Rick Warren ~ Controversial Figure Finds Himself in the Middle

This is an article from Rachel Dodd a religion writer for the AP.  I think it brings some interesting reflections on where Warren (a Christian who does not believe in gay rights and abortion – but who has not been a vocal blowhard on either topic) finds himself.  I see him as a person wanting to bridge a gap between the two sides where they can see eye to eye on at least a human level.  At the same time I think both sides are trying to force him choose a side. 

 Rick Warren’s biggest critics: Other evangelicals

By RACHEL ZOLL
AP Religion Writer 

Rick Warren is in a place he never expected to be: at the center of a culture war.

 The pastor chosen by President-elect Barack Obama to give the inaugural invocation backed Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in his home state of California. But he did so belatedly, with none of the enthusiasm he brings to fighting AIDS and illiteracy. 

When other conservative Christians held stadium rallies and raised tens of millions of dollars for the ballot effort, there was no sign of Warren. Neither he nor his wife, Kay, donated any of their considerable fortune to the campaign, according to public records and the Warrens’ spokesman. 

In fact, his endorsement seemed calculated for minimal impact. It was announced late on a Friday, just 10 days before Election Day, on a Web site geared for members of his Saddleback Community Church, not the general public. 

For gay rights advocates, that strategy was nothing more than an attempt to mask Warren’s prejudice. They were outraged that Obama decided last week to give a place of honor to a pastor they consider a general for the Christian right. 

Lost in the uproar was the irony of Warren’s plight. Ever since he began his climb to prominence in the 1980s, he has battled complaints from fellow evangelicals that he isn’t nearly conservative enough. 

“The comments from many of the evangelicals further to the right of him are often critical for his lax stance on their passionate issues,” said Scott Thumma, a professor at Connecticut’s Hartford Seminary who researches megachurches and writes about the challenges for gay and lesbian Christians. 

On paper, Warren might look like any other religious traditionalist. He is the son of a Southern Baptist pastor, graduate of a Southern Baptist seminary, and his megachurch in Orange County is part of the conservative denomination. 

But Warren holds a different worldview than his roots suggest. 

He has spoken out against the use of torture to combat terrorism. He has joined the fight against global warming and, encouraged by his wife, has put his prestige and money behind helping people with AIDS. The Warrens have done so at a time when a notable number of conservative Christians still consider the virus a punishment from God. 

“If you want to save a life, I don’t care what your background is and I don’t care what your political party is,” Warren said in a recent interview with The Associated Press. “I think some of these humanitarian issues transcend politics, or ethnic or religious beliefs.” 

While many religious conservatives openly condemn Islam as inherently evil, Warren reaches out to the American Muslim community. This past Saturday, he gave the keynote address at the convention of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, based in Los Angeles. 

“His social consciousness is somewhat left of center, but his theological, ethical stance is right of center,” said the Rev. William Leonard, a critic of the Southern Baptist Convention and dean of Wake Forest Divinity School in North Carolina. “That’s the thing that makes him potentially a bridge person.” 

Warren’s outlook has come at a price. Many from the Christian right don’t trust him. 

A registered independent who does not endorse candidates, he has called old guard evangelical activists too partisan and overly focused on gay marriage and abortion. 

In the run-up to the Saddleback forum he led last August with Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, those giving Warren the most grief were conservatives. They were convinced he wouldn’t be tough enough on Obama. (Obama wound up stumbling in his appeal to religious voters while answering Warren’s question about when a baby gets human rights. Obama said it was “above his pay grade” to respond “with specificity.”) 

“For probably the last 25 years, evangelicalism became co-opted, and for most people it became a political term,” Warren said. “And it got identified with a certain style of political leanings.” 

The attacks on Warren stretch to how he presents the Gospel – watered-down and soft, according to his theologically traditional critics. 

Warren’s phenomenal best-seller, “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, partly reflects the self-help ethos of baby boomers, although he insists it isn’t an advice book and he defends its religious content. 

Still, the tone of his writing is deliberate. Warren, 54, is among a generation of pastor-CEOs who use marketing studies, polling and census data to create congregations that will attract people who never go to church. One of Warren’s most important mentors was the late Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern management. 

Warren started Saddleback with one other family in 1980 in California, a state with one of the lowest percentages of churchgoers in the country. Saddleback now draws more than 22,000 worshippers each week. 

As the church grew, so did the critiques. “The pioneers get the arrows,” he says. 

Warren survives the pounding partly because of his personal integrity. He donates 90 percent of his many millions in book royalties back to the church. He says he stopped taking a salary from Saddleback six years ago. No scandals have tainted his ministry. 

He is also one of the savviest leaders among his peers. 

His speaking invitations range from church groups to the Davos World Economic Forum and the United Nations. Saddleback’s reach is now so broad, it’s nearly its own denomination. 

Warren provides sermons, study materials and guidance to hundreds of thousands of clergy worldwide through pastors.com and his other Web sites. Warren’s “40 Days of Purpose” spiritual campaigns have been conducted in more than 20,000 churches, and he recently joined forces with Reader’s Digest to launch a multimedia global juggernaut based on his “Purpose Driven” writing. 

Now he is trying to revolutionize faith-based humanitarian work through his P.E.A.C.E. program. It unites local churches, businesses and governments to fight poverty and disease, promote peace, and combat what he calls spiritual emptiness. The pilot project for this effort began in 2005 in Rwanda, which has been dubbed the first “purpose-driven nation.” 

It is no surprise that he and Obama have become friendly. Each tries to operate outside a strict liberal-conservative divide, and has risked angering his supporters to do so. 

“You can’t have a reformation without somebody opposing it,” Warren says. “If I wasn’t making a difference, nobody would be paying attention.”

Associated Press Writer Lisa Leff contributed to this report. 

© 2007 Belleville News-Democrat and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved. http://www.belleville.com

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cmac on sports – pre holiday rants

I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and as such hated the Dallas Cowboys. (Especially during the 80’s)  But I came to appreciate the 90s version with the likes of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Jay Novacheck, Nate Newton etc.  A lot that love came for Irvin in particular because of my love for the U.  (University of Miami) That was my college team during the glory days.

Anyway – since then I always felt it was good for the league if the Cowboys were good.  And I haven’t liked or disliked them.  But I have to admit that since Terrell Owens, (T.O.)  is about to implode another team, I have come to root against Dallas. 

I was glad when Baltimore beat that ass the other night.  Now if the Eagles can do the same, I won’t have to suffer this child during the playoffs.

Some of this is Dallas’ fault too.  Not just owner Jerry Jones who totally empowers this ridiculous behavior, but guys like Tony Romo the quarterback who won’t tell it like it is – that T.O. is whinny lil BEEaach who throws teammates under the bus during tough times!  They continue to cover for this fool and it just feeds the monster. 

Jason Garrett the offensive coordinator allowed a clandestine meeting to be held with Owens, and fellow receivers Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams, where Owens accused Romo and his boy TE Jason Witten of plotting to keep him from getting catches.  This in spite of the fact that Owens leads the team in catches and touchdowns.

Former players Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders have never publicly called Owens out on his continuous team destroying tactics from calling Jeff Garcia gay when he played for the 49ers.  Nor for throwing Donovan McNabb totally under the bus, starting a fight with Hugh Douglas – prompting the Eagles to send him home and be relegated to drive way push-ups for cameras while agent Drew Rosenhaus postured for this pathetic cancer of a teammate.

Next came the sleeping pills incident. (he took too many of them obviously in a fit of depression) Instead of dealing with whats wrong with the cat, they all covered it up and glossed it over.  An example is in the aftermath of Pill Gate, his publicist said, Terrell has 25 million reasons to live.” 

Earlier this year I knew for sure that T.O. was a selfish jerk when I saw him yelling at an assistant coach after a Dallas victory over Green Bay.  It was a great win for the Cowboys, but Owens only had a few insignificant catches while other guys shined during a prime time nationally televised game.  That told me this would be business as usual for T.O.

GO EAGLES!  Please remove this dude from my sports page to begin the 09! 

Boston Bustin Out on L-7

Kevin Garnett Picture

I got to give it up to the boys from Beantown.  For any team to win a world title, only to come out and win 26 of their first 28 games including 18 straight!  Talk about NOT resting on your accomplishments.  This reminds me of the Bulls teams who won championships and managed to chase 70 wins the next couple years.  Kevin Garnett is a beast.. making plays and making teammates cry on the bench.  (Side note, I honestly think Garnett has this image of Hall of Famer Bill Russell looking at him evaluating his effort every night.  He wants to please Russell like a kid wants to please his father.  Garnett wants to live up to Russell’s standard.  I think this is fueling his intensity even more to never let up.)  Back to the rant…..

Paul “The Truth” Pierce ain’t lied yet, Ray is Ray – and Rajon Rondo looks like Tiny Archibald.  If he continues to play the way he is, pencil these cats in the Finals in June.  I got nothing but mad respect for the Celtics and the way they go about their business!

Can’t sleep on the Cavaliers though.  Damn does LeBron James ball now or what?  I haven’t been able to see ESPN’s First Take over the last few months but Skip Bayless may as well get up off of his nutsack cause dude is putting up MVP numbers.  I hear Bron Bron is up to 274 pounds of 100% man now – and by FAR he is the fastest most athletic cat in an NBA full of fast and athletic cats.  The Cavs are just waxing fools and Bron is putting on a rock concert not seen since dare I say…… MJ?  It will be interesting to see how well the team does after the new year and specifically how they fare after the All Star Break.  This is where we always separate the men from the boys in terms of who is seriously going to contend.  Will Lebron’s legs give out on him?  Remember he did spend the summer in Beijing winning gold.  Only time will tell – but I am a believer.

Derek Fisher, Anthony Johnson

Uhhhh which brings me to my boys the Los Angeles Lakers.  They won last night in Memphis thanks to Kobe.  My boy Blue drove his son down yesterday to see the Lake Show down 55 south, and will call me later for the details.  They have one more game on the 4 games in 5 days road trip tonight against CP3 and the Hornets before that Christmas Day match-up against the above mentioned Beast of the East.  They lost last Friday against the Heat and then followed that up with another uninspired performance against the Orlando Magic.  All and all we are probably playing like the worst 22-5 team in the history of the NBA.  I don’t have to talk about how bad the D is…  I will let Lamar Odom speak for himself. 

“It’s just like when we used to play against Phoenix two seasons ago.  “We always felt like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get back in the game. They are playing an offensive style of basketball.’  I think that’s how teams right now might be looking at us.  We’re not making it hard enough for teams, as far as around the basket, as far as our defense. At the beginning of the year, maybe the first seven or eight or 10 games, we had teams that quit.  It was like, ‘This is too hard. We know we can’t stop them.  And they’re making it hard for us on defense.’  Now, I feel like teams feel like we’re going to let them back in the game.”

Translation… Get the house in order fellas or you will be the Dallas Mavericks come playoff time.   

New Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia during his introductory press conference.

In the “Don’t hate the playa” category, I got to send love to CC Sabathia the pitcher who inked a 7 year 161 million deal to don the pinstripes.  I remember when we used to say that the CC stands for “Captain Cheeseburger” because of his weight.  Now it stands for Cha Ching!  The Yankees initially offered CC a 6 year deal worth 140 million, and it sat on the table for a month cause he really wanted to play on the West Coast – preferably for the Dodgers.  Team LA wasn’t even close, and Artie Moreno the Angels owner had his eyes on Mark Teixeira. (The Yankees signed Teixeira for 8 years 180 mil today – Maybe CC needs to have his deal re-worked!)  The Yankees then added another year with an even 23 million per.  (9 million signing bonus)  And please, spare me the economy talk.  Any one of us would take it if we could throw the rock like him and someone offered it to us.  I ain’t mad at you brother!

The Story of the Year!

This is the story that has me the most hyped for 2008.  No, its not Michael Phelps and his 8 gold medals.  That’s nothing compared to the feat the Gridiron Gang from Motown is about to pull off.  A PERFECT SEASON…. in reverse.  That’s right for the first time in NFL history a team is flirting with backwards perfection:  an 0-16 season.  Detroit is a tough town… the Pistons have rings, and Tigers have had their ups and downs but were in the World Series a few years ago.  The Red Wings dominate!  Now the Lions are about to make their mark.  Just one more tank job against the Packers this Sunday and its a done deal.

Memo to Lions Players:  Anybody can go 1-15.  That’s not what you’re after.  Finish the job.  I know you are not the worst team in football cause if you were playing the Rams you would smash them.  But still, this is no time for semantics and nitpicking.  Man down.  Roll over.  Make history! Quit for godsakes!  Remember what Kevin Garnett said after he finished his season….. “Anything is possibleeeeeeeeeeeee.