Why the Giglio Debacle isn’t the end of Public Evangelicalism
It's a big deal, but not for the reasons you might think.

On January 10th, Louie Giglio declined the invitation to pray the benediction at the Presidential Inauguration over pressure relating to an "anti-gay" sermon that he preached almost twenty years ago. Depending on who you're talking with, Giglio's move was either a cultural victory because of his secret "hatred" of LGBT people; or it marks a definitive end to evangelicalism as we know it. But are these the only two ways to think about this? I don't think so. Here's my take:

1) The evangelical voice is still being heard.

Many opinionated evangelicals have little personal experience with those who advise and surround the President. I'm not talking about Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Jay Carney, or even Joshua Dubois. I'm talking about the people who are never in front of the camera but play significant roles in shaping public policy. As someone who has had occasion to know and work with them, I can say with confidence that there are more professing and practicing evangelicals throughout our government than most people suspect.

Regardless of what you think of the President, he does surround himself with a variety of worldviews, opinions, and experiences. Just because he "comes out" with definitive statements supporting the topics that matter most to LGBTs, doesn't mean he is not genuinely listening to people behind the scenes from many different viewpoints. Intentionally included in these inner-circle conversations are conservative evangelicals.

2) Our response is disconnected from reality.

It's too easy to spin what happened to Giglio as the "collapse of evangelicalism." With the statistical growth of the "nones" and the declining numbers of conservative evangelicals, one can see a potential trend towards the end of evangelicalism in its current form. Trends are important, but it's a long jump from raw numbers to reality. Protestant Christianity is still the dominant religion in the United States, by a wide percentage.

I live in Chicago, one of the most liberal cities in the country, and Obama's home. This past Sunday at Chili's, K-Love played over the restaurant's speakers all afternoon. While Christian pop in a restaurant chain is no indicator of national spirituality, it reminded me just how pervasive faith still is in our culture. To the relief, surprise, or disgust of many, Christianity is alive and well. But we are not bringing our best to bear on our civic life. We need to renew our focus on productive engagement in the public square.

It's generally agreed that immediate reactions lend themselves to the greatest amount of truth, since first-thoughts are typically unrestrained. The majority reacted immediately to Giglio's stepping down with name calling against liberals, LGBTs, and the Obama administration. High profile Christians went on the record: "Hate crime against Giglio." "Huge victory for fantastic intolerance." "The axe fell [on us] today." "[We must] continue fighting evil."

January 18, 2013

Displaying 1–5 of 5 comments

David Young

January 27, 2013  8:55pm

We need communicate the Biblical message of redemption from sin through Christ's atonement without the shrill tone and unloving name calling that sometimes comes out of the same mouth that proclaims the love of God.

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Karen

January 22, 2013  8:32am

@Janey, I do think your comment is quite insightful. I wonder if you would like to elaborate a bit on what you mean by "preach the good news to the poor . . .", etc., in more concrete terms? As you have pointed out "preach the gospel" quite often for Evangelicals includes as essential content the "wrong beliefs" you have posited in your first paragraph.

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Janey

January 20, 2013  8:35am

The problem is simple - Evangelical have (at least) two wrong beliefs: 1. Evangelicals believe that no one would know what sin is unless we tell them. 2. And Evangelicals believe no one wants to get free from their sin unless we badger them. Romans 1 makes it clear that people for the most part know what sin is. People of know what it is and many of them want to be free from it. Now that I leave #1 and #2 in God's hands, and simply do my job: to preach the good news to poor, the blind, the lame, and the prisoners, I've seen God's hand moving in incredible ways. Never in my life have I described myself as an evangelist until now.

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Anonymous

January 20, 2013  3:10am

"In the Washington Post, John Dickerson recently asked if it is time to ditch the name 'evangelical.' He argues compellingly that it is." I ditched the name "evangelical" a long time ago!

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sheerahkahn

January 18, 2013  5:20pm

"As someone who has had occasion to know and work with them, I can say with confidence that there are more professing and practicing evangelicals throughout our government than most people suspect." And... "While Christian pop in a restaurant chain is no indicator of national spirituality, it reminded me just how pervasive faith still is in our culture. To the relief, surprise, or disgust of many, Christianity is alive and well. But we are not bringing our best to bear on our civic life. We need to renew our focus on productive engagement in the public square." And... "Jesus teaches us a unique lesson on this type of engagement through his command in Mark 1:40–45, telling the man he just healed of leprosy to, in essence, "go to the temple I came to destroy and rebuild in three days; submit to the law I came to fulfill; and honor the priests who will hang me on a cross and kill me." And of course, this one... "We need to focus our political and religious efforts on building "bridges" instead of building "armies." Mr. Marin, I am not familiar with your writing, nor am I familiar with your thought processes and/or thinking so forgive me if I come off a bit blunt. I do not know where you are going with this article, in fact, it drifts towards the end...perhaps, you can tighten it up for me so I can get a better sense of what exactly you are suggesting that clarifies this nebulous concept of "building things." Building to what? To whom? And why should we build something to somewhere to engage with whom? And finally, where is G-d in all of this?

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