Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Downfall: The desire to be respected in the halls of power

Louie Giglio
Concerning the recent dust-up involving Louie  Giglio's withdrawal from the Obama inauguration ceremony, Gary DeMar asks the question I've been hoping someone would ask before I had to ask it myself. Namely, why would a Christian pastor want to speak a "good word" (i.e. benediction) over an event celebrating a godless political agenda?
Christians are riled up that Louie Giglio, pastor of the Passion City Church in Roswell, Georgia, was dumped by Obama’s people to give the benediction at the President’s inauguration ceremony. I’m shocked that more Christians aren’t riled up that Louie Giglio agreed to do it in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Giglio has a great ministry. This year’s Passion event turned out 60,000 young people who donated more than $3 million to help in the effort to abolish the pernicious sin and crime of slavery.

Why was Giglio dumped? I love this from the Washington Post:
“An evangelical pastor from Atlanta announced Thursday [January 10] that he would not give the benediction at President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony after a sermon he gave on homosexuality in the mid-1990s resurfaced earlier this week.

“In that sermon, the Rev. Louie Giglio called for Christians to ‘firmly respond to the aggressive agenda’ of some in the gay community and warns that widespread gay marriage ‘would run the risk of absolutely undermining the whole order of our society.’”
Resurfaced? Did it come ashore in a bottle? It didn’t “resurface.” Homosexual activists went looking for whatever they could find on Giglio to get him ousted. They knew that if they could find anything he said about homosexuality, he would be gone.

President Obama supports homosexual marriage. He’s pushing for a state-wide acceptance of homosexual marriage in his home state of Illinois.

How can a Christian offer a Christian benediction for a man who represents a worldview that is antithetical to the Christian faith he claims to be a part of and implements policies that could result in divine judgment?

Would the apostle Paul have given a benediction for Nero? Would Peter have done it for Herod? Would Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) have given a benediction for Adolf Hitler?! Niemöller used his pulpit to expose Adolf Hitler’s radical politics even though “[h]e knew every word spoken was reported by Nazi spies and secret agents.”

We are to obey the civil authorities. We are to pray for civil rulers to do the right thing (Rom. 13:4; 1 Pet. 2:13). But we are not required to stand up with them and grace their governments with a benediction. How can a “good word” be given for a civil ruler who supports so many

John the Baptist didn’t attend government functions with Herod and sanction his behavior with a benediction. He spoke out against his sin. He paid a heavy price (Mark 6:14-29).

We shouldn’t be surprised at the way Christians and Christian beliefs are dealt with by this administration. We’ve seen four years of it. Early Christians suffered under the religious oppression, first, of Judaism, and second, Imperial Rome. Ours is a prophetic task not an enabling one.

Nathan didn’t stand with King David and offer a benediction. David would have loved for him to do it. It would have given him religious cover for his sins. Instead, Nathan confronted the powerful king about his sin. Keep in mind that David was an accomplice to murder. Nathan put his life on the line in his prophetic word to the king.

The same is true of the priests who confronted King Uzziah (2 Chron. 26:16–23). The king had just “warred against the Philistines, and broke down the wall of Gath and the wall of Jabneh and the wall of Ashdod; and he built cities in the area of Ashdod and among the Philistines” (v. 6). The priests were defenseless, and yet they still confronted the king.
Overstated comparisons with Nero, Hitler, et al. aside, DeMar's point is well taken. The actions of Obama and his administration over the last four years, most notably the suppression of religious freedom through mandates imposed on religious groups via his healthcare law, suggest that the president is, at best, a person of wavering faith more urgently in need of the church's rebuke and correction than its blessing.

Cardinal Dolan
That being said, however, it is possible for a Christian leader to be salt and light while carrying out ceremonial duties at political gatherings. Delivering the benediction at both party conventions this past summer, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, with meticulous pastoral skill, asked God's blessing on the nation and its political process while simultaneously reminding both Democrats and Republicans of the great national sins in which partisans on both sides have been complicit.

Religious celebrities (forgive me for my cynicism) cozying up to presidents is nothing new. Obama has had his share of moderate to left-leaning clerics on the White House guest list, and they have generally served as court theologians for his political agenda. Conversely, the list of "right wing" evangelical clerics who have frequented the White House during the tenures of Republican presidents is infinite, and one would be hard pressed to find any instance of them rebuking their nation's leader in even the mildest tone, much less that of a Nathan or a John the Baptist. The desire to be respected in the halls of power has been, and will continue to be, the downfall of many a Christian leader, regardless of political affiliation, who forgets his first allegiance is to Christ and his kingdom.