Hillary Clinton greeted by Rick Warren before her speech at Saddleback Church in November (WND photo)
The upcoming joint appearance by Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain at Rick Warren’s evangelical Saddleback Church is co-sponsored by a left-leaning group led by a Unitarian-Universalist minister who once headed her denomination’s homosexual advocacy office.
The group’s stated vision hints at its challenge to the influence of the so-called religious right, saying it “envisions a country in which diverse religious voices for justice and the common good consistently impact public policy; and those who use religion as a tool of division and exclusion do not dominate public discourse.”
Warren told OneNewsNow, a Christian Internet site, he’s not troubled by the association with a group at odds with his church’s conservative evangelical theology.
“Really we just are … co-hosting [the event],” Warren said, noting Faith in Public Life came up with the idea.
“Actually, we’re in total control of the format, the program, the questions,” he said. “It’s at our church; and so it’s not their event, it’s our event.”
Warren will moderate the event with the presumed Republican and Democratic presidential nominees Aug.16 at Saddleback Church’s Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion. He said the forum will be “a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan ‘gotcha’ questions that typically produce heat instead of light.” Issues, he suggested, would include poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights.
Warren said that, at the candidates’ request, the two-hour forum will be held in a non-debate format and open to all media. Both candidates want the questions to be posed exclusively by Warren, instead of a panel or members of the audience. Obama and McCain will each have an hour to converse with Warren, beginning with Obama, as determined by a coin toss.
As WND reported, Obama’s appearance in 2006 at Saddleback’s Global Summit on AIDS and the Church stirred controversy when some evangelicals objected to a pro-choice Democrat being given the pulpit of a church that opposes abortion. At last year’s AIDS summit, in November, Sen. Hillary Clinton gave a warmly received speech while Obama and McCain were among several candidates who presented taped messages via satellite.
In addition to the Civil Forum event, Warren will convene an interfaith meeting at the church for some 30 Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to discuss “cooperation in projects for the common good of all Americans.”
Warren, author of the mega-best-seller “The Purpose Driven Life,” told OneNewsNow he does not believe the biblical Gospel is compromised by working with non-Christians in efforts to promote the “common good.”
“Now, I don’t happen to agree with Muslims,” Warren said, ‘and I don’t happen to agree with Jewish people, and I don’t even agree with all of the things Catholics believe, but I … can work with them on doing something like stopping AIDS, because we all believe sex is for marriage only.”
In the candidates’ forum, Warren plans to focus on issues political reporters often ignore, such as how the candidates view the Constitution. One question might be, he told OneNewsNow, “Is it a quote ‘living document’ that can be changed, that can be reinterpreted with each generation as things change? Or is it a truth written in granite that is a standard by which we evaluate everything else, and you don’t change it unless we amend it?”
A Warren critic, evangelical pastor Bob DeWaay, author of the book “Redefining Christianity: Understanding the Purpose Driven Movement” and founder of the apologetics ministry Critical Issues Commentary, says he believes Warren is operating under the mistaken notion that uniting all religions to fight problems like AIDS and poverty will “warm people up” to Christianity.
But he admits many evangelicals have a strong affinity for Warren.
“He’s a very likeable guy on the surface, and I think pastors and Christians think, ‘Well, look at this, if he can get all these people on board and he can build a big church and he’s popular, and maybe if we get on board with that, some of that will rub off. Maybe we’ll learn how to have a bigger church and how to be popular,’” DeWaay said in an audio report on his website.
But DeWaay often reminds people “Jesus told us that the world would hate us.”
“Okay, so something’s seriously wrong if we do achieve popularity with the world,” he said.
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