There is so much to sort through after yesterday’s announcement that Louie Giglio stepped down from praying at the Inauguration. You can find a great summary of it all at Red Letter Christians, by The Marin Foundation’s new Associate Director, Michael Kimpan. There were a few prominent evangelicals to weigh in yesterday, and besides Skye Jethani’s insightful and nuanced post, I found most of them to be totally off the mark. In summarizing the themes from yesterday’s evangelical world’s attempt at thoughtful commentary, here is my overall analysis:
The articles written by Gabe Lyons, Albert Mohler, Ed Stetzer and John Dickerson in the Washington Post are wrongly generalizing this situation as the collapse of evangelicalism. I can’t stand when people do that. Does everyone realize that evangelicalism is still the dominant religious entity within our country? Why all the drama? Sure, evangelicalism didn’t get it’s way yesterday and now they’re crying like a baby getting their toy (e.g. political platform) taken away from them. Where is the intelligent dialogue instead of the simple accusations and false generalizations? No wonder so many in the public square have such a hard time taking evangelicals seriously.
First, it is clear that Gabe Lyons, Albert Mohler, Ed Stetzer, John Dickerson, etc, have little to no personal experience with the religious affiliations and convictions of those who advise and surround the President. I’m not talking about Joe Biden or Hillary Clinton or Jay Carney or even Joshua Dubois. I’m talking about the people who the public will never know their names because they are never in front of the camera, and yet play very significant roles in shaping public policy and attempting to navigate the ever-changing landscape of our country. In no way, shape, or form am I saying that I am better than anyone because I have been given the opportunity to personally know and be in relationship with quite a few folks at the White House. But I can honestly tell you that there are way more professing and practicing evangelicals throughout our government than any of the “evangelical experts” have a clue about.
The President, regardless of what you think of him or the direction he is leading the country, does surround himself with a variety of worldviews, opinions and experiences. Just because he “comes out” and makes definitive statements supporting the topics LGBTs care so deeply about, doesn’t mean he is not listening to a ton of people behind the scenes from all different walks of life–very intentionally also including orthodox evangelicals. That is a fact.
The broader issue then, becomes, is the conservative evangelical world flipping out because they aren’t getting what they want and are no longer in the political power structure of our country–fearful that the treatment they have implemented over other cultural non-dominant populations over the years will be turned back on them? Or are they flipping out because they just aren’t aware that professing and practicing evangelicals actually do have a role in our country’s highest offices? We’ll have to see, but I sure pray it’s the latter instead of the former. My gut, spirit if you will, unfortunately tells me it’s the former.
A few highlights and analysis from yesterday’s famous evangelical’s comments:
Gabe Lyons called what happened to his very good friend, Louie Giglio, a hate crime**. 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. There are Christians literally getting killed around the world, just as in what we read about in Scripture. That is persecution! “My feelings get hurt, I get branded in a false light, and I get a very high profile speaking gig cancelled on me” IS. NOT. PERSECUTION. OR. A. HATE. CRIME. I know Gabe personally, and this is very sad to see. He’s better than that.
Albert Mohler, in his usual way of writing, doesn’t offer any productive solutions for advancing the chasm at the end of his commentary, but only insists evangelicals must continue fighting against the evils of what is fearfully going to destroy us all. I don’t know Albert Mohler, I wish I did because I would be fascinated to talk to him. But anyway, this article he wrote, and pretty much any others of his, you’ve read one of them you’ve read all of them. He needs to represent his Southern Baptist denomination in the public square with an eye much more clearly pointed towards peacefully engaging opposing worldviews through within the framework of his theological belief system, rather than continuing to think the mainstream will ever step inside his as a baseline for dialogue. I’m sure he’s a smart enough man to figure this out like Jesus did in his day.
Ed Stetzer’s research shows that the country is at about a 50/50 split with people thinking that homosexuality is a sin. It is true Ed, that with such a split your argument is correct that someone like Giglio should be allowed to pray, speak, etc as he does represent half of the country. But the President of the United States of America, the man being sworn in, is a part of the other 50%. Do you feel that Mitt Romney would have had gay Bishop Gene Robinson offer a prayer? We can only speculate, but with American politics as they are today, I highly doubt it. Why then Ed, are you so surprised this happened, especially after Giglio’s silence to “clarify” his current position since the sermon in question happened in the mid-90s?
And John Dickerson asks the question, is it time to ditch the name “evangelical?” He makes a very compelling argument why. Fine, change the name from “evangelical” to [insert new name here]. Doesn’t change the beliefs, just gives it a new “brand,” as Dickerson put it. Well, as I said in My One Sentence Bible on January 9th: Jesus doesn’t care about your “brand.” In fact, he can’t stand the fact that you care so much about it. [Luke 20:41-47]. If the beliefs won’t change with a new name, then, a reclamation of “the brand” can only happen through actions. But, if you’re dead set on changing the name, I’m a big fan of Red Letter Christian. Evangelicals talk a great game about what Jesus says in the red letters, time to actually live it out, then.
All in all, the “end of evangelicalism” or the “public oppression of evangelicalism” will all happen much sooner and greater than anyone could have expected without a more intelligent thought towards engaging the public square with more than blames, accusations, fear tactics and false generalizations. A rough day indeed for evangelicals all over, and not because Giglio stepped down.
**Update: As of the evening of 1/11/13, Gabe Lyons tweeted me with a link to an retraction of the use of “hate crime.” See his explanation here.