by Christopher Adamo
The facade is beginning to peel back from the so-called ministry of Southern California Pastor Rick Warren, author of “The Purpose Driven Church” and “The Purpose Driven Life.” Unfortunately, many among his ample flock have far too much invested in him, both emotionally and otherwise, to admit their mistakes and cut their losses.
Moreover, he certainly faces no possibility of in-depth scrutiny from the “mainstream media,” as his brand of “Christianity” poses little or no threat to their liberal social agenda. Yet to the degree that anyone at all questions Warren as anything less than authentic, his response is thoroughly telling as to his true character, as well as the nature of his “ministry.”
Joseph Farah, editor in chief of the premiere Internet news site, “World Net Daily,” opened a can of worms by calling Warren to account over his fawning praise of the terrorist stronghold of Syria. While there, Warren lauded the brutish dictatorship as “peaceful,” claiming that the Islamist government does not officially sanction “extremism of any kind.”
When confronted by Farah, an American of middle-eastern decent who knows too well the history of horror and tragedy faced by persecuted Christians in that region of the world, Warren immediately denied ever making such statements.
Subsequently, Farah offered as evidence a “YouTube” video from Saddleback Church, where Warren is pastor, inarguably proving Farah’s statement. So Warren’s Church simply pulled the video from circulation and continued the denial, being unaware that a copy of the video file had been downloaded and is still in circulation. Warren’s follow up to this inconvenient circumstance is perhaps most telling of all.
In a concurrent set of moves, Warren sent a seemingly conciliatory e-mail to Farah, while distributing another to his “flock,” in which he characterized Farah’s pursuit of the incident as nothing less than “doing Satan’s job for him.” Throughout this sorry episode, Farah’s only error has been to suggest that Warren’s disturbing behavior represents some new departure from consistency.
In fact, Warren is actually being entirely consistent. Whether his audience might be Farah himself, Syrian Despot Bashar Assad, or the Saddleback congregation, Warren tells each exactly what he believes they want to hear. This pattern is the essence of what Warren is, and what has made him so “successful” from a worldly perspective.
For those among his congregation who sincerely want to know the truth, the evidence is ample. Unfortunately, it always has been available, and any present “confusion” merely results from past decisions to ignore that evidence.
For example, his letter to the congregation decrying the “attack” and making his defense by invoking Scripture is barely four paragraphs long. Yet in those four paragraphs, he employs three different “translations” of the Bible. Why, it must be asked, does he not trust any single translation to convey God’s message to humanity?
Could it be that he has his own message and agenda to advance, and that he has found it very convenient to utilize different wordings of different passages, not because they better convey God’s purpose, but rather his own? It would be better to ask, could his motivation possibly be anything else?
As Farah has refused to let this indefensible situation simply drop, Warren has responded by taking it to another realm, making personal attacks against Farah in an interview with the magazine, “Christianity Today.” But once again, by so doing Warren succeeds in revealing much more about himself than about his adversary.
Warren, who has not to date been known as any sort of standard bearer for Christian principle in the political arena, decries Farah (whose societal and moral views fall unambiguously on the right) and his ideological allies as part of a wrongful “political” encroachment on the faith.
In contrast, Warren’s forays into the political realm prove, not surprisingly, to be decidedly leftist. At a recent conference on the African AIDS epidemic, Warren invited the very liberal Senator Barak Obama (D.-IL) as a keynote speaker. He justified the inclusion of Obama, who avidly supports abortion and same-sex “marriage,” on the grounds that Obama offered a worldly solution to ostensibly curb the spread of the disease through condom usage.
The morally ambiguous message conveyed by the advocacy of condoms, along with their inherent unreliability, make them nothing less than iconic to the abortion industry, which fully understands how much new business they generate. In the face of such pragmatism, one has to wonder what will be next. Perhaps Warren’s Church will sponsor a “designated drivers ministry” at every bar in its locale.
Appalling though Obama’s inclusion in the conference may be, it is nonetheless entirely consistent with Warren’s behavior from the beginning. Leading a megachurch in the culturally disintegrating landscape of Southern California, Warren certainly knows that his prospects of maximizing the “flock” will be greatly enhanced as long as he shows proper deference to the real religion of the area, “political correctness.”
In this, his Christian populism movement has proven to be far more palatable to the God-hating secularists of the surrounding communities than such stodgy, old-fashioned, and “intolerant” notions as “Thou Shalt Not.” And the Warren influence has been predictable wherever it can be found.
If other Churches that abide in the Warren philosophy, such as Chicago’s gargantuan “Willow Creek,” were to truly uphold Christian values among their enormous congregations, they would certainly be a constant “thorn in the side” of their surrounding populace, acculturated into the modernism as those communities certainly are. Yet an amazing degree of compatibility and congeniality exists between the Warren Church model and the social structures of Chicago and Southern California.
The tradeoff between true Christian principle and acceptability to the locals is apparently worth the spiritual sacrifice it entails, with expanding parking lots, increasingly lavish facilities, and of course, fuller collection plates bearing witness. Meanwhile, such Churches offer ever less of a worthwhile and much needed alternative to the ailing world around them.
Ultimately, Warren gives conformist Christians, wearied from their ongoing battle with a world that is increasingly hostile to true Christian faith, an apparent “out” by offering a version that the modern world can find more acceptable while remaining in its present spiritual darkness.
Many among Warren’s vast following have made the mistake, in light of his “purpose driven” ministering, of presuming, at the heart of the movement, a Christ-driven purpose. Yet as Warren’s real character continues to be revealed, it is becoming apparent that members of that following are presuming too much.
Christopher G. Adamo is a freelance writer and staff writer for the New Media Alliance. He lives in southeastern Wyoming with his wife and sons. He has been active in local and state politics for many years.