Emily Timbol

The Believe Out Loud/Sojourners Controversry


I want to like Jim Wallis. He’s liberal. He’s a Christian too, which right there means him and I have something in common that not a lot of people do. He’s a spiritual advisor to Barack Obama, who I am pretty fond of. In his youth, he fought for civil rights, and protested the Vietnam War. Now, despite being an old white guy, he also seems to be pretty open minded when it comes to issues that matter to me, like equality for gay and lesbian individuals. 

Which is why I don’t understand why his magazine, Sojourners, turned down this ad, that was aimed to run on their site on Mothers Day. 
I don’t get it. The controversy.
I get that it shows a lesbian family in a church, holding hands (gasp! Someone fetch my vapors!) I get that it shows a pastor/priest/reverend welcoming them into the church without comment. But, like Dan Savage said, 
The ad doesn’t endorse gay marriage. It recognizes the existence of same-sex couples and the fact that many gay couples are raising children and it endorses welcoming them. Just welcoming them. A gay wedding doesn’t break out, no rice is thrown, no bouquets reeking of the gay agenda are tossed…”

The ad is not trying to “force” anything on Christians, other than welcoming families to church. All families. What Christian is going to argue with that? To think that something is wrong with wanting to encourage people of all walks of life, into a faith based community?
I don’t want to say that the answer to that question is “Christians like Jim Wallis”, because the man has done many, many good things in the name of Christ, things that have gone against the grain of “mainstream” Christianity. For all we know, he was on vacation that day, and let his secretly fundamentalist nephew choose which ads got to run over the weekend. Or he, in a moment of exhaustion and stress, decided that he didn’t want to cause controversy over Mothers Day, and hoped that quietly denying the ad would deflect any unwanted attention.
Now that the ad has garnered all this attention, all eyes on are on Jim for a response. And he gave one, that frankly, I don’t think is going to cut it. The response above was a whole lot of back pedaling, explaining, justifying, and pontificating, that really, didn’t do much to alleviate any one’s concerns. You know what would have done that? These two little words:
“I’m sorry.”
If Jim had just admitted he made a mistake, or that someone on his staff made a mistake, and that there was no reason why they shouldn’t have run the ad, then I believe this thing would just blow over. It’s so much easier to just admit that you’ve done something wrong, then write 1,000 words on why what you did seems wrong but really isn’t. The ability to admit when you’re wrong is a good quality that everyone, especially Christians, should aspire to have. Because ultimately, I do think Jim, and Sojourners was wrong to not run this ad that was encouraging churches to welcome everyone. Really, if we can’t all agree that we (as Christians) can at least start there – encouraging churches to be welcoming (and affirming) to gays and lesbians, then what are we doing? Who’s teaching are we following by excluding others from worship?
Even though I think Jim and Sojourners were wrong, I am not going to write them off. Jim’s life looks just like a life that I would aspire to have (as least according to his Wiki page.) He has done a whole lot of things right. Plus, writing him off would make me a hypocrite, since asking someone to apologize, means being willing to forgive them and welcome them back when they do. I fully hope that Jim will eventually come around, and see the err of his thinking, so that he will offer an apology to the organization that he denied. At that point, I will go from “wanting” to like Jim Wallis, to “really liking” Jim Wallis. But until then, I’m going to be tentative with my praise for someone who can’t seem to understand why encouraging churches to welcome gays is a “critical” matter. 
But in the mean time, I’m going to try and put my money where my mouth is, and act like the kind of Christian I get mad at people for not being. I’m going to pray for Jim, and Sojourners, and for the reconciliation of everyone involved. 

2 Responses to The Believe Out Loud/Sojourners Controversry

  1. i really like jim and sojo, but this was a pretty big blunder and i’m with you in hoping he apologizes. i really hate how this story seems to be mostly picked up as “look, even supposedly progressive christians hate homosexuals!” it seems like sojo hasn’t backed down from controversy in the past, so i’m not sure why they chose to go that route this time.

  2. He doesn’t hate homosexuals. It’s just that, should he run the add, he will lose nearly half his funding. This funding goes to feeding the starving. What is the first priority, feeding the hungry or fighting for equal sex rights? That’s a hard answer, but Wallis chose the hungry. It doesn’t mean he hates homosexuals, it just means he made a choice.

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