Last time Barack Obama won an election, we had to sit through a prayer by Rick Warren. Since then they’ve had a bit of a falling out, what with Obama’s team announcing that they wouldn’t have another debate moderated by Warren and so forth.
Taking his place this year was going to be Louis Giglio, pastor at Passion City Church in Atlanta. He’s the founder of the “Passion movement” which is another one of those attempts to get students and other young folks excited about Jesus. It looks the usual blend of evangelical rhetoric, but with some good charitable work mixed in. All in all, a safe choice for a moderate-left President trying to keep with the younger demographic.
But as it turns out, Giglio delivered anti-gay sermons and promoted “ex-gay” therapy some years ago. He’s now withdrawn from the inauguration. He sent ThinkProgress a statement including the following:
Due to a message of mine that has surfaced from 15-20 years ago, it is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda the focal point of the inauguration. Clearly, speaking on this issue has not been in the range of my priorities in the past fifteen years. Instead, my aim has been to call people to ultimate significance as we make much of Jesus Christ.Neither I, nor our team, feel it best serves the core message and goals we are seeking to accomplish to be in a fight on an issue not of our choosing, thus I respectfully withdraw my acceptance of the President’s invitation. I will continue to pray regularly for the President, and urge the nation to do so. I will most certainly pray for him on Inauguration Day.
Probably wise on his part to withdraw. Much of his core audience of college students are going to be offended by his previous statements. He doesn’t want to get branded with the “anti-gay” label, even if he is still anti-gay. Better to focus on getting the kids into the church and then let some other pastor read them then anti-gay riot act.
But all this raises a question: where on earth can Obama find a pastor who’s going to fit the criteria and yet not offend his base? They’re going to need to be evangelical and popular, white to avoid any Jeremiah Wright issues, and yet inoffensive enough not to turn off the young democrats. What megachurch are you going to find that one in?