The Inaugural Imbrogiglio image

The Inaugural Imbrogiglio

The withdrawal of / sacking of / bullying out of Louie Giglio from praying at the President's inauguration has attracted all sorts of comment, not least over whether it was a withdrawal (by a man who didn't want his ministry to be sidetracked), a sacking (by a President who found his clear statements on sexuality unacceptable), or a bullying out (by a group of gay rights extremists). So much interesting stuff has been said that this is not going to be a review of who said what; that would simply take too long. What I find fascinating, however, is how the reactions to the whole thing demonstrate, very clearly, the different theological approaches to culture and politics that Christians can have. We have previously sketched some of the major ways of approaching culture from a Christian perspective: neo-Calvinist, neo-Puritan, Two Kingdoms, Anabaptist. Well, the responses to the inaugural 'imbrogiglio' show what some of these perspectives look like in practice.

At one end of the spectrum there are the bullish, self-confident neo-Calvinists who believe that the whole world is Christ’s, that Christians are to enter every part of culture with confidence, that cultural transformation is part of the point of the church, and that governments should pass just (and thus biblical) laws whether their citizens agree with them or not. For some of these guys, the events of the last few days do not make Obama and his entourage threatening, or worrying; they make them risible. For instance:

Our office has been asked for a statement from Douglas Wilson on the news that he has been formally uninvited from delivering the prayer at President Obama’s Second Inauguration. This controversy, as many know, revolves around the fact that Pastor Wilson made a joke a number of years ago in a sermon about how Brian McLaren’s theology was gay enough to be made conga queen at the Fire Island Fruit Festival. When the AP asked Pastor Wilson about the joke, he had forgotten about it completely. When the tape was played, Pastor Wilson laughed all over again, and said he still didn’t remember saying that, but the voice was certainly his, and that the joke was his kind of funny enough for him to have told it. He was dropped from the program the following day, and drone harpies from Homeland Security have been circling over his house ever since.

Neo-Puritans, who are often theologically Calvinist but temperamentally pietist, and reflect Jonathan Edwards more than Abraham Kuyper, react differently. The swagger of the neo-Calvinists is not there; neo-Puritans generally function more like Old Testament prophets, decrying the injustice of their government, and speaking truth to them, but without expecting Christian ethics to be restored to the public square any time soon. Christians can, and should, engage in politics, as they should engage in all of culture, but the world will, to its detriment, reject them as it rejected Jesus. This is what happened to Louie Giglio, says Russell Moore:

When it is now impossible for one who holds to the catholic Christian view of marriage and the gospel to pray at a public event, we now have a de facto established state church.  Just as the pre-constitutional Anglican and congregational churches required a license to preach in order to exclude Baptists, the new state church requires a “license” of embracing sexual liberation in all its forms.

Similarly, here’s Al Mohler:

The imbroglio over Louie Giglio is the clearest evidence of the new Moral McCarthyism of our sexually “tolerant” age. During the infamous McCarthy hearings, witnesses would be asked, “Are you now or have you ever been a member of the Communist Party?” In the version now to be employed by the Presidential Inaugural Committee, the question will be: “Are you now or have you ever been one who believes that homosexuality (or bisexuality, or transsexualism, etc.) is anything less than morally acceptable and worthy of celebration?”

It’s not just the righties, either. Gabe Lyons, who represents a more progressive, leftie, mellow approach to Christians in politics, agreed:

Mr. Giglio is the target of intolerance—the kind of prejudice that many in the LGBTQ community have suffered themselves. He is being singled out for shame and ridicule by an extreme minority ... Now, as the tide of power has turned, some in the LGBTQ community seem intent on giving back in full measure the injustice and hurt many in their community experienced. It is reverse discrimination at its finest. As gays come out of the closet, are Christians meant to swap and go hide back in closets of their own? This zero-sum game is the most un-American of games.

What each of these responses have in common, despite the political differences their advocates would have with each other, is the belief that Louie Giglio was right to say what he said about sexuality, and right to want to pray for the President in public, and that the White House was wrong to disinvite him (assuming they did). The last two of these assumptions are both challenged by our Anabaptist representative, Scot McKnight. Scot represents a thoroughly different take on things, based on the historical Anabaptist view of the church as a counterculture in itself, which should not try and play the Powers at their own game:

Louie, this is what happens when you enter the political forum. When you enter politics you risk sullying the gospel. In DC everything is political. Who speaks, who stands where, who gets to be in the parameters of the photos, who speaks when and when one speaks where… To agree to the political space is to agree with the politics. It was noble of you to back off; it was good to say “This isn’t worth it to the gospel.” But who could have been surprised that the caucus for same-sex marriage would find Louie objectionable? Rick Warren experienced this four years back. The debate has increased, not decreased.
There were two approaches left once the opposition’s rhetoric got going: back down, which Giglio did, or endure it, which Warren did. Neither approach is worth it. If you don’t agree up and down the platform of the Democrats, don’t pray on their platform. Evangelicals will give anything to get some power back, or to be seen with power, to be the leader of the nation. That’s not our job, friends. What happened to Louie is what happens when pastors and Christian leaders become complicit in politics. Politics determines everything. Not one’s theology, not one’s noble efforts to bring down trafficking, not one’s capacity to pray or lead the nation in a prayer for all. Politics determines everything. And the pastor who stands on that platform makes the gospel complicit in that platform’s politics.

So there’s a few perspectives to help you find your place on the culture-and-politics spectrum. (I haven’t found a 2K response to link to, but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been any; if someone knows of one, please mention it in the comments.) How do you process what’s happened? And how does your view of the church’s role in culture shape your answer?

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