A Model of A Man of God
This is truly a blog that I am happy to write about. Over the weekend there was a historical event that took place. In the home stretch of a presidential election, the pastor of a church was able to bring the two main candidates together under one roof – for one on one questioning. Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA had both Obama and McCain at his church with a crowd of parishioners and onlookers. Why am I so glad about this event? Because in this age of extreme conservative evangelical ministers who want to stake their claim in the political game, Warren is a man who totally gets it!
Most people know of his book, The Purpose Driven Life, after some 25 million copies have been sold. Some may even know how he does not accept a salary from his church, how he paid back the salary the church had given him over a 20 year period one he started to benefit from the book, how he tends to preach most sermons at his church in blue jeans. My impression of Warren took another turn when I saw him featured on Meet The Press last year. (See Transcript) Listening to him talk about faith and politics was so refreshing. In this day and age where men representing faith, mainly Christian faith come in the persons of Pat Robertson and James Dobson, guys who are dogmatic in their approach and single-minded in their schemes, Warren is a man who talks about his faith as a committed Christian man who has a worldview that is inclusive towards others in the country – even those who may not subscribe to his specific faith. He understands that this time, this nation more than ever multi-cultral, multi-ethnic, multi-racial and yes multi-religious than ever before. And yet we all have a stake in the plight of America and the direction we are to take. He understands the big picture – and in that his love for mankind is actually a reflection of that of Christ himself. Warren is a brother who’s spirit is attractive and therefore he is able to engage wonderfully with other people. Now here is the best part. Warren is not some ultra-liberal crack preacher who has an anything goes philosophy. He has a set of values that are very fundamental to traditional Christianity. The difference is that he does not behave as if he should damn the rest of the world to hell. Neither does he act as if Christian beliefs are the only ones under attack these days. Many evangelicals often play victim and act as if the whole world is conspiring against their beliefs.
As a result he was able to have enough influence to command the audience of THE two major candidates in the heat of the campaign. In the sermon the following Sunday he spoke of how voters should respond to the candidates.
Don’t just look at issues, look at character. Look at the candidate and say, Does he live with integrity, service with humility, share with generosity, or not?’
This is much different from the approach I have heard for years where unless a candidate is dead set against gay rights, abortion etc., that vote is in effect a vote against God himself. Warren understands like many of us that there are many other issues as well that are just as important to Christian and non Christian alike. Issues such as poverty and education – these are American issues. I would also argue that these are also issues of faith when you look at the complete teachings of Jesus. Regardless a president has to be concerned about all of America – not just a segment that shares his faith – even as he holds dear to his own convictions.
As good as the forum went, it wasn’t quite perfect. In total fairness Warren had a set of questions and he used those same questions in the same order to both candidates. Obama answered first. And although McCain was said to be in a room tucked away until his turn came, it turned out he was not even in the building. Where was the dear senator? Somewhere tuned in watching the pastor interview Obama so that he could be ready for the questions himself. As I watched McCain’s interview, I was surprised as to how easily he answered Warren’s questions – though McCain claimed them to be hard questions. Some of them he seemed to rattle off before Warren could get the whole question out. So as impressed as I thought I was with some of McCain’s answers, he was cheating and thus prepared with his script. Look at the tape. You can easily tell that there was virtually no reflection whatsoever – but a rapid fire of ready answers given. Warren said initially that McCain was in another room. Later he admitted that McCain was not in the building. For the sake of my original point, I am going to give the good pastor the total benefit of the doubt here. I believe he conducted an interview for the American people – specifically American people of faith with total honesty and integrity. It was McCain who messed things up. Of course Warren is too polished and graceful to accuse the senator – but he also knows that we can judge the facts and issues for ourselves.
Keep up the good work Pastor Warren. I hope to meet you one day and enjoy some vigorous discussions.