Ending No Fault Divorce: Guest Commentary from Leah Ward Sears

I found this article on CNN.com to be interesting.  It’s definitely something we should talk about.  As a man who came from an unstable background as a child, the older I get, the more I feel that families and stable homes for children are the foundation of a solid community.  Strong families are what make nations great for so many reasons.    What do you think?

Leah Sears stepped down as chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court to work on strengthening families.

Editor’s note: Leah Ward Sears stepped down this week as Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court. In 1992, she became the first woman — and youngest person — appointed to Georgia’s highest court.

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — After Tommy’s sudden death, we found among my brother’s personal effects a questionnaire he had completed in 2005 for a church class.

The very first question was a fill-in-the-blank that went like this: “At the end of my life, I’d love to be able to look back and know I’d done something about …..”

“Fathers,” Tommy wrote.

When asked to identify something that angered him that could be changed, Tommy wrote, “Re-establishment of equity and balance and sanity within the American family.”

My brother was born to be a father, and he grew into a good and loving one. Tommy was tall and handsome, smart, witty and fun. A graduate of the Naval Academy and a Stanford-educated lawyer, he married and fathered a little girl and boy who were the center of his life.

Tommy felt that one of the worst problems in our country today was family breakdown and fatherlessness. He railed against intentional unwed childbearing and the ease with which divorce was possible. He didn’t like that we have become a society that values the rights of adults to do their own thing over our responsibility to protect our children.

As a judge I have long held a front row seat to the wreckage left behind by our culture of disposable marriage and casual divorce that my brother so despised.

No-fault divorce was a response to a very real problem. The social and legal landscape that preceded it largely prevented casual divorce, but it often trapped people in abusive marriages. It also turned divorces into even uglier affairs than they are today, forcing people to expose in court damaging information about their children’s other parent. That system was intolerable, and we should never go back to that.

But no-fault divorce’s broad acceptance as an unquestioned social good helped usher in an era that fundamentally altered the seriousness with which marriage is viewed. It effectively ended marriage as a legal contract since either party can terminate it, with or without cause. This leaves many people struggling to remake their lives after painful divorces that they do not want. It also left many parents cut off from, or sidelined in, the lives of the children they love.

When Tommy divorced, as in so many cases, a bitter struggle over resources and the children ensued. My brother came to believe that the legal system turned him into a mere visitor of his children.

Tommy eventually accepted a job as a lawyer for the State Department and went to Iraq (and later to Dubai) in order to make the money needed to support his children. Being in a war zone, under terrible conditions without the children he loved, was unbearable to him.

On November 5, 2007, my phone rang before daybreak. A U.S. Foreign Service officer was on the other line. Was I the sister of William Thomas Sears?

I knew before I was told what had happened. Tommy had died. But the cause took my breath away: My brother had taken his own life.

I know I’ll never understand fully all that factored into his decision to kill himself. No doubt Tommy was wrestling with more demons than he had ever admitted to me or knew himself. But as a divorcee myself and, for a number of years, a single parent, I know the immense pain of divorce and its aftermath. The limitations the law placed on Tommy’s right to raise his own children after his divorce magnified my brother’s pain and was, I believe, more than he could live with.

Tommy was only 53 when he committed suicide. That was more than a year ago, and I am still learning to live without him and live with the fact that this man I looked up to all my life chose to end his own life.

Tommy’s loss has catapulted me even farther down a path I was already on. This may sound like heresy, but I believe the United States and a host of Western democracies are engaged in an unintended campaign to diminish the importance of marriage and fatherhood. By refusing to do everything we can to stem the rising rate of divorce and unwed childbearing, our country often isolates fathers (and sometimes mothers) from their children and their families.

Of course, there are occasions when divorce is necessary. And not everyone should marry. But it has become too easy for people to walk away from their families and commitments without a real regard for the gravity of their decision and the consequences for other people, particularly children.

Removing no-fault divorce as a legal option may not be the right way to move forward, and the solutions we need may not be entirely legal in nature. But answers must be found. The coupling and uncoupling we’ve become accustomed to undermines our democracy, destroys our families and devastates the lives of our children, who are not as resilient as we may wish to think. The one-parent norm, which is necessary and successful in many cases, nevertheless often creates a host of other problems, from poverty to crime, teen pregnancy and drug abuse.

The loss of my brother has changed my life, as these losses so often do to people. This summer, after 26 years, I’m hanging up my robe as a judge to return to private practice.

I will spend some of my time teaching a course in family law at the University of Georgia Law School. And I have accepted a fellowship at the Institute of American Values in New York — a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that contributes intellectually to strengthening families and civil society in the United States and the world.

At my request, the fellowship is named after my brother. As the William Thomas Sears Distinguished Fellow in Family Law, perhaps now I can truly do “something about fathers” — a mission I’m on for Tommy and a critical calling for all of us.

Eighth-Grade Graduations

A friend of mine forwarded this article to me recently.  I read it and thought the subject worthy of discussion. 

I have opinions that I will leave out of this post.  If there is any interest comment wise I will share my views later this week.

This came from the Raising Kane column of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, by Eugene Kane.

BTW: Kane also wrote a follow up article on this one responding to the feedback he got from this original post.  You can read here.

 

This is a much-anticipated time of year for hard-working graduates to celebrate their academic accomplishments with family and friends.

But eighth grade?

The sad fact is, in a city like Milwaukee, with its extremely high dropout rate, a majority of eighth-graders may never get a high school diploma. For some, eighth-grade graduation might be the highlight of their school days, which is pretty depressing.

Even President Barack Obama has taken note of the increased prominence of eighth-grade graduation celebrations.

“Now hold on a second – this is just eighth grade,” Obama said in his remarks about education last year during a campaign appearance at a Chicago church. “You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”

I suspect Obama witnessed the same scene I did during visits to some central-city schools for eighth-grade ceremonies in recent years. My last visit, about three years ago, was an eye-opener.

There were 14-year-old boys and girls dressed to the nines, including formal wear, in front of an enthusiastic audience of friends and relatives. When the students received their “diplomas,” most were so demonstrative you might have assumed they were finished with their formal education.

I did a quick survey this week of some African-American friends with school-age children – mainly mothers – and discovered this particular issue has been drawing attention for some time.

“Yes, I think some black people are guilty of going too far with graduations, period!” said Tina King, who has a daughter graduating from the eighth grade this week. King said her daughter’s school wasn’t planning a traditional walk across the stage; a recognition dinner was planned instead.

King said she understood why some parents go overboard. “The thing is, with our black children being killed or dropping out of school, every graduation is a big thing,” she said.

Another friend who has attended more than a few eighth-grade graduations criticized the overkill. “Eighth grade is just a completion ceremony; they do not graduate until the 12th grade. Yet, every year I am amazed at the amount of money parents spend. I’ve seen limos, tuxes, formal gowns, sometimes the mothers, too.

“My question is, what do they have to look forward to when they actually do graduate, or are the parents going to these extremes because they are afraid that for many this will be their only ceremony?”

Teachers shared my concern but defended the ceremonies as a necessary enticement for some students. “With the way things are now and the new generation of kids, I think it’s good to celebrate accomplishments on any level to encourage their positive behavior,” said one educator.

That’s a good point. There’s nothing wrong with kids feeling good about themselves, but my fear is that the bar is being set so low, some students might start to view eighth grade as the high point of their education instead of simply the latest step.

I suggest each eighth-grade graduate should receive a heartfelt congratulation, quickly followed by a stern reminder about the challenges to come if they intend to receive a high school diploma one day. Celebrate quickly, because next school year, you’ll need to be ready to get back to work.

Ninth grade is no picnic.

Justice Obama? A Novel Idea!

Of course this isn’t going to happen… but I bet she would make an interesting Justice and bring a fresh perspective that’s needed.

Thanks for this article by Eva Rodriguez 

Justice Obama?

By Eva Rodriguez of the Washington Post

Mr. President:

Stop your search. I’ve got the perfect candidate for that soon-to-be vacant slot on the Supreme Court.

She’s a Harvard Law grad with a Princeton undergraduate degree. She was a lawyer in private practice with a prestigious national law firm. She worked in-house for a large and complex medical facility. She’s also paid her dues in local politics and knows a thing or two about the national political arena — yet she doesn’t have much of a paper trail.

 And this woman clearly has the empathy gene you’ve been looking for. (I have a feeling you’d hit it off during the one-on-one interview.) She knows first-hand how difficult it is to strike the right work-life balance. She knows what it’s like to put your career on hold to help a partner, a husband fulfill his dreams.  She has spoken eloquently about the plight of single moms and their challenges in making ends meet and finding quality child care. She knows through her own experiences and those of her family how far this country has come in eradicating racism and how far it still needs to go.

And — to state what is by now obvious — she is a woman of color. Best of all, Mr. President, she already lives right here in the nation’s capital and could walk to work. Think of the benefits to the environment! Jack had Bobby. You’ll have Michelle. Whether you call her First Lady or Madame Justice is up to you. Being commander in chief has its privileges.

 To be fair, there may be a few drawbacks to this appointment, not the least of which will be the separation of powers issue.  It may at times get awkward when Justice Obama is forced to review legislation you signed into law.   And you really shouldn’t try to coax her to reveal how the court — read: Nino Scalia — is leaning on a particular matter; you’ll have to wait just like the rest of us to read slip opinions when they’re published. 

You may be the former constitutional law professor, but she’ll have the last word on what “the law is.” She’ll also have to wave goodbye to bare arms since she’ll be forced to spend big chunks of her working hours in robes. One last thing: Since you’ll be the only parent working from home once Justice Obama is sworn in, you’ll be in charge of Bo. (Maybe Rahm could help with that.)

The Taxation of Smoke Inhalation!

Roland S. Martin – CNN

Roland Martin says that a bigger cigarette tax is a good idea that will discourage an unhealthy practice.

We all have our vices. But one that drives me nuts is smoking.

There is nothing — NOTHING! — that I like about smoking.

Why someone in their right mind would want to essentially inhale fire is beyond me.

When relatives come to my home and they smoke, they can’t just stand outside the front or back door. No, I send them to the furthest point in the backyard to get their nicotine fix.

I celebrate when cities pass smoking bans because the only smoke I want in a restaurant should come from a hot, juicy steak. If I’m walking down the street, and the person in front of me is leaving their trail of smoke, I’ll happily speed up to get past them or publicly wave the smoke out of the way when walking by them to show my disapproval. And it angers me to drive down the street and look over to the next car and see a mom or dad puffing away as a helpless child has to sit there and inhale that junk.

So don’t think for a second that you’ll find any sympathy from me for the folks who are up in arms over the federal tobacco tax on a pack of cigarettes jumping from 39 cents to a buck and a penny. The money will be used for the expansion of the president’s health initiatives.

Look, I don’t care if a Democrat, Republican, or independent was behind this tax, I would gladly see it happen.

The folks who are not happy are saying this is far too much taxation and it’s wrong, but we can’t deny the health reality. Cigarettes are unhealthy. Period. This isn’t up for argument or debate.

According to an Associated Press story, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says cigarette smoking results in an estimated 443,000 premature deaths each year, and costs the economy $193 billion in health care expenses and lost time from work. Smoking is a major contributor to heart disease, cancer and lung disease.”

But then those who don’t want to see it happen are bringing out the usual prop: the poor, poor people.

Critics say the tax will disproportionately hurt poor people. Fine! Did we somehow forget that poor people already are likely to be in poorer health because they are living in areas where there are food deserts, and that means lack of access to fresh fruits and vegetables?

Poor folks are likely to lack insurance, which means when they get sick, they will go to a city or county hospital, and taxpayers have to foot the bill. So their decision to buy cigarettes will probably hit us in the pocketbook later on.

Folks, poor people are always used by someone. And in this case, they are being trotted out so we can say, “Oh, this is so harsh because the poor will be hurt.”

Let’s face it: I don’t want poor, middle or rich folks smoking. I just think it’s disgusting. But if this tax will cause a lot of folks — poor or otherwise — to quit smoking and add a few years to their life, then I call that good legislation.

~ Any thoughts people?

What’s So Funny About Madea? Nothing. (Column from the Washington Post

 I would like to hear from people who both enjoy Madea as well as those who are offended or tired of him her.  Here is one man’s opinion.    

By Courtland Miloy

   Wednesday, February 25, 2009 

I went to see the Tyler Perry movie “Madea Goes to Jail,” in which Perry plays a wise-cracking black grandmother, Madea, short for “Mother Dear” and ebonically pronounced “muh deah.”

With an extensive criminal past that includes “supersize stripper,” attempted murderer and check fraud artist, Madea is a near-cult figure among many African Americans, especially women. Thanks in large part to them, Perry’s comedic creation debuted as the No. 1 movie in America over the weekend, raking in $41 million and 34 percent of the weekend moviegoing audience, according to box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations.

At the AMC Magic Johnson Capital Centre 12 in Landover, where Madea is being shown 14 times a day, I was hoping to get a clue as to why this man in drag is so popular. And with the movie featuring guest appearances by Whoopi Goldberg, Dr. Phil, Judge Mathis and Al Sharpton, perhaps I’d even get in a laugh or two.

Boy, was I wrong — on both counts.

All around me you could almost hear the funny bones cracking — deep guttural laughter coming not only from kids in the audience but from my peers in the AARP set, as well.

And there I sat, silently ranting: There is nothing funny about this black man in pantyhose. And where is all of this cross-dressing-black-man stuff coming from, anyway? First, comedians Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence star in high-grossing movies as the fattest, ugliest black women that Hollywood makeup artists can conjure up, and now here’s Perry with his gussied-up version of the same butt of the joke.

By the way, I don’t want to hear diddly about Robin Williams as Mrs. Doubtfire or Milton Berle in high heels. Having a black man play super mammy is not the same thing. Perhaps it would be were it not for America’s perverse, systemic and centuries-long efforts to humiliate African men and women and turn them into slaves.

The only good a Madea movie could possibly do would be to remind us that the scars of oppression are deep and enduring, often operating below the level of consciousness, then breaking out in the most bizarre manifestation of self-hate and self-sabotage, including pathetic images on the big screen.

Of course, Perry’s fans don’t see it that way. When I asked some women in the theater if they were at all uneasy about Perry in wigs, lipstick and rouge, they clucked tongues and rolled eyes in a manner that Madea her/himself would no doubt approve.

“Oh, please,” snapped Darlene Johnson, 51. “It’s just comedy.”

Yeah, and misogynistic gansta rap is just music.

Said Sheena Young, also 51: “He’s just multitasking. His initial budget didn’t allow for him to hire all the people he needed so he played them himself. It’s awesome.”

I’m not taking away anything from the 39-year-old Perry’s resourcefulness and ingenuity.. He pulled himself up by the bootstraps from a low-income household in New Orleans, started writing and putting on stage plays about Madea (supposedly a composite of women in his life) and went on to become one of the most successful filmmakers in America.

He has a beautiful home and his own studios in Atlanta. He hires lots of young black actors and production personnel and makes considerable contributions to worthy causes.

He is awesome.

It’s just that his movies are awful.

Here’s a typical scene:

Madea’s brother, Uncle Joe, also played by Perry, is a crusty old coot who breathes with the aid of an oxygen tank while smoking marijuana throughout the movie (he even wears a bong around his neck). Madea, ever the boss woman, scolds him mercilessly about the dangers of mixing fire and oxygen. And — here’s where the audience howls — as Madea waddles past, her behind wide as a doorway, Uncle Joe cracks: “King Kong ain’t got nothing on her.”

How’d you like to see that on a movie marquee: Madea the black woman as King Kong? That’s about as funny, say, as a dead monkey cartoon from the New York Post?

It’s not a sign of respect but one of disdain to portray black women as some updated Jemima (that’s what a white character in the movie calls her) from the antebellum South. Sure, all of Perry’s fans claim to know someone like Madea. But in truth, we know nothing — only that she is aging and irrationally angry, existing to clean up everybody’s else’s mess, a linebacker of a house servant whose unmet emotional needs remain a mystery even to the great Dr. Phil himself.

We may laugh at her, but the joke is on us.

The College of Contentment – Allistar Begg

I get email notices from this minister everyday.   This is one I will share. 

For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.
— Philippians 4:11

These words show us that contentment is not a natural propensity of
man. Weeds grow easily. Covetousness, discontent, and murmuring are as
natural to man as thorns are to the soil. We do not need to sow
thistles and brambles; they come up naturally enough, because they are
indigenous to earth. And so we do not need to teach men to complain;
they complain fast enough without any education.

But the precious things of the earth must be cultivated. In order to
have wheat, we must plow and sow; if we want flowers, there must be
the garden, and all the gardener’s care.

Now, contentment is one of the flowers of heaven, and if we would have
it, it must be cultivated; it will not grow in us by nature. It is the
new nature alone that can produce it, and even then we must be
specially careful and watchful that we maintain and cultivate the
grace that God has sown in us. Paul says, “I have learned . . . to be
content,” as much as to say he did not know how at one time. It cost
him some pains to discover that great truth. No doubt he sometimes
thought he had learned, and then broke down. And when at last he had
attained to it and could say, “I have learned in whatsoever situation
I am to be content,” he was an old, gray-headed man, upon the borders
of the grave–a poor prisoner shut up in Nero’s dungeon at Rome.

We might well be willing to endure Paul’s infirmities and share the
cold dungeon with him, if we also might by some means attain to his
good stature. Do not indulge the notion that you can be contented with
learning or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be
exercised naturally but a science to be acquired gradually. We know
this from experience. Christian, hush that murmur, even though it is
natural, and continue as a diligent pupil in the College of
Contentment.

Valentines Day… Romance or Rip Off

What do ya’ll think?  Here is one man’s opinion, Roland Martin from CNN.

Commentary: Don’t be my Valentine

Roland S. Martin says he doesn't buy all the hype associated with Valentine's Day.

By Roland Martin
CNN Contributor

Editor’s note: A nationally syndicated columnist, Roland S. Martin is the author of “Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith” and “Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America.” Visit his Web site for more information.

(CNN) — With retailers hurting and the U.S. president trying to encourage Americans to spend money to restore consumer confidence, what I’m about to say may seem like treason. But here goes: Please boycott Valentine’s Day and all that is associated with this horrendous “holiday.”

For several years I have ripped into Valentine’s Day. Not because I’m against love and relationships, but mainly because the holiday is such a farce.

First of all, Valentine’s Day is not built around a religious event like Christmas or Easter; nor does it have any special meaning to the nation such as Memorial Day or Veterans Day.

It is nothing more than a commercial holiday created by rabid retailers who needed a major shopping day between Christmas and Easter in order to give people a reason to spend money.

Now folks, I love my wife. She is truly an awesome woman who is smart, talented, fine, and, did I say fine? But do I really need a special day to show my affection for her?

I’ve long maintained that if I sent my flowers at other times during the year, why do I have to fall victim to peer pressure and send her some roses that have quadrupled in price leading up to February 14?

Why should I be inundated with mailings, e-mails and commercials to show her that I love her by buying jewelry or clothing? If we went shopping in June or September or last month, can I get some kind of waiver or “Get out of Valentine’s Day” card?

As for this silly flower thing, it’s even got to the point that any flowers can’t do. Some years ago I planned on sending a woman some flowers that weren’t roses, and the (female) co-workers were aghast. They felt that nothing mattered except roses.

First of all, I didn’t have a lot of dough and felt a nice bouquet was sufficient, but they were appalled. So I told them to go to hell and I’ll do what I want. I guess for them, the thought really doesn’t matter.

Then there are the women on the job who measure the love of their men based on those flowers. You know how some folks are. If there are flowers on the desk of 10 other women, and one woman doesn’t have anything, folks get to talking and whispering as if something is wrong in her relationship.

I’ve learned that even if you get the biggest-ever rose bouquet — the relationship might be crumbling and you just refuse to admit it.

And Valentine’s Day really isn’t even a two-way street. Men are utterly irrelevant except to serve as pawns in this commercial game, emptying their wallets in order to satisfy their lovers or those around them. Oh yea, retailers know the con game.

Most of these guys are hapless saps who have ignored their wives or girlfriends all year, so they buy the flowers and candy, and set a reservation at one of the city’s most expensive restaurants, all to say, “Honey, I love you.”

Ladies, and men, stop it! It’s time to say enough is enough with Valentine’s Day.

What do I want? How about men and women loving, caring and sharing the other 364 days a year? February 14 isn’t the only time to send flowers to your woman (ladies, we wouldn’t mind getting a surprise delivery as well!). How about dropping her a flower arrangement on May 14? And on that card you need to write, “Just because…”

Instead of men and women spicing up their sex life on February 14, make the effort to satisfy your mate the rest of the year.

If last Valentine’s Day was the last time you took your significant other out to a really nice restaurant, you deserve to be in trouble.

Are you planning to treat your man or woman to a wonderful day at the spa this Saturday? Well, I’m sure he or she would thoroughly enjoy the same in June or July.

It’s time that we all take stock of our relationships and learn that we are to be loving and fulfilled 365 days a year, and not reduce our affection to flowers, candy, jewelry, clothes and a meal on one day a year.

The people who plan their lives around Valentine’s are like those who spend more time planning their wedding day rather than planning their marriage. The day is nice and wonderful, but what makes it last is what you do on the “non-special” days.

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