I’ve never been to Louie Giglio’s church. But I drive past it every Sunday on the way to the church I do attend.
Passion City Church meets in a building that once was home to a Home Depot Expo and a PGA Tour Superstore. If you aren’t familiar with the site, one thing you ought to know is it has the kind of enormous parking lot you’d expect for a mega-box store – and that it’s filled to capacity each week as volunteers and traffic cops direct the flow of motorists, pedestrians from the nearby Lindbergh MARTA station, and the shuttles that ferry still more worshippers to Giglio’s church.
You also ought to know that, for a couple of months last year, there were fewer parking spaces available than usual. That’s because part of the pavement was occupied by a gigantic statue of an arm and hand reaching skyward — I’m talking about 103-feet-tall gigantic — with, among other messages, “Indifference Is Not an Option” written on it.
“Indifference” to human trafficking and slavery, that is. That cause is the one that led the presidential inaugural committee on Tuesday to reveal Giglio would give the benediction when Barack Obama is sworn in for his second term on Jan. 21.
Giglio’s place in the program lasted all of two days. On Thursday, he and the committee announced a mutual parting of ways, after a liberal blog reported some comments Giglio made about the gay-rights movement in a sermon some 15 years ago.
Fighting human trafficking has become a popular cause among evangelical Christians in recent years,working with global outfits such as Stop the Traffik and local ones such as Street Grace. I’m sure the inaugural committee could find another pastor actively working against this evil – though probably not many who attract tens of thousands of young people and raise millions of dollars to support the movement, as Giglio does, not even counting what happens at his church on Sundays.
There probably are not many, as well, who can get the attention of the president of the United States with a petition signed by 72,000 people, many of whom very likely did not vote for him, asking him to join their cause. Giglio did.
This is the promise Barack Obama offered Americans, even those who didn’t vote for him, when he was first elected: a purple America, a country in which people came together in the name of those things they agreed upon, and not just in opposition to those they didn’t.
That promise has faded — and, to be fair, that’s hardly the fault of Obama alone. The selection of Giglio, for the fight he and his flock share with others in spite of the biblically based beliefs they may not, was at least one reason to wonder if that promise might not be renewed.
Instead, the objections won out.
The irony is that, by all accounts I’ve come across, Giglio deliberately has not emphasized the standard culture-war issues during his pastoral career. It’s one reason he focuses on human trafficking instead.
Evidently, that’s not good enough. Evidently, lifelong purity of thought is required not only of those who live under our country’s big political tents, but anyone who might pay them a visit.
Of the more controversial topic that is keeping him off the inaugural’s agenda, Giglio wrote on his blog: “individuals’ rights of freedom, and the collective right to hold differing views on any subject is a critical balance we, as a people, must recover and preserve.”
After this episode, I wonder how possible such a recovery still is.
(Note: As usual, comments will not post immediately over the weekend. Immediate commenting will resume Monday morning.)
– By Kyle Wingfield