Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion is amazed that people would say the most notable, memorable thing evangelical preacher Rick Warren ever did was give the invocation at President Obama's first Inauguration. Warren's son Matthew committed suicide on Saturday.
"Not having heard of Warren prior to 2008 means that you had to have been in utero (or high school, or something similar) during 2002 or whenever [The] Purpose Driven Life came out and became one of the best selling books in history," Hemingway wrote. But Warren accomplished that massive success inside the Christian world, and the secular national media, especially TV network news, wasn't really paying attention. Check out this snippet of our 2005 Special Report on network TV religion coverage:
David Zurawik, a TV writer for The Baltimore Sun, slammed "pretend journalist" Chelsea Clinton on The Daily Download for her work on NBC.
"I continue to be fascinated by a network news division putting someone as outrageously unqualified as Clinton on a prime-time newsmagazine," he wrote. "I watched her again last week in a softer-than-soft piece on a weight loss program started by Pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church, and I can say with absolute certainty that she has not improved one lick in the last year."
On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell hounded popular Christian pastor Rick Warren over his support of defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. O'Donnell quoted the second greatest commandment of Christianity - "love thy neighbor as thyself" - to Warren as she asked, "Why do you oppose same-sex marriage?"
When the Saddleback Church senior pastor affirmed that he was "in favor of not redefining marriage," the anchor used the current trend in polls towards approval of such unions to lobby her guest to change his views:
When ABC’s Jake Tapper held up Andrew’s Sullivan’s “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus” Newsweek cover story on how, as Tapper described Sullivan’s premise, “American Christianity is in a ‘crisis,’ it’s too focused on politics and policy, too little on spirituality,” Pastor Rick Warren took the opportunity to air “a little personal gripe.”
He contended: “I think it’s disingenuous that magazines like Newsweek know that their circulation goes up at Christmas and Easter if they put a spiritual issue on the cover, but it’s always bait and switch. They never tell the stories, never tell the stories of what good the church is doing.”
To Washington Post religion reporter Lisa Miller, evangelical ministers like Rick Warren and Tim Keller should be applauded for their "clinical frankness" about God's design for sexual pleasure within the covenant of marriage in their sermons, books, and even tweets.
On ABC last Wednesday, both World News and Nightline featured a report filed by correspondent Dan Harris in which he linked the activities of some American evangelical Christian pastors with anti-gay hatred and attempts by Uganda’s parliament at passing death penalty legislation to punish homosexuals in the African nation. Each of the reports focused on the extreme views of American pastor Scott Lively and Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, without including the views of more mainstream American evangelical leaders.
On World News, anchor Diane Sawyer teased: "Gay terror: Have some American evangelical ministers helped threaten the lives of homosexuals in Africa?" She later plugged the report again: "And still ahead on World News, a death threat for gays. It happened after American evangelicals delivered a potent message."
In the version of the report that ran on Nightline, Harris made a point of mentioning Pastor Rick Warren as being a "one-time friend" of Pastor Ssempa. And, though Harris’s reference to Pastor Warren as a "one-time friend" perhaps implies a falling out between the two men, the ABC correspondent could have more directly informed viewers that Pastor Warren released a statement last October declaring that he had not associated with Pastor Ssempa since 2007.
Furthermore, last December, Pastor Warren released a video message for Christians in Uganda in which he attacked the proposed anti-gay law as legislation "I completely oppose and I vigorously condemn," as he went on to declare, "The potential law before your parliament is unjust, it’s extreme, and it’s un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring death penalty even in some cases."
While she pronounced his prayer as a "good job" for being generally non-offensive and inclusive-sounding, Newsweek's Lisa Miller -- who earlier this month suggested ditching inaugural prayers altogether -- was nagged by the "lingering question" that "remains" from the way evangelical pastor Rick Warren closed his inauguration ceremony invocation in the name of Jesus:
Warren's conservative theology teaches him that there is one path to God, and that is Jesus. So when he wraps his great big arms around Muslims and Jews (and homosexuals), does he really believe there's hope for us? Or is he just being nice?
Miller, as a religion reporter, should know better. Yes -- the evangelical Christian would answer -- there is hope for everyone who puts his or her hope in Christ alone, and that's why preachers like Rick Warren preach the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone. They truly believe it, and as such, it's not nice to keep the good news of salvation and peace with God to one's self for fear of the niceness cops of the media world.
USA Today's religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman apparently has little use for Christian ministers who believe the Bible's teachings on sexual ethics.
Apparently already annoyed with evangelical pastor Rick Warren's stance on California's Proposition 8, Grossman took the California preacher to task for a letter offering use of his Saddleback Church to conservative Anglicans who have left the liberal Episcopal Church USA but were deprived of their church parish property due to a recent California court ruling (emphasis mine):
After sticking a fork in the eye of gay rights advocates by actively supporting Proposition 8 -- which overturned the legalization of gay marriage in California -- Warren compounded their outrage by equating gay marriage with incest in an interview with Beliefnet.
When during its first half-hour this Christmas morning "Today" moved to a conversation between Matt Lauer and Pastor Rick Warren, I braced myself. Don't tell me, I thought, they're going to get into the invitation Pres.-elect Obama extended him to give the invocation at the Inauguration, and the reaction of some gay-rights groups. Well, surprise! They didn't: not in word or implication. Warren appeared strictly in his role as pastor, and the conversation focused exclusively on the meaning of the day.
The video clip is of the portion of the conversation in which Warren describes the origin and practice of a Warren family tradition of holding a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Day.
Conservatives still licking their wounds over the results of the November elections finally have something to cheer about: you don't have to read Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne's articles anymore because you know he's supporting Barack Obama.
So deliciously said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough to Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart on Tuesday's "Morning Joe" with the latter actually not disagreeing.
The context of the discussion was another Post writer's Tuesday column in which Richard Cohen came down strongly on Obama's decision to have Rick Warren give the invocation during the upcoming Inauguration.
This led to the following fabulous exchange between Scarborough and Capehart (video embedded below the fold, h/t Ms Underestimated, file photo):
Given some of the reactions to an item I wrote yesterday about Barney Frank's objections to Rick Warren giving the invocation at the inauguration, let me state for the record that I lean libertarian on marriage. On the one hand, I don't like courts substituting their judgment for legislatures or the will of the people. But in the long run, I think it might be better for government to recognize that marriage is a religious or spiritual institution, and confine its role to enforcing agreements between partners.
That said, I can't help but chuckle at the way the MSM is twisting itself into knots over the Rick Warren issue. The latest, most entertaining episode occured on this evening's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, on MSNBC. David Shuster discovered that, contrary to his presumption, civil rights pioneer Rev. Joseph Lowery, also on the inaugural program, does not support gay marriage!
Does Barney Frank think incest is worse than pedophilia? The question arises because, chatting with Andrea Mitchell this afternoon, here's how Frank reiterated his opposition to Barack Obama having granted Rick Warren the honor of pronouncing the invocation at the inauguration.
BARNEY FRANK: I think Rick Warren's comments comparing same-sex relationships to incest is deeply offensive, wildly inaccurate and very socially disruptive.
Rev. Jeremiah Wright was a voice crying in the wilderness that the mainstream media and middle class America weren't quite ready for and megachurch pastor Rick Warren is an ignorant evangelical rube who isn't totally without hope, given his awareness of AIDS and other favored liberal causes.
It's quite a shame that the following paragraphs weren't front page news during the campaign as they surely would have changed the way many liberals viewed the junior senator from Illinois (emphasis added):
There has been a wealth of media coverage regarding liberal outrage over Obama picking Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. However, the MSM has predictably ignored the other side of the story. Many Pro-life activists are upset with Rick Warren for accepting Obama's invitation.
Liberals and gay activists aren’t happy with Barack Obama for choosing pro-life and prop 8 supporting pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at Obama’s inaugural. But pro-life readers seem to be equally upset at Rick warren for agreeing to it.
Brian Maloney at Radio Equalizer reports that New England liberals in the Phoenix chain of "alternative" newspapers are launching a "Take Back Barack" campaign (complete with ahem, a white hand holding a little black Obama doll. Where’s the PC police?) Boston-based Maloney adds: "Considering how vehemently these publications supported the former Illinois senator, this represents an abrupt turn of events coming rather soon after November's election." Will the media notice liberal disaffection, or try to keep it quiet? One blog complained about the Rick Warren prayer minute at the Inauguration:
So Rick Warren's been chosen to give the invocation at Obama's inauguration. Anybody else super-excited to see a rabidly pro-life, anti-choice, anti-gay evangelical cleric blessing Obama and the nation? Fine, so he cares about poverty and children in Africa. You don't have to turn over too many steeples to uncover exciting, progressive clergymen and -women who feel the same way about those issues, and who recognize that legislating things like pregnancy and partnership are never good.
The blogger suggests (among many names linked) the Rev. Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church of State. But wouldn’t he decline praying on the steps of the Capitol, just on principle? The irony would be too, too rich if he accepted.
Surely no one would view Rev. Jeremiah Wright as closer to the centerpoint of American politics than Pastor Rick Warren, right? Wrong. Here's Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: It seems like Barack Obama, as much as seems to inspire people, including me, has a problem with pastors. I don't know what it is. You get him hooked up with a pastor, whether it's Jeremiah Wright, or it's this guy Rick Warren. One's on the left, one's on the far right. Both are causing him trouble.
So Wright's merely "left," while Warren's "far-right." Do we really need to prove the obvious: that Warren is vastly more mainstream than Wright? It hardly seems worth the effort, but let's consider a few factoids:
While the media are fixated on the ire gay activists are directing at the president-elect for selecting Prop 8 proponent Rick Warren to give the invocation at the Obama inaugural, I've noticed little attention given to the fact that the man selected to give the benediction is pretty much the polar opposite of Warren on some key doctrinal matters related to homosexuality.
Rev. Joseph Lowery, a liberal United Methodist minister, has mostly been referred to in the media in connection to his work in co-founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, one of the key organizations in the civil rights movement. Yet freezing Lowery in time as an icon of the 1960s civil rights era doesn't do justice to his status as a vocal clerical advocate of same-sex marriage and openly gay clergy.
At the top of Friday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased a segment on the controversy surrounding Barack Obama’s decision to have pastor Rick Warren deliver the invocation at the inauguration: "Barack Obama angers gay rights groups by choosing Rick Warren to give his inaugural invocation." Later Smith brought on Dr. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas and David Corn of the liberal Mother Jones magazine to debate the issue, declaring: "President-elect Barack Obama has ignited a firestorm of controversy by selecting conservative Pastor Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration. Warren is an outspoken critic of gay marriage and that has angered many of Obama's liberal supporters."
Later, Smith turned to Jeffress and wondered why Warren would agree to speak at Obama’s inauguration. Jeffress replied: "But I want to say, to me, it's just unbelievable to think that because Rick Warren believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, somehow that characterizes him as a hate-mongerand makes him unfit to pray at the inauguration. I mean, this sounds like bizzaro world to me-" At that point, Smith interrupted: "Well, excuse me, excuse me though, this is a serious civil rights issue in this country."
Rick Warren had a surprisingly candid response to Ann Curry's question as to whether he would change his views on homosexuality if it were established that people are born gay. The pastor of the Saddleback Church, explaining why such a finding wouldn't cause him to change his position, observed that he is inclined to want to have sex with every beautiful woman he sees, but that that doesn't make it right.
Curry interviewed Warren for a Dateline segment that will be aired tonight on NBC. As noteworthy as Warren's candor was Curry's ostentatious display of righteous liberal anger, captured in the screengrab, while asking Warren whether he is homophobic.
On Thursday’s The View, co-host Joy Behar expressed her displeasure at President-Elect Barack Obama’s choice of Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration: “I don’t think it’s appropriate. It’s like putting, you know, Cheney in charge of gun control. It’s wrong....it’s just wrong.”
The topic of Obama choosing Warren came up during the regular opening “Hot Topics” segment of the ABC daytime program. Whoopi Goldberg, who moderated the segment, introduced the controversy behind this choice: “...[A] lot of folks are opposed to this gentleman: gay -- because he opposes gay marriage, he’s anti-abortion -- he’s got a lot of different stances. There’s a lot of people saying he’s a bad choice.”
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was the first co-host to come to Warren’s defense: “I think he’s a great choice. He held the forum -- remember when he did the forum between McCain and Obama during the election? He sat them down and had the faith forum, which I found was great during our times right now. And I think that he’ll -- I think he’ll do a great job. He’s got an incredible following, he’s a strong speaker.”
Barack Obama has selected Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at the president-elect's inauguration.
Based on yesterday's New York Times story about this and other inauguration decisions, you would think that complaints about Warren's selection represent a mere tempest in a teapot. The Times devoted all of one sentence (bolded) to the controversy:
Barack Obama has selected the Rev. Rick Warren, the evangelical pastor and author of “The Purpose Driven Life,” to deliver the invocation at his inauguration, a role that positions Mr. Warren to succeed Billy Graham as the nation’s pre-eminent minister and reflects the generational changes in the evangelical Christian movement.
..... The choice of Mr. Warren, pastor of a megachurch in Orange County, Calif., is an olive branch to conservative Christian evangelicals. Mr. Warren is an outspoken opponent of abortion and same-sex marriage — litmus-test issues for Christian conservatives. In fact, his selection set off a round of criticism by gay rights groups angered by his support for California’s ban on same-sex marriages.
A San Francisco Chronicle article last Wednesday relating to growing concerns about Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama's recent campaign performances "evolved" in a quite convenient way for the Illinois senator by the time it got to the paper's print edition and went through its final web revision. That article, among other things, addressed Obama's appearance at Rick Warren's Saddleback Values forum the previous weekend.
The current entry at Google News, obtained by searching "That's above my pay grade" (entered in quotes), reads as follows:
Although it's framed in a very biased way ("thoughtful but fuzzier"?), at least a reference to Obama's infamous "That's above my pay grade" comment is present (the original transcript segment containing that remark is here).
On Sunday’s Meet the Press, during an interview with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, NBC host Tom Brokaw brought up Barack Obama’s recent declaration at the Saddleback Forum that the question of "at what point does a baby get human rights," is "above my pay grade." After playing the relevant clip of Obama from the August 16 candidates forum, Brokaw asked of Pelosi: "Senator Obama saying the question of when life begins is above his pay grade, whether you’re looking at it scientifically or theologically. If he were to come to you and say, ‘Help me out here, Madame Speaker, when does life begin?’ what would you tell him?"
After Pelosi, labeling herself as an "ardent Catholic," avoided giving a straight answer, and contended that "over the centuries, the doctors of the Church have not been able to make that definition," Brokaw jumped in: "The Catholic Church, at the moment, feel very strongly it begins at the point of conception."
Ed Morrissey writes about Pelosi's response to Brokaw's question, and includes video here.
"Nightline" co-anchor Cynthia McFadden interviewed Pastor Rick Warren on Monday about the presidential forum he held with Senators Barack Obama and John McCain and pestered him to just admit that he's a Republican. At one point, she goaded, "You know, there are some people who feel that this is kind of a sham operation. That really, we know you, as an evangelical, are a Republican, a John McCain supporter."
Warren responded by asserting he's a registered independent, but the ABC correspondent kept trying to pin the pastor and author down as a GOP supporter. Speaking of Warren's parishioners and his own preference, she queried, "But do you feel like at some point, Rick, you owe the people who look to you for guidance more than that? I mean at some point before this election are you going to get up--" After Warren interrupted and replied that he wouldn't be telling anyone who to vote for, McFadden followed-up: "So if someone were to come to you and say, you know what, forget character, I'm going to vote for the guy who is opposed to abortion, would you say they need to go back and think a little harder?"
Cynthia McFadden didn't exactly say John McCain had no character, but she certainly implied it. In an interview with Pastor Rick Warren on ABC's "Nightline," McFadden was trying to get Warren to indicate if he would counsel his flock on who to vote for, and what he would say to people who say "forget character," pick the pro-lifer.
The feature on Warren came after the pastor's Civic Forum on the Presidency held over the weekend at his 22,000-member church in southern California. McFadden asked Warren if he "owed" it to "people who look up to you" to tell them for whom he was voting .
Not that there was any doubt that McCain walked away the winner from Rick Warren's forum, but when David Shuster cracks that Obama was lucky not too many people were watching . . . Subbing for Chris Matthews on this evening's Hardball, Shuster kibitzed Saddleback with Dem Steve McMahon and Republican Todd Harris. Shuster made his surprising remark at segment end.
DAVID SHUSTER: I think it also revealed that John McCain's going to be a much better debater than a lot of people think. And maybe also in some sense, Barack Obama is lucky in a way that Saturday night was Michael Phelps' night and not a night when a lot of people were paying attention to politics.
A bit later, Shuster used Phelps to work in an obligatory swipe at President Bush. After rolling tape of a clearly-excited Phelps mentioning that it was "pretty cool" that the president had taken pictures with him at the pool after the 400 individual medley race, Shuster pounced: "even cooler for the president, who's probably happy that someone popular wanted to get a picture with him."
On Sunday night’s Newsroom program, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez, pressed megachurch leader Rick Warren about Obama campaign charges that John McCain was cheating by not being in a "cone of silence" during Obama’s interview.
"Last night, I heard you say that McCain would be in a cone of silence, and then half-hour into the event, I hear our guys here at our political desk announced that McCain has just arrived at the worship center. And I'm thinking, you know -- hey, if he just arrived at the worship center, he couldn't have been in the cone of silence, right?"
After Warren give his initial answer about McCain being in a "Secret Service motorcade," Sanchez pushed two follow-up questions on the matter. In the first, he asked, "Did you think at the time -- when you said that, did you think he was in the cone of silence -- did you think he was in the building?"
As NewsBuster Brad Wilmouth has noted, over the weekend NBC News political director Chuck Todd, previewing the Saddleback forum, suggested it represented an opportunity for Obama to forestall "personal hatred" of him by evangelical Christians.
Todd has now contacted NewsBusters to express regret over his choice of words.
Todd's initial remark was made to Andrea Mitchell during a pre-game special edition of Hardball on Saturday:
CHUCK TODD: It's just not, it's just not his comfort zone. So it's a huge opportunity for Obama tonight to at least not be hated by the evange-, look, these folks are not going to ever support him. They know what kind of judges he's going to appoint. It's going to be judges that evangelicals aren't going to be happy with. But they're not going to, if they don't have a personal hatred of him, then that's a good thing for Obama.