Giglio Pulls Out of Inauguration

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 He’s now withdrawn from the inauguration.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?

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  • RJ

    Why do they even need a pastor at all? Y’ know, the whole non state sponsored religion thing ‘n all…
    If Obama sees himself as a president of ALL people, wouldn’t it be more consistent to stay faith-neutral?
    Why do religious people always feel this constant need to have their faith validated?

    • Chris McLaughlin

      I agree. Why not have Neil DeGrasse Tyson give the benediction? And when The religious god-botherers go on FOX News to complain about how this shows that the President is anti-Christian, He can reply saying that he didn’t want a religious leader there because religion is divisive.

    • JohnMWhite

      Agreed. It’s unseemly and a bit childish, demonstrating a profound insecurity. If it’s just so impossible for the population to handle an inauguration without a clerical blessing of some sort, I’d at least like the president to suggest the neutrality of his position by involving a rabbi or imam. Why does it always, always, always have to be a Christian?

      Also, thanks to Christianity making it is core mission over the past decade or so to interfere in the lives of homosexuals and women, the OP brings up a very good point. Where are you going to find a Christian minister that anybody has heard of who hasn’t been part of the anti-gay or anti-woman movement? They’ve kind of shot themselves in the foot. At least Giglio was classy enough to withdraw and avoid making his statement an overt whine about the gays, even if he does tacitly admit to still hating them, and frankly that was a heck of a lot more grown-up a response than I was expecting. That, in and of itself, is a huge problem. Mainstream, or the allegedly moderate, Christianity has absolutely terrible PR right now and it’s hard to envision them finding someone to be part of this without lowering the tone.

      • kessy_athena

        LOL an imam? Seriously? When we already have how many people convinced that Obama is a muslim?

        • JohnMWhite

          Like I said, this would require the mainstream Christian community in the United States growing the fuck up.

      • Noelle

        There are ministers who are gay. There are ministers who are women.

        • Elemenope

          Unfortunately, this would not necessarily exclude them from being practicing misogynists and/or homophobes.

          And then there’s that tricky “…that anybody has heard of” part.

          • kessy_athena

            Case in point, Larry Craig.

          • Noelle

            Fair enough on the being a female and/or openly LBGQTetc oneself does not automatically mean one is devoid of personal homophobic or sexist prejudices.

            Who says he or she has to be famous ahead of time? I haven’t heard of most of the people the president’s asked to do stuff so far, including this Giglio guy. Being “known” can just as well come after. Also, why it have to be an evangelical? Obama’s a liberal Christian. He won the election. Feel free to pick another liberal. Episcopalians and Lutherans and the like are people too. Their imaginary friend is just as real as the fundy version.

            For a Christian, being associated with the Democrats can lead to backlash from the conservative and evangelical Christian community. Back in September, the executive director of a Christian charity called blood:water mission was asked to be one of the people to offer prayers at the democratic national convention. Now, this is one of those good charities that doesn’t proselytize. It does real work with getting clean water and supplies and education for HIV testing and treatment in Africa. It’s Christian label comes from being founded by Christian rock band, Jars of Clay. So they announce on their FB page that their director gets to do this thing on TV, and while most of the reponses are supportive, a number are hateful and accusing that anyone who has anything to do with Obama might as well be performing abortions themselves. Christians eat their own.

            Her prayer itself is simple:

            And the band frontman fields the disgruntled fans on his blog:

            • JohnMWhite

              I’m not prescribing the fame criteria specifically, but one would imagine that to be on the radar of the White House and invited to inaugurate the US President you’d have to be sort of known. They’re not going to throw darts at a map and see which random parish they hit. Would possibly stop a lot of these silly spats if they did, though. Spin a wheel to decide the denomination, then a raffle to decide which minister/rabbi/imam/druid/whatever gets to do it. Though no doubt Fox News would complain it was rigged so a Hindu could convert children to veganism.

  • Benjamin

    How about an Episcopalian Bishop? The church as a whole tends to be fairly progressive on gender, racial, and sexual social issues.

    • DanD

      I was thinking more or less the same. While I am an atheist, I grew up ELCA Lutheran, who are now in full communion with the Episcopal Church. Both (and honestly most main line Christian churches) actually aren’t the sort of anti-whatever you’ve got bigots that make up the vocal Christian portion of this country. I agree with some others that a prayer really isn’t necessary, but if you’re going to have it, there are churches out there whose doctrine isn’t to offensive.

  • Erp

    Given that Myrlie Evers-Williams is delivering the invocation, I think that covers the evangelical protestant base (I believe she was raised baptist and presumably still is). So what about breaking the mould again and having a non-Protestant as the other speaker as was the custom more or less from the 1930′s when having invocation/benediction started until the 1980s (it was also not uncommon to have a rabbi).

    The Episcopalians host the “national prayer service” the next day which the president and vice-president attend so I think they get a bit of the spotlight already (admittedly I would love to see the reaction if Gene Robinson or Katharine Jefferts Schori are invited to give the benediction).

  • Custador

    Why not just get any non religious professional speaker to do it?

    • UrsaMinor

      Because that would prove that Obama hates America.

    • Yoav

      While that will be the right thing to do the evil side of me hope Obama would book an imam, just for the entertainment value of watching all the heads exploding over at fox news.

      • UrsaMinor

        Meh. Their heads explode regularly over news like “water is wet”. It’s lost its entertainment value.