It’s like Groundhog Day. The alarm goes off and it’s a replay of the day past.
So here we are again, another Obama inauguration, another controversy over an anti-gay pastor participating in the ceremony. This time around it’s the selection of evangelical pastor Louie Giglio to deliver the benediction at the event. Joan Walsh @ Salon:
A search of his books and other writings finds no discussion of homosexuality or abortion and very little talk of sex at all, though one reference is perhaps suggestive. Teenagers are “wired for the opposite sex, for sure,” Giglio writes in his book “Wired: For a Life of Worship,” apparently denying the possibility of natural same-sex attraction. Meanwhile, Josh Israel at ThinkProgress finds some much more disturbing passages from a mid-1990s seminar. Homosexuality “is sin,” he said. “It is not ambiguous and unclear. It is very clear.” He goes on to say that gay people will not enter “the kingdom of heaven” (presumably, then, they will go to hell). And he warned of the gay rights movement, “That movement is not a benevolent movement, it is a movement to seize by any means necessary the feeling and the mood of the day, to the point where the homosexual lifestyle becomes accepted as a norm in our society and is given full standing as any other lifestyle.” The fact that the radically anti-gay American Family Association endorsed his sermons might also raise concerns.
There’s already a petition up at We The People demanding that Giglio be replaced . Maybe Obama is pulling another Rick Warren — you know, the usual “outreach” to evangelicals — the voters who would have nothing to do with his agenda and cast their ballots for Mittens last November. He’s also tapped an openly gay Latino poet and Medger Evans’ widow Myrlie (Evers-Williams) for the inauguration, giving a nod to progressive constituencies. Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches:
Paul Raushenbush has some smart observations about Obama’s seemingly unquenchable desire to try to make nice with white evangelicals, who are never going to like him. Obama does seem to have a need to pick a white evangelical with big reach — in 2009, Warren, pastor of a megachurch and author of best-selling books, in 2013, Giglio, pastor of a megachurch and founder of the so-called “Passion Movement,” described by Christianity Today as being “known for its annual conferences aimed to help college students and young adults experience a spiritual awakening.” Last year, Giglio gave the closing prayer at Obama’s Easter Prayer Breakfast, and Obama mentioned the Passion Conferences in a video address delivered to the evangelical Q Conference in Washington. Michael Wear, who worked at the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships before he ran faith outreach for Obama’s reelection campaign, appears to be a fan.
One has to wonder why, given the thousands of clergy in the United States Obama couldn’t simply pick someone who didn’t have a high profile at all, someone who would deliver a pleasing ecumenical prayer, someone who didn’t appear to have been picked so that Obama could reach a particular constituency, or whose selection insults another. Although I said I wasn’t surprised that a blogger found Giglio delivered an anti-gay sermon, it wouldn’t be hard to find a clergyperson who never had.
Yes, there are a lot of progressive ally (and gay) clergy that might be more acceptable from a political perspective, but I’m having a hard time working up any activist energy over this redux by Team Obama. Louie Giglio, like it or not, will deliver the benediction no matter how much fuss is made; the brouhaha over Rick Warren didn’t topple his participation. I’d rather press this administration about why it won’t sign an ENDA executive order — that would affect many more people in a more profound way.
Just my two cents in hindsight — acts like people chaining themselves to the WH fence (and the threat of more) is what pushed DADT repeal for instance, not opposing Rick Warren. Effective political acts were ones where this President was seen in the media having those brave folks at the White House fence arrested as well as the protests where activists were carried out of Congress for showing up at Pelosi’s office to protest DADT. That activism got under the President and lawmakers’ skin to make things happen.
Obviously, folks are free to disagree — and sign that petition about Giglio. I think Team Obama loves this kind of inauguration theatre that riles up the left.
UPDATE: Giglio, unlike Warren, bent to the pressure. Perhaps the White House, without the need to think about the politics of re-election, made a few phone calls to quell the bad PR this time… ABC:
Rev. Louie Giglio, who had been announced as the pastor to give the benediction at the presidential inauguration, has now pulled himself out of the ceremony, after criticism of his previous anti-gay comments and actions, sources confirmed to ABC News.
Giglio, who is now Pastor at Passion City Church in Georgia and his role at Obama’s second inauguration was first announced Tuesday. But the liberal website Thinkprogress reported Wednesday on audio of Giglio delivering a sermon in the mid-1990s in which he said homosexuality is a sin and advocated gay “recovery.”
I think what is telling is that the Inaugural Committee is claiming it didn’t know about Giglio’s anti-gay past. Again, do these people not know how to use TEH Google? (MetroWeekly):
According to a statement from a spokesperson for the Presidential Inaugural Committee rebuking Giglio’s comments, the committee was unaware of Giglio’s anti-gay sermon.
“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,” said Addie Whisenant. “Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. 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.”
It is unclear how the inaugural committee overlooked the sermon discovered by ThinkProgress yesterday
UPDATE 2: This is rich. Giglio, in a response to attempt to explain his past homophobic statements, offered up a lengthy, non-answer. Perhaps we can look at it as the new, fashionable way for religious homophobes to dodge out. A snippet from what’s up at Good As You:
“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.”