Reflections on the Louie Giglio Situation

Reflections on the Louie Giglio Situation January 10, 2013

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.

Much love.


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48 responses to “Reflections on the Louie Giglio Situation”

  1. Andrew, I think you presume too much about Louie’s motives here. I would give a little bit more weight to Jesus’ silence in the face of accusations and controversy than you do here. We’re not always obligated to answer. Let’s simply recognize the great thing Louie has done in bowing out and bowing down to Jesus. I like what you’ve said here, except for your criticism of his silence. We can only leave him to the Lord for choosing to be silent, and acknowledge that it is indeed a method used by Jesus. Thanks, bro.

    • David – Thanks for your thoughts. I just find that in general, silence by folks in the public eye does more harm than good. A friend of mine works for a large PR firm here in Chicago, and he always says, “If you’re not telling your story someone is telling it for you, and it’s probably not right.” I have seen over the years that is a very wise point – especially in things like this where public opinion matters. Even if public opinion still led to the same outcome, at least his version is out there…and not just a “statement” thought a PR firm; IMHO.

      • “”In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – MLK Jr

    • I totally agree with everything in this. When Jesus remained silent He was actually fully filling prophecy. He had to remain silent instead of defending Himself so He could go to the cross! Typically you remain silent when you are attacked and let Christ be your defender. In this situation Louie made a decision to withdrawal and not defending his actions and this is cowardly. First question…WHY DID HE TAKE THE POSITION TO PRAY IN THE FIRST PLACE???? If he had declined do you think the media would have made a peep about it? No they probably would have never found out. I’d say Louie “prayerfully” chose to withdrawal to bring attention to himself. Evangelicals are so concerned with self preservation that they forget to lose everything is Christ.

    • Thanks Shawn for posting this! The problem, in my estimation, is that his response is days late. My journalist friends I mentioned in the post called when the first sermon in question was posted. Silence from them until now, when he didn’t have much choice but to respond.

    • David – When the President of the United States asks you to publicly participate in something so huge, especially in light of his recent pronouncements in favor of gay marriage, any evangelical needs to be ready to answer certain questions and accusations. A day in the White House world is like a year to everyone else.

  2. Hi Andrew — love the article, as usual. I would caution, however, about assuming that Giglio’s silence is “because it [is] easier to do so”. While that MAY be the case, it also may be the case the many evangelicals recognize the futility of responding to the slurs of critics. As long as the MSM refuses to give a fair representation of their words and deeds, good people will opt out of responding, as it doesn’t help the situation.

    • Christian – I do agree that many feel it might be futile to even attempt to answer. I at least always try. But then again, this is my daily topic of interest, and I’m sure it was something Giglio just wanted to avoid at all costs. But when doing something with the President, there are some things you can’t avoid addressing.

    • For preachers to stay silent is not an easier thing to do, and for leaders, there’s always too many important and urgent things to do than to respond to every critics. I would add that while evangelicals, and many others in organizational leadership, recognize a futility of responding to critics, by not responding in a real-time manner that our 21st century requires for audience engagement, the silence may well default to disengagement and lack of public concern.

      • DJ – I honestly and genuinely respect the heck out of you, your voice, and your work. I completely disagree with your assessment. Just because something might be culturally normative in contemporary society (staying silent and hoping it diminishes), doesn’t mean it stands up to the biblical principles laid out in Scripture (responding regardless). The problem now, is that the first 12 full PAGES on Google when you type in Louie Giglio only say “anti-gay” … nothing really about his tremendous work fighting modern slavery. I would love to hear your thoughts on somewhat dismissing the principles of Jesus as he responded every time. Are his actions repeated throughout the Gospels not relevant today? I’m not being snarky, genuinely curious. Thanks.

        • Hey Andrew, thanks for your reply, and your zeal for love to triumph for the good of all. Perhaps I didn’t word my reply very well, because here’s what I intended to say: 1. it’s not easy for a preacher or leader to stay silent, after all they’re professional talkers, 2. it is an exercise in futility to respond to every critic, 3. being silent has the unintended impact of being disengaged and unconcerned. My item #3 is parallel to your call for being like Jesus in how he responded almost every time. Your observation of how Google searches on Louie Giglio now return only “anti-gay” accusations, and this goes to show, I would say, how many typical organizational leaders do not know how to engage in the real-time public discourse of our times.

  3. Louis kept silent because he doesn’t want his church or his mission embroiled in scandal. In reality, there is no way he could win this he chose not to fight it. I’ll use not only the example of Jesus but the example of Amy Carmichael who is one of the most well known missionaries in history and a pioneer leader in the fight against sex trafficking as we know it today. Any time someone tried to create scandal, she kept silent. She wouldn’t add fuel to the fire. I admire him. It can’t be easy to stay silent and not defend himself. To see everything he has done in the past decade ignored while a sermon he preached 15 years ago has him tied to the whipping post. I believe he prayed and made the best choice he could for himself, his church and his mission. God bless him for it.

    • Cindy – True. However, his church and his mission is now embroiled in lots of “scandal” with this topic from here on out. As I mentioned earlier, he could have addressed it telling his own narrative whether people liked it or not; or let other people address him and their perception of his narrative and leaving everyone with no idea if the other people’s narrative is accurate. And the unfortunate reality is that too many believe opinions of other people as truth right from the get-go.

      • Andrew, I too was bothered by your condemnation of Louie and also remembered that when it mattered most, when questioned by Pilate, Jesus remained silent. He knew what would happen, He knew nothing He’d say would change anything. He HUMBLY remained silent. I hate that all this has happened regarding Louie, but love that he chose to not respond. I admire him tremendously for that! He didn’t fight his accusers, he simply said that he didn’t want to enter the argument because that wasn’t what he was about. It would completely draw people away from the ministry God has called him to, in presenting God the Creator as such a beautiful, creative, intricate, and personal God! The only thing people want to hear is if he is still “anti-gay” as they’d say, or if he’s more accepting of it currently. They want to know what camp to throw him in. He would lose either way. To answer either direction would throw fuel on the fire. I recently quoted a comment of yours that I loved, on my FB page, and succinctly received a private message from a very conservative friend trying to warn me that you refused to answer the question on whether or not you believed homosexuality was a sin or not. I just wrote her a huge response about your ministry and why you absolutely couldn’t answer that question, even though I, too, wish you would, for my desire for wisdom in how to handle certain situations. For you to answer either way would immediately destroy your position of objective loving “gap-bridger”. You couldn’t win either way you answered. It’s the same with Louie. People just want to know whether big names are enemies or allies. Many times, it’s best to not add fuel to their bonfire.

  4. Every time I read Andrew Marin I think about that line in Jeremiah 6, “They treated my people’s wound superficially, telling them, ‘Peace, peace,’ but there is no peace.”

    Some gay and lesbian people and their allies find it hard to sit down with with people who argue against the integrity of their very lives, whether they are speaking softly or carrying “God hates fags” signs.

    • Tracy – One of my good LGBT friends told me recently, “Andrew, you are sure asking A LOT from us to have to reach back out to those that have hurt us so very much. I don’t know if I can do it.” A truer statement has never been said. It is a TON to ask. But I just don’t see how anything can change unless there are people from both the LGBT community and conservatives who are seeking each other as reconciliatory agents from each of their communities. It’s not for everyone, I understand that. And that is ok! But for those who do so choose, let us do it together.

  5. Andrew,

    I appreciate the article and found myself agreeing with you (though, perhaps for different reasons) that Giglio should have said more. I do not presume that you could or should speak for anyone including Giglio. However, I am curious. If you were in his position and this were you (with his views and understanding), what do you think he should have said? If he had doubled down on what he said in his sermon from the 90’s and said that that still represents his views today, would you still feel the way you do? Do you think what he said in his sermon was divisive? I am truly and sincerely interested…

    • Daniel – At the very least he could have, in some pre-arranged and specifically chosen public interview, addressed the claims against him by saying exactly what he wrote today in his official statement. That would have been a great, great start:

      “The issue of homosexuality (which a particular message of mine some 20 years ago addressed) is one of the most difficult our nation will navigate. However, individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.
      As a pastor, my mission is to love people, and lead them well, while lifting up the name of Jesus above anything else. I’m confident that anyone who knows me or has listened to the multitude of messages I have given in the last decade would most likely conclude that I am not easily characterized as being opposed to people—any people. Rather, I am constantly seeking to understand where all people are coming from and how to best serve them as I point them to Jesus.
      In all things, the most helpful thing I can do is to invite each of us to wrestle with scripture and its implications for our lives. God’s words trump all opinions, including mine, and in the end, I believe God’s words lead to life.”

      I would have then focused on the necessity to build bridges instead of armies, etc.

  6. I fail to see how anyone could posit that pointing out that an anti-gay pastor is an anti-gay pastor is unjust.

    • But then, some people are desperate to avoid telling the truth if it means they need to show some backbone and risk offending someone, even if that someone is a bigot.

      • I don’t know. It must take some backbone to stand in the public sphere and be receiving comments like this one.

          • Rev – I’m not sure what type of PR you’re talking about, especially since I am critical of “my own people” staying silent. Interesting.

  7. I would question why no one in the WH or the committee thought that someone so closely associated with the evangelical movement would not hold to a conservative view on homosexuality. Or at least google searched Louie Giglio. Having said that, I have followed Giglio since the late 1990’s and have never once heard him reference homosexuality.

    • Scott – Thanks for the comment. Obviously he has referenced homosexuality, otherwise there would be no sermon in question. However, that is far from his focus, and would really have never had any reason to talk about it – even back then. But he did, and here we are. I think the WH is smart enough to know he probably had said soooomething in his past, but they highly doubted there would have been such an uproar. They dealt with the Rick Warren stuff on Prop 8 four years ago, and so I’m surprised they were so surprised this time around. But then again, Obama had not made come out in favor of gay marriage and repealing DADT four years ago.

  8. I’ve been waiting for your comments on this, Andrew. I adore Louie and have attending Passion Conferences for the past few years – where there is no doubt great good being done for the world in terms of humanitarian aid and, more specifically, to stop human trafficking. To see this whole debacle absolutely broke my heart, as I have heard in hearing Louie’s words and seen in his deeds nothing but love. I understand being in the public sphere, particularly as a pastor, there are going to be issues with things said and special attention to how they are said, etc. I know there are things I used to say in regards to the gay community that I would be mortified of now, as a Christian – and I know that, for you, it’s much the same. The past can haunt us. So many pastors don’t even know what to do with the LGBTQ issue – which is why I’m thankful for your viewpoint, that’s helped me shape my own and handle the heart I believe I’ve been given for the gay community. I don’t mean to suggest Louie regrets that message from 20+ years ago – I don’t know one way or another. But your statement about him being traditionally conservative – and not necessarily anti-gay, rings true.

    It’s just a shame and heartbreaking all around.

    • Julianna – It is definitely a shame all around, especially the aftermath reactions yesterday and today. The question becomes, at what point is ‘the past the past?’ I think the biggest error to reaching that point was keeping silent. Because he did, there was no way for LGBT activist folks wanting him gone to move on to present day about him either.

      • That is indeed the question – and I agree that in not addressing and clarifying his stance on this issue is a mistake. I don’t begrudge him for not having kept the issue on his radar in the past few years. We all have our passions and issues we feel most intensely about, and Louie’s is human trafficking. I would HOPE that we could live in a world where there is forgiveness for things in the past – but we aren’t in the position very often to fairly ask that of the LGBTQ community, are we? I’m not sure if Louie did clarify his present standing on the issue, he would be forgiven, either, though. It’s endlessly frustrating and, as you noted, pretty terrible that Google results are “anti-gay” instead of “modern abolitionist.”

    • Andy – The silence I referenced is not post-announcement of him backing out, it was the silence from the time it was released that he was offering the prayer, then quickly contacted by some major media outlets, and the silence towards them. See my previous comment to Julianna. PS- My dad’s name is Peter and he HATES when people use his name in that derogatory way. Please don’t.

  9. I keep hearing that Louie Giglio is being punished for a 20 year old sermon. What are his current beliefs on gay people and families within society and within the church?

    • Jon – That’s what we don’t know and what he is unwilling to talk about. It’s the main problem that led him to back out… “the silence”. So all anyone has to work off from him is what he said 20 years ago because he’s not updating anything today.

      • I tend to agree with you here. 20 years ago, he promoted ex-gay theology, preached against gay sexual expression as sin, preached against gay civil rights, compared homosexuality to addiction, and strongly spoke out against our marriages and our families — no “special rights!” (except for heterosexuals).

        I hear that he does and says wonderful things now about slavery and human trafficking and that those earlier sermon bullet-points were from 20 years ago — but nobody will say that he believes any differently about gay people and our families and our civil rights. Including him. So what are we to think about him?

        -Jon (who really doesn’t care if Giglio prays for the Prez or not; I’m just engaging in the conversation)

  10. Andrew,
    my thought is that Giglio’s main priority right now is in shining a light on slavery and with today being National Awareness Day for Sex-Trafficking he is not going to spend his day responding to people he is going to spend his day leading people…towards the vision of slavery ending in our lifetime. My guess is that his voice is going for the voiceless and his silence is for anything that might detract from this and I respect that.

    • Jonathan – So true! And I legitimately agree with you and that assessment! But we have to take into consideration that this is the White House, it is the President of the United States, and it is possibly the biggest single-moment platform any single person can be given on national TV outside of being elected President. Regardless if LGBT is not his focus in the least bit, on this stage it is something that needs to be addressed. Also, the problem now is that the first 12 full PAGES on Google when you type in Louie Giglio only say “anti-gay” … nothing really about his tremendous work fighting modern slavery. So that strategic choice on his part backfired really bad. Such a shame.

  11. Louie is between a rock and a hard spot. To be part of the hipster evangelical Catalyst (Stanley, Chan, Driscoll, Piper) crowd, he must maintain his biblical literalist/inerrant stance and there is no wiggle room in that group. Giglio just had 60,000 college students gather in Atlanta last week for his annual Passion Conference. This age group, of course, is increasingly the MOST supportive of LGBTQ rights and same-sex marriage nationally. What a fascinating conundrum, huh? I’m thinking the “Gig” is up! If evangelicals don’t rethink their stance on biblical literalism, their time in the sun will be fading soon.

  12. I think people may be over-analyzing and certainly over-spiritualizing this incident. First, I see a lot of hero-worship in various comments — people latch onto someone they like and tend to overlook any negatives. I had never heard of Giglio before this incident so really, this has formed my opinion of him. I understand he has done some work against human trafficking, if so that’s great. It has nothing to do with whether or not he sees gays and lesbians, or their families, as legitimate, equal and deserving of the same rights as every other human being. Since he won’t say otherwise, I have no choice but to believe he holds the same views expressed in his old sermon(s). If so, I have no use for him either.

    I think the situation here was pretty basic. Four years ago, Rick Warren, another pastor who has expressed strong anti-gay views, was there to pray for the President’s first term. There was resistance to this but he was retained (some would say he didn’t have the decency to back out when it became all about him, but whatever). To expect gays and lesbians to not express their anger over yet another anti-gay pastor (again, best evidence says he is) to represent the country in prayer is a bit unreasonable. They chose him, anger was expressed, and Giglio bowed out. It is very possible he would have been retained as well if not for his own actions. But honestly, a staunch, anti-gay evangelical was there the first time, why is it so unreasonable to expect someone more progressive this time?

    In fact, if one truly wants to be understanding, and a bridge builder, why not go further and not only accept the change, but embrace it? Why not show the understanding you say you have, the grace you say God has given you, and express understanding with the idea that a more progressive pastor would only be fair this time? Now that, I think, is the true missed opportunity here. If you want to be different, act different!

    I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t make a very good bridge builder. I’ve done a bit of it, and I don’t think most who know me would call me unreasonable, but even though I am a Christian and I am aware of the evangelical position, I’m growing really tired of having to pretend there are two equal sides to this thing. The day is fast approaching when expressing the ideas Giglio did 20 years ago will be, to the majority, much like a racist trying to explain how blacks are descendants of an inferior race by using scripture. The government won’t care what you think, and no laws will regulate what you believe, but society and even the faithful will re-align to the understanding that gays and lesbians are just a product of nature, like any other variation. They will do this because, well, that’s the truth and I’m not going to lower myself to debating otherwise.

    Now there are those who will rally against this change, claim it portends the end times, that people are tickling their ears, etc. But the truth is, we have gone through bigger changes in our understanding of God and scripture than this. But as that shift happens, and it is happening even now, perhaps the shoe will indeed be on the other foot. I can only hope that by that time, gays and lesbians are compassionate enough to treat the Church, better than the Church has treated us. But shaming us for the pent up societal anger over that past is hardly the best way to show you care.

    • Bryan – I speak directly to how I address each one of those questions listed on that link, in my book, as it says on the link. But thanks for writing.