To My Brothers/Sisters Saying “I Told You So” After the Giglio Debacle Part 2

It’s impossible to divorce yourself from your context. So this means no one is actually completely objective – this means you, this means me.

So here’s a little of my context: I am a pastor in a larger evangelical church in the Northeast who is trying to encourage his fellow brothers and sisters and inspire those outside our walls to the life-giving message of Jesus with word and deed. I’m tired of the haters within our walls that are preaching doomsday scenarios. And I’m tired of those outside our walls merely identifying us by our failures and blind spots. I’m excited by the moments found on the inside where we find unity in the midst of our diversity. I get really excited when our unity turns to action that seeks to serve those outside our walls.

In this past Sunday’s morning worship services we heard a story by young busy couple with four young children who along with their small group were serving people in their community who were stuck in transitional housing. As they were sharing, I couldn’t help but wonder about those that lost their home facing uncertainty wondering. We all have our problems and challenges and we all wonder does anyone really care? I was grateful for people in my church who had been serving in small ways over the course of time offering not only food and basic provisions but also the encouragements from the Christian narrative.  Among it’s greatest features is the message to trust God for He has promised to provide. It’s been my experience that these small ways turn into big things over the course of relationship building.

But these are not the moments most think of when they hear terms like Christian, Evangelical or the Church. Those in my circles often quote the research of Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons who surveyed a group of 16-29 year olds and asked what they associated with the term “Christian.” According to their research, “common negative perceptions include that present-day Christianity is anti-homosexual (91%), judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old-fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%).”  They concluded in their book UnChristian that “Christianity had an image problem.”

These days my fellow evangelicals are realizing even more and more just how they are being perceived throughout the culture, especially by the younger generation … who are getting older … and clearly many are not becoming part of the Church. Some evangelical are further realizing they are not being persecuted for loving Jesus, they are being pushed out for being perceived as judgmental, mean, controlling and irrelevant. The Christian faith is seems as not having much too really offer and associating one’s self to it is seen as a liability.

Take Louie Giglio for example. Within one week he and the Passion Conference were celebrated on CNN for their fight against human trafficking. The very next week, he was labeled as a bigot. We can argue about the media and the legitimacy of such things but we really need to learn what is going on in our cultural landscape and build bridges.

I mentioned in the aforementioned posts (here and here) that I too was bothered with how Louie was treated. I am confident that Louie will respond appropriately and that he will continue to fight injustices like human trafficking. I also believe he will build bridges to the gay community (much like Dan Cathy is doing – hoping to post on this soon). But as far as the Inauguration debacle goes, as God as my witness, I got over it pretty quickly. You should too – shake the dust off your feet and move on – there’s plenty of work to do.

Part of me wished that Louie would have prayed there so we wouldn’t need to have another culture war conversation. But perhaps we will find some good in this moment in how to respond when we feel we’ve been pushed out of the public square. I continue to pause on Scot McKnight’s wisdom in saying Giglio should have turned down the President’s invitation to pray in the first place because any evangelical in that situation is being used.

I’m wrestling with that. In this case, I don’t really see the importance of praying at the Presidential Inauguration. Frankly, the whole thing seems a little manufactured. On the other hand, if I’m ever invited to speak or pray at a synagogue, mosque, temple, or even a strip club, I’ll likely say yes. Assuming I don’t have to speak topless, I’d love to preach to those that might not enter the doors to our sanctuary. But should they rescind their invitation because someone discovered an old message, blog post or Keynote handout containing my convictions that Christianity offers the best narrative or how I feel towards the objectifying of others then I hope I would shake the dust off my feet and respond by building bridges. Still thinking this through.

And maybe that’s the distinction. Evangelicals need to forget about being celebrated and respected in the culture. There is always a time to seek justice, always a time to serve the common good but if we have learned anything these past 3 decades, let’s stop wasting our time fighting against the culture to gain that respect. Giglio was only invited because of his work against trafficking, what we learn is that serving others in the name of Jesus is respected and celebrated. Forget kissing up to the kingdom of man, and let us seek first to build Christ’s Kingdom and go from there.

Now what should our response be to the Hobby Lobby situation? That post coming soon.

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