Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Congratulations Rick Warren!!! America Has Chosen You To Be Her Pastor!! Ousting The Elder Billy Graham, Joel Olsteen And T.D. Jakes

Posted: 07:12 PM ET

Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church.
Warren is founder of the Saddleback Church.

(CNN) — Prominent liberal groups and gay rights proponents criticized President-elect Barack Obama Wednesday for choosing evangelical pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the presidential inauguration next month.

Warren, one of the most powerful religious leaders in the nation, has championed issues such as calling for the reduction of global poverty, human rights abuses, and the AIDS epidemic.

But the founder of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, has also adhered to socially conservative stances — including his opposition to gay marriage and abortion rights that puts him at odds with many in the Democratic Party, especially the party's most liberal wing.

"[It's] shrewd politics, but if anyone is under any illusion that Obama is interested in advancing gay equality, they should probably sober up now," Andrew Sullivan wrote on the Atlantic Web site Wednesday.

People for the American Way President Kathryn Kolbert told CNN she is "deeply disappointed" with the choice of Warren, and said the powerful platform at the inauguration should instead have been given to someone who is "consistent mainstream American values.

"There is no substantive difference between Rick Warren and James Dobson," Kolbert said. "The only difference is tone. His tone is moderate, but his ideas are radical."

Dobson, a social conservative leader, is founder and chairman of Focus on the Family.

Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for Obama, defended the choice of Warren, saying, "This is going to be the most inclusive, open, accessible inauguration in American history."

"The president-elect certainly disagrees with him on [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender] issues. But it has always been his goal to find common ground with people with whom you may disagree on some issues."

Douglass also noted Obama and Warren agree on several issues including advocating on behalf of the poor and the disadvantaged, and people who suffer from HIV/AIDS.

Warren's support of California's Proposition 8 — a measure that outlaws same sex marriage in the state — sparked the ire of many gay rights proponents earlier this fall.

Warren, who has made it a practice not to endorse candidates or political parties, wrote in October that the issue of gay marriage is not a political issue, but instead "a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about."

"For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion - not just Christianity - has defined marriage as a contract between men and women," Warren wrote in a newsletter to his congregation. "There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population."

Warren also stirred controversy earlier this week when he told his grounds for opposing gay marriage laid primarily on his right of free speech.

"There were all kinds of threats that if [Proposition 8] did not pass then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn’t think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech."

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights campaign, said Wednesday he feels "deep level of disrespect" over the choice of Warren and is calling on Obama to reconsider the move.

"By inviting Rick Warren to your inauguration, you have tarnished the view that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans have a place at your table," Solmonese said in an open letter to Obama that was released by his organization.

In his recent interview with Beliefnet, Warren also sparked outrage among supporters of abortion rights for criticizing those who have said abortion would be "safe and rare."

“Don’t tell me it should be rare," he said in the interview. "That’s like saying on the Holocaust, ‘Well, maybe we could save 20 percent of the Jewish people in Poland and Germany and get them out and we should be satisfied with that — I’m not satisfied with that. I want the Holocaust ended.”

But Warren, whose church attracts over 20,000 people a week, has widely been recognized for his attempts to expand the evangelical movement beyond socially conservative issues.

In the 2008 election, Warren hosted Obama and Sen. John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, at a candidate forum held in his church.

His book “The Purpose Driven Life” has sold over 20 million copies since it was first published five years ago, and Time Magazine named him one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005.

"Many believe that Warren…is the successor to the [Rev. Billy Graham] for the role of America's minister," Time wrote in 2005.


Rick Warren the new Billy Graham?

The Saddleback pastor will deliver the invocation at the inauguration, the Times reports.

Warren remains well to Obama's right on social issues, and he's taken some recent criticism on the questions of torture and same-sex marriage, but his presence is a sign that it's never too soon to start thinking about 2012, and that the optics of the inauguration are more about reaching out than about celebrating Democratic victory.


Food Fight! Beliefnet Bloggers Debate Rick Warren

Wednesday December 17, 2008

FoodFightAnimalHouse-185x141.jpgThere's a bit of an in-house dust-up here at Bnet over Steve Waldman's extensive interview with Rick Warren (VIDEO / TRANSCRIPT). Steve's posted on it a few times, as have others around the blogosphere.

But here in the friendly confines of Bnet, a couple of my peers are at odds over the Purpose-Driven (TM) Pastor's comments.

Paul Raushenbush takes umbrage at Warren's stereotype-driven dismissal of the social gospel, which Warren says, "was just Marxism in Christian clothing." Paul is the great-grandson of Walter Rauschenbush (they lost a "c" in one of those generations) -- and Walter was one of the founders of the so-called "social gospel" -- so Paul is understandably defensive at Rick's flippant denunciation of one of the 20th century's more signficant religious movements.

In the other corner, Scot McKnight comments on Paul's blog, calling his post "nit-pickingly silly" and goes on to comment that "Rick Warren is not the one to pick on." In his own post on the subject, Scot accuses the commenters on Paul's blog of being liberal fundamentalists, just as zealous and closed-minded as conservative fundamentalists.

For my part, I find myself in the middle. I agree with Paul: I have Rick Warren fatigue, too. It seems the only reason that he sat down with Steve, a true journalist, for an extended interview is that Rick's got a new addition to the Purpose-Driven (TM) Empire that he's hawking -- a book about Christmas. Now, far be it from me to object to an author trying to sell books, but this is a particularly big week for Rick: the book, the much-blogged-about interview, and now we hear that he will be praying the invocation at BO's inauguration. (This last bit, I'd like to believe, isn't an enormous pander on BO's part. But I just cannot see it any other way, and I do find it a disappointing choice.)

But I also agree with Scot that Rick's persistent work on social issues is noteworthy. In fact, it seems clear to me that Rick's concentration on fighting AIDS in Africa did a great deal to de-stigmatize that tyoe of work among many evangelicals.

I've never met Rick Warren. Back in 2000, his secretary called me and asked for a manuscript of the book I was writing. I don't know how he'd heard about it; and, at that time, he'd only written The Purpose-Driven Church, which sold a mere 1% of the 35+ million he's sold of PDL. I never heard if he liked -- or even read -- my book. But it was an odd phone call to receive.

Ultimately, I'm confounded by Rick Warren. I get that he has a certain brilliance, writing Christianity to the masses in a way I never will (on writing PDL, he told Charlie Rose, "I tried to make it very simple. . . . If I had a twenty-seven-word sentence, I'd try to make it down to nine.") He's obviously friendly and winsome -- in fact, I've met conservative rabbis who've sat under his tutelage regarding church/synagogue growth who rave about him.

But some of Rick's comments in this interview are so naive and theologically/philosophically/constitutionally unsophisticated that it worries me that he's being given Billy Graham's mantle as "America's pastor." For instance:

  • If a pastor speaks out against same sex marriage, he can be accused of hate speech and denied his first amendment rights
  • That same sex marriage is the moral equivalent to brother-sister incest.
  • That he's got no answer to the problem of theodicy.
  • That he thinks W engaged in torture, but since W never asked his opinion, he never shared it.
  • His aforementioned caricature of the social gospel.

obama-and-rick-warren1.jpgI'm sure Rick means well, but I think that Obama and McCain set a dangerous precendent by having a summit on his stage. And I'd like to hope that "America's Pastor" will do some theological reflection on some of these issues.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Johnny, well Dateline certainly affirmed your synopsis of Rick Warren. Protestants, Catholics and the world will certainly forever embrace him forthwith during this global economic abyss as he pushes his version of The Purpose Of Christmas - "Giving". "The Birth Of The Savior Of The World" seems to have taking a back seat. Oh, well, for what its worth I'll always believe His version: Luke 2

8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.