11 January 2013

The Guilt of Giglio: Seven Takeaways on the Conversation That Won't Go Away

On January 8, the White House announced that pastor Louie Giglio would give the benediction prayer at President Obama's inauguration. On January 9, the religious police at Think Progress and Huffington Post reported that a sermon by Giglio in 1999 that was "vehemently anti-gay" had been discovered. On January 10, Giglio, under intense fire, "withdrew" from delivering the benediction prayer as the White House issued an embarrassed apology for not doing their homework on this obvious bigot.

Rapid indictment. Speedy trial. Light-speed conviction. America, your justice is swift.

Since Honey Boo Boo has a better chance of being invited to deliver the inaugural benediction than I do, allow me to exercise the freedom afforded by my obscurity.

There are a few lessons to grab from the last 72 hours.

1. Saudi Arabia may have an official religious police force, but our civilian force is every bit as present. The sentences that fall are different, but they are not without a sting. Anyone who dares to lose step with the accepted dogma will face no small punishment.

2. There is nothing new under the Sun. Cain wanted to serve God his own way. The rebels at Babel sought transcendence by their own hands. The Pharisees created an extra-biblical system of self-righteousness. We still want to serve God in our own way. And all that means is that we want God to be the genie in our bottle. America is still pleased to have Him on the team, but He clearly needs a little help in understanding healthy human sexuality.

3. There is an apt Bulgarian proverb for our prominence-seeking, social-media-obsessed, hey-look-at-me culture: "The tall blade of grass gets cut down." If it is prominence you seek, you will face a pressure to conform with other blades of grass in as many ways as possible. This comes with the territory. If you have checked your convictions at the door for the sake of maintaining your Klout score, you know what I mean.

4. Our good deeds will be applauded but proclaiming the Gospel will not. Giglio's fine work in addressing the sex slave trade was commended. There is nothing wrong with that. The problem is that good deeds are not the first priority of the church called to the Great Commission.

The result of this environment is a temptation for the church to make good deeds a priority over proclamation. There are dire consequences downstream from this "inversion." If the church does not focus on making disciples through the faithful proclaiming of the biblical Gospel, no one will.

5. The Great Commission does not require disciples to biblically address homosexuality. Our culture does. Jesus wasn't communicating a universal requirement when he commanded the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give it to the poor. He was communicating an individual one. This was the one thing that impeded the young man's submission to God. It works the same in other cultures. I understand the voices that say, "The Gospel is not first about sexual orientation, so let's not get tangled in that debate." But in a culture that rejects God precisely on that point, no faithful herald can avoid it. You cannot call people to cling to the cross and say nothing about the thing clutched by their white knuckles.

6. As Al Mohler pointed out this morning, "If you are a Christian, get ready for the question you will now undoubtedly face." This conversation isn't going away. Giglio had purposely avoided the topic for 15 years and that was not enough distance.

Homosexuality is prohibited. Why? How do we know? What difference does it make? What does it have to do with salvation and eternity? How does the Gospel address this sin? Is it different than other sins? We must be clear about the answers to these questions. So clear that we rest in the truth and not in our ability to defend it.

7. Potential persecution is not an acceptable reason to avoid people. If we know and love the Gospel and have eternity in view, we cannot stand at a distance from the homosexual community and yell. The love of Christ will compel us to awkward conversations and challenging relationships.

These are the times that God has sovereignty called us to live in as ambassadors. May we brokenheartedly remain true to our call regardless of the temporary consequences.

Dig Deeper

The following articles and teachings may prove to be a help to you as you engage with Giglio’s story, its implications, and the broader homosexual question in general.

Online article: “Bullied on the President’s Stage” by Gabe Lyons

Online article: “As It Gets Worse, It Cannot Get Desperate” by Jared C. Wilson

Online article: “Louie Giglio and the New State Church” by Russell Moore

Teaching: “The Truth Project: The Social Reality” by John Meyer (March 2008)

Teaching: “Why Christians Have the Best Answer to the Question of Gay Marriage” by John Meyer (Faithwalkers 2012)

Teaching: “Sexual by Design: A Series of Lectures with Doug Wilson” by Doug Wilson (Canon Press, April 2012)

(Photo credit: Hillsong)


  1. "You cannot call people to cling to the cross and say nothing about the thing clutched by their white knuckles." I love this quote, Mitch. Unfortunately, however, I think we've failed miserably as Christians in conveniently "overlooking" what we clutch by our white knuckles. We've made homosexuality the target of our attention, not because some external culture has demanded it; rather, because we, as Christians, have demanded it. While I like to point out the obvious and long list of things that we should be consistently tending to if we think we're in the business of pointing out sin, I realize when I do it, I'm neglecting the very core of who Jesus Christ was, is, and always will be. Love you, brother. Thanks for always pushing my thinking.

    1. Tom,
      You bet! No one gets off the hook. We must maintain a prophetic voice to
      all (2 Corinthians 4:2, Colossians 1:28) which includes the call to trust in Christ and to repent and turn from the other things we trust in.
      So I respectfully disagree - gospel proclamation has always included speaking to the idols of the culture (that they have chosen). No better example of that in this issue than here: http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2013/01/13/vatican-criticizes-gay-adoption-while-topless-women-protest-before-pope-benedict/
      Of course that is not to say that "out there" is the only place for a strong call to repent from idols (e.g. Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5 or John's final admonition in 1 John "Dear children keep yourselves from idols") on that we fully agree.
      In all of it, Titus 3 gives us our posture - even in the midst of the certain persecution that results from our clear proclamation (2 Tim 3:12). May we maintain that in all circumstances!
      I'm grateful for you, Tom. Thanks for insisting on our log looking and on a manner that is worthy of the calling we have received.