Barack Obama and Rick Warren
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Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 01:06:38 PM EST
Rick Warren did not simply support Bush in 2004. He also actively encouraged his vast network of purpose driven pastors to vote for Bush based strictly on Christian Right talking points. This is why it is good news that Warren is getting together with Barack Obama for Warren's AIDS conference in two weeks. This is another sign that conservative Christians are beginning to expand their political concerns and are directly challenging the Christian Right status quo.
Melissa Rogers notes the importance of Barack's involvement with this conference by writing:

The New York Times reports that Senators Barack Obama (D-IL) and Sam Brownback (R-KS) will speak at mega-church pastor Rick Warren's 2006 summit on AIDS and the church on Friday, December 1.  A copy of the conference schedule is here.  

The NYT asks:  "Is [this] a step toward active support for Mr. Obama [by Rick Warren]?"  I certainly don't have an answer to that question, but it did remind me of a pitch Warren made before the last presidential election.  I don't believe Rick Warren ever explicitly endorsed George W. Bush, but he communicated his support for Bush nonetheless.  Warren did so by arguing that there were "five non-negotiable issues" in the campaign.  Here's an excerpt from Warren's pre-2004-election pitch to fellow Christians:

As church leaders, we know our congregations are not allowed to endorse specific candidates, 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.

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 elderly and invalids?

Am I too optimistic in thinking that Warren himself might cringe at this kind of pitch today, especially in light of his increasing focus on issues like AIDS, the Darfur genocide, and worldwide poverty?  I'm not looking for Rick Warren to issue a new heavy-handed "issues" statement that screams Democrat rather than Republican.  But I would hope that Warren would talk differently about these things in the run up to the 2008 election.  If he does, that will be progress in the journey toward a better conversation about faith and politics in America.

Don't know whether this is "another sign that conservative Christians are beginning to expand their political concerns and are directly challenging the Christian Right status quo" or another sign that Obama is cozying up to the religious right on his way to a 2008 nomination. Sorry to be so skeptical but I wonder what Obama's message will be when I see people such as Sam Brownback, Franklin Graham, and various "Christian counselors" on the program. These people may be trying to soften their image (and Brownback may have an eye on '08 as well) but they are hard-core religious right.

Warren's commitment to fighting AIDS is fine - even if adopted a bit late in the game and with considerable naivete. And Obama speaking at Warren's mega-church is fine, too, if he can be honest. Will he have the courageous to say that "abstinence only" approaches to AIDS kill people - and that if evangelicals (including Warren) are truly committed to stemming the AIDS epidemic, they will have to re-examine their qualms about condoms and safe-sex education? People who tout abstinence outside of marriage and fail to address the needs of abused women and sex workers are contributing to the spread of AIDS, not eradicating it.

by Psyche on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 12:59:43 AM EST

valid concerns and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out. How far will Obama and Warren go to find some common ground and how willing are they to upset their more ideologically extreme supporters? Who has more to lose, or win? Is Obama really being genuine or is it merely a cynical ploy?

by Carlos on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 11:17:22 AM EST
that Ted Kennedy once spoke at Jerry Falwell's Liberty Baptist College. As a commencement speaker as I recall.  

Pols of all kinds understand that there is civic and political value in being gracious, and cultivating an image that can help to de-demonize oneself, and along the way, model what civil discourse can be, even among people who strongly disagree on some things.

Obama, as authentic as his faith may be, is certainly using it as a political commodity and as part of an effort to de-demonize himself and perhaps his party as one of "secularism" which in translation means non-belief; irreligious; even anti-religious. It is too bad that polititians feel the need to parade their religious beliefs before prospective voters --  who would be ar better off hearing about a pol's vision for the common good; what government could do and should not do, and so on.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 12:45:37 PM EST

de-demonization, I've been surprised at the articles like this one that are not shy about calling Obama evil.

by Carlos on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 01:00:08 PM EST
I think that the up and coming leadership of the religious right, and those they have encouraged over time, are far more militant and confronational and tneding to extremes of demonization and fingerpointing than their predecessors on a bad day.

by Frederick Clarkson on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 01:47:26 PM EST

Hadn't seen anything like this before. Guess I don't travel in the Right circles.

by Psyche on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 02:57:39 PM EST

to the conference is here.

by Carlos on Thu Nov 16, 2006 at 01:08:59 PM EST

Rick Warren commitment to AIDS relief and the Environment is encouraging.  

His decision to break ranks with the Southern Baptist Convention and address the Baptist World Alliance (Summer 2005) was also VERY important.  His appearance showed Baptists that he's not one of THEM (mean-spirited fundamentalist).  Warren is his own man.

Graham will be speaking on behalf of Samaritan's Purse.  Their Operation Christmas Child ministry gets support from all corners of the theological spectrum.  Of the 50+ speakers, most are medical doctors or directors of non-profit ministries.  Looks like a good lineup.  When it comes to Christian ministries, it seems some will always be skeptical....

by Big Daddy Weave on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 02:13:16 AM EST

and Warren also signed a statement against Bush's torture tactics. Would it be too much to ask for Warren to be the first major Christian conservative figure in the US to endorse sexual orientation  and marriage or civil union equality?

by Carlos on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 11:26:38 AM EST
I can't see Warren EVER embracing an affirming theological position.  But a pro-civil union position is not out of the realm of possibility.  

Here at Baylor, I know many moderate Baptists who do not affirm theologically but are in favor of civil unions/marriage.

by Big Daddy Weave on Fri Nov 17, 2006 at 06:04:43 PM EST

Depends, I suppose, on what you consider a good lineup. It can be dangerous to make assumptions on the basis of degrees, titles, and organization names. Suggest you Google the names of the speakers and their associated organizations - you might be surprised. This is largely a very conservative, anti-choice, abstinence only group, some of whom are Bush appointees who follow the party line (and in some cases have been richly rewarded for doing so.) These people are highly unlikely to present a balanced, scientifically-based approach to AIDS prevention.

One person I found particularly disturbing is Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini, Archbishop of the Anglican Church of Rwanda. He has been fanning conflict in Episcopal churches in the US, Britain and Canada - even consecrating bishops who he sends to other countries to stir up trouble. The aim is to bring breakaway churches under his control. Although his group is smaller and less well funded than the IRD, it operates in a similar way (and apparently with some conservative American funding).

If you're not too familiar with the issues in AIDS intervention in Africa, this RNS article provides some good background. Esther Kaplan also has an excellent (and frightening) article in TAP about Uganda, which has often been held up as a success story for the abstinence only approach.

As for "Christian ministries," their help is welcome but when human lives are involved, they damn well better be operating on the basis of empirically-based intervention and not on the basis of ideology!

by Psyche on Wed Nov 22, 2006 at 03:11:05 AM EST

It's not so much as someone helping to alleviate the suffering from AIDS (I applaud any secular or Faith based humanitarian efforts toward any sufferings), it's the agenda of Warren that disturbs me in pushing his purpsoe driven madness and Global PEACE plan; solving the five biggest problems in the world: Spiritual Lostness, Lack of Godly Leaders, Poverty, Disease, and Lack of Education. Definitely a noble gesture but unrealistic and very unbiblical. Jesus said that the end would bring an increase in turmoil, wars, sorrows, and diseases and yet Warren claims the church is going to solve these before Jesus gets here. Even Oprah, who has been known to channel spirits and announce there are many ways to God (I heard her myself), declares that education will eradicate poverty, etc. If that education is not biblically based, then such educational help is merely a band-aid on a wound. To my knowledge, the only one with a globe peace plan that will work (for a short time) is the coming anti-christ. oops.

In all honesty, I am only learning about the man Barack Obama so I am not qualified to speak concerning him except that I would question anyone's alliance with Warren.

by marmalade kat on Mon Nov 27, 2006 at 12:46:05 PM EST

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