How Liberal Christians Nixed A Gay Rights Ad


For Mother’s Day, an interfaith social justice group created this ad urging churches to be accepting of gay families. But one Christian website wasn’t so accepting of the ad.

According to the Huffington Post, the group Intersections International pitched the ad to the progressive Christian organization Sojourners, hoping to place it on their website and e-mail list. Sojourners turned it down, issuing a statement reading, “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.” This prompted some outrage: Intersections International director Rev. Robert Chase wrote,

Taking sides? 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?

Then Sojourners spokesman Tim King responded to that with a somewhat roundabout post in which he mentioned some Christian LGBT rights groups and talked about the importance of love. He also included the video in the post, so it is on the Sojourners site now, though not in the form Intersections intended.

The Sojourners website does include a lengthy diversity statement spelling out the group’s commitment to fighting discrimination, but any mention of sexual orientation is conspicuously absent. For instance, the statement says, “We affirm that in the Body of Christ there is no distinction or hierarchy according to racial, ethnic, gender, or social identity and economic status.” It also includes the group’s pledge to “educate our staff by providing ongoing training and orientation that teaches the value of diversity and provides practical skills in building intercultural competency and gender equality, thereby strengthening our ability to relate meaningfully across differences of gender, race, and ethnicity.” And though HuffPo says Sojourners President Rev. Jim Wallis has spoken out against homophobia, a 2008 interview with Christianity Today tells a somewhat more mixed story. On gay marriage, he said,

I don’t think the sacrament of marriage should be changed. Some people say that Jesus didn’t talk about homosexuality, and that’s technically true. But marriage is all through the Bible, and it’s not gender-neutral.

He even addressed the advertising issue head-on, saying of some ads for the LGBT group Human Rights Campaign, which Sojourners had previously accepted:

Advertising is always a difficult question. I had real mixed feelings about those ads. We probably wouldn’t do it again, because when you take advertising it implies you might be sympathetic to the advertising. But we don’t take a position on this except promoting dialogue. At Sojourners, we’ve decided to have a safe place for dialogue and even disagreement on our staff and in our constituency.

All this talk about dialogue is pretty weaselly — it appears that while Sojourners doesn’t believe in active persecution of gay people, it also doesn’t believe in giving them full equality. Unfortunately, this is what a lot of supposedly moderate Christian rhetoric looks like when it comes to gay couples — a big vague blanket of love and safety, covering up what is, when you really look at it, still discrimination.

Progressive Christian Group Rejects Gay Rights Ad [Huffington Post]
Love Comes First [Sojourners God’s Politics Blog]
LGBT “Welcome” Ad Rejected By Sojourners, Nation’s Premier Progressive Christian Org [Religion Dispatches]

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