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Obama at Saddleback: The New Politics

Major players in the [Democratic] party — including Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean — have held and attended conferences in the faith community and met with bishops and religious leaders including Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, and Bishop T.D. Jakes, who runs a popular megachurch in Texas. [emphasis added]
[“Democrats attempt to close the faith-gap with the GOP,” July 12, 2006, by A.B. Stoddard]

Rick Warren was apparently quite unhappy with last week’s press, some details of which are recorded in the previous Herescope post, about his recent foray into Syria as an American pastoral diplomat. For the first time he responded to criticism directly by issuing a statement to his Saddleback Family entitled MESSAGE THIS WEEKEND! that put forward the best “spin” on his recent controversial activities.

Rebutting the accuracy of Warren’s statements was WorldNetDaily: “Rick Warren on Syria: ‘A moderate country,’ 11/26/06, and Sandy Simpson of Deception in the Church, “Rick Warren ‘Explains’ Himself,” 11/25/06.

In Warren’s letter defending of his recent activities, he denied several times that he was engaged in politics:

1. “But my visit [to Syria] was not political,…”

2. “Left or Right is irrelevant to me. I’m not a politician.”

3. “Of course, you friends know my heart, my motivation, and my 26 year track record. What matters to me is not pleasure…possessions…prestige…politics…power.. or popularity. I couldn’t care less about these things.” [emphases added]

Perhaps Warren is naive about the political nature of an American evangelical leader of his stature hanging out with the internationalist big boys. Or perhaps he is being disingenuous. But in his letter to the Saddleback family he devoted an entire paragraph to outline some of his recent activities, which included:

“No matter where I’ve been invited to speak- to Congress, to the Davos World Economic Forum, at Harvard and Oxford and Cambridge, to the United Nations. to the Foreign Affairs Council….”

Obviously, these are politically-tinged events of the international variety. And this list is incomplete. An October 2005 Fortune magazine [ http://tinyurl.com/y84cgv] article by Marc Gunther, entitled “POWER PASTOR: Will Success Spoil Rick Warren – America’s new superstar pastor wants to rebrand evangelical Christianity. He’s got the management genius to do it. Here’s where he’s leading his troops,” detailed a few of his other political-sounding endeavors, including:

“…[T]he Aspen Ideas Festival, the Young Presidents Organization, a Pew Foundation forum for religion writers, and the University of Judaism.… He has gone before the Council on Foreign Relations to pitch his newest idea: a breathtakingly ambitious project to mobilize American Christians to fight poverty, illiteracy, and AIDS in Africa.”

Again, these are not all apolitical organizations.

Rick Warren took particular umbrage, in his explanatory letter to the “Saddleback Family,” to an apparent “blogpost” about his invitation to potential Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to speak at his AIDS Conference this week. Warren wrote:

“Another blogger claimed I’ve invited Barack Obama to preach in my pulpit to the Saddleback congregation. Of course that is untrue. I’d never invite ANY politician to speak from the pulpit to our congregation. Never. …”

“Next week, the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church will be held on the Saddleback campus. It is not a church service, but an international summit for pastors and world leaders. Leaders from churches, denominations, health, NGOs, Christian organizations, governments, businesses, and entertainment will meet together to discuss how they can work with churches to end AIDS. Participants will hear messages from Laura Bush, Sen. Bill Frist, Sen. Sam Brownback, Bill Gates, Bono, the doctor who discovered AIDS transmission heterosexually, Franklin Graham, the President of World Vision, the President of World Relief, the President of Compassion, and about 30 other speakers who are concerned about AIDS. Sen. Obama is one speaker at a conference which includes Republicans and Democrats, Christians and non-Christians, pastors, business leaders, and all kinds of races from around the world. …” [emphasis added]

Well, isn’t this global AIDS event political? Perhaps Barack Obama isn’t technically “preaching” on a Sunday morning service behind Rick Warren’s ministerial pulpit, but he certainly has been invited — along with several other notable politicians — to speak at the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church that will be held on the Saddleback campus this week. And the entire Global AIDS agenda, as has been documented elsewhere on this blog, represents a massive intermeddling of State, Church, non-profit organizations, mission groups, non-governmental agencies, the United Nations, multi-national corporations, foundations, and yes — even political groups and parties.

And despite Warren’s protests that he does not engage in politics, he has been actively working in the political realm to forge new political ties for evangelicals with the Democratic Party. For example, a news account from July 2006 entitled “Democrats attempt to close the faith-gap with the GOP” by A. B. Stoddard, describes Rick Warren’s involvement with House Democratic Caucus Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), a “minister’s son, handpicked by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to lead a new Faith Working Group as part of the party’s larger undertaking on values issues.” Nancy Pelosi is now the Democratic Majority Leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. The article explained:

“Major players in the party — including Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman Howard Dean — have held and attended conferences in the faith community and met with bishops and religious leaders including Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, and Bishop T.D. Jakes, who runs a popular megachurch in Texas.” [emphasis added]

The article notes that these meetings were closed:

“The DNC’s interfaith program, known as Faith in Action, has employed staffers to reach out to the evangelical, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish faithful. The visits and conversations have been closed to press to foster candid, open discussions.” [emphasis added]

The purpose of such meetings? You guessed it! Politics!

“Democrats are hoping the groundwork they are laying will broaden the values debate and ultimately help them capture the new voters necessary to reclaim majorities nationwide and win the White House in 2008.”

“Last month, when Democrats dominated a bipartisan event joining lawmakers, clergy and lay leaders to address poverty, at which Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) received national press for a rousing speech….” [emphasis added]

(For more information on the Democratic Party’s Faith Working Group see, for example, http://tinyurl.com/y54scm and http://tinyurl.com/y4xfmu.)

One astonishing feature of Rick Warren’s foray into Democratic Party politics this past year was the inclusion of his public relations manager, A. Larry Ross, mentioned in the same July news account:

“In searching for that winning formula, A. Larry Ross, a public-relations executive representing the top Christian leaders in the country who accompanied Warren on his visit with Senate Democrats in February, offered up a public-relations adage.

“‘The largest number of people focused on the smallest point of agreement gives you your greatest impact,’ he said.”

Pardon our incredulity over his proclaimed innocence in politics, but why would Rick Warren — who tries to be everybody’s image of the casual-pastor-next-door — need to take his hired PR guy into secret meetings with him? Unless, of course, he anticipated problems with his “image” if this type of information about his political activities ever came out in the public.

There are indeed “image” problems that arise from associating himself with political leaders like Barack Obama. The more controversial questions were raised on November 17th by WorldNetDaily in an news article entitled “Why is Obama’s evil in Rick Warren’s pulpit?”

“Rick Warren, the best selling author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ and senior teaching pastor at Saddleback Church in California, has invited Sen. Barack Obama to speak to the congregation of the faithful on Dec. 1, 2006. In doing so, he has joined himself with one of the smoothest politicians of our times, and also one whose wickedness in worldview contradicts nearly every tenet of the Christian faith that Warren professes.

It isn’t just Barack Obama who is having “conversations” with Rick Warren. The list of Democratic leaders includes Hilary Clinton, another potential candidate for president. An 11/26/06 article in The Sunday Times [http://tinyurl.com/y9o8o6], “Obama lifted by hand of God,” reveals that:

“Obama is scarcely the first Democrat to reach out to conservative Republicans: Senator Hillary Clinton, his main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, has had her own contacts with Warren and has won widespread praise in Washington for her collaborative efforts with rightwingers on Capitol Hill. She has also carefully tailored her pronouncements on sensitive issues such as abortion to avoid confrontation with the religious right.”

This article notes the very important political fact that:

“At first glance Warren and Obama appear the unlikeliest of allies — the conservative white preacher and the liberal black Democrat — yet aides to both confirmed last week that they have formed an intriguing friendship that may prove a key element in the next presidential campaign.” [emphasis added]

It isn’t just Rick Warren who is engaging in a new form of politics. A recent article in Christian Century (11/16/06) [http://tinyurl.com/wque2] entitled “Influential dozen seek to help Democrats bridge ‘God gap'” indicates that other noted evangelical leaders are being courted by Democrat Party leaders:

“…Democrats are seeking—and getting—regular meetings with megachurch pastors such as T. D. Jakes, Joel Osteen and Rick Warren.” [emphasis added]

There seems to be more at issue here than Rick Warren and other evangelical leaders simply playing footsie with the Democrats in the back rooms. This whole affair is being played out globally with some serious consequences.

Today’s WorldNetDaily news article [http://tinyurl.com/yxqfo6], “Rick Warren called ‘enabler and defender’ of evil: Megapastor’s appearance in Syrian propaganda triggers criticism,” is another serious look at the fallout from the Syria escapade. The article also calls attention to the fact that Rick Warren has experienced major public relations difficulties. Due to his religion? NO! It isn’t a presentation of the Gospel message that is causing Warren such heated controversy. It is his engagement with global politics! And to his rescue is — again — A. Larry Ross, his personal P.R. escort:

“Warren, the pastor of Saddleback Church and the author of the best-selling ‘The Purpose-Driven Life,’ told WND when the comment first was reported that he had been misquoted, and further, he wasn’t a diplomat and probably wasn’t fully prepared for a situation in which he was used for propaganda.

“But a video posted on YouTube showed Warren making the statement, and when WND linked to it, it suddenly disappeared.

Larry Ross, who acts as a spokesman for the church, told WND the video showing Warren making the statement was removed because Warren had heard there were ‘reports’ about his Syrian visit, but not necessarily the reports from WND.

“The Warren YouTube postings had been ongoing as kind of a travelogue to his congregation, Ross said. But when Warren arrived in Rwanda from Damascus and found out there were concerns about his activities in Syria, he suggested that no video from Syria be posted. ‘Let’s not post one for Syria until we see where we’re at,’ Warren had said, according to Ross.

But it already had been put up, so it was pulled down, only a few hours after it was put up, Ross said. ‘It was in the context of reports that they’d heard about, not specifically yours (WND’s),’ he said. ‘It was obviously with the understanding or the awareness that there were some reports about the trip to Syria.’

“But before it was removed, Bruce Delay, a talk-show host at KFAQ 1170 in Tulsa, Oklahoma, downloaded the audio portion of Warren’s comments,….”

This public relations campaign appears to be headed the wrong direction. For now, it seems strange — again — that Rick Warren needs to conduct his affairs so secretively. The Scriptures tell us that the Gospel is not to be hidden. However, in politics many things are hidden and secretive.

Which raises another interesting question. Why is there a need for Rick Warren to meet with pastors in the secretive manner he describes in a recent letter to Ministry Toolbox Subscribers?

“I’m writing to see if you could come to Saddleback for three days at the end of November. Two of those days will be the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church (Nov. 30-Dec.1), but the first day will be a private Conversation about Tomorrow with Senior Pastors (Nov. 29). This will be a by-invitation-only, off-the-record, not-open-to-the-public full day of conversation with senior pastors. I’d like for you to join us.

“Conversation about Tomorrow for Senior Pastors will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for senior pastors across America to think deeply together about the direction of our ministries, about personal renewal, church renewal, and cultural renewal in the 21st century. We’ll consider how to network more effectively, and I’ll share some things I’ve been quietly working on. In my heart, I know this day with senior pastors will be history making, a beginning point of the 21st century. There’s no cost to attend the Conversation About Tomorrow for Senior Pastors, but you’ll need an invitation ticket. If you can attend, I will send you some reading material in advance that I want you to be thinking about.” [emphasis added]

Once again, the Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan is being conducted in a disturbing manner that is less than open and above reproach.

The Truth:

“Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:” (2 Corinthians 4:1-3)