Believe Out Loud, Jim Wallis and Sojourners

If you’ve not heard, a GLBT advocacy campaign in churches — Believe Out Loud — sought advertizing with Sojourners, a well-known Christian magazine and website, and were rejected on what can only be called ambiguous and shifting grounds. Some people I know have come to Wallis’s defence, but most of the gay people and clergy in particular I’d read have called out them out. Here’s the opinion piece by the Believe Out Loud organizational head that galvinized a response.

Like other things I would be happy to boycott, there’s really not much left in my heart for Sojourners to boycott. I tried in the past. I used to read their email and I sent a little money. I used to live a hop, skip and a jump from their old offices; I think of them as a Washington instituion. Wallis has been “good on poverty” and that’s laudible in its own right. People I respect like his writings. As a relative theological conservative in a very liberal denomination, I hoped to find something in his “third way” approach to hold on it.

But, there’s something — now less clear after several years — that gave me the creeps about Sojourners. The progressive moniker seemed wrong, and the “third way” seems more and more of trying to have it all. And from a liberal point of view, he’s always been bad — and then silent — on reproduction and sexual orientation. I used to make exceptions and excuses and compartmentalize “the good part” but won’t any more. Still, there hadn’t been anything that would have made me say anything about him, until now.

Some context. Wallis and Sojourners haven’t changed, but America has. I have too. Gay people have been sidelined, attacked and legally debilitated by people — many elected — in the heart of the American political process. Our so-called friends on the left and center don’t return telephone calls. Members of the embolded right feel free to call us a risk on par with international terrorism. The gradualist approach of nice gays getting theirs in time is a dangerous and self-defeating illusion. So much so that the “progressive” accomplishments of ten or fifteen years ago — anything related to the Clinton presidency, civil unions, the now-unwatchable episodes of Will and Grace (or as my husband calls it, “the minstral show”) — look like crumbs. And all the more when people, who care deeply about their churches, realize that the mere toleration or implied acceptance they think they have might just be a self-preserving delusion.

The question of equal rights for sexual minorities is one of the key issues in American moral, religious and political life. It isn’t, as Sojourner staff have said, a distraction. (We’re talking about an ad buy here, not a program reorganization. Hardly heavy lifting.)

So the issue — to me anyway — isn’t about the quality of the ad (I think it’s pretty good, actually, and I’m hard to please), or thinking that Wallis is a good or bad person, or even the canard of Sojourner’s free speech rights. (Nobody has suggested that they be forced to run the ad.)

The issue is the larger idea of expressed self-respect, and knowing who your friends are. Even if it’s as simple a gesture as saying “welcome.” That, and calling out and holding accountable anyone who’s partying like it’s 1995. Crumbs and silence won’t do any more.

7 Replies to “Believe Out Loud, Jim Wallis and Sojourners”

  1. I was both highly discouraged and incredibly encouraged reading about this as the controversy unfolded today. Obviously discouraged that Sojourners is not taking a Christian position on this issue – i.e. an inclusive one – but also encouraged at the huge uproar that I witnessed. I knew that Jim Wallis had not had a strong record here in the past, but it’s amazing to see that now may be the time when he is pushed to reconsider the Sojo position on the GLBT place in the church. Fingers crossed! Personally, I haven’t given up on Sojo – just hoping that it can change.

  2. I guess advertisements, like budgets, are moral documents too. Jim Wallis is a huge windbag quick to call out anyone who disagrees with him a public policy immoral.

    He’d be better off with a little Tea Bag, Rand Paul, Libertarianism and getting onto the get-the-government-out-of-the marriage-biz wagon. That goes over very well in the Chicago Tea Party.

  3. Calm down, Bill. First, Sojourners has been slippery about its reasons. It’s clear they don’t want to take a stand — that they would like “the issue” to stay away — but not taking the ad is a stand, and the “issue” is really people demanding respect and, who have a reason to know who will support them. Second, the bit about marriage is a red herring. The theme of the campaign is church leaders taking stand to welcome GLBT people. (And the libertarian tack sounds like, “well, if the gays are going to ruin marriage, let’s forget it.” Of course, for this and other reasons, I take libertarianism even less seriously.)

  4. I just get a little bent out of shape with Wallis’s moralizing. He makes everything a grand moral question with him on the side of Morality and those who disagree devils.

    Yes, I agree not taking the ad is a stand and Wallis coping out on this one. That’s pretty lame for a guy quick to label others as haters or writers of “immoral budgets”.

    Heritage Foundation bailed out of the last Conservative Political Action Committee conference in DC because the Libertarians included Gay Conservatives.

    Libertarianism offers two very important things IMO. One it gets the government out of Marriage, but more important, it tells GLBTs that it;s a big mistake to turn to the Government licensing or Marriage or a host of other regulations for affirmation or validation. That’s a hugely important thing to understand.

    People are asking way too much government if they’re looking for affirmation from it. Best if Gov just stays out of our lives as much as makes sense.

  5. Scott, amen, amen, and amen.

    Gotta say to Bill: we’ve been over this on my blog before. When you start responding to every hetero couple who says “We’re getting married!” by saying “You shouldn’t depend on the government for affirmation or validation,” I’ll stop being offended.

    The government goes to considerable pains to tell some people that they are inferior to other people, and to enforce that by making our lives more difficult. The only “validation” I seek from my government is that it cut that out.

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