The Jeremiah Wrighting of Louie Giglio

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.


21 thoughts on “The Jeremiah Wrighting of Louie Giglio

  1. Thanks. I owe the terrorism angle to a blog post at by Claude Summers, who links Giglio’s sermon to sermons by other Baptist preachers during the Amendment One campaign in North Carolina. He sees the Giglio sermon as a perpetrator of spiritual terrorism and the boy scout who was denied his Eagle Badge last week as a victim of spiritual terrorism. Summers doesn’t develop the idea of spiritual terrorism as an affront to the Holy Spirit, however. But I believe using hell-fire-and-brimstone to coerce people into belief is itself deeply sinful. I suspect that Giglio may have come to that conclusion himself, which is why he quit preaching that way even as he apparently holds to the belief that homosexuality is sinful. I wish he would explain himself.

    Here is a link to the blog I mentioned.

    • Thanks for sharing. I was pretty disgusted by the whole Amendment One thing. I wrote a poem about it here on my blog. I’m actually from NC originally. I was quite ashamed.

  2. Thank you for a reasoned discussion. But I think you might not be so intent on defending Pastor Giglio if you actually listen to his now famous sermon. The sermon is, of course, 15 years old, but it has been around on various websites all that time. It is not like it had to “dug up” out of someone’s attic. In any case, it is a nasty piece of work. It describes homosexuals as “malfunctions,” invokes the Levitical injunction to kill homosexuals, says homosexuals are going to hell, denounces the gay rights movement, and endorses dangerous and ineffectual “reparative therapy.” I think it is a form of spiritual terrorism: when you threaten people with hell fire unless they agree with your interpretation of the Bible and do what you tell them to do, you are being a terrorist. I think in fact this approach to people is a blasphemy against the holy spirit.

    Pastor Giglio says that he has not preached against homosexuality recently, but he did not recant his sermon. Gay people tend to be very forgiving, but if he wants forgiveness Giglio needs to apologize for the offense he caused.

    • Hmmm… You’re right. I should give the sermon a listen. Naming it as “terrorism” is over the top though, I think. I’ve said some pretty strong things speculating about where certain fundamentalists are going after they die. And I probably shouldn’t have. I understand that I can never hear what you hear when I listen to that kind of stuff. Thanks very much for entering into the conversation. I look forward to learning more from you. Be blessed.

  3. (this is not an attempt at “the last word”, please believe me–this kind of discussion needs to never end between those who truly want a God inspired outcome to all discrimination and bigotry). Morgan, as a truthful, honest man, you could not fully recant anything you said and/or did in the past…because you did so with a pure heart and loving spirit at the time. Today’s blog was done with the purest intentions, however “nuanced”. Pastor Giglio missed a valuable opportunity to be a loud voice of peace and opportunity for both sides to speak the truth toward reconciliation. You, my Friend, did not . Thank You.

  4. I cannot speak for Daniel, but heres the thing…coming from a “place of privilege” should not predicate an explanation or excuse…nor does “having someone pray who privately disapproves of something you do mean(s) that you’re excluded from their blessing” soften the blow to those who (historically) face discrimination and rebuke from even the softest words genuinely said with love. The perception belongs to the receiver of the discourse, but is no less real than your intent is to you.
    We do not know the heart of Giglio, or really even the intent behind his non-retraction of prior antagonism toward homosexuals. Not for me to judge or defend. However, what is particularly incendary is that he was quoted as saying in response to the rancor, “the issue is not one of his priorities” as an excuse for his comments. Would it be more of an issue
    for Pastor Giglio if this was still the 1990s and the Christian community was still less comitted to eradicating all bigotry and discrimination than it is now?

    • I think what I mourn is all the digging that goes on in our world. If people dug in my past, they would find all kinds of reasons to discredit me. There are beliefs that I have now which are more nuanced and cautious versions of what I believed 10 years ago. I couldn’t necessarily categorically recant what I believed then with integrity, but I wouldn’t say things in the same way now certainly. I just want there to be greater peace and understanding and for the love of Christ to be louder than anything else. And I’m very confused and bewildered about how that outcome can come to pass. I know God has the answer, but I definitely felt like saying this sucks whoever is at fault about how things went down with Giglio.

  5. The point of an inaugural benediction is to speak to a whole nation. To the extent that you explicitly exclude some people from that benediction, you do no good. I am sure there are many pastors out there whose views on this subject are less exclusionary.

    I understand that Giglio is free to believe what he believes, and one would hope that he preaches from his belief, but that does not mean he is an appropriate speaker to a nation which includes people whose long struggle for equal rights under the law Giglio thinks “would run the risk of absolutely undermining the whole order of our society.”

    It does no good to point out that these statements were from long ago. Giglio was free to use this opportunity to retract or provide context for his statements. He did not. He withdrew from providing the benediction, which was a classy move, but leaves no doubt as to his intention to truly bridge the gap.

    Finally, your question of “why is the strategy to ostracize and silence ideological opponents rather than engage and build relationships?” seems strangely callous to those whose ideological opponents have ostracized and silenced them for decades, not to mention ignorant of the broad efforts that the gay community has made to reach out to ideological opponents for some forty years, for all the good that has done them.

    • I don’t want to be callous. I know that I’m ignorant of what has happened historically and I certainly am writing from a place of privilege regarding this issue. Still I’m not sure that having someone pray who privately disapproves of something you do means that you’re excluded from their blessing. I’ve written rants against capitalism before. If you went back and dug deep, you would find all kinds of radical things I said about war, patriarchy, etc, that would probably make people in my congregation very angry. That doesn’t mean that I love them any less or bless them any less when I pray over them, even if I’m not ready to categorically recant everything I said in the past up till now, since what has happened is that my views got nuanced rather than just flip-flopping.

  6. I think things will be a whole lot better when those who are generally ‘anti-gay’ start to realise that there are thousands upon thousands of baptised and confirmed LGBTQ Christians for whom a life of holiness is top priority… shall I say.

    And the other side of the coin is that there are many younger evangelical-minded Christians for whom LGBTQ issues are a complete non-issue. Some of the older ‘leaders’ of the hard line gay establishment may not know this.

    Mind you, twelve years in higher education chaplaincy/campus ministry helped me, immensely, to gain more confidence to speak to both extremes regarding what seems an impasse to some. My love of Scripture does not allow me to find any homosexuality therein.

    p.s. ” stupid political theater ” Well, yes. We’re seeing that tide, which began (and is documented, academically*) some 40 years ago, turn. More and more evangelicals are realising how they have been used– and abused– by the political right over that time and they have not only smelled the coffee but also started to serve it up broadly.


    • ” My love of Scripture does not allow me to find any homosexuality therein.” This line could mean multiple things. Which meaning is yours?

      • Hi Morgan, I only mean one thing.

        I grew up in a Christian context that so valued that Bible that ‘love’ is the best characterisation to give it (others could tip the scales toward “worship” of the Bible, which I understand to be both blasphemous and idolatrous). I understand that to love the Bible is to respect it for what it is. It can’t be a book that contains any modern information about or understanding of human affectional orientation.

        If I had no exegetical or hermeneutical skills, and unwittingly misused or abused the Bible, i.e., saying “the Bible (or worse, God) condemns homosexuality” that would indicate that I did not respect the Bible.

        May I ask what you imagine I meant by the original statement you copied?

        Homosexuality is not referenced in Holy Scripture. I may understand that– and proclaim it, faithfully– because I value, honour, respect and love the Bible.

        • I fully agree with your statement as you explained it. It is my love of God’s word that makes shallow proof-texting and overconfident explanations of what really aren’t “cut and dry” passages revolting to me. If a passage in the Bible can be interpreted more than one way, then the we should interpret it according to Jesus’ standard — that it all has to do with loving God and loving neighbor.

  7. I have not followed the debates concerning Louie Giglio. Until this posts I did not even realize he is a Pastor.

    However this post reminds me of the personal affronts I felt when certain politicians tried to demonize my dear friend, Jeremiah Wright. We have never met, probably never will, but as a white man interested in perpetuating the gospel – the good news, of our Lord Jesus Christ, I have often attended what some refer to as “black” churches. It was in many of those that I heard the plea of the black person attempting to live in a white society and they reminded of those who sat on the hillsides listening to our Lord offer His thoughts on what we have called “The Sermon on the Mount.”

    That day many were seeking relied from the persecution of the invading Roman armies, the burden of the local public officials and worse, the words of those who had misinterpreted the message of what we now refer to as the “old” Testament.

    So, the black folks in our nation have had to seek refuge from the tyrannies imposed on them and never had forgotten their roles as fodder for the whims of their slave masters. 150 years later, many still are imprisoned by such thoughts.

    Jeremiah Wright’s sermons might not appeal to some of us who are white, but then we have never suffered from the ills of slavery. And blessed are those who believe that it is the truth that sets us free and everything I have read about him requires me want to accept him as a blessed brother.

    Louie Giglio may be cut from the same cloth, I do not know, but before I offer and opinion of others, I have discovered it helps to look at all of the person before I start to accept or condemn his or her actions and words. I try to live by that old admonition – “There but for the grace of God go I”.

    • Bottom line is we need to stop feeding the monstrous outrage industrial complex whether it’s the left-wing or right-wing version.

  8. “I’m not trying to claim moral equivalence”. It is difficult to have equal perspective in the front line of any conflict when the direct blows are specifically aimed at you for the sake of the cause. Ask any civil rights activist, Palistinian/Israeli soldier, or even, lobbiest in Congress. Back in the day, I was one of “those women” fighting the baby formula companies, and was called everything but a white woman for promoting breastfeeding! Not every Christian will be called to stage the “pragmatic fight” in the trenches by writing books, speaking at conventions, preaching biblical realities from the pulpit or educating those for/against gay rights and marriage…but those who are, better adopt a thick skin and awareness that every word and action will be scrutinized by many (often ingratious) people seeking to form their own coalitions…or preserve them.

  9. “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.” Bingo. Well said.

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