The leader of the Sojourners community and go-to guy on the evangelical left has sinned. He has fallen from grace, ceased to be acceptably progressive, violated the First Commandment, and must be punished. He has crossed the god of Gay, and has been banished to the outer darkness. So says Sarah Posner of Religion Dispatches, citing Jim Naughton of Episcopal Cafe and other guardians of religious left orthodoxy:
Over at Episcopal Cafe, Jim Naughton wonders whether the big tent rather broadly known as “progressive Christianity” has collapsed….”Lefties” like himself, Naughton writes in retrospect, were wrong to let Sojourners founder Jim Wallis become “the embodiment of the Progressive Christianity in the eyes of the Obama administration and the Washington media….
But now, Wallis as de facto leader is no longer “tenable,” Naughton contends. “The big tent collapsed this weekend, and it was Sojourners who yanked out the tent poles. Someone needs to alert official Washington that Jim Wallis and his minions no longer speak for us–if they ever did.”
So what was Wallis capital offense? Sojourners refused to run an ad on its web site:
It can be argued that Mother’s Day is the most popular secular holiday in our churches. Attendance increases, special music is featured, pastors pay particular attention to crafting messages that affirm the place of motherhood in keeping families and communities faithfully knit together. So it seemed fitting that Believe Out Loud, a trans-denominational effort to promote LGBT equality in mainline Protestant congregations, focused on Mother’s Day to launch its new campaign to invite one million believers to “sign up” for full LGBT equality in our churches and society-at-large.
A centerpiece of this effort is a new video with particular relevance to Mother’s Day. The video features that fateful, frightful walk down the church’s center aisle by a visiting family. How many of us can remember such a walk? This family unit, however, happens to include a young boy with two moms. After inhospitable stares and gestures from pew-sitters, the family is welcomed by the pastor. A familiar music track enhances the emotional impact. The video is a sweetly stated reminder that all should be welcomed in our churches. Its target audience is clergy and lay leaders who silently believe in LGBT equality but have yet to take steps to express this welcome publicly. Hence, the campaign calls on church leaders to “Believe Out Loud.”
To get the word out, Believe Out Loud organizers backed the launch of this viral video with a multi-layered, web-based advertising strategy that included a significant ad buy on the Sojourners website and email newsletters—home to one of the largest networks of progressive Christians in the United States.
So, you can imagine our dismay when Sojourners refused to run our ads. In a written statement, 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.”
That explanation on Sojourners‘ part may sound lame, but there’s reason behind it. Wallis and his chums have never taken a public position on gay rights because they happen to be split on it, with some taking a traditional evangelical position and others going the full Episcopalian. In addition, Wallis has long held that issues such as gay rights and abortion are a distraction from Sojourners’ mission, which revolves around issues of peace and poverty. With most organizations, that would be completely acceptable–you don’t hear the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation sounding off about gay rights, either, nor do you hear the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice talk about the West Bank.
But for several years now, Wallis has been treated more or less as the main spokesman for the religious left (Posner snidely says that’s because he has a “knack for self-promotion”) by both the mainstream media and various power brokers in Washington. If he is going to maintain that exalted position, however, it means that he must take the Right Position on the Most Important Issue in the History of the World. As Posner writes:
As Presbyterian Pastor Katie Mulligan notes, though, writing in response to Sojourners’ rejection of the ad: “It is entirely possible to do good work in the world and at the same time contribute to the ongoing bigotry and oppression of queer folk.”
Poor Jim Wallis. I’ll bet he’s never been called a bigoted oppressor before. But the god of Gay is a jealous god, and his/her/its wrath is terrible.