Louie Giglio: Pastor and Cultural Provocateur

9781601424280_p0_v1_s260x420Over the past few weeks, Pastor Louie Giglio’s name has risen to the forefront of the cultural mainstream, as many of the talking heads on the political left and right have sought to interpret his intended involvement with the inaugural activities of President Obama.  Initially selected by the President’s team for his ongoing efforts to address human trafficking, Giglio quickly came under heavy scrutiny for a sermon he had once preached on the subject of homosexuality.  Acting quickly and of his own accord, Giglio attempted to squelch the expanding brush fire by electing to withdraw himself from the planned activities.

For these reasons and more, I recently decided to read and review Louie Giglio’s I Am Not, But I Know I Am.  For in these days where one’s understanding of homosexuality has become the new litmus test for one’s fitness to engage in the national discussion, it seems to me that we would all benefit from a conscious decision to spend some time with the debatable subject before we carelessly (and perhaps needlessly) jettison him or her overboard as some kind of cultural jetsam.

In many ways, Giglio’s book is a timely (if somewhat slim) volume that speaks to a core problem in Western society.  For in a culture such as ours, where the personal autonomy of the individual has become as seemingly important as it is artificially inflated, reminders such as that offered by Giglio are becoming increasingly vital:

“This book is not about you and making your story bigger and better, but about you waking up to the infinitely more massive God Story happening all around you … and about you discovering God’s invitation to join Him in it.  This book is about looking up to see that there’s a Story that was going on long before you arrived on planet earth and that will go on long after you’re gone.  God is the central character of this preemptive and prevailing Story; and He is the central character of this book …  It’s all about Him, and therefore, it’s not about you.”[1]

As you can see, from the very outset of the discussion, Giglio is swimming courageously upstream against a powerful cultural current that is pushing hard in the opposite direction.[2]  So for that reason alone, I Am Not But I Know I Am becomes a valuable text for the “right” reader, even if it eventually falls far short of becoming an essential read.

Ultimately, the two main problems with Giglio’s book lie not with the central thesis itself, but rather with the means he uses to advance his main premise.  Having purposefully set out with a goal of avoiding “exhaustive scriptural study,”[3] Giglio opts for a lighter, more conversational tone that is best characterized as a steady mix of biblical stories with personal anecdotes.   While this may not seem to be a significant issue at first, the constant injection of Giglio’s “life stories” ultimately begins to subtly undermine his central assertion.  Is the main character of the book Giglio, or is it God, as he wants to maintain?

Perhaps more troubling still is Giglio’s unfortunate adoption of what appears to be a growing trend in Evangelical literature and preaching.  Instead of allowing God to speak directly and authoritatively through the Scriptures, Giglio often paraphrases the Scriptures, all while putting quotation marks around words that he believes God has spoken to him through the act of prayer.[4]  The problem here is not the idea that God leads and guides us through prayer.  Rather, the problem is the perhaps unintentional and subtle equating of God’s guidance through prayer with the words that He has definitively spoken through the Scriptures.   Clearly, this is a generation that leans towards subjective, existential experiences with God; and unfortunately, many Evangelical leaders seem to be falling into the trap of pandering to this demographic.

Having said that, it would be unfair to leave the reader of this review with a sense that I disliked the book.  I believe Giglio is a well-intentioned pastor, who is trying his best to create a counter-cultural movement that recognizes and fights against the narcissistic tendencies of our society.  Unfortunately, in  my opinion, the methodologies he has adopted in this book seem to undermine his own goals.

2.0 stars

In exchange for an honest and forthright review, I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.


[1] Louie Giglio, I Am Not, But I Know I Am (Colorado Springs: Multnomah Books,  2012), 10-11.

[2] For the better part of four decades now, American children have been raised to believe that they are the central actors in their own story, actors that are brilliant in every role that they play For an excellent discussion of this cultural trend, see: Jean M. Twenge, Generation Me (New York: Free Press, 2007).

[3] Giglio, 6.

[4] For an illustration of this issue, please see page 120 in I Am Not But I Know I Am.

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One Response to Louie Giglio: Pastor and Cultural Provocateur

  1. So ironic. I was thinking about this topic today. I started the day contemplating our present cultural narrative that my personal identity is bound up in my sexual feelings, so that, according to our current narrative, I AM either heterosexual, homosexual, bi, trans, or tri (as in I’ll try anything once). And the unthinkable crime of our existential age is for me to deny or act counter to my perseved identity. BTW most of these thoughts stem from a must read book End of Sexual Identity.

    Then I moved on to thinking about the philisophical origins of the Modern, Western self; Descarte and Kant placing the “autonomous” self at the center of knowing and hence the center of the story. What blew my mind was wathcing the early 1970s version of Sesame Street, and how this cultural narrative was being pounded into our brains every other sketch. You are speacial. You are beutiful with eyes and hair like no one else. I even began to recall things my mom said to me as a lad that reinforced this cultural construction of the self.

    Fast forward to our young adulthood and we quote movie lines like scriputre because they speak more powerfully of our experience that all we were handed was a lie. Like a national anthem we roar out these words,

    ” God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables; slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

    Now we the deconstructed selves of nowhere have raised children of our own. They are deeply confused and more pissed off than we are. They never had the bliss of the lie. They are similtaneously told they are the center of it all (continuing this damnable cultural lie) and that their selfhood is mostly a social construct (its not real). Hence reality ain’t real; there’s nothing. So I am nothing. And when life ceases to make sense or make me happy I can sing with John Lennon, “happiness is a warm gun, mama.” I don’t wonder why Sandy Hook happened; I wonder why it does not happen more often.

    Evangelical response…well, its still mostly about you, but here’s a little god to have as your buddy while you float along on your self-involved, existentialist, nihilistic journey to nowhere.

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