On Wednesday, January 9, Jackson investigative reporter Jerry Mitchell reported in the Clarion-Ledger that Mississippi's own Myrlie Evers-Williams has been selected to offer the opening prayer at President Barack Obama's January 21 re-inauguration ceremony in Washington D.C. The widow of Mississippi Civil Rights leader Medgar Evers being invited to offer the invocation is, according to Mitchell, two historic firsts: the first time a woman has ever offered the opening prayer, and the first time it's been offered by a layperson.
1. Things to celebrate
Upon closer examination, this year's inauguration is historic in many ways. First, 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the historic "March on Washington", which produced, among other things, Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous, "I Have a Dream Speech". Second, 2013 also marks the 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers' death; he was gunned down in his yard by Byron De Le Beckwith. Bob Dylan paid tribute to Evers' heroism in his folk song, "Only a Pawn". Thirdly, 2013 also marks the 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which eventually led to the constitutional amendment banning slavery.
One can only speculate how gratifying it would be for Evers and Dr. King to know that America has made enough progress to have a black president. Today, Janet Parshall reported on Moody Radio South (WMBU, Forest, Jackson, Meridian--89.1 FM) that President Obama will be using two Bibles during his swearing in--both the Lincoln Bible, which was used during the 1861 presidential inauguration, as well as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Bible.
In the area of racial reconciliation, January 2013's presidential inauguration offers much to celebrate.
2. Things to grieve
On a somber note, 2013 also marks the 40th anniversary of Roe V. Wade, the Supreme Court case which legalized abortion nationwide. According to statistics compiled by the Centers for Disease Control, since 1973, approximately 50 million babies have been killed. As extraordinary as it is to have black president, given America's shameful past, it's also deeply sad how pro-abortion the Obama administration is. Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has consistently moved to repeal any abortion restrictions enacted during the Bush era and has consistently opposed the activism of America's pro-life community.
In the area of the sanctity of human life, there is much to grieve in 2013. The country has taken a step forward in the area of racial reconciliation, but it is still legal to deprive the unborn of their fundamental right to life.
In Jerry Mitchell's article, "A half century after fate kept her from speaking at March on Washington, Myrlie Evers-Williams to deliver inauguration’s invocation", it was noted that Louie Giglio, an evangelical pastor known for, among other things, his involvement in opposing modern-day slavery and human trafficking, had been invited to offer the benediction at the re-inauguration ceremony. Janet Parshall reported today, though, that this has changed. A sermon Giglio delivered in the 1990s titled "In Search of a Standard – Christian Response to Homosexuality" has surfaced. After being selected to offer the benediction, it was pointed out to the White House that Giglio believes, as the sermon demonstrates, that sexual expression is only permissible in the context of marriage between man and woman. The sermon didn't defame or stigmatize those who struggle with homosexuality, but rather held up Jesus Christ as the Redeemer. This position put Giglio at odds with the administration, and he has since declined the benediction invitation.
In the area of sexual ethics, there is much to grieve in 2013. As far as participation in inaugural events is concerned, one has to wonder if evangelicals haven't been unofficially blacklisted. It would make sense for Giglio to be a controversial figure if he were known to be a hate-monger, but he isn't. Giglio is a friend of the president, who deeply respects him for his fight for justice and equality for those trapped in human trafficking. The fact that Giglio's sermon has become so highly contested in recent days is, frankly, due to the fact that in our current cultural climate, any pastor who affirms a Biblical view of sexuality, however winsome or charitable in his demeanor or delivery, is going to be treated with suspicion, if not hostility.
Children growing up in 2013 live in a cultural climate that is far less friendly to Christianity than was the case 50 to 60 years ago. Times have changed; things have improved in some ways and gotten worse in others. If the culture treats evangelicals with suspicion, this puts them in the painful position of getting to live out the Sermon on the Mount, doing good to those who hate them.
The church now, more than ever, must accurately represent itself when it comes to matters such as abortion and sexual ethics. Speaking against abortion and against homosexual behavior cannot ever be divorced from affirming that women who've had abortions and individuals who practice homosexuality are loved. We are all broken people, and Christians mustn't be condescending in the manner in which they speak of Christ being the healer of the broken. The "culture war" mustn't embitter Christians into taking an "Us vs. Them" mindset. God loves everyone, Jesus Christ offers redemption to everyone, and that, plain and simple, is what the church must make known.