Thursday, December 07, 2006

Rick Warren's Lapses in Judgment

(Syria's Grand Mufti Sheik Badr al-Din Hassoun and Rick Warren)

Pastor Rick Warren (author of The Purpose Driven Life) and Pastor of Saddleback Church has come under fire recently for 2 different issues. My gut reaction was these were both red flags to me that something was wrong. Others urged me that we should give him the benefit of the doubt. So I decided to investigate it further and my research has only raised more concerns about him. He seems to be having some serious lapses in judgment.

Issue #1--His trip to Syria

He made a trip to Syria recently and after getting back he came under fire for some of the comments he made over there. His response was that he was being misquoted by the Syrian press. He also said there was no recording of him over there and yet a video that had been played at his church appeared on youtube. When confronted about the video it was quickly removed. It turns out that someone still had the audio and the transcript of his actual words:
"Syria's a place that has Muslims and Christians living together for 1,400 years. So it's a lot more peaceful, honestly, than a lot of other places because Christians were here first.

"In fact, you know Saul of Tarsus – Saul was a Syrian. St. Paul, on the road to Damascus, had his conversion experience and so Christians have been here the longest, and they get along with the Muslims and the Muslims get along with them. There's a lot less tension than in other places.

"It's a moderate country, and the official government rule and position is to not allow any extremism of any kind."
Joseph Farah goes through his statements line by line and shows how factually erroneous his statements are. Here are just 2 paragraphs from Farah's column:
"Less tension? Let me explain how Warren's buddy, dictator Bashar Assad, manages to keep peace and tranquility. Secret police. Wiretapping. Torture. Political prisoners. Death squads."

"In other words, Rick Warren seems to want to be everything to everyone. He seems to want to please the whole world – everyone, that is, except the voiceless victims of tyranny, anti-Christian persecution and anti-Jewish bigotry in Syria."

Here is an excerpt of what Mark D. Tooley had to say in his column Purpose-Driven Terrorism:
"In contrast to the lovefest between Warren and Syrian officials reported by SANA, human rights organizations portray a different "real story" about Syria. This story tells of a nation where only the ruling Baathist Party and its allies are permitted to win elections, where all news media are owned or controlled by the government, where indepedent labor unions are prohibited, where universities must proclaim Baathist Party policies, where clerics are appointed by the government, where the president by law must be Muslim, and where women's limited rights are governed by Islamic Shari'a law, even though the government is ostensibly secular.

Ten percent of Syria's population is Christian, having diminished greatly in recent decades. Compared to Saudi Arabia, where conversion away from Islam is punishable by death, Syria is tolerant. But Syria's constitution stipulates that Islam is the "main source for legislation." Christians cannot preach to non-Christians, and churches, like mosques, are tightly regulated by the government. No construction of a new Christian school has been permitted in 40 years, and all schools by law must have Muslim principals.

Will Warren share this news about Syria with America?

Next year, Warren is scheduled to visit North Korea at the invitation of its despotic Communist regime. It is reasonable to assume that the North Korean state-controlled media will issue reports about Warren's visit there that are remarkably similar to the Syria's dictatorship's boastful coverage of Warren's chit-chat with them.

It is sad story, repeated often. Big-name U.S. preachers, often otherwise sensible and orthodox in their faith, visit despotic regimes and naively curry favor with police state thugs. The preachers supinely believe that their cozy ties with the dictatorship will facilitate greater preaching access to the oppressed populations. But the end result more usually is a propaganda bonanza for the tyrants, and a population that is left to feel forgotten by the outside world.

Fortunately, the Deity whom these preachers proclaim, whatever the failures of His ostensible messengers, has not forgotten the imprisoned and the persecuted. For the oppressed He will contend, even while the celebrity preachers attend to the public relations considerations of the oppressors.
"

Issue #2--AIDS Conference Speakers

First of all let me say that I think AIDS ministries especially in Africa are extremely important and a worthy cause. My kids and I pray for missionaries in Malawi and a huge part of their ministry is dealing with the problem of AIDS. I think an AIDS conference on helping the church to deal with this issue is a great idea. I just don't agree with who Warren asked to speak at the conference.

Rick Warren's Church had an AIDS conference this past weekend and Senator Barack Obama was one of the featured speakers. I initially had a bad reaction to this and the more I thought about it the more the reasons multiplied. Here is my list:
1) Barack Obama contrary to the image he portrays is a hard-core liberal who believes in partial birth abortion and has other extreme liberal social views.

2) Obama has a completely different worldview and even though he is concerned about the AIDS problem he would deal with the problem in a much different manner.

3) Obama will likely be the Democrat presidential or vice-presidential nominee in 2008. He will be able to say that he spoke at an Evangelical church of 30,000 thus implying that he is a friend to Evangelicals when that couldn't be further from the truth.
One of my first thoughts was this reminded me of when Bill Hybels asked Bill Clinton to speak at his church's Leadership conference. I had huge issues with that and I have huge issues with this. Kevin McCullough wrote an excellent opinion piece that completely describes where I'm coming from on this issue. He also mentions Hybels and Clinton so we are coming from very similar perspectives. I think he goes a little over the top at times and I didn't like his reference to satan but otherwise I agree with 95% of what he says. Here is an excerpt:
"Even if they share a professed concern over the AIDS pandemic, what difference would Warren and Obama's union actually make?

Sen. Obama does not share with evangelicals a belief in moral absolutes. Right and wrong are terms of humor to Obama. All issues are shades of gray.

So how does Rick Warren believe their efforts can legitimately be joined? And what does he have to give up to do so?

By scriptural standards, Rick Warren is to be bound by the biblical text and its teaching on morality. Obama would pursue and has pursued mass distribution of condoms.

If you say to a society, as Uganda has, that the only way to be sure of not getting AIDS is through "abstinence until marriage," then they will be likely to believe you. (It's scientifically provable. And it explains Uganda's unique improvement on the African continent in the number of people contracting the virus.) On the other hand, if you say to a culture, as has happened in more than one African nation, "Try abstinence – but if you can't remain abstinent then use a condom," what do you think the likely outcome will be?

Warren's reasoning might be similar to other leaders of doctrinally weak seeker churches like Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois. Senior Pastor Bill Hybels first invited an unrepentant then-President Bill Clinton to attend his pastor's conference, and proceeded to pitch him one softball after the next in an interview before the gathered masses. Hybels' idea was to allow Clinton to "teach pastors" ideas about what "true leadership" was all about. (At what? Adultery? Lying under oath? Oral Sex?) Clinton was at least smart enough to be able to play the game a bit and profess certain vagaries about a "life of belief in God." Obama doesn't let such nonsense get in his way.

Barack Obama is likely to run for president in 2008, and speaking from the pulpit of one of America's most well-known evangelical churches is likely to be footage that could be used over and over in trying to dissuade Christians from thinking about moral issues that real Christians truly value."

Warren also had other questionable speakers in attendance and he has had lapses of judgment in the past.

I take no pleasure in being critical of an Evangelical leader but this was something I just couldn't let slide. I was very irritated with those that made excuses for Hybels when he invited Clinton in 2000. I didn't have a blog then and couldn't vent about it but I had to have my say about this. I don't pretend to know what Warren's true motives were for doing either of these things but I have to wonder if the success of his book and his church hasn't gone to his head.

Sources:

Megapastor Rick Warren blasts Iraq war, praises Syria
Purpose-Driven Terrorism
Why is Obama's evil in Rick Warren's pulpit?
Obama, He said what I told you he'd say...
Rick Warren shows Syria video in church
Can Butts, Obama, Dybul and Rick Warren Save the World?
Rick Warren on Syria: 'A moderate country'
Megapastor Warren denies praising Syria

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