For Pastor Louie Giglio, a frequent visitor to the Obama White House in 2012, an invitation to pray the Inaugural benediction meant a spotlight on his efforts to end global human trafficking, an issue which deserves greater awareness. But it seemed some sermons of his from the 1990s were problematic; they suggested that there was a sinful element to homosexual behavior, and—even worse, by some measures—that Jesus could turn a gay man straight.
Once that information was thrown into social media, Giglio, perhaps in a move meant to protect both the president and his own current efforts, quickly managed a warm and graceful exit:
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. . . . [No one believes] 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.
Our nation is deeply divided and hurting, and more than ever we need God’s grace and mercy in our time of need.
Conversely, the statement by Inaugural Committee spokeswoman Addie Whisenant seemed chillingly tactlessness:
We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection, and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part because of his leadership in combating human trafficking. . . . As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.
Inclusion and acceptance for all Americans, except those unreasonable folk who insist upon making a distinction between “acceptance” and “approval,” or who believe that the definition of marriage as it has been understood for thousands of years is still relevant. Those Americans, even if they do great things for the poor, and work to end human slavery in the 21st century–like Pastor Giglio and, for that matter, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—are not included in “this administration’s vision.”
A vision, it must be remembered, that is just about eight-months old and involved a presidential “evolution over time” that will not be permitted to anyone else. The president’s May 2012 epiphany was apparently a messianic one, which would be for all the people, and those straggling or haggling over issues of sin and natural law are meant to either get with the program or feel a chill wind that will only blow harder the longer they remain outside.
There are few people who, in 2013, would claim to be precisely the same person they were in 1995. Certainly the president cannot say he is the same; his thinking has “evolved” on same-sex marriage, debt ceilings, and any number of issues even since his 2006 election to the U.S. Senate. His statements and speeches from the 1990s therefore, might very well reflect a different side of him and—if not an all-out change in position—a growing nuance on some issues, and a broadening of perspective. In such a case, should he be held to his past statements and works, alone?
The answer, of course, is no. Barack Obama’s past statements have never been held against him and never will be. The rest of us, however, should take note: We are to be captives of our past phraseology, and unless we are willing—as the insufficiently evolved Pastor Giglio was apparently not—to completely and for all time disavow our former thinking, opportunities will be lost to us, no matter how they might benefit ourselves or the larger world in general.
An ancillary concern, but one that must be mentioned: Almost immediately following Giglio’s withdrawal, social media discussions erupted, even among thoughtful people, about which “gay friendly presumed” preacher should replace him. Some of the names suggested would be very fine additions to the inaugural program, but the cavalier manner in which Giglio’s overthrow was shrugged off struck me as terrifyingly disengaged and ironic: A man who is doing good work against a difficult issue like human trafficking has been excluded from an American Presidential Inauguration because of his words from 15-20 years ago, and because of his refusal to conform every bit of his thinking to the a new and strangely narrow and illiberal standard. This would have been unthinkable only a few years ago, when “inclusion and tolerance” still made a grudging bow to “diversity of thought.” Last week, that fact was, for many who should know better but could not see past their sympathies, not even worth mentioning.
In the “land of the free” we are quickly becoming comfortable with the idea that our thoughts must align perfectly with the Zeitgeist’s, all the time, or else people become expendable, exclude-able. This, I would suggest, is a social over-correction. We are losing the idea that decent people may disagree and still be decent people. That cannot be a good thing.
Elizabeth Scalia is the Managing Editor of the Catholic Portal at Patheos and blogs as The Anchoress. Her previous articles for "On the Square" can be found here.
White House Announces Inaugural Plans
Giglio Frequent White House Visitor
Giglio on Human Trafficking: "Jesus was the original abolitionist"
USCCB ends trafficking partnership with HHS
Giglio Imbroglio: Moral McCarthyism
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