In 2006 I Asked on This Site: Is Rick Warren Really a Moderate?
Frederick Clarkson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 07:50:19 PM EST
I originally posed the question in this post in February of 2006. It was certainly not the first time we had discussed Rick Warren around here, but it is worth noting that even though no less than Harvard historian Richard Parker was taking a meat cleaver to this big hunk of Inside the Beltway baloney, the narrative has held -- the facts of his extreme views, his polarizing rhetoric and overt and highly partisan behavior over the years, not withstanding. -- FC

Is Rick Warren really a moderate? That's a question that Harvard historian Richard Parker starts to address over at TPMCafe in answer to some of the punditocratic slogans about changes going on on the religious right, and more broadly in evangelical Christianity.

Before we get to that, one quick observation. A surpising number of people conflate evangelical Christiany with the Religious Right. Yes, conservative evangelicals have led the Religious Right political movement, but not all evangelicals are conservative. (Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Jimmy Carter are evangelicals, for example).

And while it is true that there are changes and transitions going on in evangelical Christianity; and the Religious Right itself; and that there are openings on such matters as fighting poverty, global warming, and AIDS...  the hope for commonalities may not be as great as advertised in light of the actual views of many alleged moderates. Some more careful evaluation of the landscape is very much in order.

Here is an exerpt from Parker's, must-read discussion of E.J. Dionne's new book Souled Out, in which he points out that a social justice oriented evangelical like Jim Wallis, who sees the Democratic Party as offering real progress in attacking poverty, for example, is not in any way to be confused with the far right views of the so-called moderate megachurchman, Rick Warren.  Indeed, different; or not as extreme; or not a hate monger; does not necessarily make for political moderation, let alone the progressivism inferred when Warren publicly associates with a Barack Obama or a Hillary Clinton.  

Here's Warren two weeks ago rebuking a conservative columnist who called Warren a "statist like Jim Wallis" (Wallis--because he actually votes for Democrats, is married to an Anglican priest, and was raised in a Northern evangelical denomination--is still treated like a leper by the most of his ostensibly "new evangelical" colleagues):

"Actually, I completely disagree with Jim Wallis's big government approach to poverty," Warren wrote. "The answer is not aid, but trade, not subsidies but freer markets, not wealth redistribution but wealth creation. not the government but local congregations. Saddleback's P.E.A.C.E. plan is the exact opposite of outdated and ineffective liberal social government programs that have failed....

"The great thing out of all of this is that I discovered the Von Mises website! Peter Drucker was my personal mentor for 20 years, right up to his death. Drucker introduced me to Hayek who obviously led me to Von Mises. Of course you know Von Mises said 'Human action is purposeful behavior.' I'd call that a purpose driven life!"

Frankly I'm hard-pressed to see what's so "new" or "transformative" about this sort of evangelical talk, or why Rick Warren is being celebrated as a "new voice" among white evangelicals. I think it's terrific that, unlike Falwell and Robertson, he doesn't blame gays, feminists, and the ACLU for 9/11....

But does Warren really believe that "the churches" rather than "the government" will, for example, come up with the $500 billion or so that will be eventually needed to rebuild New Orleans post-Katrina? Does he really plan to take his PEACE program to Africa--and cure poverty by using the same principles as the now utterly-discredited Washington Consensus, which the World Bank and IMF now admit was a disastrous failure that led to a "lost decade of development"?

Does Warren seriously believe that Saddleback or Habitat for Humanity rather than the FHA and Fannie Mae can build enough housing to shelter those in need? Does he honestly think that wealth redistribution is not an issue, now that America has the most unequal wealth and income distribution in the Western world or in its own modern history? And how precisely will more Wal-marts and Chinese imports make up for the export of high-wage, high-skill jobs from America ? (Ludwig von Mise and Friederick Hayek, whom Warren is praising here, were two of the most reactionary economists of the 20th century, heroes to Milton Friedman and the Chicago School of economics. These are the policy mentors of the "new" evangelicals like Warren?)

Rick Warren seemed to break new ground when he invited Barack Obama to speak at his church last year. This was good for Warren in putting some light between him and the rigid idealogues of the religious right. It was also good for Obama to be seen addressing a conservative megachurch as part of his campaign to make the Democratic Party appear more "faith friendly," especially to evangelicals.  

Similarly, Hillary Clinton also benefitted when she was the only presidential candidate to show up at a Warren hosted AIDS conference.

Please understand -- I am not criticizing Obama and Clinton for speaking at Warren's shop. Rather, I am underscoring that  Rick Warren and other so-called moderate evangelicals are not necessarily supportive of Democrats or of a moderate or progressive agenda, just because they are civil, or at least not openly hostile in the fashion of Dobson, Falwell and Robertson.

some people like being fed big hunks of baloney and adjusting their political views to conform with whatever baloney the religious industrial complex may be serving -- for years at a time, no matter how rancid the baloney may become.

by Frederick Clarkson on Mon Dec 29, 2008 at 07:53:01 PM EST

Warren is NEOLIBERAL, same as Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Bushes, and Reagan.  Neoliberalism is part of what we fight against- it's the financial side of their ideology.  One can be neoliberal without being neoconservative, or you can be both.  (I don't see how someone could be neoconservative without being neoliberal- to quote [or misquote] - a famous line... "That does not compute!")

The end product is the same- the elites (preferably American) will control the world.  It's behind the dominionist message- the same ideology, just packaged differently.  The sad thing is that people still buy into it, in spite of all of the evidence (and solid research) that demonstrates that neoliberalism and "free markets" mean most people have to do with far less while a VERY few are filthy rich.

Nearly every time a market economy is introduced into a locality with a subsistence economy, 99.5% of the people do not see any improvement, and almost all see a significant decrease in their standard of living (many are impoverished, possibly to the point of starvation and total destitution).  Only the richest .5% see any increase when a market economy is introduced.  I would say that it happens EVERY time, but there may be an instance or two that I don't know of.  Neoliberalism, a market economy, and "Free Markets" have destroyed the lives of millions around the world- and it's no wonder that you hear of protests and even riots against neoliberalism.  I might add that it's been shown to also be ecologically destructive, when compared with the economic systems that were in place before.  There are areas in Africa that used to export food, but after being forced into a market driven neoliberal model, have to import food!

Neoliberals forget many things- (1) that the markets are never "free" and are manipulated for the profit of the elites, (2) there is no real control in the markets and no real negative feedback to greed, and (3) the "wealth redistribution" programs starting in the 50's and through the 70's actually WORKED.  They were killed by ideologues- neoliberals- who then told lies about the effectiveness of the programs they killed.

I've read literally dozens of (peer reviewed) journal articles on the impact of neoliberalism.  Many of the articles I'm working with now demonstrate the destructiveness of neoliberalism in connection with homelessness and extreme poverty in this country.  In essence- neoliberalism has been shown to be the major part of the CAUSE of extreme poverty and homelessness here and elsewhere.

Neoliberalism is bad news.  VERY bad news.  It's part of the abusive treatment handed out to the poor in this country (Get a job, you lazy bum!) and if you look at what the dominionists are saying- they're just putting (HIDEOUS) makeup on an ugly (and vicious) boar.

by ArchaeoBob on Tue Dec 30, 2008 at 12:01:31 AM EST

If Warren wants to see what real Christian capitalism is, he should look right here.

Perhaps we should all read the works of the New Deal economists, Adolf Berle - as well as his sometimes writing partner Gardiner C. Means and others such as William T. Foster and Marriner S. Eccles. They still offer us a treasure-trove of knowledge.

by Frank Cocozzelli on Tue Dec 30, 2008 at 10:17:02 AM EST

he is a moderate in the sense that Putin is moderate compared to Khuruschev. In other words, he is a pragmatic extremist. He focuses on things other than Teletubbies or sex in movies.
"People are like the stars. There are bright ones, and there are those that are dim."
by agentS on Tue Dec 30, 2008 at 12:11:20 PM EST

The market capitalist orientation of the Religious Right shows how much its goals have come to mesh with those of the Republican Party. There was a time some years ago when Newt Gingrich was talking up Marvin Olasky's anti-statist tract, The Tragedy of American Compassion, and making it compulsory reading for Republican office holders. The book highlights the Religious Right's distaste for government intervention in the alleviation of poverty and offers a Calvinist, private-sector approach in which those who get help have to first "prove" they deserve it.  

by JSanford on Wed Dec 31, 2008 at 12:41:50 AM EST
No wonder the "support net" was destroyed in the last few years!  I've never read that tract, but it seems to me I've heard about it before- about as much as you've related here.  They don't know what they're talking about- and it's all driven by nearly 500 year old ideology.  (Most people don't know that homelessness was a problem even in the early days of the European settlement of the North American continent, and was a problem in England before that!)  Newt did the nation a major disservice when he made that piece of ** required reading.  
Prove they're the "deserving poor"?  That was defined hundreds of years ago as local people (out-of-towners need not apply) in the Henrician poor laws (early 1500's as I remember).  The ideology is still the same, however...  blame the victim.

It has been well established that (1) poverty is primarily caused by structural factors and RARELY by personal shortcomings, and (2) the idea of "deserving vs non-deserving" was actually a way to coerce people to accept whatever wages an employer chose to pay.  One of the Henrician laws actually gave employers the right to enslave people who weren't openly working.  This even applied to children!  (I might add that Calvinism was very involved in these laws.)

I might add that one of the "Religious right's" favorite "ideas"- the churches handling social needs, has also been shown to be a complete failure- where it has been tried, the success rate is abysmal.  Churches generally don't address the real cause of poverty- unequal access to resources caused by elite control of those resources.  In one article I've read lately, the churches actually made things WORSE for the poor people they'd set out to help (in the Philippines).  The funny thing in this article- the author talked about a "charismatic evangelical group" who joined in the program- and it became quickly evident that their whole goal was to take money and resources from the very poor for their own use.  The whole thing fell apart, and the local elites profited hugely from it while everyone else (including the involved churches) ended up loosing.

As far as homeless shelter "programs" such as run by churches - the ones you usually encounter have success rates around or below 2%.  If they're "high impact" (requiring people to attend the church or listen to sermons before getting services, etc.) the success rate approaches ZERO!  State or non-profit run programs are slightly better, but still are based upon "fixing" the poor- and I argue this is a good part of the reason they don't succeed.

The most effective programs assess if the "clients" (I don't like using that word, but that's what homeless people seeking help are called) have any limitations that keep them from gainful employment, and address those problems while providing shelter AND getting them employment.  The most effective program I've read about so far in my research had jobs waiting for the people when they succeeded and a very high success rate! (over 80% success rate vs under 5%!!!)

It boils down to reducing the gap between the rich and poor, and providing decent wages and controlling the cost of housing (in other words, oversight of business!)  All of these things have been vilified by the dominionists- and the sad thing is that most of those that support them are fighting against their own best interests.

by ArchaeoBob on Wed Dec 31, 2008 at 01:49:04 AM EST

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