Hold it right there Rick Warren

I was away when Rick Warren’s Saddleback forum aired. Brett McKracken, managing editor of Biola magazine, gives the Pros and Cons of Rick Warren as the new James Dobson. This blog has all the videos of it together and links to the transcripts, near as I can tell. Personally, I continue to be disgusted that Evangelicals feel they have every right to help the nation decide who to vote for. I find it offensive that Rick Warren would use so much money getting his name and church on the major networks—for Jesus. There are no little sit-downs with Presidential Candidates. To call yourself their personal friends right before the candidate’s perspective Party conventions is a power play, plain and simple.

I’d like to address Rick Warren’s use of the word Worldview. At the very beginning of the forum he says that faith and worldview are the same thing. That’s just dead wrong. He then asks the candidates about their faith in terms of worldview. The idea of Worldview is actually a philosophical construct. It is very old and yet Evangelicals have coined the term so closely to faith, that Rick Warren has here actually made the two one. The original word in German is Weltanschauung. Faith is not a perspective. Faith has an object: God. Faith is nothing without its object. This is very important. In a terribly ad hoc, sloppy manner, Rick Warren here turns faith into a way of seeing the world in order to identify with a presidential candidate. That’s just sick. I don’t believe I’m just haggling over words here. Theology and Philosophy, while both relating to cognitive belief, are distinct. In blurring the lines Rick Warren is really out of line.

I first read about the forum in the Dallas Morning News, in an article titled, “McCain, Obama share their views on evil, marriage, abortion at faith forum.” The article describes the differences in candidate response to the question: “At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?” This question is what this whole forum will be remembered by. Here’s the video. The question falls at 3:48. Look at Obama’s total answer. I don’t care for his reply to this direct question, but he does give a thorough apologetic for the Democratic Party position. No surprise. His point that abortions have not decreased under President Bush is an important one, but I think it has been ignored.

For John McCain on the other hand, the crowd gave him a twelve second ovation in reply to the answer: “At the moment of human conception.” Does this question not seem framed to give them what they want to hear? Here’s the video, the same question on abortion starts at 3:15:

His actual reply after the applause was short and (for Republicans) sweet. “I have had a pro-life record for years.” Enough said. But is it really enough? Are pro-life politicians really delivering? Have they overturned Roe v. Wade? Have the made life better for babies, for children or for mothers seeking abortions? The question was about human rights. Obama seemed to say that it was a large question. McCain parsed code words. I don’t think either candidate dealt with the question, because I don’t think the question was as deep as it pretended to be.

The Dallas Morning News typified it all by giving Richard Land the last word on Obama and McCain:

“I’ll take a third-class fireman over a first-class arsonist,” said Mr. Land.

And there you have it folks. Once again Evangelicals are given a pass on having to think. The right candidate again, drumroll please, is Republican. What a surprise. And in the name of bipartisan friendship Rick Warren does with a smile and an awww shucks demeanor what cold old Jim Dobson can’t do anymore—give Evangelicals a reason to vote on solely on abortion.

What would have been the better approach? Let people make up their own mind! Dissolve this stupid thing called “the Evangelical vote” altogether. Stop playing politics along with the world and just be a Christian. Voting for the President is actually the least important thing we can do as political people. Loving God and our neighbors is the most important. At best Saddleback’s forum was a distraction. At worst it was a tool for political power for the Religious Right.

One last funny note though, at one point (McCain video 2, :24 in) Warren says that he invited a couple hundred thousand of his personal friends to send in questions. Maybe THIS understanding of the words “personal friends” is how we should understand it every time he says it! So when he calls Obama and McCain personal friends he means the same thing. EVERYONE is a personal friend. Well, as a “personal friend” to Rick Warren, let me say this:

“Please pick your friends better Rick. Not everyone is really your friend. It doesn’t help us to understand friendship, or people, when everyone is a friend. . . . just as it doesn’t help us understand faith when you blur it with Worldview.”

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Hold it right there Rick Warren

  1. Thank for the links and above all your insightful commentary, Chris. It certainly seems such gatherings are geared towards playing up the sensationalism tied to issues like abortion, rather than constituting substantive debate.

  2. Excellent post! Keep up the good work!

    With Hope

  3. Bob

    Chris,

    I too have watched with disdain as Evangelicals have given so little thought and rounded critique to the complexity of political issues. Additionally, I agree that the church’s role as a political force is much broader than politics narrowly defined. Moreover, I am not a Rick Warren fan nor do I aspire to attend his church.

    That said:

    Your suspicion towards Rick Warren’s motives appear uncharitable and disconnected from the enormous amount of real work this man is doing to address pressing issues in the world while disolving false divisions drawn between personal morality and social justice. I find your parsing between popular vs. technical distinctions on the use of word “worldview”, though possibly correct, as equally nit picky. When Rick Warren stands before God do you see a similar critique? God says, ” I was hungry and you and your parishoners fed me, etc., etc. but I have this against you, you misunderstand the distinctions between a theological and philosophical understanding of Weltanschauung. Depart from me….”

    Also, should we see the church as “selling out” by asking political leaders to answer questions in a church context? To his credit, Warren has attempted to disassociate the Evangelical movement from simply an extension of the Republican party; thus his idea of bringing a forum where both candidates could address the issues was groundbreaking, not pandering. In my view, Rick Warren was not the culprit but John McCain’s approach of “playing the crowd” (i.e. to the mindless Evangelicals looking for simplistic answers). All of us who have attempted to reshape the Evangelical movement with some measure will but up against this. Even your blog, if it was to be read by a large number of “Evangelicals”, would engender a similar “buzz word” response. Let’s not pick on Rick Warren, He might actually be on our side.

    -Bob

  4. Chris,

    I thought the point re “faith” vs. “worldview” is central to what is wrong not only with the way Rick Warren set up this forum, but more importantly with how the Christian Right — and many ’50s era Christian theologians — think about Christian belief and practice. It reminds me of Kierkegaard’s warning in “Training in Christianity” regarding turning Christ into a historical Christ alone. Faith is in a “contemporaneous Christ,” the God-Man who is NOW among us, calling us, demanding our belief exercised via obedience. People can believe in an historical Christ — believe in every Word of the gospels in a historical sense — yet not have faith. Intellectual assent is not faith. “Right” (in both or either sense of the word) abstract understanding is not enough to be called faith.

    Rick Warren’s framing of this forum in these 1950s terms creates a modernist rather than biblical discussion in my opinion. I do think Warren is a far better voice for Evangelicals than is James Dobson or Pat Robertson, and I appreciate Rick Warren’s far-reaching efforts in combatting HIV-AIDS as well as other issues hitting the poorest in this world. But I think we Evangelicals can do better politically than, like the dog and its vomit, go back and back and back (this WILL be the third time we vote overwhelmingly for a Republican candidate on their ALLEGED Christian “worldview” — laughable if it weren’t so tragic!).

    I continue to warn my fellow Evangelicals that their negative perception to most of this nation and the world is not due to their faith in Jesus Christ, but rather their failure to hold a faith consonant with the Scriptures’ own deepest concerns. Few younger people will remain within the Evangelical camp; our destiny is, I strongly suspect, to become as irrelevant as the mainstream church became in the ’70s on to the present. They failed due to abandoning Christ in their scramble to embrace higher criticism; we are failing due to our abandonment of Christ in his suffering, and in our worship of American nationalism. Which sin was worse? As an Evangelical, I think we are the greatest sinners.

    jon

  5. A quick postscript to the above post of mine: I also believe most American liberals are snagged in a form of American Nationalism which is idolatrous, just as their conservative counterparts are. The difference is that liberals tend not to bathe their beliefs in as much sacred talk as conservatives do. I am a fervent Obama supporter, for instance, but see how even he has occasionally made that mistake (and perhaps as a Presidential candidate cannnot help but make it or risk not being elected). Nonetheless, nationalism is one of the core historic motivators in “othering” those who are not part of our national / ethnic / class / religious families. Evangelicals, as Bible folk, should know both biblical and American history enough to recognize the wretched historical fallout from believing that Evil is “out there” with the “other” rather than “in here” with you and me.

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