Unfortunately, it is young people who pay a disproportionate price for the sins of adult homophobia.

    As for this dialogue business — the basic humanity of LGBT persons, and the requirement for their equality, is no longer open for debate.

  • Jay

    Poor Pastor Giglio. He is such a victim. It is not only his right to describe gay people as “malfunctions,” to cite the Levitical injunction that homosexuals should be put to death, to tell them that they are going to hell, but he also wants to be rewarded for doing so. I spent an hour listening to his notorious sermon, which may have been written almost 20 years ago, but which has been in continual circulation since then, and it is literally stomach turning. It amounts to nothing less than spiritual terrorism, which to mind is worse than physical terrorism. People like him have blood on their hands. Young gay people hearing his message all too often commit suicide. Shed your crocodile tears for them, not for this huckster.

  • Pingback: The Briefing for Friday 1/11/2013 « Ponder Anew

  • Jay

    See this reflection by Claude Summers at glbtq.com on the spiritual terrorism of Louie Giglio.

  • Nick

    Basil, ill own the label ‘Mr Snarkypants’. Sorry for being unkind in that comment. Also, I was typing on my phone and my typo was legit too. Forgive me for that, Basil?

  • Basil

    All is forgiven. Snarkypants was tongue-in-cheek

  • http://nickrynerson.com Nick Rynerson

    Thanks Basil! :)

  • Tim W

    Nick you found your way back to comment on Basil’s post. Why have you not commented on Scott’s wonderful and point by point objections to Louie’s sermon?


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