Atlanta pastor Louie Giglio has backed out of his planned benediction at President Obama’s upcoming inauguration, saying in a statement that the uproar over anti-gay comments he made over a decade ago would distract from the event.
“It is likely that my participation, and the prayer I would offer, will be dwarfed by those seeking to make their agenda a focal point of the inauguration,” Giglio said. “Though the president and I do not agree on every issue, we have fashioned a friendship around common goals and ideals, most notably, ending slavery in all its forms.”
The Presidential Inaugural Committee said Thursday:
“We were not aware of Pastor Giglio’s past comments at the time of his selection and they don’t reflect our desire to celebrate the strength and diversity of our country at this Inaugural. Pastor Giglio was asked to deliver the benediction in large part for his leadership in combating human trafficking around the world. As we now work to select someone to deliver the benediction, we will ensure their beliefs reflect this administration’s vision of inclusion and acceptance for all Americans.“
Here’s how it went down: 48 hours ago the White House announced that Giglio would be delivering the benediction at Obama’s inauguration, citing the pastor’s “work raising awareness about modern-day slavery and human trafficking.” Wednesday, ThinkProgress.org posted a link to a sermon Giglio gave in the mid-1990s warning about the mainstreaming of homosexuality and speaking out against changing the definition of marriage. Thursday morning, there’s a WhiteHouse.gov petition calling for the president to replace Giglio with a religious leader “with a history of supporting LGBT equality”and an A section story in the New York Times on the preacher, and a blogosphere ablaze.
And then God said, “Let there be controversy!” And there was controversy.
You can listen to Giglio’s teaching on homosexuality that’s getting so much attention here (H/T: ThinkProgress).
In the audio, Giglio calls Christians to “lovingly but firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” of gay activists.
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. You come to only one conclusion: homosexuality is less than God’s best for his creation. It is less than God’s best for us and everything in our lives that is less than God’s best for us and his plan for us and his design for us, is sin. 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.
Giglio also explains in the sermon that he believes that homosexuality is akin to an unwanted addiction; that even if there is a genetic predisposition to homosexual orientation, that does not change the fact that he sees it as sin.
First Corinthians, Chapter 6. In verses nine and 10, it talks about the things that prevent people from entering the Kingdom of God. It talks about all kinds of immoral behavior. And right in the midst of that passage, right in the middle of that verse it says “and those who are homosexual.” It’s clear.
He also spoke out against gay marriage (37:18), saying:
[Gays are] not entitled to special rights. You’re not entitled to be recognized as a married couple and a family under God that can adopt children and have co-benefits in your health insurance plans and live as if that were a normal thing in this society. Do you understand that if the law were to change and homosexual marriage were to become prevalent in our society that that would run the risk of absolutely undermining the whole order of our society?
Giglio has been much more widely known in the Christian world recently for his work raising awareness and funds to combat human trafficking —including sex trafficking and what organizers call “modern day slavery.” According to a report by Christianity Today, Giglio’s Passion Conference, held last week in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, gathered 60,000 university-aged people for a four-day long worship event that raised $2.9 million to combat human trafficking worldwide.
In addition to his advocacy work, Giglio has become known for this kind of dynamic preaching and outreach to Christian college students.
He also runs the Passion City Church in Atlanta, opened in 2009. In many of his sermons, Giglio presents a vision of gender roles that reflects a traditional view of men, women and marriage, often known in Christian circles as complementarianism (as opposed to egalitarianism —debates rage). You can get a sense of this approach in the series Giglio gave on God's plan for marriage in 2012 that is posted to his Web site. He prefaced his opening sermon in March titled ‘In the Beginning’ this way:
The first thing I want to say tonight is that I’m a man. And no dude has any business leading a series on relationships, especially a multi-week series. We can’t even carry on a conversation with a girl for more than 15 seconds, so what do I have to say about relationships?. . . I am a guy so I’m going to have to trust that God is going to come through.
What the culture has done is really jacked up the idea of marriage, and then what the culture didn't do, we did.
Then, after reading from the Book of Genesis, Giglio paraphrased the Scripture.
God is the originator of life. He is the one who has come up with the idea of a boy. He’s the one who came up with the idea of a girl. He’s the one who came up with the idea of a relationship. This all started with him.
[God said] I want to make two distinctly beautiful human beings. I want to make a male and I want to make a female.’And the reason’s they’re guys is because God wanted guys and the reason they’re girls is because God wanted girls. And beautifully, uniquely distinctly made in the image and likeness of God. So let’s don’t get caught up in this, ‘well, it doesn’t really matter,’ well, it matters to God that in the very beginning he chose to make a man like this and a woman like this. And the man wasn’t like the woman and the woman wasn’t like the man because God didn’t want it that way. God wanted to make them male and female. That was the original creation plan of God.
We’re not the ones who are coming up with the relationship matrix. God has done this already.
Buzzfeed also pointed to Giglio’s Nov 2012 convocation address to Liberty University, the largest Christian university in the world (including on-campus and online students), in which the pastor challenges the students to find and live their purpose. Giglio’s style is energetic and often self-effacing, speaking directly to the his audience and challenging them to deepen their relationships with God. In one exchange, Giglio uses the language of falling in love to talk about his spiritual story:
After a deep conversion, Giglio said, “my life with Jesus completely changed. I was intoxicated by him. I had a crush on him. And I don’t mean that in some goofy weird way, I mean it in the way that some of you have a crush on a boy right now and some of you guys have a crush on a girl right now and you can’t see straight or think straight and every time something’s happening all you’re doing is thinking about them. I was like that with Jesus.”
Giglio is only the latest religious leader associated with Obama to cause controversy. During Obama’s 2008 inauguration, he was also criticized by gay rights groups for his selection of Rick Warren,also seen as anti-gay. (Obama did invite then-New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson, the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop, to give a prayer at a 2008 inauguration event.) Obama has also continued to take heat for his relationship with Chicago Pastor Jeremiah Wright, who made controversial remarks about 9/11.. With a now-open spot for a benediction prayer, more scrutiny is likely to come.