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Wednesday 08 April 2009

Who is Rick Warren?

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 29th December 2008

Saddleback church minister Rick Warren
US President-elect Barack Obama has courted controversy with his choice of preacher to deliver the sermon at his augural address next month. Why? Well, his choice, Rick Warren, isn't exactly an advocate of LGBT rights.

Warren is chief minister of the fundamentalist Saddleback Church, a megachurch situated in California. He has traditional Christian Right antiabortion and antigay views, but also wants evangelicals/fundamentalists to care more for the environment, combat international poverty and expand quality public education in the United States and elsewhere. He's not as partisan as others of his religious persuasion, either.

He is serious about his more progressive views, and supports religious initiatives to halt climate change, which pits him against older, hard right fundamentalists like Focus on the Family's James Dobson, and indeed, most of the fundamentalist community, who are climate change deniers. Admittedly, then, that stance did take guts. On August 15, 2008, he held a Civic Forum on the Presidency, intended to 'restore civility in our civil discourse.'

Trouble is, Warren isn't all that civil when it comes to issues of Christian Right co-belligerency. In the case of Terri Schiavo, long dependent on life support due to her persistent vegetative coma, Warren labeled her husband Michael a "Nazi" when he sought to remove life support from his brain-dead wife.

Moreover, Warren recently also supported Propostion 8, that pernicious amendment to the Californian state constitution which empowers it to ban same-sex marriages. He compared same-sex marriage to legalised incest and bestiality.

Obama's choice has antagonised his LGBT and pro-choice supporters. Warren is unrepentant about his activism against same-sex marriage in California, making a feeble argument that he thought that it would lead to hate speech bans against fundamentalists if they tried to preach that homosexuality was morally 'illicit.'

Some have argued that Warren has tacked to the left comparatively recently. In 2004, he emailed his Saddleback congregants, arguing that evangelical/fundamentalist voters should oppose abortion, stem cell research, same-sex marriage, cloning and euthanasia. He is also a creationist, and his opposition to LGBT rights also encompasses other areas than same-sex marriage.

He concedes that any difference between Dobson and himself is "a matter of tone." That, and Warren is also a figure of controversy over his incorporation of human resource management theory into 'church growth' techniques within the fundamentalist community.

He's almost unknown in New Zealand outside the fundamentalist community. I could only find two books of his inside the New Zealand Bibliographic Database, and no references in Index New Zealand.


Fred Jackson: "Rick Warren Endorses Proposition 8":

Sonja Steptoe: "Rick Warren: A Pastor With A Purpose" Time: 18.04.05

Laurie Goodstein: "Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative" New York Times: 08.02.08.


Craig Young - 29th December 2008