Louie Giglio was going to offer the benediction at President Obama’s second inauguration. Now he is not.
And what a wonderful opportunity this represents for American evangelicals!
Not surprisingly, many have already missed the opportunity. Many have responded by calling Obama a bully, many have bemoaned the symbolic loss of freedoms, especially 1st Amendment freedoms. Many have seen this as yet another bruising referendum on the gay rights issue in our country.
Recent history indicates our efforts will not succeed. But, Gigliogate offers us a watershed moment to look past the facade of success. Perhaps now we can finally exchange the illusion of power held by the public square for the reality of power found within the gospel. Our hand-wringing over Gigliogate is simply much ado about nothing: there is no power in the public square. The public square is a place of manipulation, currying favor, backscratching, intrigue, and deception. But there is power in the gospel.
Gigliogate should do for evangelicals what a quick splash of cold water to the face does to one recently awoken: renew, refresh, and invigorate. It should awaken us to the fact, once and for all, that Christianity, Christian values, and the Christian ethic have been decidedly pushed to the margins of our country and culture. As such, our position and influence within the public square will only continue to shrink.
My family lived for years in a country where Christianity existed within the margins; less than 1% of the population were Christian. As you can imagine, we didn’t devote much time or effort to lobbying the government for change. Instead, we got to know our neighbors. And our store clerks. And our mailman. Old people, young people, fun people, boring people; we invited them into our home. We sacrificed our rights to bring Life to those without. We had no aspirations to make the country Christian from the top down, but prayed daily about transforming the culture from the bottom up.
My parents’ love for God and for people saturated their every conversation, their every interaction, their every social event. What good does it do to scratch and claw for our spot in the public square while we ignore the gay person right in front of us?
My parents aren’t my only example. Jesus proclaimed the gospel from the margins. So did Paul, Peter, Mary, Pricscilla and everyone else in the early church. And so have many of the heroes of our faith for centuries.
The gospel thrives in the margins, but seems to wilt in halls of power.
The gospel doesn’t need or crave the glory of the stage. The gospel, like Jesus, works best with faithful presence. So you’re bummed that Giglio won’t pray on TV? Then pray for the people around you. You’re upset that we seem outnumbered by gay rights activists? Great–that should make it easy to find and befriend one or two. You think the leader of our government is positioning himself against Christian values? Didn’t seem to slow down an old dead guy named Polycarp, who celebrated his journey to martyrdom for the opportunity to bring glory to God.
Gigliogate could be the moment when we turn from the halls of power and political manipulation and instead allow the faithful presence of Jesus in our midst to change the world: starting with each other, our tasks, and our spheres of influence. Gigliogate could be the moment when American Christians renounce the dominant script of the world and embrace the alternative script of the Bible.
How should we start? As Darrell Bock says, “we need to live more faithfully, serve more diligently, preach more consistently, and whine far less.”