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After resisting doing a radio or TV program for 32 years, megachurch pastor Rick Warren announced a deal with Salem Communications to broadcast a half-hour radio show in the 25 largest U.S. markets.

“Daily Hope” will air Monday through Friday to bring hope to a discouraged country, Warren told reporters at a press gathering hosted by the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs’ Religious Freedom Project at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., last week.

Warren said he doesn’t like televangelists but changed his mind and decided to do a radio show because America “right now is in a discouragement period,” the Christian Post reported.

Warren wants to address the discouragement arising from the weak economic recovery, high unemployment, partisan gridlock and events such as the Newtown, Conn., shooting.

He also plans to speak out against infringements of religious liberty.

He’s concerned about a “coarsening” of communication, particularly on the Internet.

“People are far more rude now than they used to be,” Warren said, “Our civilization is losing its civility. We just don’t know how to be nice to people.”

Regarding the erosion of religious liberty, Warren pointed to attempts to bar Muslims from wearing head scarves at school and prevent Jews from circumcising their children. He also cited the new health care law that requires companies and religious institutions to purchase health insurance coverage that violates their religious beliefs.

‘America’s pastor’

Warren explained he had resisted doing a radio or TV show because he doesn’t want to turn his church into a studio and lose the intimacy of a congregation. He also said he doesn’t like the style of TV preachers and doesn’t want to do fundraising.

But Warren, nevertheless, has been engaging civil society and politics for decades as one of the nation’s best-known Christian ministers. Dubbed “America’s pastor,” he’s the author of the bestselling non-fiction hardback book of all time, “The Purpose Driven Life,” with more than 32 million copies sold.

The church he founded in 1980, Saddleback, has a total average weekly attendance of 22,000 at its main Lake Forest, Calif., campus and nine other locations.

His many ministries attack what he calls the five “Global Goliaths” – spiritual emptiness, egocentric leadership, extreme poverty, pandemic disease and poor education. His stated goal is no less than to launch “a second Reformation by restoring responsibility in people, credibility in churches and civility in culture.”

His Purpose Driven Network of churches is a global coalition of congregations in 162 countries. More than 400,000 ministers and priests have been trained worldwide, and almost 157,000 church leaders subscribe to his weekly newsletter, the Ministry ToolBox.

Warren, a frequent guest on interview shows of all kinds, is scheduled to appear Sunday on Oprah Winfrey’s “LifeClass” TV show on her OWN network to “take on some of life’s toughest questions.”

Along with his popularity, he has many critics, including James Sundquist, author of “Who’s Driving the Purpose Driven Church?” Sundquist also was one of the voices in a video by producer Elliott Nesch called “Church of Tares,” which asserts Warren has built his many organizations on secular business management philosophies rather than the foundation of Jesus Christ, resulting in “a great compromise of the Great Commission.”

Last year, Warren drew criticism for his “King’s Way” program to promote peace and unity between Muslims and Christians.

His pastoral staff and local Muslim leaders co-authored a document outlining points of agreement between Muslims and Christians, affirming that Muslims and Christians believe in “one God” and share the “love of God” and “love of neighbor.”

As WND reported, Warren in 2011 launched a year-long health program for his church, “The Daniel Plan,” written with the help of three celebrity doctors. Critics pointed out the physicians don’t share the church’s professed evangelical beliefs, espousing instead various forms of Eastern mysticism and the tenets of a Christian cult, Swedenborgianism.

President Obama chose Warren to give a prayer at his Jan. 20, 2009, inauguration, prompting an angry response from homosexual-rights activists who decried Warren’s vocal support for Proposition 8, the ballot measure that limited marriage in the California constitution to one man and one woman.

Defending his choice, Obama noted at the time that despite his disagreement with Warren on a number of issues, the pastor invited him to speak at Saddleback Church’s Global Summit on AIDS and the Church in 2006. Some evangelicals at the time objected to a pro-choice Democrat being given the pulpit of a church that opposes abortion. At the 2007 AIDS summit, Sen. Hillary Clinton gave a warmly received speech while Obama was among several candidates who presented taped messages via satellite.

After the summit, Warren responded to his evangelical critics in a WND interview published as a three-part series: Part One. Part Two. Part Three.

In August 2008, Obama appeared with Republican presidential nominee John McCain at Warren’s church for a forum in which each candidate was questioned by the pastor for an hour.

In 2006, WND reported Warren stirred controversy during a trip to Syria when he described the Arab nation’s policies as “moderate,” even though the U.S. lists it as a terror-sponsoring state that persecutes Christians and Jews.

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