Friday, December 28, 2007

You like Bush but Not Romney? [SK]

Ramesh Ponnuru:

Deal Hudson can't understand why Romney considers it "acceptable" to use embryos from fertility clinics in stem cell research. It is important to remember that Romney's position is exactly the same as President Bush's. He would ban stem-cell research involving human cloning and would refuse to fund, but allow, research on fertility-clinic embryos. I haven't heard any presidential candidate call for a ban on all embryo-destructive research, which would (unfortunately) be impossible to achieve in the current political environment. Romney stresses that he would allow privately-funded research on fertility-clinic embryos to continue, but his position is exactly what the pro-life movement has asked. It is the same position that Thompson and (I believe) Huckabee take, and to the right of the position that McCain and Giuliani take. But the way Romney talks about it creates needless confusion.

Links to Good Stuff [SK]

Robert George gives Anne Rice a lesson in moral reasoning, after the latter announced her support of Hillary Clinton for prez:

You have endorsed a candidate and a political party that believes that abortion, far from being an injustice, is a fundamental right. They are pledged to oppose any meaningful legal protections of the life of the child in the womb. They have even sought to protect the grisliest of methods of abortion–the “dilation and intact extraction” procedure. In this, they are promoting the greatest injustice and abuse of human rights to be found in our country today. It is this injustice that we should be most dedicated to fighting. If abortion is what you and I say it is–what we know it to be–then the issue must be given priority in our work as citizens. We should certainly not be tying ourselves to those who see it as no injustice at all. If we do that (and let me say this with the softest and humblest of voices), we are implicating ourselves–deeply–in the grave injustice being committed four thousand times per day against the tiniest and most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters.
(HT: Jivin J)

Jay Lefrkowitz on President Bush's careful deliberations about stem cell policy. Note to liberals: The Bush policy wasn't a knee-jerk, politically driven decision as you carelessly assert:

On one day, he met separately with representatives from National Right to Life and then from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Although the recommendations made by each group were predictable, the discussions in both cases were substantive and at times very personal. “We’re here on behalf of our children,” one of the leaders of the diabetes foundation told the President. “I’m defending my family.” When a member of the National Right to Life delegation took out a public-opinion poll to bolster his claim that opposition to stem-cell research would be a winning issue politically, Bush swatted the paper away and replied with uncommon sharpness: “This is too important an issue to take polls about. I am going to decide this based on what I believe is right.”
Bush refused to accept the notion that we must choose between medical research and the principle of the dignity of life at every stage. He sought both to advance biomedical science and at the same time to respect the sanctity of human life. In the end he came to a moderate, balanced decision that drew a prudent and principled line. The decision was both informed and reasoned, based on lengthy study and consultation with people of widely divergent viewpoints. It was consciously not guided by public-opinion polls.

As I write these last words, I am aware that they may sound like political spin. That is far from the case. There were many other contentious issues on which I advised the President—affirmative action, gay marriage, contraception, offshore oil and gas exploration, international trade, patent protection, even veterans’ benefits. In each of these, political considerations and calculations played at least some role in the development of policy, as they always have and always will. What made our deliberations on the stem-cell issue unique was, precisely, the absence of that element. Bush knew that whatever his decision, it was bound to alienate millions of Americans. Their ranks would include both political supporters and many who, if the decision went another way, might be drawn to reconsider their aversion to him. Our discussions were focused throughout on reaching a coherent and consistent position where the President could stand with honor for as long as the facts on the ground remained as they were. We did not dwell at all on how that position would play politically.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

From an Adoring Fan [SK]

An email:

Merry Christmas you compromising, incrementalist, legal positivist, Mormon-loving, pro-evil partial birth abortion ban supporter, Judy Brown-Hating, heretic-hugging, anathema-embracing, moral relativist, blight to the pro-life movement, and nut case from California.
She forgot to include that I'm also a Dodger fan. And yes, she's kidding about me hating Judy Brown.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Don't Stigmatize Me Bro! [Serge]

Another claim by destructive ESCR proponents is that it is not the ethical restrictions themselves which are slowing the research, but the "stigma" that is now attached to this type of research because of people like me. Here is how James Thompson states it:

Unfortunately, under the policy President Bush outlined on Aug. 9, 2001, at most 21 stem cell lines derived from embryos before that date are eligible for federal funding. American innovation in the field thus faces inherent limitations. Even more significant, the stigma resulting from the policy surely has discouraged some talented young Americans from pursuing stem cell research.
His wording is important. The stigma attached to doing this work is actually worse than the restrictions that Bush has placed on the federal funding of this work. This is discouraging young scientists from entering this field.

My gut response, admittedly not exactly rational, is simply to state that this is one of the weakest, whiniest, childish arguments that I have ever heard. Those poor scientists that just want our taxes to destroy embryos are having their feelings hurt because there are some of us think it that human embryos have intrinsic value. Poor things.

Let me address this more rationally. First, I would like to ask what exactly stigma there is involved in this research. We constantly hear from destructive ESCR supporters that the majority of Americans support their research. Unlike almost all other investigators, ESCR scientists have the option of relocating to California or New Jersey where they will go through the stigmatizing process of applying for some of the billions of dollars of taxpayer money that has been aside for that purpose. Stigma? If someone offered me a huge grant to relocate to sunny California to take out wisdom teeth at huge taxpayer expense - I wouldn't complain too much.

Second, if there was stigma attached, maybe it is because of some actions of the scientists themselves. South Korea once put Hwang Woo-Suk's work on a stamp alongside with someone walking out of a wheelchair. The result was a national embarrassment and an example of one of the worst scientific frauds of this century. It would seem that he is more responsible for stigmatizing scientists that any of us.

Third, is it true that the scientists not only want our money and permission to do this controversial research - but they also demand our acceptance? Should we not ask important ethical questions regarding any research out of fear that we may hurt the feelings and stigmatize those interested in such controversial research? Are the intrepid trailblazers of this "revolutionary" technology so emotionally soft that they can't accept any ethical questioning at all?

Sorry guys, if you choose to do research that intentionally kills human organism, you will need to expect ethical concerns. If you are not strong enough to take the criticism, you may be smart enough to be a scientist, but maybe you just have the stomach for it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Make Up Your Mind, Dr. Morrison! [Serge] (Updated)

Sean Morrison of the University of Michigan Life Science Institute seems very confused about the prospects of finding stem cell researchers to recruit for our state. On one hand, he tells the Kalamazoo Gazette that the prospects are extremely dim:

`The law in Michigan puts us at such a disadvantage in embryonic stem cell research that people in that area don't even apply for jobs here,'' said Sean Morrison, director of the University of Michigan Center for Stem Cell Biology, quoted last week in the Kalamazoo Gazette and The Grand Rapids Press.
However, in an in-house publication, Morrison explains that he recruited "the top young stem cell scientist" for his university:

Dr. Ivan Maillard joined the Life Sciences Institute as a Research Assistant Professor July 1. He is also an Assistant Professor Dept. of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology and the fourth faculty member of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology.

Ivan Maillard

Ivan Maillard

"Ivan was the top young stem cell biologist in the country on the job market last year. We had intense competition from other research universities that were also trying to recruit him," said Sean Morrison, Director of the U-M Center for Stem Cell Biology.

What a turnaround! Morrison went to not being able to get applications to netting the top stem cell researcher despite Michigan's restrictions. Interesting that when he is trying to convince the public about the desperate need to overturn Michigan's law he is so pessimistic. However, when discussing the issue in a publication that exists in part to raise money for his institute, he touts his ability to recruit the best.

Anyone still willing to "trust the scientists" about virtually anything in this field are dreadfully naive.

Update: Jason of Theosophical Ruminations adds in the comments:

I emailed Dr. Morrison to inquire about this apparent discrepancy between what he said to the media, and what he said in the U of M's LSI newsletter. He responded to my inquiry, noting that Dr. Maillard's work is restricted to adult blood-forming stem cells. He does not work with embryonic stem cells. It appears, then, that Dr. Morrison was not engaging in double-speak after all.
I suppose this clarifies things although the original wording is a bit questionable. I do feel good that it is Dr. Morrison's opinion that a scientist that only works with adult stem cells can be considered "the best young stem cell researcher in the job market last year." Furthermore, the fact that we are able to recruit the best adult stem cell biologists here despite our ethical stance is a very good thing.

Thanks Jason for your diligence in tracking this down.

A Simple Stem Cell Deception [Serge]

One of the first arguments that came from those supporting the destruction of human embryos is that Yamanaka's work came from previous work on ESCRs. James Thompson, the original discoverer of human ESCs and one who repeated Yamanaka's work, states it plainly:

In fact, work by U.S. and Japanese teams that reprogrammed skin cells depended entirely on previous embryonic stem cell research.

Thompson's comment implies that Yamamaka used a technique developed originally by killing human embryos and extracting their stem cells. If this technique had not been developed by intrepid scientists working around Bush's virtual ban on ESCR, Yamamaka's work could not have progressed. The New York Times accepted this story without question, stating:

Dr. Thomson also stressed that neither his nor the Japanese work could have been performed were it not for the knowledge gained over the past decade in human embryonic stem cell research — the very research that Mr. Bush has striven mightily to limit.
The only problem is this line of reasoning is deceptive at best and untrue at worst. First of all, the description of the technique that Yamamaka has developed did not depend on killing human embryos at all. In fact, Yamamaka has admitted that he had never even worked with embryos or human ova prior to his discovery:

"Neither eggs nor embryos are necessary. I've never worked with either," says Shinya Yamanaka.
Yamamaka was not a researcher in ESCR. He developed his technique outside of those used by traditional ESCR methods.

There is a grain of truth in that having a source of ESCs allowed Yamamaka and other researchers to verify the markers that his pluripotent cells did act like ESCs. Furthermore additional ESCs will be needed to verify the results in the future. However, there should be no reason to kill embryos to get them. The lines that are federally funded should be very adequate to verify the pluripotency of the newly developed cells.

There is no evidence anywhere to suggest that Bush's policy of only funding ESC lines on embryos that had already been killed delayed Yamamaka's research at all. Clearly it did not effect his research on mice embryos which was reported in June - because there are no restrictions on ESCR in mice. There is no evidence that the very short six month window it took to repeat the results in humans would have been even shorter if we killed millions of embryos. There certainly is no evidence to suggest that easing restrictions of the destruction of human embryos will help this promising research at all.

These facts are easily verifiable, but once again the scientific establishment and the naive media accept the distortion wholesale.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A New Little J! [Serge]

Congratulations to JivinJ and his wife on the birth of their beautiful daughter!

Game Over? Not Exactly [Serge]

The biggest news that occurred during my short hiatus was the news that Shinya Yamamata had made pluripotent human stem cells by reprogramming somatic cells from the skin. In short, this changes the debate about destroying human embryos significantly. We have heard since the beginning that scientists needed to destroy human embryos in order to create cell-based therapies that would change medicine as we know it. We also have been told that cloning human embryos was the only way to get around the immune rejection problem. Throughout, scientists have made the claim that they only wish to destroy embryos because there was no other choice. You would think that this latest news would lead many to rejoice that they intentionally destroying embryos is no longer necessary.

Of course, this did not happen. Not surprisingly (nor surprising to Scott), there has been little movement in that direction. The reason is simple: it was not predominately about "finding cures" for patients in the first place. Don't get me wrong, I have no doubt that pro-embryo destruction proponents would be very pleased to find cures for degenerative diseases that up to this point could not be treated. They certainly used this argument to their advantage during the debate on the topic.

However, the main goal was not merely individual cures, but an ideology about science. Science as Savior. Scientific advancement as the only hope for humanity. The idea that ethical considerations could slow down the inevitable advancement of scientific is the enemy in our opponents view.

This is easily demonstrated by the response that many on the other side of the issue have had regarding this news. They used to claim that the destruction of human embryos was a necessity for any chance of amazing cures. Now that that argument has been taken from them, the veil has been lifted and their true reasoning is coming forth. Their argument have also become more desperate and deceitful. I plan on taking them down one by one in the next few posts.

In the meanwhile, I believe we should be relieved yet concerned regarding the future. It turns out that virtually all of the progress that has occurred in cellular science in the last few years has been accomplished using ethical techniques, while the destruction of human embryos has accomplished very little. Nevertheless, our opponents are still going strong, and showing their true colors in the process.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I'm Done! [Serge]

Mike Huckabee is taking a bit of heat for stretching the truth a bit in having earned a theology degree. I'm not sure it would exactly qualify as a "theology" degree, but I have finally finished my Master's in apologetics at Biola University. The main thing that this means is simply: more posting!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here I Stand [SK]

As an organization, LTI cannot and will not officially endorse candidates for public office. Thus, what follows is my own personal opinion, an opinion that in no way represents an official position of LTI, its staff, employees, or board of directors.

With all that legal stuff out of the way, let me end months of speculation for the two people who care and simply say that Scott Klusendorf, the individual, speaking strictly on his own and for no one else, likes the content of this article

That same individual will order a bumper sticker for his personal vehicle, but not one for the LTI limo or private jet.

Others within LTI will likely disagree with me. They are wrong, but they are free to disagree nonetheless.

For now...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Clarification on Rick Warren & Money [Jay]

In a recent post criticizing Rick Warren, I included amongst the preconditions that lead to Christian leaders going to what I described as “the bad place” a massive influx of money. Scott defended Rick Warren in this regard pointing out that Rick gives away most of what he makes through his publications. I clarified in my comment to his post why I brought up money:

“When I bring up money, I am not accusing Rick, Bruce, or Pat of greed. The simple fact of having a large stream of revenue coming in as a minister has an impact on your focus. It can be a huge blessing in that it frees your organization up to proactively pursue your mission. It can also expand your mission focus. The problem, as I personally see it, is that combination of financial freedom and power combined with an unusually large sphere of influence can confuse even the best people as to what their mission is.”

I want to clear that up. In the case of Bruce Wilkinson, if you wanted to live like a king you do not go to impoverished parts of Africa to do so. If Rick wanted only money, he certainly would not reverse tithe. He gives 90% of his income away to ministry work, takes no compensation from Saddleback, and paid back all of the money they ever gave him in salary. This is not avarice. My concern is not that he wants to live life in the fast lane and never was. As a professional fundraiser, I know that when revenue is not pouring in too fast to spend, then you have to be very intentional about your mission and how you are spending your finances to serve that mission. More money means more flexibility. With that, anyone can get off mission.

Also I said again:

“My point is this. People who have great success often lose focus on what they can practically accomplish. You were a huge success as a pastor, author, and church builder. Why shouldn’t you be able to tackle this AIDS thing now? But when the enormity of that undertaking becomes apparent, your zeal for results can betray your good sense. Pitch in and help, but keep your wits about you. I can not end abortion. It simply is not in my power. But I think I am a fair writer and speaker who is willing to use those talents to aid in the cause. If there were great success in ministry as a result of those abilities, I have to be careful that I do not forget that I am just a fair speaker and writer trying to do my part. Otherwise, I will be lumping my critics in with the Pharisees and dropping “do you know who I am” bombs all over the place.”

Dr. James Dobson once articulated the bad place that I describe like this; when you start out as a visionary you can begin to believe that no one truly understands what you are doing accept you and your wife. After enough time passes you will eventually start to think that even she doesn’t get it anymore.

I do not retract my astonishment at what Rick is currently doing in pursuit of his broadened mission to address the AIDS pandemic. I think it would be irresponsible not to address, what is in my opinion, his recent profoundly poor judgement and seeming insensitivity to criticism.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Links--Quotes from Romney, Moreland, and Beckwith [SK]

1) Check out these selected quotes from Mitt Romney's upcoming speech on religion and public life. If the rest of the speech is anything like this, he's going to belt a grand slam. Romney gets it--theology counts as real knowledge:

"There are some who may feel that religion is not a matter to be seriously considered in the context of the weighty threats that face us. If so, they are at odds with the nation's founders, for they, when our nation faced its greatest peril, sought the blessings of the Creator. And further, they discovered the essential connection between the survival of a free land and the protection of religious freedom. In John Adam's words: 'We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion... Our constitution was made for a moral and religious people.'

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so that man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together, or perish alone."

"It is important to recognize that while differences in theology exist between the churches in America, we share a common creed of moral convictions. And where the affairs of our nation are concerned, it's usually a sound rule to focus on the latter – on the great moral principles that urge us all on a common course. Whether it was the cause of abolition, or civil rights, or the right to life itself, no movement of conscience can succeed in America that cannot speak to the convictions of religious people."

"We separate church and state affairs in this country, and for good reason. No religion should dictate to the state nor should the state interfere with the free practice of religion. But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong.

"The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation 'Under God' and in God, we do indeed trust.

"We should acknowledge the Creator as did the founders – in ceremony and word. He should remain on our currency, in our pledge, in the teaching of our history, and during the holiday season, nativity scenes and menorahs should be welcome in our public places. Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from 'the God who gave us liberty.'" (HT: The Corner)

2) Francis Beckwith is interviewed about Defending Life:

Imagine, if I said, "Don't like slavery, then don't own one." If I said that, you would immediately realize that I did not truly grasp why people believe that slavery is wrong. It is not wrong because I don't like it. It's wrong because slaves are intrinsically valuable human beings who are not by nature property. Whether I like slavery or not is not relevant to the question of whether slavery is wrong. Imagine another example, "Don't like spousal abuse, then don't beat your spouse." Again, the wrongness of spousal abuse does not depend on my preferences or tastes. In fact, if someone liked spousal abuse, we would say that that he or she is evil or sick. We would not adjust our view of the matter and I say, "I guess spousal abuse is right for you, but not for me."

Let us apply this to abortion. When a pro-lifer says that abortion is wrong, he or she is not saying that abortion is unattractive, repugnant, or undesirable, though it may be all those things. Rather, he or she is saying that abortion is unjustified homicide, even if one finds it attractive, inoffensive, or desirable. Thus, when the abortion-rights advocate offers this slogan in response to the pro-lifer—"don't like abortion, don't have one"—he or she does not truly grasp what the pro-lifer is claiming. Of course, the pro-lifer has to make a further argument in order to show that the pro-life view is correct or at least plausible. But before the pro-lifer can do that, he or she has to make sure that the other side understands what the pro-lifer is claiming.

3) J.P. Moreland writes about media hypocrisy and abortion:

Question: Why won’t the media show pictures or video of abortions and aborted babies when they show the carnage of the Iraq war and the hideous dog fighting surrounding Michael Vick? Answer: It’s pure hypocrisy. The media is overwhelmingly secular and pro-abortion. The widespread use of ultra-sound pictures during pregnancy is decreasing the number of abortions. Similarly, if people were given the chance to view an abortion or its results on television, much of the abortion debate would be over. Media folk who get the importance of viewing graphic violence (dog fighting, brutality in war) to expose the real evil of certain acts and who won’t defend this right for abortion are hypocrites. It’s that simple.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Hillary 'Mainstream' on Abortion? [SK]

Hillary Clinton is blasting Barack Obama for voting 'present' (while a state senator in IL.) on parental notification, 'born-alive' legislation, and a ban on partial-birth abortion.

The email press release from Clinton--as cited by Kathryn Jean Lopez--reads as follows:

Present, Present, Present, Present, Present, Present, Present: As a State Senator, Barack Obama voted 'present' on seven choice bills, including a ban on 'partial birth abortion,' two parental notification laws and three 'born alive' bills. In each case, the right vote was clear, but Senator Obama chose political cover over standing and fighting for his convictions. Illinois NOW President Bonnie Grabenhofer says: "When we needed someone to take a stand, Senator Obama took a pass. He wasn't there for us then and we don't expect him to be now." Read more:
Let me see if I got the straight. Obama lacks "conviction" because he 1)failed to vote in favor of parents having no say over their under-age daughter's abortion, 2) failed to vote in favor of keeping it legal to stab a baby in the back of the head and suck out its brains, 3) failed to vote in favor protecting babies that survive an abortion procedure.

Presumably, Hillary would vote to allow all those barbaric practices.

And she wants to paint herself as "mainstream" on abortion as she works overtime to convince evangelicals that she's okay to vote for?

Rick Warren, are you paying attention?

HT: The Corner

Beckwith's Substance View of Human Persons [SK]

Defending Life, Chapter 6 Summary:

(For previous chapter review, go here.)

In their quest to dehumanize the unborn, abortion advocates often ignore the all-important distinction between substance things and property things. Living things are substances that maintain their identities through time while property things, such as cars and machinery, do not. A property thing, like my car, is nothing more than the sum total of its parts. Change the motor or replace a tire, you technically have a different vehicle. There is no internal nature (or essence) that orders its development and grounds its identity through change.

By contrast, a substance maintains its identity over time and change. What moves a puppy to maturity or fetus to an adult is not an external collection of parts, but an internal, defining nature or essence. As a substance develops, it does not become more of its kind, but matures according to its kind. It remains what it is from the moment it begins to exist. A puppy does not become more of a dog as it matures. Consequently, a substance functions in light of what it is and maintains its identity even if its ultimate capacities (for example, the ability to bark) are never realized.

Put differently, a substance is an entity in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and the whole contains the internal nature that gives it unity and cohesiveness. Substances maintain their identity through change, while property things do not. A substance will develop accidental properties (such as self-awareness, size, and physical structure) as it matures, but these properties are non-essential and can be changed without altering the nature of the thing itself. This is why a person can lose a body part and yet retain his personal identity through that change.

Applied to the pro-life case, the substnace view says that you are identical to your former fetal self. You were the same being then as you are now, though your functional abilities have changed. From the moment you began to exist, there's been no substantial change in your essential nature.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Charming, Winsome, and Attractive Ambassador for Life [SK]

...that's how I would describe Stephanie Gray, Executive Director of the Canadian Center for Bioethical Reform. I think this video clip proves the point.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Please, Rick--Say This! [SK]

Jay, your post about Rick Warren raises some important points. One small adjustment: I'm almost certain Warren donates most if not all of his book royalties to further the gospel. Thus, I don't think money is getting to his head as it does to some.

But you (as well as Brett Kunkle at STR) are right to feel uneasy about Warren's Hillary connection. The problem isn't that he partners with the likes of Obama and Clinton fighting AIDS, it's that he doesn't loudly qualify his cozy relationship with them. As a result, it's hard not to think they're using him for political gain. Indeed, when some of his own church members say they will now vote for Hillary (based on one speech about one issue), pastoral leadership must step in to provide clarity. To borrow from what I wrote last year, I think Warren could clear things up if he'd say the following:

I make no apology for partnering with Senators Obama and Clinton fighting AIDS. I value their friendship and hope we can work together to relieve human suffering. But a partnership is not an endorsement. Senator Clinton and Senator Obama have yet to recognize that all human beings regardless of size, level of development, location, and dependency have a God-given right to life that cannot be infringed upon. Their failure to grasp that truth is regrettable and it's why, I believe, they wrongly voted to allow partial-birth abortion and the funding of destructive embryo research. Their position on these issues cannot be rationally or theologically supported. In the past, we discriminated on the basis of skin color and gender, as Senators Obama and Clinton know full-well. Now, however, with elective abortion and embryonic stem-cell research, we discriminate on the basis of size, level of development, location, and dependency. We've simply swapped one form of discrimination for another. As their friend, I'm hopeful both Senators will come to see that.
I have no ax to grind against Warren. In 2006, I defended his Saddleback AIDS Conference, namely, his invite to Senator Obama. Though some Christians saw it as theological compromise. I didn't. There's a huge difference between giving a non-believer the pulpit and working with him to fight disease. Rick Warren did not ask Senator Obama to preach at Saddleback Church or otherwise present theological truth. He asked him to participate (along with Senator Brownback) in a church-sponsored AIDS conference. The goal of the conference was not theology, but rescue: Lives are being lost to a deadly disease and Christians should work together with others to stem the tide. Indeed, I have no problem working with non-believers fighting abortion so why can't Warren work with them fighting AIDS?

But as you point out, Jay, things have progressed beyond that...

Future Christmas Present [SK]

Just once, before I die, I want to be here on Christmas eve.

Rick Warren is off the Reservation [Jay]

Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County California has gone to the bad place. The bad place is easy to get to in the evangelical world. Take a pastor or Christian leader with some insight or gift of communication, give them book with an idea that takes off on a grass roots level, and a best seller is created. Christians love “the latest book” more than anything else, so the more it sells, the more the book becomes required reading. The pastor is flying all over the place answering questions, giving interviews, and receiving big fat royalty checks. And then they go to the bad place.

In this world, they are no longer satisfied being a pastor or a mere leader in the Christian community. In this place, they are more important than that. The bad place calls to them the same way American presidents immediately start to tinker with Israel after short runs of success. These people have done very well in the public eye and so they assume that they are here to tackle the big problems we mere mortals dare not address. AIDS, peace in the Middle East, and poverty are mountains that must be assaulted. They are there. The immensity of these issues entice the successful like an itch that must be scratched. AIDS is only a problem because Bono and Rick Warren have yet to address it. Poverty in Africa will be eliminated once Bruce Wilkinson goes there and pitches in. Why shouldn’t Pat Robertson be President of the United States? After all he is the host of the 700 Club.

To be certain, it is Christian to be concerned about those issues and more specifically the children of God all over the world that are afflicted by the climates created by devastation due to poverty, disease, and war. I do not insult these men for wanting to make a difference. I am warning them and all those that follow their leadership to be mindful of the fine line between a passionate desire to productively engage this world and hubris. Recognizing the terrible and destructive force of the AIDS pandemic is good, but listening to Rick Warren’s interview closely demonstrates some signs of something deeper. For instance:

“You know, I have to admit the Church was late to the table on this AIDS issue. And we had to repent on it. We just -- I just personally had to repent on it. I didn't get it for years. But once I understood, I said, okay, we're in, and we're in for the duration. This is not flavor of the month. This is not, you know, fad of the week for us. We're in it for long term because it's part of our mission, we believe.”

What does Rick mean that the Church was late to the table on the AIDS issue? What Church is he talking about? What organization repented? I assume he means more than Saddleback? This is the germ of the bad place. Who speaks for the Church and our terrible ills? What specifically had the Church failed to do universally? AIDS is most commonly spread through activities that both my home church and traditional Christian doctrine publicly recognize as poor decisions with sometimes terrible consequences up to and including contracting a deadly disease. We have not failed to inform people that promiscuity, adultery, and drug use are bad. In fact, Christians are often mocked and insulted for being so prudish and puritanical. Perhaps we have ignored people who are struggling and dying? I know that this is not universally true. Good Christians have been serving AIDS victims for years all over the world. I have missionary friends that see the devastation of it in Africa every day and have forsaken living here in the United States to serve God there. They are not alone and they host mission trips from American churches all year long. Christian Americans that have taken vacation from work and left their protected homes to go out into the world and help other people in desperate need. If Rick thinks we can do more, then great! Help us to see what that is and if we agree that your plans make sense we will join in and help. But that is not what he is doing. Rick behaves as if this issue is so vital that it supersedes other concerns.

I know what you some of you are thinking. “Oh, Jay, you are just worked up that he is inviting pro-choice politicians to address his church.” You are absolutely right, but not because he has one pet project that contradicts my own. I know a minister here in Marietta that has been moved by God to love and care for the homeless. Abortion is not on his radar, and that is fine with me. That said, would his passion for one particular area translate into supporting and promoting people that are opponents of other ministries? Absolutely not!! That God has moved Rick to a passionate level of interests is obvious. That Rick has subsequently become reckless and a touch arrogant as a result of his past success is equally obvious. Listen to this response:

SMITH: You know, there are people within the Evangelical movement who heard about Hillary Clinton speaking at Saddleback today who said this is a huge error and that just by inviting her you send the wrong message.

WARREN: Yeah. You know what? The greatest criticism Jesus got, he got not from political people or from secular leaders. He got it from religious people. And it's amazing to me that sometimes the people who understand grace are the least gracious people on the planet. And so, you know, we don't do things for cheers or jeers, for what I call strokes or pokes. We do it because we think it's the right thing to do. And we know that we need to be speaking up about this issue.

(See also here, here, and here for a WorldNet Daily Joseph Farah article)

Rick, are you telling me that inviting in a woman who has promised to repeal any and all Executive Orders that protect the unborn as her first priority in the White House to address the flock God called you to shepherd is the right thing to do? Why, because she has a favorable position on AIDS? Am I a Pharisee for questioning your wisdom? Am I one of the least gracious people on earth for thinking this beyond unwise? Are you now beyond reproach?

Rick is in the bad place. You may have noticed that I have referred to him this entire post by his first name. I do not know Rick Warren personally and do not want to give that impression. I do that to remind myself of something that perhaps Rick should consider. He is just some guy who God blessed with a great ministry. That blessing can affect us ordinary guys in odd ways. Let us hope that Rick realizes that soon. If not, we can only speculate how long until the next politician that is actively working to protect the state-sanctioned killing of 1 million innocent lives every year will be given the mic at Rick’s church.