Many young evangelical Christians were stunned Thursday when Louie Giglio revoked his acceptance of U.S. President Barack Obama’s invitation to give the benediction at the 2013 U.S. presidential inauguration.
Several, including myself, attended Giglio’s Passion Conference only a week ago to worship, be challenged and unite behind the modern-day abolition movement. We raised almost $3 million for abolitionist causes worldwide. We also launched the End It Movement, a project to free the world’s estimated 27 million slaves. We tweeted like gerbils on cocaine about the End It Movement to get the word out that God has a bigger heart for the world than slavery.
And the root of that was Christ. Christ working through Louie Giglio.
Many evangelicals, then, were thrilled on Tuesday when Obama selected Giglio to give the benediction at his second inauguration. According to CNN, an inauguration official said Giglio was chosen because he is a “powerful voice for ending human trafficking and global sex slavery.”
I, personally, was pleased. As far as I knew, Giglio was a smart choice. A loving choice. A choice that understood the principles of freedom and justice.
However, on Wednesday, ThinkProgress, a progressive commentary outlet, released the full audio of one of Giglio’s sermons from the mid-1990s. After hearing the sermon, my opinion on the selection of Giglio shifted, and cooled.
The sermon considered homosexuality, as Giglio would called it, “a malfunction.”
In his sermon, Giglio said lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality activists do not represent “a benevolent movement” but a “powerful and aggressive movement.” He called homosexuality “sin,” and quoted 1 Cor. 6:9-10 to drive the point that homosexuals are going to hell.
And he said gay people can change their sexuality.
“We’ve got to say to the homosexuals the same thing that I say to you and that you would say to me,” he said. “It’s not easy to change, but it is possible to change.”
Shortly after the sermon was broadcast widely and in the face of the “malfunction” lobby, Giglio wisely decided it would be best if he didn’t speak at the inauguration.
That was when my Facebook news feed blew up.
“Please read this. Very scary about the times we live in. Giglio should not have caved to the pressure!” posted a local Baptist pastor.
“This breaks my heart,” wrote a sophomore attendee of the campus’s Methodist worship group.
“This is absolutely insane. On so many levels. Wow. The White House is now looking for someone with a more ‘inclusive’ view on homosexuality to pray to a God who is crystal clear about the issue,” posted the former president of the University’s chapter of the Christian fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi.
But there’s a bigger story here.
God is “crystal clear” in the Bible about many subjects in scripture that pastors don’t highlight.
But when was the last time any of us heard a sermon on 1 Cor. 11:6? “If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head.”
Or 1 Cor. 14:34? “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.”
I know at my local church, hatless women sing, speak and pray regularly in front of the congregation without any condemnation. Even at the Passion Conference, hatless female speaker Beth Moore spoke to the 60,000 of us in attendance, and hatless female singers Christy Nockels and Kim Walker led us in song.
However, the verses against that seem pretty “crystal clear.”
What about “crystal clear” Bible verses that endorse the institution of slavery, such as Eph. 6:5-9, that goes against the End It Movement Giglio started and so many of us support?
“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ...” Slavery, slavery and more slavery. Odd, isn’t it?
Not really. Scripture is constantly being reinterpreted around the cultural norms of the day in a way that honors the Lord. In the history of the United States, U.S. Americans have shifted Christian doctrine on women, slavery and several other issues as cultural doctrine has shifted. Most would say this has occurred for the better.
After all, I haven’t heard anyone in the church complain that the other person selected to pray at the inauguration is Myrlie Evers-Williams, the black, female widow of civil-rights activist Medgar Evers. Why is no one complaining that a woman is praying in public? Or a person with slavery in her heritage?
Because the church has evolved on these “crystal clear” verses, and if someone used these Bible verses to drive an anti-woman or pro-slavery agenda, we wouldn’t want them speaking at the inauguration. It would be embarrassing and obviously against how we as a nation interpret the word of God.
How then can evangelicals look on an unrevoked sermon that uses scripture to attack a certain people group and not think it’s significant?
How can we be anything but appalled when Giglio is rebuked for preaching faulty science, like ex-gay therapy — which zero professional scientific organizations have endorsed — in the name of God?
The gay suicide rate is sky high. Gay depression is rampant. Gay loneliness is widespread. And where is the church? Mourning with the broken-hearted or at the table with fools?
It would appear the latter.
And it’s a shame, because that’s not the overwhelming message of the gospel. The greatest commandment according to Christ is love God and love people, and it is very clear that scripture has been reinterpreted to love certain people and exclude others.
For the love of God, it is time for that to stop.
—Charles Hicks is a senior from Pembroke majoring in journalism and anthropology