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.


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