In a post at CNN’s Belief Blog, a young Evangelical urged Christians to “shrug off” the fact that an Evangelical pastor was apparently disinvited by the President’s Inaugural Committee to pray at the inauguration because of his Christian convictions on sexual morality. We disagree.
The Evangelical pastor is Louie Giglio, leader of the popular “Passion” youth conferences, who has been an outspoken advocate for those harmed by sexual trafficking. Giglio’s invitation to pray at the inauguration was effectively revoked when President Obama and his team caved to pressure from sexual liberationist groups who object to Giglio’s stated belief that sexual intercourse is proper only within the marital bond of husband and wife.
Several of us expressed dismay that the White House would abet a blatant effort to stigmatize the moral convictions of Christians, observant Jews, and people of many other faiths. One of us (Moore) expressed the view that yielding to such bullying tactics amounted to a kind of side-door establishment of a state church, since Giglio was disinvited for “failing” a test of what amounts to religious (or perhaps anti-religious) orthodoxy.
It was a remarkable repudiation of America’s religious pluralism and tradition of tolerance.
Nevertheless, Matthew Lee Anderson argues that Evangelical expressions of disappointment are overreactions. He counsels his fellow Evangelicals and other Christians to “shrug it off.”
What Anderson sees as overreaction wasn’t a demand for a boycott or a protest march or even a letter-writing campaign to the White House. It was simply his fellow Christians’ calling attention to a plain fact: the use of intimidation tactics to stigmatize their convictions and those of millions of Americans of many different faiths.
We don’t think we ought to “shrug it off.” Of course, no one has a natural right to pray at an inauguration. And no one is arguing that Evangelicals or Catholics or anyone else must have a designated slot on the dais. The issue is rather a point that one of us (George) has argued for years: The end result of the sexual revolution is that those who see marriage as a conjugal relationship—the union of husband and wife—and believe sexual conduct outside the marital bond to be morally unworthy, will come to be viewed as bigots, the equivalent of racists. And that has dire implications for religious liberty and freedom of conscience.
This issue matters because Christians are called to be the very best of citizens. That’s not the most important aspect of Christian life, to be sure. We must witness to the truth even when our witness leads to persecution. But we are also responsible for loving our neighbor, which includes acting in the political order to do what we can for the sake of justice and the common good.
If we were to “shrug off” attempts to bully and intimidate on the basis of a new sexual orthodoxy, we would be accepting a designation of “bigotry” not only for ourselves, but for generations to come and for our neighbors from many traditions. We would be accepting that designation for the Christian faith itself, and for the many other traditions of faith that propose similar moral teachings.
If Giglio’s beliefs make him a “bigot,” disqualified from having a role in the inaugural program, then the list of disqualified clergy is very long indeed: every Catholic and Eastern Orthodox bishop, Orthodox Jewish rabbis, Muslim imams, even the Dalai Lama.
If speaking out against injustice of the sort that cultural and even political power is being used to perpetrate today is counter to our Christian witness, then all the prophets should apologize, starting with John the Baptist. The early American Baptists such as John Leland petitioned tirelessly for religious liberty for all, and did so through public pressure and private diplomacy with leaders such as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. The result was a First Amendment guaranteeing our religious freedoms. They easily could have “shrugged off” the controversies over, among many other things, required licenses for preaching. After all, one can still preach the gospel from a jail cell. And one can still go to heaven from there too.
It’s true that Giglio “withdrew” from the inaugural program, though anyone who knows how these things are done will have no doubt that his invitation was revoked. And it’s true that his comments since have been low-key. That is irrelevant.
The Christians, including many pastors and priests and bishops, who stood with Rosa Parks in Montgomery didn’t do so because Rosa Parks, personally, wanted a better seat on the bus. They did so because jailing Rosa Parks for asserting her dignity as a human being and her constitutional rights as an American citizen was a public injustice. Not only was this a step in providing freedom for our African-American fellow citizens; it also helped awaken apathetic white Christians to the sinful disgrace of Jim Crow.
Christians shouldn’t panic or cower when culture or political power shifts into the hands of those who hold our moral convictions in contempt. Christians shouldn’t seek to silence our opponents. But calling for fairness and justice, as the Apostle Paul did for himself (Acts 16:37-39), is none of those things. When it comes to our public witness, we are our brothers’ keepers.
Robert P. George is a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University; Russell D. Moore is the provost and dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
Matthew Lee Anderson, “Christians ought to shrug off inaugural pastor rejection,” CNN’s Belief Blog
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