April 16, 2014
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FIRST-PERSON: Destructive secular intolerance
Ed Stetzer
Posted on Jan 16, 2013

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NASHVILLE (BP) -- Louie Giglio withdrew from the program at President Obama's inauguration in the face of criticism over a 15-year-old sermon referencing homosexuality as a sin. Many will want to debate and desire to nuance the specific wording he used in the sermon, but his points are largely mainstream evangelical beliefs.

This Louie Giglio moment, and the Chick-fil-A moment that preceded it, and the Rick Warren moment which preceded that, raise the question: Where do people of faith with long-standing traditional religious/scriptural convictions go from here?

For those of us who know Louie, this is a strange moment indeed -- but also illustrative of how our culture has turned. Louie has dedicated his life to helping others -- the poor, the enslaved, those trapped in sexual trafficking. Yet, I do not recognize the person I see portrayed on the news -- a bigoted homophobe driven by his hatred for gays. You can be certain that is not Louie Giglio -- even though some prefer to believe that any opposition to homosexual practice, and people who hold that view, must apparently be silenced for the common good.

Some are wondering if those who hold to traditional evangelical beliefs on homosexuality are no longer welcome in the public square. In a recent LifeWay Research study, 37 percent of American adults agreed that homosexuality is a sin. That number is declining (down from 44 percent according to a 2011 survey), but it is still a substantial minority. Yet, such views (which were mainstream just a few decades ago) are indeed now a minority position -- and viewed as unacceptable by many in society.

So, what does this mean for Catholics, Mormons, Muslims, Orthodox Jews and others who believe that their authoritative religious texts teach something the prevailing culture finds so unacceptable that they are no longer welcome in the public square? Must they jettison their sacred texts and adopt new views to be accepted as part of society? If they do not, will they be marginalized and demonized even as they serve the poor, care for the orphan or speak against injustice?

Or, instead, can we recognize that a substantial minority in our culture hold views they see as rooted in their scriptures and part of their faith, even though those views may not always be popularly accepted?

Yes, the First Amendment protects these views. But we also have to decide if the people who hold such views can be protected by our self-identified tolerant culture as they seek not just to hold those beliefs in secret, but also dare to utter them in public -- even on a sermon tape 15 years ago.
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Ed Stetzer is president of LifeWay Research. This column first appeared at USATODAY.com. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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