Allow me a brief follow-up word to last week's trending topic of discussion--Louie Giglio's withdrawal as President Obama's choice to offer the benedictory prayer at the presidential inauguration early next week. One of post-evangelical's chief scholarly representatives, Scot McKnight, took a brief flight out of the cuckoo's nest today with a short piece entitled "Louie Giglio and Inauguration Day Prayer" wherein he claimed that while Giglio did the right thing by backing out of the inaugural event, Giglio surely would have done the "right-er thing by never accepting such an invitation" in the first place >>>
I have a different take, noted already in the top of this post. Any evangelical on the platform of any Inauguration, Democrat or Republican, is being used. No one’s prayer will be acceptable to specific faiths… and if you tailor your prayer to all you shift your theology.
In addition to both "being used" and "shift[ing] your theology" McKnight goes to offer other reasons why it would have been the "right-er thing" had Giglio--or presumably any evangelical for that matter--not to get one's self into established political events. Consider:
- "When you enter politics you risk sullying the gospel. In DC everything is political."
- "If you don’t agree up and down the platform of the Democrats, don’t pray on their platform."
- "What happened to Louie is what happens when pastors and Christian leaders become complicit in politics. Politics determines everything...And the pastor who stands on that platform makes the gospel complicit in that platform’s politics."
- "Christian leaders and pastors need to be at the Prayer Breakfast or the Easter Breakfast, but not on the Inauguration Day platform"
- "May all of us learn the lesson that Caesar is Caesar and Jesus is not Caesar"
McKnight usually has some reasonable contributions to make upon the subject he considers. But this time, he throws a rotten egg.
The impression one gets reading McKnight's piece is for Christians to stay out of DC period. We have no business being there unless we either stand without reservation on a particular political platform agenda, or we attend a special religious breakfast. In fact, from what I gather from McKnight's reasoning, Giglio apparently would have done the Kingdom proud had he accepted an invitation to a Prayer or Easter Breakfast; he just did the wrong thing to accept an invitation to the inaugural event. One has to wonder: if everything in DC is definitively politics as McKnight thrice suggests, what makes him think a Prayer or Easter Breakfast is any different?
And, while Giglio's invitation and subsequent withdrawal perhaps teaches us some lessons, I doubt it teaches us "Caesar is Caesar and Jesus is not Caesar." Who among us actually believes anything differently? On the other hand, McKnight seems to indicate that since Washington is the Emperor's Palace, we have no business in Washington lest we sully the Gospel. How far we've come from the Apostle Paul who "purposed in the spirit, when he had passed through Macedonia and Achaia, to go to Jerusalem, saying, After I have been there, I must also see Rome" (Acts 19:21, italics mine). I don't think the Apostle had a site-seeing tour in mind.
Why of course we "risk sullying the gospel" when we enter the Emperor's domain. We risk its sullying in most any context where the gospel is either hostilely rejected or entirely unknown. Sullying the gospel cannot be limited to the politico-cultural context.
Therefore, we remain obligated to be, on the one hand, faithful witnesses to its saving powers while on the other hand, salt and light toward its preservation powers until our Lord's return. And, the radical attitude toward politics--avant-garde attitude toward politics, if you will--some (post-)evangelicals like McKnight seem to suggest would ultimately surrender our unique Judeo-Christian underpinnings we possess in the judicial, democratic, and cultural institutions we've established for over 200 years.