Four years ago, evangelical pastor Rick Warren was invited to give the benediction at the presidential inauguration. Warren’s selection was not popular with all. California’s most renowned pastor, Warren, had been vocal in his support for Proposition 8 which amended that state’s constitution to limit marriage to a union between a man and a women and this stance had made him persona non-grate among social liberals. Nevertheless, his invitation was never retracted and he took part in the ceremony.
Four years have passed and how times have changed. Once again an evangelical pastor has been asked to offer a benediction at the inauguration. Louis Giglio leads a church in Atlanta, but is best recognized for his role in launching and leading the ever-popular Passion conferences. He is less famous for his good work to end human trafficking, but it was this advocacy against slavery that attracted the attention of the inaugural committee. Consequently, Giglio was invited to take Warren’s place at the inaugural podium.
I am not clear on the exact order of events that followed. I do know that Giglio, having already accepted the invitation, then withdrew from the proceedings. I also know that there were significant forces at work to disqualify him from participating. Exactly what took place and when is shrouded in some controversy, but it seems that Giglio was asked to quietly withdraw. What could this man of God have done to make him so unpalatable? The answer: exactly the same thing as Rick Warren. Giglio, in a sermon that he preached in the mid 90’s, is recorded as saying that unrepentant homosexuality is a sin. He went on to say:
That’s God’s voice. If you want to hear God’s voice, that is his voice to this issue of homosexuality. It is not ambiguous and unclear. It is very clear. If you look at the counsel of the word of God, Old Testament, New Testament, you come quickly to the conclusion that homosexuality is not an alternate lifestyle. . . . homosexuality is not just a sexual preference, homosexuality is not gay, but homosexuality is sin. It is sin in the eyes of God, and it is sin according to the word of God.
Because of these words, Giglio has been described in the media as “vehemently anti-gay” and labeled an “unrepentant bigot”. Addie Whisenaught, a spokesperson for the inaugural committee, said that Giglio’s statements “don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural”. The response was loud, clear, and uniform. Anyone who proclaims that sexual behavior be limited by biblical norms is deemed unacceptable and is quickly marginalized. Warren may have been tolerated but Giglio was not. The brokers of the homosexual agenda have been granted ascendancy and no longer need to exercise patience. Welcome to the new orthodoxy of the public square.
But I am curious about the choice to use the Lincoln Bible during the inaugural proceedings. Published in 1853, this King James Bible was previously owned by a clerk of the Supreme Court who used it for official purposes. It is now the property of the Library of Congress. Next week, when taking the oath of office, the president will rest his hand upon this historic Bible. But I wonder if the Inaugural Committee knows what lies within? If they were to turn to Leviticus 20:13, they would read, “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” These words are far more strident than anything Giglio has said! This peculiarity isn’t missed by all. MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell believes that using the bible for oath taking is “one of our most absurdist traditions”. He proposes that the bible follow Giglio out of the proceedings. Let the message follow the messenger and be gone.
I am disappointed by these events, but I do not despair. The liberal community may have quieted God’s messenger but the message is not restricted to Giglio’s lips, or any lips for that matter. God has his own voice and he has spoken. His Word has been maligned before and yet it endures. We don’t need the Seal of the Presidency to validate the Kingdom of Heaven. We may never be welcomed again in the corridors of power, and we may never receive the respect of the elite; those days may be gone for good. So be it.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:10)