FAITH & THE GLOBAL PUBLIC SQUARE
Recently CNN posed a question on their web-site for their viewers to answer, something like “Should evangelical pastors who don’t support same-sex marriage be allowed in the public square?” They were responding to Louie Giglio and his invitation to give the benediction at the Inauguration and his withdrawal.
That question in itself stunned me coming from CNN, regardless of your view of their political slant – because they are educated and intelligent people – they were posing the question more as “culture warriors” than as journalist with an understanding of the public square.
Evangelicals are in the public square – you can’t kick them out, vote them out, or push them out. Other religious groups are in the public square, Jews, Muslims, etc. Gays are in the public square. Human rights are in the people square.
Everyone and everything is in the public square – or it isn’t public!
A better question would have been, “How would you respond to evangelicals in the public square over their position of same-sex marriage?” We don’t pick and choose who is in the public square – it’s public! The question is, how do we treat people in the public square? How do we communicate and relate to one another? I love Os Guinness’ book “Civility” because it deals with this very issue. Other good books on this topic have been written also.
The public square is not a battlefield where we play king of the hill and one side tries to push the other side off the hill – it is a “coming together at the hill” to figure out how we are going to relate to one another. When we try to push people out of the public square it sets us up for isolation and conflict and there isn’t a place that we can challenge each other, learn from each other, find compromise, etc.
I was sad Louie Giglio withdrew from praying. He should not have. Rick Warren faced similar criticism but prayed anyhow. We should never abandon our voice in the public square – we should just be civil – as Louie has been. Louie has one of the warmest smiles I’ve ever seen – he should have smiled, hugged people, and prayed. ON THE OTHER HAND, if there were some behind the scenes maneuvering, and, as a personal favor to President Obama he withdrew, that’s a different story – that’s a personal story and one that must be respected. If that were the case, I wish they would have said personal issues where they disagree but respect each other. But I don’t like that he withdrew because he was an evangelical and views the Bible as his source of authority in all things therefore, would not violate God’s truth regardless of man.
People have disagreed with Billy Graham’s stances on various things over the years, but he’s incredibly kind, gracious, and willing to have a relationship with anyone. He’s a class act and though people would disagree on some of his positions as an evangelical, he’s still maintained his voice in the public square and every journalist alive wants to interview him! T.D. Jakes has been with the President and they would not agree on issues, Joel Hunter doesn’t agree with the President on all his positions – but they are still respected and in the public square.
I would say to President Obama you have just isolated yourself from 60 million Americans and particularly from millions of young evangelical Americans who are hugely involved in social justice issues and emerging in leadership for the next generation. They are also a generation more like you in your social justice areas than they are the party of their parents. You have said to them, “You don’t matter and we don’t want you.” Big mistake, Mr. President. I wish you would have said, “I don’t agree with Louie Giglio on his position of same-sex marriage but he is an American who has fought against human slavery and he is my friend and he has a right to be in the public square like anyone else.” Have two benedictions if you want to make a statement to the other side – but once you start the ball rolling don’t reverse it and roll over someone who supports and believes in you simply because you disagree with their position. The evangelical position on homosexuality isn’t new, it’s as old as the Bible – this can’t be something that shocked anyone.
Believe it or not, evangelicals are just as concerned over the environment, human slavery and trafficking, drugs, immigration, human rights – as any liberal on the left. The methodology may differ. The basis of authority definitely differs. An evangelical’s ultimate authority to truth isn’t the President, public opinion, or any other person – it is the Bible, and what it says. There must not be public square police either from the left or the right. Those issues can be debated at other forums. This is the whole basis of my book BOLD AS LOVE – living faith in the public square. But it applies to these issues as well.
It’s not too late, Mr. President – make a huge statement to young evangelicals – let them know you respect them . . . . . . . it’s not just right, it’s politically advantageous for you, if not your party in the future.
Bob is the founder, senior leader, and chief spokesman for Glocal.net . His primary focus is to connect leaders and estabish relationships to explore transformation. Follow Bob on Twitter at @bobrobertsjr.