Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Jim Wallis, Andrew Marin and the hollowness behind

By now, you may have heard about the kerfuffle. The pro-inclusion group Believe Out Loud filmed a video advertisement to promote acceptance of gay families in church. Not same-sex marriage. Not ordination. Just suggesting that a faith community welcome a boy with two moms.

The purportedly "liberal" Evangelical group Sojourners, represented prominently by Jim Wallis, refused to accept the ad (which you can see below). The Lead tells us that Sojourners said,
“I’m afraid we’ll have to decline. Sojourners position is to avoid taking sides on this issue. In that care [sic], the decision to accept advertising may give the appearance of taking sides.”
Taking sides? You have got to be kidding me! As Rev Robert Chase writes,
What are the sides here? That young children who have same-gender parents are not welcome in our churches? That “welcome, everyone” (the only two words spoken in the ad) is a controversial greeting from our pulpits? That the stares the young boy and his moms get while walking down the aisle are justified? I can’t imagine Sojourners turning down an ad that called for welcome of poor children into our churches. So why is this boy different?
I have never understood how Jim Wallis gets away with being the face of "liberal" religion, because he's not. He's a middle of the road guy who gets squirrelly around issues of women and gays, covering that up in generic statements.

He reminds me a lot of Andrew Marin, whose Marin Foundation ostensibly promotes dialogue between the LGBT and Evangelical community. We've discussed Andrew Marin quite a bit here at FoJ. Marin works by ostensibly apologizing to LGBT people. However,when he talks to other evangelicals, it's clear it's just more of the same. He wants to rescue people from being gay, scare teenagers away from being gay. His worldview of gay-ness does not include mature, happy gay couples with families--especially those who already "get" God and faith.

Wallis and Marin may have a nice cover to it, but they really don't like LGBT people. They don't believe that LGBT people can live whole, faithful lives being who they are, openly and honestly gay. They really don't want gay people in their churches, unless the gay people in question are self-loathing and celibate or closeted. Simply including openly LGBT people is viewed as a "wedge issue."

Integrity, (which for those who don't know, is an organization of LGBT Episcopalians and allies), released a statement:
Given those articulated core values, it is incomprehensible to us that they would decline to run an ad that quite simply depicts a pastor modeling for his congregation that “all are welcome” as a lesbian couple and their son visit the church on Mother’s Day. The Sojourner spokesperson refusing the ad said their “position is to avoid taking sides on this issue” -- reducing a family seeking a spiritual community to “an issue” and needlessly politicizing the call for a pastoral response. It is deeply dehumanizing to gay and lesbian families and antithetical to protecting the safety and dignity of all people Sojourners claims to advocate.
Religion DIspatches has more on the fallout.

The fact is that there are many churches that are LGBT-friendly. Many Episcopal churches and dioceses actively recognize and welcome their LGBT congregants. The Presbyterians are one vote away from changing policies to allow gay clergy, and that vote will probably happen this week. The UCC has a long history of welcome. The MCC, the Quakers, and many others are inclusive. How has the self-promotion of Jim Wallis and Andrew Marin garnered such attention, when it is so hollow in substance, and when there are many people of faith who really DO walk the walk?


PseudoPiskie said...

They could have found a better video to fight for/over. I don't like it at all.

Grandmère Mimi said...

There was always something about Jim Wallis and Sojourners that made me uncomfortable, but the refusal of this mild ad for welcoming all nails the reason for my discomfort.

WV: "antsy". Damn right!

IT said...

I don't mind the video, though I know many don'tl like it. But I think it's kind of cute. I DO mind making a very simple little piece into a "Wedge" issue.

dr.primrose said...

Jim Wallis was the keynote speaker for the last diocesan convention for the Diocese of Los Angeles in December 2010. I suspect that if this had come up before hand, the proverbial excrement would have hit the oscillator.

Grandmère Mimi said...

I don't get why an ad about welcome would be taking sides. I don't really get Jim Wallis and Sojourners.

Erika Baker said...

I don't like this whole story one little bit.

But I do get the point about it being seen as taking sides.
The lgbt issue is now so polarised that you're either fully pro and inclusive at all levels, or you're seen to be anti all of it.
In terms of public discourse, there no longer is a middle ground.

JCF said...

Was there ever really a middle ground?

Believing in "a little bit of equality" seems like being "a little bit pregnant". Either you're for equality, or you aren't.

Erika Baker said...


In the public's eye, yes, there was always a middle ground.
People were happy to live side by side with us if they didn't have to think too much about it.
But priests? Ooh, that's a bit close.
And of course we can live together and it's only right that we should have legal rights, but marriage? That's asking too much!
Children? Well, if you do unnatural things you can't expect children, can you!

And, to be fair, we are constantly moving the goal posts too, naturally. The first battles for gay equality were about simply being decriminalised or no longer considered mentally ill.
Ordination, marriage, all of that came much much later.

From where we are now it's easy to believe that it was always about full legal and moral equality. But it wasn't and for many people it still isn't.

IT said...

That said the ad in question says nothing about ordination or mArriage. Only whether people should be welcome in church. By denying the ad Sojo is saying that being openly gay in church is a problem. Which means that to Sojo being gay is a problem.