Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Unmasking Rick Warren

Mellow, laid-back, and spreading hate

Rick Warren is the best-selling author of Purpose Driven Life and pastor of one of the largest protestant churches in the US, the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, which has a weekly attendance of 16,000 people!
In an earlier post, I wondered about how the Christian vote was mobilized, since it surprised many of us. In a strange burst of synchronicity, I think I found myself staring at one of the answers last Sunday. As I have mentioned before, I usually attend an adult discussion class at my church on Sundays, and we have some good, often quite tangential discussions, ostensibly centered around some book. We were just wrapping up a good 5-week discussion of the Tao Te Ching, when I noticed a book across the table in front of the group leader. It was Rick Warren's 'The Purpose Driven Life.'

I had recognized his name from years earlier, when a previous pastor asked me to listen to a cassette tape Rick Warren made about church growth and management. What I remember most from that tape was hearing the phrase "It's easier to ask forgiveness than ask permission" numerous times. The idea was to just start doing new things at church, and not go through channels. I began to hear this phrase over and over again through the years, and it seems to be the new age Christian equivalent to Machievelli's 'might makes right' concept.

Rick has apparently bottled what modern Americans are looking for in a religion. The main theme in the opening chapters of his book (hey, the PDF's are free! I'm not going to buy the whole thing!) keep talking about how you have nothing to do with choosing your purpose in life, God has already done it for you. How convenient! No messy soul-searching required. God has it all covered.

Now, I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about his book. What's become obvious here is that Rick Warren has become one of the most influential people in America. Just do a Google search on 'Rick Warren politics' and you'll see how 'He has counseled Hollywood celebrities, Wall Street power brokers, and has been a guest in the George W. Bush White House.' You'll find a Christian investment in diamonds, inspired by Rick Warren. Rick is very casual, often preaches in a Hawaiian shirt, and is apparently quite a nice guy. It's not an exaggeration to say that when Rick Warren talks, people listen. Millions of Evangelicals are primed and ready to do whatever God tells them to do. Of course, they need someone to actually tell them what God is saying, and that's where Rick Warren comes in.

In a column written shortly before the election in the Baptist Press web site, Rick writes "As church leaders, we know our congregations are not allowed to endorse specific candidates," which simply means he doesn't want his mega-church to lose its tax-exempt status, but then he goes on to say this:

"But for those of us who accept the Bible as God's Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose for every life, I believe there are five issues that are non-negotiable. To me, they’re not even debatable because God's Word is clear on these issues. In order to live a purpose-driven life -- to affirm what God has clearly stated about His purpose for every person He creates -- we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly.

Here are five questions to ask when considering who to vote for in this election:

1. What does each candidate believe about abortion and protecting the lives of unborn children?

2. What does each candidate believe about using unborn babies for stem cell harvesting?

3. What does each candidate believe about homosexual “marriage”?

4. What does each candidate believe about human cloning?

5. What does each candidate believe about euthanasia -- the killing of the elderly and the invalids?"

This has got to be right up there in the Transparently Disingenuous Hall of Fame. For someone that claims to not endorse a candidate, this guy (someone pastors look to for guidance) sent this letter to thousands of churches. There can be no doubt that God (as revealed to Rick Warren) wants George Bush to select the next few Supreme Court justices.

Clearly one of the most influential men in America wants to roll back a woman's right to choose, take rights away from tax-paying gay couples, and stand in the way of medical progress, and all this is directly, without debate, from the mouth of God. What is important here is that Rick Warren no longer be allowed to act invisible, more invisible than Karl Rove.

In closing, if you find this interesting, check out this sermon, from a UMC minister, in response to Rick Warren's letter. It's nice to know that not all Christians check their minds at the door, and it might be good to have some logical ammo, the next time an Evangelical tells you how thankful he is that George W. Bush is our president.


Anonymous said...

Rick Warren conveniently fails to ask a few more questions atop the Big Five, such as: What does each candidate believe about the slaughter of nonmilitary Iraqis?

Never mind, my head hurts.


Geoff Gould said...

In order to save space, I left out the part where he says:

" ...and it’s important for us to recognize that there can be multiple opinions among Bible-believing Christians when it comes to debatable issues such as the economy, social programs, Social Security and the war in Iraq."

Apparently God isn't as clear about the war in Iraq as he is about gay marriage! I would actually suggest reading the whole vile document, as it's such an influential piece.

Tyree Johnson said...

Yo Big G,

First of all major props to you for higlhy evolved and well researched blog. It's one thing to pontificate in an intelligent manner and it's totally another deal to clear the deep brush (note I could have said "bush" but I resisited the obvious :) of rhetoric and get down to motivation and facts. You do a great job at both.

I hoping that you have a copy of the UMC minister's response to Rev. Warren b/c the url you listed is cold. There are several people I know you are quoting Rick Warren who are unaware of his politics. If they did I trust they would think twice about quoting him as a source of inspirational dialogue. Now I'm not saying his rhetoric is all bad but I do believe there's other driveways to a purposeful life to what he suggests.