Here’s an interesting controversy from the Christian world: Earlier this month, the Washington National Cathedral, the church home of many past presidents, invited Pastor Max Lucado to speak (virtually) to the congregation. The sermon itself wasn’t an issue. It was the fact that Lucado opposes marriage equality and is generally anti-LGBTQ.
A petition in advance of his sermon explained the concern:
To cite one example, in 2004 he wrote of his fears that homosexuality would lead to “legalized incest” and likened same-sex marriage to incest and beastiality. Fear-mongering and dehumanizing messages from powerful speakers like Lucado have been used to justify rollbacks of LGBTQ rights and to exclude LGBTQ people from civil protections and sacred rites. To our knowledge, Lucado has not publicly renounced these views.
The petition basically asked: Why reward a bigot like that with a platform even if that’s not the focus of his sermon?
Lucado spoke at the church anyway.
But here’s what’s interesting: After initially defending the decision to invite Lucado because “We can still hold our convictions and cling to our values in the midst of disagreement,” the Cathedral’s Dean, Randolph Hollerith, backtracked and said it was a mistake.
In an open letter to his church last week, Hollerith said he had made a mistake by giving a Christian bigot a platform:
In my straight privilege I failed to see and fully understand the pain he has caused. I failed to appreciate the depth of injury his words have had on many in the LGBTQ community. I failed to see the pain I was continuing. I was wrong and I am sorry.
In my attempt to build new relationships with others, I didn’t see how my actions were damaging already cherished relationships with those who have been hurt by words and teachings of religious leaders like Reverend Lucado. And for that I apologize.
Was it a mistake to invite Max Lucado to preach at the Cathedral? Seeing all too clearly now the pain that it caused and the trauma it resurrected for so many, I know that it was. I made a mistake and I am sorry.
At least he took ownership of that mistake.
It gets even more wild: Even Lucado issued an apology for his past statements:
In 2004 I preached a sermon on the topic of same-sex marriage. I now see that, in that sermon, I was disrespectful. I was hurtful. I wounded people in ways that were devastating. I should have done better. It grieves me that my words have hurt or been used to hurt the LGBTQ community. I apologize to you and I ask forgiveness of Christ.
That apology isn’t as useful. Lucado still doesn’t think LGBTQ people deserve equal rights. He still thinks there’s something inherently wrong with same-sex marriage. He’s just really sorry anyone is offended by his Christian bigotry.
In other words, his apology doesn’t negate the backlash. The Cathedral still shouldn’t have invited him because he continues to oppose civil rights. (There’s a valid question to ask about whether any conservative who feels the same way should also be rejected from speaking to this congregation. The Cathedral has previously hosted prominent Republicans and powerful evangelicals, but I suspect they wouldn’t be welcome there today either.)
But wait! We’re not done!
Pastor Greg Fairrington of Destiny Church in Rocklin, California — a guy who just last week blamed church closures on “liberal crazies and Satan” instead of COVID — delivered a sermon over the weekend condemning Lucado… for apologizing.
Pastor Greg Fairrington criticizes Max Lucado for apologizing for anti-gay comments, says Lucado did "exactly what cancel culture wanted him to do," that "the battle is real" and that Christians have "to be the army of God." pic.twitter.com/ZCtDs1fSiA
— Christian Nightmares (@ChristnNitemare) February 16, 2021
[Lucado] did exactly what cancel culture wanted him to do. He apologized for his biblical stance on marriage and sexuality. Do you understand the battle is real, church? I want to keep it right out in front of you… [This battle] is not going away and we gotta continue to fight. You gotta understand we’ve got to be the army of God…
This isn’t about bullshit “cancel culture.” Someone whose views were (and still are!) despicable was rewarded with a speaking invitation. The people in that church didn’t appreciate it, and the church’s leader eventually agreed with them. There’s no such thing as a First Amendment right to speak to a private church. Lucado didn’t even really apologize for his bigotry, only for the way he expressed it.
But evangelicals like Fairrington aren’t merely anti-LGBTQ. They believe LGBTQ people should be demonized and hated, and they’re not satisfied unless that happens. To suggest they deserve humanity is seen as caving in to a secular culture. That’s the hate you accept when you’re part of churches like his.