I have been asked by some folks through social media what my thoughts are regarding Louie Giglio stepping down from praying at the Inauguration among heat from some in the LGBT community. Here you go:
First, I know through first hand conversations that the Presidential Inauguration Committee (PIC), without a shadow of a doubt, wants the Inauguration to be about unity and its focus to be on the President being sworn in for a second term–not about someone who has one or two minutes to pray. The unfortunate reality of what our country views as an acceptable medium of engagement between opposing worldviews is that one must first be “on our side” in order for there to be any peaceful or productive dialogue.
We instead need to start focusing our full political and religious efforts on building bridges over building armies. This doesn’t mean that at the end of the day we all need to agree. This also doesn’t mean that folks do not have a strong conviction by what compels their work, actions, beliefs and faith practices. It does mean that we must be bold individuals of reconciliation, who live in the tension, and refuse to allow hate, disagreements or past experiences cause irrevocable division in any community. If such things do cause irrevocable divisions, that is squarely on us.
How can President Obama, and PIC that represents him for the Inauguration, be about building bridges between opposing worldviews without directly including those from each of the various worldviews? Currently, there is an no evangelical (the largest religious group in our country) a part of the Inauguration proceedings–despite there being religious progressives and various ethnicities and LGBTs. In an event about inaugurating a person as the President of the post-modern, pluralistic, some would even suggest post-Christian United States of America, there needs to be representation of all perspectives. Therefore, I don’t believe the branding of Giglio as “Anti-Gay Pastor” was just. I believe Giglio is a theologically conservative evangelical, and that doesn’t necessarily make him “anti-gay.”
I am friends with a few very well known mainstream media journalists who reached out to Giglio to get his side of the story about these accusations. They tell me he, nor his PR folks, ever responded. Silence is a problem.
Therefore second, if our country is to be a place of tolerance, unity, equality and justice, silence has no place taking up any needed space for honesty and dialogue.
As a man of strong religious and Jesus-centered convictions, Giglio must have known that it is recorded in Scripture that Jesus responded to his critics EVERY SINGLE TIME. OK, not every time, because he kept silent once for a short time before responding again. But all others Jesus did not hesitate! Jesus never decided to ‘not respond’ because it was easier to do so, like so many others do today.
In fact, despite the hardest and most difficult of circumstances, Jesus made a choice to respond to the most divisive of political, social, cultural and theological topics when approached or accused. If Christians are to reclaim the Way of Jesus and again make a widespread impact to bring peace to the most divisive of topics and times, we also need to stop thinking we are above the law/media/accusations/etc. Respond! How can we engage in peaceful and productive dialogue unless we are willing to talk in the frameworks presented to us?
Third, I understand the unique dynamics of politics–which is inherently win/lose–and can somewhat grasp as an outsider the unique dynamics of choosing to give someone such a spotlight in the national platform that is an Inauguration. That person should not be based on fame, but on their work to do what the President and PIC needs to do in this moment of time: Tirelessly working to bring peace in spaces that cause so much division–as unfortunately now a precedent has been set to remove people amongst pressure from those who don’t agree.
Sure, the process of finding such a person is not perfect, but I believe President Obama and PIC’s intent are honest. I pray for them now, that they would choose a person, not even necessarily the right person, that can take a minute or two and pray for unity in such a crazy world; and be able to pray that prayer with honest conviction because that is what they do every day of their life.