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November 03, 2005

Rick Warren

Gotta say, Rick Warren, megachurch pastor and author The Purpose Driven Life (the best selling book of all time), is a pretty impressive guy.  Unlike so many in his profession, he's not parlayed his success into political power or social demagoguery, instead, he's trying to refocus the church on poverty issues and AIDS prevention.  It's amazing stuff.  I've pulled some excerpts from an interview with him, they're after the jump.  But try to read the whole thing -- it's truly interesting stuff.:

"I just know that God is calling on my life, that three years ago when the book came out the three major things that happened were the success of the book and the affluence and influence that came with it. In one quarter it earned $9 million (in royalties) alone. So I’m going, "OK, God, I don’t need this money... What are you doing with this? I don’t need this. I’m a pastor." And I certainly don’t think God gives you money or fame for your own ego.

I went to scripture and God gave me two passages, 1 Corinthians 9 and Psalm 72. In 1 Corinthians 9 Paul is talking to pastors about money and their salary and he says, "Those that teach the Gospel should make a living by the Gospel." In other words, it is OK to pay your pastor. "But," he says, "I will not accept that right because I want the free rein to serve God for free so that I am a slave to no man." And when I read that, I said that is what I want to do. I want to serve God for free so that I am a slave to no man. So three years ago, [my wife] Kay and I made five decisions.

First, we decided we would not change our lifestyle one bit no matter how much money came in. So I still live in the same house I’ve lived in for 15 years and I still drive the same Ford truck, have the same two suits, I don’t have a guest home, I don’t have a yacht, I don’t own a beach house, we just said that we aren’t going to use the money on ourselves.

Second, I stopped taking a salary from the church.

Third, I added up all the church had paid me over the past 25 years and gave it all back. I gave it all back because I didn’t want anyone thinking that I did it for money. And I knew that God was raising me up to a position of prominence. I knew I was going to be under the spotlight and I wanted to live a life beyond reproach. So we gave it all back and the very next week it was either Time or Newsweek came and did an interview of me and the very first question they asked was, "What is your salary?" I was able to say honestly I’ve been able to serve my church free for 25 years. It felt so good to bust that stereotype.[...]

On the other hand, though, I said, "What do you want me to do with the influence?"--which was a trickier thing. All of a sudden I start to get invitations. I spoke at Harvard and Cambridge and Oxford... All of a sudden I’m going up on Capitol Hill and talking to guys. Producers in Hollywood are asking me to come up and discuss the book with eight or nine major studio producers.

This wasn’t my plan. My plan was just to pastor Saddleback and train pastors. So I’m going, "God, what am I supposed to do with all of this new influence that you are giving me?" I’m reading through the scriptures trying to find an answer, and I find Psalm 72, which is Solomon’s prayer for more influence.

When you read this prayer it really sounds quite selfish. Solomon is the wisest and wealthiest and most powerful man in the world, because he is the head of the United Kingdom of Israel when it is at the apex of its power. He prays, "God, I want you to make me more influential. I want you to bless me and give me more power. I want you to make me famous. I want you to spread the fame of my name to many nations."

It sounds selfish until you understand he says, "So that the king may support the widow and orphan, care for the poor, defend the defenseless, lift up the fallen, release the captive, help the foreigner, the immigrant."

God said to me, "The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence." That changed my life. I had to repent. I had to say, "God, I’m sorry. I can’t think of the last time I thought about widows or orphans. They aren’t even on my agenda."'

November 3, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

Thanks for the good word for Warren, who I think is a different type of evangelical. He's among the few evangelicals I can continue to read. The rest (take a look at the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) line-up sometime) are probably just a whisker shy of being outright flim flam artists.

Liberals shouldn't have to say nice things about evangelicals just because they're influential, but we shouldn't criticize all of them either.

Warren's still too much of a biblical literalist for my tastes, but I think he's doing pretty well given his background and the commercial and political demands of the right-wing fundamentalists groups.

Posted by: bulworth | Nov 3, 2005 3:20:57 PM

He certainly does sound like a biblical literalist from that excerpt. But it partially reminds me of Jim Wallace's book God's Politics where the byline reads Why The Right Gets It Wrong and The Left Doesn't Get It. Pretty much get the gist from the subtitle! The book itself was just OK though, like he takes 5 pages to explain a thing that could be explain in a half a page.

Posted by: Adrock | Nov 3, 2005 3:46:45 PM

As a Christian, I find him sort of offensive.

Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Nov 3, 2005 4:48:01 PM

Um ... isn't The Holy Bible the best selling book of all time? And even if we ignore the Bible and The Little Red Book, which are anomalous in many ways, aren't there some other books that it still hasn't passed; notably, Dr. Spock's Baby & Child Care?

Wiki says Warren's book had sold 22 million copies by April 2005, and it came out in the middle of 2002. Still fewer copies than Dr. Spock's book.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Nov 3, 2005 5:03:45 PM

That he ministers to impoverished Africans is cool, but what's he doing in his ministry? Is it the old "pie in the sky when you die" kind of claptrap, or is he helping people materially?

I'm not asking to be snotty-- I genuinely don't know much at all about this guy, and I'm curious.

Posted by: nolo | Nov 3, 2005 5:13:36 PM

It's great that Ezra gives credit where credit is due. Also, it's curious and amazing to see everyone in awe when it is discovered that not all Christians are the terrible monsters depicted by the hard left. You should get out of the salon, democraticunderground and moveon bubble more often. there is, indeed, a world out there.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 3, 2005 6:12:16 PM

at least his heart is in the right place, and in this world that we live in, it may be all we can hope for :)

Posted by: almostinfamous | Nov 3, 2005 6:28:17 PM

Here is some info on the best selling books of all time.

As for Warren, don't get me started. He is a Biblica literalist, yet abuses scripture constantly. I respect and appeciate his heart for Africa. But I cannot stand the "church growth movement" or megachurches. The priorities are in the wrong place.

But that conversation is probably for a different blog.

Posted by: dave | Nov 3, 2005 6:43:52 PM

Also, it's curious and amazing to see everyone in awe when it is discovered that not all Christians are the terrible monsters depicted by the hard left. You should get out of the salon, democraticunderground and moveon bubble more often. there is, indeed, a world out there.

Went to a Southern fundamentalist church every Sunday of my life for 20+ years. The minister there still speaks to me every Thanksgiving and Christmas when he sees me at my folks' house. But, yeah, we're all just a bunch of effete leftie commies in salons, Fred.

Posted by: sprocket | Nov 3, 2005 7:14:42 PM

He's still a kook. Anyone who thinks God talks to them is lacking credibility and anything they have to say is suspect.

Posted by: Keith | Nov 3, 2005 8:58:35 PM

So Keith, do you often project your own presuppositions onto other people and treat your opinions as being the Supreme Truth? Just wondering.

I've been in 3 churches that were doing "40 Days of Purpose," a program that is based upon the Purpose Driven Life. I have seen the Purpose Driven Church and the Purpose Driven Youth Group. At their best the books are just fluffy and vanilla. At their worst, which is much of the time, they are pretty far away from good scholarship.

But I've been hearing for a while about the ways in which the Warrens spend their time and money. I've also been impressed. From what I have heard and read - which is more than a little but less than a lot - his interest in Africa seems to be in development and sustainability, rather than empty promises or one-time handouts. There's definitely worse people than Rick Warren.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 3, 2005 10:28:18 PM

Fred, we lefties are fucked up because Bill Clinton got a blow job. I wish you had reminded us of that.

Did I mention that Clinton got a BJ in the WH?

You aire of moral superiority sure could benefit from some Christian humility.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Nov 3, 2005 11:43:30 PM

Fred should have added that its not just the "hard left" that depicts all Christians a certain way, as "terrible monsters". Its also conservative Christians who imply or say that they have a monopoly on both what Christianity is and on truth itself. Likewise, when the media focuses on "Christian voters" or "Christian issues" it parrots this conservative line and tends to ignore the diversity of thought, practice and political viewpoints that actually exist out there.

Posted by: circlethewagons | Nov 4, 2005 12:18:51 AM

Fred, this lefty went to church three times a week from the age of 0-18 in a fundamentalist church. I know these people, some of them, aren't monsters. They raised me just fine. That said, my uncle, also a fundy, refuses to recognize that his oldest daughter is a lesbian, even though she's bought a house with the woman who would be her wife if people like my uncle wasn't standing in her way. And, on top of that, these nice people also believe, and tried to teach me to believe, that Jews are all going to hell.

On top of that, even though some Christians are good people, the public face of Christianity in this country since the murder of MLK has been nutcases like Hal Lindsey and whoever writes those Left Behind books, and crooks like Robertson, Falwell, Bakker, Swaggart, and now Dobson.

If those creeps actually read some of the Gospels maybe things would change. And Christianity wouldn't look so bad to some of us leftists. But it doesn't look bad to me because I didn't get out enough. I think I could match you hymn-for-hymn even now.

Good catch Ezra, by the way.

Posted by: Karl the Idiot | Nov 4, 2005 12:33:59 AM

Warren's heart is certainly in the right place on these issues, but his solution to the world's problems is to build bigger and better churches and get people to feel better about themselves with his "God made you for a purpose" brand of evangelicism. Creating faith communities that give a dimension of greater meaning to people's lives certainly is a good thing to do and his message of hope is welcome, but it can't replace or correct, on its own, the huge, structural socio-economic and political problems that are ultimately the root causes of the African AIDS epidemic and endemic poverty. Where, for example, does he stand on issues like agricultural subsidies, pharmaceutical patents, arms sales to corrupt regimes, exploitative multinational oil and mineral companies and international debt relief? Those are the key issues to African poverty -- and I would argue they are spiritual as much as material issues because they are about Christian values, justice and peace. On a side note, his claim that the biblical king Solomon was the "richest and most powerful" ruler in the world in his day is a weird assessment of history at best. Is this a common belief on the Christian right -- that David and Solomon ruled over some kind of mighty Near Eastern empire, rather than a petty tribal kingdom that did not merit even the slightest mention in the contemporary sources of other, much larger and wealthier civilizations nearby?

Posted by: Jonas | Nov 4, 2005 2:32:05 AM

Yeah but dd has it.
You know: Found IT. In an amazing little passage. Humble. But heart warming.
You'll be glad you linked to the real thing.

http://dilbertblog.typepad.com/the_dilbert_blog/2005/10/lawyer_with_a_p.html

Posted by: calmo | Nov 4, 2005 4:08:17 AM

No matter what miniscule good he's contributed to the world, he still encourages people to substitute faith for critical thinking and to take fairy tales at face value, a proposition that causes far more harm than any soup kitchen can fix.

If Mr. Megachurch opens an AIDS hospital or an orphanage, swell. But he's still blowing millions on a Jumbotron for Jesus.

Posted by: Keith | Nov 4, 2005 9:01:03 AM

Ezra --

Warren is new to the game, and simply hasn't gotten deeply involved in conservative politics yet. I don't doubt that he will, though.

For instance, Rick Warren participated in one of the RNC's base mobilization calls on behalf of Harriet Miers. It may just have been the Texas connection, and he did sort of flub the call, but it's still not a good sign.

More here:

http://www.slingshot.org/2005/10/11/lobbyists-for-christ/

You may also be interested in the Boston Globe series highlighted in that post.

Posted by: Dave Meyer | Nov 4, 2005 9:32:51 AM

Keith comes the closest to answering my question, sort of. Thanks to the rest of you for playing.

Posted by: nolo | Nov 4, 2005 10:03:28 AM

...nutcases like Hal Lindsey and whoever writes those Left Behind books, and crooks like Robertson, Falwell, Bakker, Swaggart, and now Dobson.

Sounds like you like Christianity fine as long as no one publishes their ideas or attempts to exert power. Just sit down, shut up and go away seems to be your mantra.

Well, tell it to the millions who disagree with your agenda of sex without responsibility, promotion of broken families and queer rights. Those icons are powerful only because their message resonates with the voters.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 4, 2005 10:41:06 AM

Well, nolo, Warren has put together what he calls the P.E.A.C.E. program. The letters stand for Plant churches, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, Educate the next generation.

The way they try to put that in action is on a couple of different levels. On the individual, they encourage people to actively seek out the poor and give their resources, to get involved with hospice care for AIDS patients and/or other initiatives, and to get involved with programs helping people to learn to read and write.

They do the same on the national and international level as well. They have research groups working on ways to better get medicines and other resources to AIDS victims.

Warren isn't my favorite person, and I'll never be happy with Saddleback or other megachurches. But they don't seem to be doing much "pie in the sky" stuff, but stuff that really matters.

Of course, your compliments to the psychologically disturbed Keith show that you probably won't like my response. But I did work on answering your question, even if it doesn't fit with your presuppositions.

Posted by: Stephen | Nov 4, 2005 10:48:20 AM

I finally figured out what bugs me about this:

"The man is the head of the household, but the wife is the neck that turns the head".

I can live with the evangelicism, but I can't live with the idea that the husband is the end-all-be-all in the couples decisions. I don't think so.

Posted by: Kate | Nov 4, 2005 11:03:04 AM

Fred, right now is the about the time you say, 'oops, I was wrong when I said that no one here knows diddly about Xianity.' A mensch would apologize; a putz, like you, would keep on pushing, digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself. Jackass.

Sounds like you like Christianity fine as long as no one publishes their ideas or attempts to exert power. Just sit down, shut up and go away seems to be your mantra.

Did you miss the reference to MLK in there? Or how about Archbishop Oscar Romero? These are my Xian heroes. Learn to read, Fred.

Well, tell it to the millions who disagree with your agenda of sex without responsibility, promotion of broken families and queer rights. Those icons are powerful only because their message resonates with the voters.

With some voters, Fred. If you look at the stats, the American position on abortion hasn't budged in 30 years. No one's 'promoting' broken families except those who push for policies that decrease wages, which means that both parents have to work; except for those who destroy public transportation and promote suburbs, which means longer and longer commutes, meaning less time to spend with family; except for those who prevent decent access to health care, which leads to debilitating illnesses and, again, less time to spend with family; except for those who destroy decent schools, school lunch programs, and after school activities, which leads to dissatisfied youth, which, like all the other policies the so-called conservatives are promoting, leads to the destruction of families.

But all you're concerned about is sex. Tell that to your shrink, buddy, but don't hurt me and my cousin and her should-be wife -- why are you anti-marriage? -- because you have some kind of sexual hangup.

You know that there's a direct corrolation between STD rates, teen pregnancy, rape, divorce rates, and a host of other catastrophes and poverty? You want to fight for the sexual utopia you seem to want? Then fight poverty.

Anyway, I don't know what your problem with queers is, especially when the Christian scriptures are at least as heavily against divorce. Anyway, there's a much more common sin that you, someone who probably doesn't know his Bible well enough, ignores. You know what bothers me? Pictures of a long-haired Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:14). Since God is perfect and every sin is equally damning -- you know, the slightest sin sends you to hell unless you repent sincerely -- those who go on blaspheming Jesus by showing him with long hair in church are at least as guilty as gays or people, like most leading so-called conservatives, who get divorces.

You're all going to hell.

Posted by: Karl the Idiot | Nov 4, 2005 12:02:37 PM

By the way Fred.

You think Jews are going to hell?

Posted by: Karl the Idiot | Nov 4, 2005 12:06:21 PM

I will post my statement again for those of you on drugs. It is the "bottom line".

Those icons are powerful only because their message resonates with the voters.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Nov 4, 2005 12:35:49 PM

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