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...


  1. Ten percent of a whole bunch of money is still a whole bunch of money, but I don’t care how much money he makes one way or another. 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. Is it the mission of Rick Warren and Saddleback to help make decisions about where the tax revenue of the United States is globally distributed? Does relieving the suffering of a terrible virus on a global scale cause you to make coalitions with people that are in every other respect undermining the countries commitments to foundational principles of who and what we are? How do you condemn the “inaction” of God’s people without being brutally honest about the mechanisms that spread the virus and the unfortunate practices that help lay the foundation of the AIDS pandemic? AIDS is a global crisis driven by forces that we can not control and have no hope for fixing with financial grants. Can we relieve the suffering? Yes. Should we relieve the suffering? Yes. Should we work so hard to do so that we explore coalitions with people that undermine our Christian principles that define who and what we are and what moral basis will form our future? Saddleback is still a church aren’t they?

    Rick Warren invites people into his church that do far more than hold alternative views on the sanctity of life. He invites people that promise to undermine legal protection and codify the legal permission to kill the unborn as a matter of standard practice. The current permissive atmosphere is not permissive enough for these people.

    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.

  2. To SK:

    The problem is not so much working with non-believers as it is giving respectability to those (such as Obama and Clinton) who aggressively push a pro-abortion agenda.

    There is no "common ground" with those individuals (especially those who call themselves Christian) who see nothing wrong with killing the pre-born. While one certainly can (and should, where possible) meet privately with such individuals to attempt to change their minds on abortion, to give them a platform even on a non-life issue, is to give them legitimacy. The message sent to the naive is that "heck, abortion can't be that bad.. Pastor Rick had two pro-choice people speak at a conference, so it can't really be all that important."

    How can one "value" the friendship of someone who sees nothing wrong (and, in fact, advocates for the right of women to kill their children?

    The "failure to grasp" the truth of the dignity of all human life as you call it, does not apply to Obama and Clinton. They are not simply unaware of the truth. They reject the truth.

    You defend Warren's invitation to Obama by saying
    "The goal of the conference was not theology, but rescue." Are you saying that AIDs and by way of implication. abortion, are matters of theology? One does not have to be a theologian or even a Christian to recognize evil. And, "rescue" can be accomplished without the assistance of those who embrace moral relativism.


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