When the outrage industrial complex tried to make Jeremiah Wright into the bogeyman who would take down the 2008 candidacy of Barack Obama, I had just read a couple of books by Wright’s main influence, black liberation theologian James Cone. It was incredibly frustrating to see liberation theology being paraded as some kind of scary crypto-Marxist plot by people who had never had any direct exposure to it. I feel similarly frustrated by the drama that caused Louie Giglio to back out of his inauguration prayer. It’s a curse of the information age in which scandal is where the money is, so you send people out to dig up old sermon archives to find a ” !@#$%^&* America” or “Homosexuality is sinful” sermon that will score a gazillion hits for your “news” site.
It seems obvious to me that the main problem in our country is that we have two entirely different nations of people who have fewer and fewer direct interactions with each other as time goes on. The best way to ensure that things will continue to get worse is to raise hell any time that somebody from the other side is invited to speak or do anything with people from your side whether it’s a Catholic Democrat giving a commencement address at Notre Dame or a conservative evangelical praying at a Democratic president’s inauguration. Of course someone from the other side is going to hold views that are offensive and even directly oppressive to you whether they’re a bigot or a baby-killer.
Louie Giglio hasn’t been out crusading for “traditional marriage.” He’s actually been very intentional about sticking to a positive evangelistic message in what he preaches and building pragmatic coalitions around issues that transcend partisanship like fighting poverty and human trafficking. I recognize that gay rights organizations see their fight as a fierce civil rights struggle, but why is the strategy to ostracize and silence ideological opponents rather than engage and build relationships?
What fuels the fire of the anti-gay movement more than anything is the ability of Christians to claim persecution. Now I realize it might be like trying to drive to the basket on a defender who will flop all over the court if you touch the air molecules within three feet of them. But the kind of scorched earth approach I’m seeing is going to push away the social justice minded young evangelicals. It’s alienating to me, for whatever that’s worth.
I realize this is all presumptuous for me to say anything about since I’m not gay, but I went to seminary with gay people and people who thought homosexuality was a sin. I watched them interact and form friendships. It seemed like a respectful understanding emerged, and people genuinely wrestled with their convictions or at least found points of commonality beyond that one issue. I’m just so tired of Satan landing blow after blow on our society through exploiting this perfectly intractable conflict between civil rights and freedom of conscience. I’m not trying to claim moral equivalence. I’m just tired of the drama and the lack of interest in genuinely listening to other people.
Of course, come to think of it, putting Rick Warren up front to pray at the 2008 inauguration really didn’t make much of a difference in bridging the social divide in our country. So maybe this really is a non-issue. Maybe it’s more of an illustration of how tangling up Christianity in stupid political theater like which target constituency gets to say the big prayer is a huge stumbling block to our witness.
I don’t have any basis for calling upon people who don’t share my religious convictions to do anything. What I can say to my own people is that the real Christian martyrs back in the day never raised a fuss about getting persecuted (something which may one day actually happen to us). 1 Peter 2:15 has words that we should always take to heart: “It is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.”
Treat others honorably regardless of how you are treated. Our witness is not solely that we go against the grain of our surrounding culture; our witness is that we exude the spiritual fruits of gentleness, kindness, peace, and mercy if we are ever attacked for going against the grain of our culture.