More Christian Overreactions (and Sensible Responses) to the Louie Giglio Debacle

In the aftermath of Pastor Louie Giglio withdrawing the offer to deliver the benediction prayer at President Obama‘s inauguration, a lot of Christians online have weighed in on whether he was pushed out or dropped out and what that says about how Christians are treated in America. Along the way, they’re giving nominal Christians even more reasons to get the hell out of church.

(Thankfully, some sensible Christians are responding to them, and I’ll include their thoughts below, too.)

Louis Giglio

Christian author Gabe Lyons, a man who once wrote a fantastic book arguing that Christians were disliked because they were, among other things, anti-gay and too judgmental, wrote a screed that was anti-gay and too judgmental:

January 21, 2013 may go down in history, as the day Americans lost their most important freedom — their freedom of conscience…

Mr. Giglio is the victim of a kind of hate crime. He is being singled out for shame and ridicule by an intolerant minority. Yes, there are militant Christians who have shamefully worked against civil rights for gay brothers and sisters. But that is hardly the full story. Many Christians were also first responders to the AIDS crisis (contrary to the accepted narrative). Now, as the tide of power has turned, some in the LGBTQ community seem intent on giving back in full measure the injustice and hurt many in their community experienced. It is reverse discrimination at its finest.

***Edit***: Lyons has since apologized for using the phrase “hate crime.” He has edited his post to read “Mr. Giglio is the target of intolerance — the kind of prejudice that many in the LGBTQ community have suffered themselves.”

Thankfully, Google Cache never forgets.

David Sessions of Patrol can’t believe what Lyons just wrote:

You have got to be f–ing kidding me. A hate crime? Even a kind of hate crime? This is not a crime, Mr. Lyons, this is a disagreement over political staging. It is private citizens and advocacy organizations exercising their democratic right to object to what the president does, particularly a president their constituents worked hard to elect. This is democratic debate, and a politician answering to his constituency. What is so horrible about that?

Not to mention the official statement is not that the White House uninvited Giglio, but that Giglio chose to step down on his own.

Andrew Marin, a Christian who works to bridge the gap between the church and LGBT community, also had some well-deserved harsh words for Lyons:

A HATE CRIME, GABE?! Are you serious. A hate crime involves physical violence against someone. As far as I am aware, Louie Giglio was not physically attacked and has a healthy able body, chilling in Atlanta this morning. He had some people write some very mean things about him on the world wide web. That does not count as a hate crime. Nor, my Bible believing friends, does that count as persecution.

… A rough day indeed for evangelicals all over, and not because Giglio stepped down.

Rachel Held Evans, as always, says what so many Christians don’t have the courage or conviction to say:

We live in a country in which the majority of its citizens are Christians and in which the president himself is a Christian. Even if our influence is waning a bit, we are still the most powerful religious group in America. We have to be careful of becoming so entitled that we grow blind to the ways in which minorities in America — like LGBT citizens, for example — are often treated as second-class. I find it ironic that so many Christians are up-in-arms about being “persecuted” by the “gay agenda” when many of our gay and lesbian neighbors are simply asking for the same civil rights that we have.

We also have to be careful of using the word “bully” to describe what happened with Giglio, especially when we are dialoging with folks whose experience with “bullying” may very well have included physical violence, decades of merciless taunts, hateful slurs, and mistreatment at the hands of Christians.

Timothy Dalrymple gets that LGBT people may have it rough… but, you guys, Christians are *totally* made fun of!

Rachel Held Evans extended her usual mockery to the notion, this time in relation to Louie Giglio’s invitation and then exclusion from the inauguration ceremony. She points to how “we live in a country in which the majority of its citizens are Christians” and then she torches the straw man: “Not getting your way in every area of civic life,” she writes, “is not persecution.”

Granted, but who claimed that it is? And what does “Christians” have to do with it? The majority of Americans are not evangelical (which is what’s really under discussion here), and evangelicals are treated unjustly in many spheres of civic life. While evangelicals have political power due to their sheer voting numbers, and while the worst (and therefore most-quoted) evangelical commentators can be terribly ungracious in their use of the power of the megaphone, it’s nevertheless true that evangelicals are frequently mocked in popular culture, frequently given a raw deal in academia and elite media, and evangelicals who hold to traditional views of sexual ethics are — as the Louie Giglio affair shows — increasingly shoved to the side of the public square.

Sure, evangelicals have more political power than any other group, and laws constantly written to advance their religious beliefs, and churches sprouting up all over the country… but sometimes, people mock them!

They must have it so rough…

Evangelicals complaining about not being taken seriously is like wealthy people complaining about a tax increase: No one feels bad for you; you’re so much better off than any of us will ever be.

Here’s the obligatory Bryan Fischer tweet:

And here’s the Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins putting pleasant imagery in our minds:

[President Obama is] now using the ceremonial occasion of his inauguration, which should be a moment of national unity, to slap conservatives in the face — no, make that stomp on their faces with mud-encrusted jack boots.

There’s something to learn from all this: We have to keep pushing back against the harmful beliefs of evangelical Christianity.

Not only are we on the kinder, more tolerant, more empathetic side of the issues — and we should shout that from the rooftops — we force Christians to put their beliefs out on the table when we raise these issues.

Every time a “compassionate” Christian says homosexuality is a sin, an atheist gets his wings. (Or something like that.)

At some point, Giglio will get asked whether he feels the same way about homosexuals now as he did in the 90s (when his infamous sermon was given). It’s possible he’s changed his mind since then. It’s more likely, though, that he’ll just try to change the subject. He’ll get uncomfortable. He won’t admit he still believes homosexuality is something that can — and needs to be — cured. He won’t admit he still believes homosexuality is a sin. He won’t admit he think gay people should not have the right to get married.

A lot of people argue that Giglio does a lot of good work regarding stopping sex trafficking and that good work is being ignored because everyone’s focusing on his anti-gay remarks. Maybe that’s true, but when you screw up such a simple issue, you lose your credibility everywhere else.

Giglio could make a world of difference by admitting he was wrong when he gave that sermon and that the LGBT community deserves to have the same rights he does.

Unfortunately, like so many evangelical Christians, he doesn’t have it in his heart to do the right thing.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Octoberfurst

    I get so sick of hearing cries of persecution every time Christians don’t get their way or get called out for something hateful they said. Of course leave it to the evangelicals to become super-shrill over this saying that Giglio being pressured to drop out is the same as a hate crime! (Really???) Fundies try to push their fanatical agenda in the public sphere constantly but when we push back they start screaming that they’re being discriminated against and that the mean old atheists are going to put them in FEMA camps any day now & that the Bible will be forbidden, blahh, blahh, blahh!. Idiots!

  • ortcutt

    I don’t know where Timothy Dalrymple got the idea that he’s entitled to not be mocked. Talk about an entitlement culture.

  • Richard Wade

    At some point, Giglio will get asked whether he feels the same way about
    homosexuals now as he did in the 90s (when his infamous sermon was
    given). It’s possible he’s changed his mind since then.

    Whether he says his feelings have changed or not, he still believes in the inerrancy and literal truth of the Bible. When evangelicals claim they’ve softened their feelings about LGBT people, it’s nothing but public relations spin. It’s analogous to racists no longer openly calling African Americans ni**ers, but still considering them inferior and undesirable, and still working hard to deny them their rights anywhere they can.

    Only when Giglio and other fundamentalists unequivocally repudiate the hateful parts of their precious book will their claims of love have even a shred of credibility.

  • bellj

    The observation that the Christian influence is waning a bit but are still the most poweful religious group in America is a pretty accurate statement. Personally I feel a sense of relief and hope. They are not getting new converts with rants like this, and the genuinely well-intentioned and not bigoted Christians are turning their backs on church. I say, keep talking.

  • WallofSleep

    Above all else, the devil cannot stand to be mocked.

  • ortcutt

    I don’t know about the devil, but religions and religious people cannot stand being mocked. If you make religion ridiculous, its power is diminished. That’s why the religious demand that you take their religion very seriously no matter how ridiculous their claims and practices are.

  • WallofSleep

    “I don’t know about the devil, but religions and religious people cannot stand being mocked.”

    Indeed, which is why I love tossing the above C.S. Lewis quote at them when they bitch about being mocked. I’m a stinker.

  • Marco Conti

    I have to believe that Laurie Higgins, the author of the quote accusing Obama to stomp on conservatives with “mud encrusted Jack boots” is 100% aware that Obama and his administration did not “uninvite” Giglio from the inauguration. The discussion, as far as I can tell, took place among regular citizens and Giglio turned down the invitation.

    Anyone remembers that “Do not bear false witness” part of their holy book? Hers is a bold faced lie of the worse kind. She should be ashamed of herself.

    By the way, I just followed a link to, Laurie’s cyber home and apparently they are having an issue on line 192 of their “functions.php”

    Parse error: syntax error, unexpected T_VARIABLE in /home/content/64/7277964/html/illinoisfamily/110include/functions.php on line 192

    Does “T_VARIABLE” mean their lying framework crashed? I’ll have to check the PHP manual.

  • Anna

    Yes, there are militant Christians who have shamefully worked against civil rights for gay brothers and sisters. But that is hardly the full story. Many Christians were also first responders to the AIDS crisis (contrary to the accepted narrative).

    Really? I know a fair bit about the early days of the AIDS crisis, and I’ve never heard the claim that evangelical and fundamentalist Christians were on the front lines trying to combat it. I wonder what he’s talking about. Gay Men’s Health Crisis, ACT UP, and other groups not only did not get support from social conservatives, they were the people who were being fought against.

  • Marco Conti

    They sure where nowhere to be found when my dear friend Jimmy, with whom I worked in a restaurant, contracted AIDS and died. Many of these good Christians stopped talking to him altogether and his own sister did not attend his funeral.

    If they did something, it wasn’t around where I lived.

  • Anna

    Yes, I’m struggling to think of any incident from the early 80s in which conservative Christians stepped forward to support people with AIDS. At the time, there was nothing but insane fear and stigma. You had HIV+ children being burned out of their homes and denied access to school, and those were the “innocent victims.” Gay men who contracted the virus were seen as little more than lepers, and most were blamed for having the disease: “the wages of sin is death,” etc.

  • Helanna

    You know how churches would have us believe that they were among the leaders of the women’s and civil rights movements?

    That’s obviously going to happen for the gay rights movement as well, and I think some of them are beginning early.

  • Anna

    Maybe so. Fortunately, the Internet doesn’t forget. Here’s a 1985 article on Christian reactions to the AIDS crisis:

  • Son Of Christensen

    The trouble is, when atheists had the political power, Christians really were put in camps.
    They were called Gulags.
    It happened before, and it could again. Believers know this.

  • Son Of Christensen

    Indeed you are.

    But ridicule, while temporalily effective, does not count as argument and counts as a class of logical fallacy.

  • TheExpatriate700

    You seem to have confused atheists and communists. They are not identical.

  • TCC

    And of course, we know that Christians have never, ever persecuted non-Christians (or even not-the-right-type-of-Christians). Nope, uh uh.

  • TCC

    Actually, if it’s not an argument, it’s not a logical fallacy.

  • smrnda

    It is impossible not to ridicule the ridiculous.The level of hysteria over the increasing acceptance of homosexuality displayed by many Christians is about as absurd as an adult freaking out and running out screaming from a room because it contains a spider.

  • Octoberfurst

    Oh for crying out loud, are you really doing the old “communists and atheists are one in the same” meme? How many times does this have to be disproved? Let me lay this out for you in a nutshell. Yes Stalin & Mao were atheists. But they were also communists and the communists never allowed anything to have supremacy over the State. The State was all! So religion was forbidden, other political parties were forbidden–anything that challenged loyalty to the State was forbidden. They created cults of personality. So it was not because of atheism that religion was persecuted, it was because of communism. Get it now?

  • Donalbain

    Holy crap! Julia Gillard has set up gulags in Australia?!!

  • Sandy Kokch

    And when the Christians had the political power, they put other Christians into camps. They were called concentration camps. The prisoners were Protestant Boers, and the guards Protestant and Catholic British soldiers. And in those camps a lot of people died from hunger and disease and maltreatment.

    At around the same time a similar program was in its final stages where Christians had interred non Christians in camps. They were called Reservations, and the prisoners were Sioux, Navaho and other First Nations Americans.

    Later, crapping themselves with irrational fear, the Christians did the same thing to Americans of Japanese and SE Asian descent, and some with German ancestry.

    People who read history books know this.

  • Sandy Kokch

    The only way to put Laurie Higgins and shame into the same sentence I can see is as follows:

    Laurie Higgins has no shame

    oh, and of course

    Laurie Higgins has no concept of what the word shame means.

  • Richard Wade

    Son of Christensen, when you hear a falsehood about a person or a group of people, and you automatically assume that it is true, and you irresponsibly neglect to check it out and verify whether or not it is true, when you repeat that falsehood to someone else, you have by your negligence participated in spreading that harmful lie. You have born false witness against your neighbor. It is the ethical duty of every decent person to work diligently to keep from spreading harmful lies about others, either maliciously or negligently. Grown ups know this.

  • PhiloKGB

    I’m really getting tired of Christian pundits using euphemisms like “traditional views of sexual ethics.” The good ship Rhetoric has sailed, people. We know that it means, “I disapprove of homosexuality (specifically of the male kind).” You can have your simplistic and poorly reasoned opinions, but not insofar as they behoove you to oppose changes to the *secular* institution of marriage for purely religious reasons.

  • Mick Wright

    “Yes, there are militant Christians who have shamefully worked against
    civil rights for gay brothers and sisters. But that is hardly the full

    Doesn’t have to be. Giglio is one of that group. That is exactly why he was the wrong choice.

  • Mick Wright

    Another way in which religions and penises are alike, then. ^_^

  • Mick Wright

    I’ll just leave this here. It’s about as clear a depiction as can be made.

  • John (not McCain)

    You should probably go ahead and take off for heaven then. Just to be safe. Take a bunch of fellow “believers” with you.

  • Blacksheep

    Communists are not Christians.
    And a group that is culturally identified as “Christian” does not make them Christians – meaning people who follow Christ.

  • baal

    what? I assume you (mike wright) mean that penises don’t like being mocked? Penis is a body part (for some) and not inherently capable of independent thought. If you meant that men don’t like having there personal penis mocked, well. Of course. I’m sure women don’t like being made fun of for having to small or too big breasts either.

    Whatever your point, it’s lost on me and comes off as sexist bs regardless.

  • Blacksheep

    Richard, my understanding was that the Soviet union was fervently anti Religon / Christian, and I know from my own studies that Atheism was the officila state belief system. “smuggling” a bible into the USSR could get one put into prison for life. From Wikipedia:

    “The history of Christianity in the Soviet Union was not limited to repression and secularization. Soviet policy toward religion was based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, which made atheism the official doctrine of the Soviet Union. Marxism-Leninism has consistently advocated the control, suppression, and the elimination of religion.[1]

    The state was committed to the destruction of religion,[2][3] and destroyed churches, mosques and temples, ridiculed, harassed and executed religious leaders, flooded the schools and media with atheistic propaganda, and generally promoted ‘scientific atheism’ as the truth that society should accept.[4][5]“

  • Blacksheep


    if you google “Christian group helps AIDS patients” you’ll find countless stories. It’s easy to find negativity if you search for it. This site has a purpose, so posting an article about a church delivering meals to AIDS patients won’t make it on here.

  • Anna

    I’m well aware that there are countless stories of Christian groups helping AIDS patients. But that’s now. Gabe Lyons made the claim that conservative Christians were among the “first responders” to the AIDS crisis. I have no idea what he’s talking about, but if you do, perhaps you could point to some examples from the early 1980s in which evangelicals and fundamentalists organized to help people with AIDS.

  • Richard Wade

    Blacksheep, Son of Christensen was equating communism with atheism, and clearly asserting that those in power built gulags because they were atheists. That’s preposterous, and that is the falsehood that he has tried to continue to spread, either by his malice or his negligence.

    The gulags resulted from a despotic application of communism, not from atheism. As Octoberfurst explained above, Marxist-Leninist communism demands that nothing be allowed to compete with the State. Atheism is just being unconvinced of deities. It does not demand that churches, synagogues and mosques be destroyed. Communists demanded that. If communists want to make atheism their official policy, that does not mean that everything they do flows by necessity out of atheism.

    Both you and Son of Christensen are trying to use guilt by association to smear atheism with the atrocities of communists. Guilt by association is such a transparent and amateurish tactic, I’m surprised that you’re trying it. Since it’s pretty clear that you are capable of knowing that communism and atheism are not identical, not even the same paradigm, then it is also clear that your attempt to perpetuate the falsehood is not from irresponsible negligence, but from deliberate and conscious malice. Take your lies and put them at the feet of Jesus and explain yourself to him. Maybe you can try arguing like a lawyer to him, but I don’t think he’ll be convinced.

  • RightRevJim

    “Many Christians were also first responders to the AIDS crisis (contrary to the accepted narrative).”

    Sorry, I lived through the epidemic, turned 18 in 1979, lived in two countries and traveled to numerous others for extended periods of time, for 2 decades of the worst dying imaginable. I can tell you first hand unequivocally….that is not how it was, no, not at all.