Rick Warren Is No Billy Graham
By Star Parker
January 5, 2009

 

Last August I wrote a column critical of Rick Warren's decision to host a presidential candidate forum at his Saddleback Church.

My reasoning then was that America's crisis is moral ambiguity. I argued that Pastor Warren would only contribute to this ambiguity by hosting candidates with opposing views on issues such as abortion and homosexuality and presenting himself as a neutral moderator.

Only Barack Obama would gain, I felt, being showcased as an acceptable candidate by one of the nation's best known evangelical pastors. If John McCain had wanted to clarify his social conservative credentials, he didn't need to go to Rick Warren's church with Barack Obama to do it.

Evangelicals and other Christians listened as Rick Warren called Obama and McCain "friends" and "patriots" and watched as Warren winced no more than would have Larry King when Sen. Obama said it was above his "pay grade" to consider if and when an unborn child has human rights.

Evangelicals had already been hearing from Warren, and left-leaning pastors like Jim Wallis, that they should broaden their primary concerns beyond sex and abortion.

In retrospect, I cannot prove that I was right. But I think the evidence powerfully supports my claim.

Barack Obama picked up five percentage points of the evangelical vote over what John Kerry received in 2004. Those five percentage points amounted to about a third of Obama's winning vote margin over John McCain.

Sure, the Saddleback Forum alone does not explain this shift. But the legitimacy Obama gained that night certainly didn't hurt.

The largest shift was among 18-29 year old evangelicals. Obama got 32 percent of their vote -- double what John Kerry had gotten.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal after the forum, Warren was oblivious to the vulnerability of this group. The Journal reported, "... as for the notion that younger evangelicals are ready for rebellion against their parents' ideals, Mr. Warren cites polls showing that the younger evangelical generation is even more concerned about abortion than the older one." True. But this was only one part of the picture.

In 2007 the Pew Research Center reported that Republican identification among 18-29 year old white evangelicals had dropped from 55 percent in 2005 to 40 percent.

A survey done by Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that 26 percent of 18-29 year old evangelicals, compared to 9 percent of those over 30, support same-sex marriage.

Now President-elect Obama has invited Rick Warren to give the invocation at his inaugural. The NY Times calls this an "olive branch to conservative Christian evangelicals" and many now call Warren this era's Billy Graham.

An olive branch? Rick Warren helped get Obama elected and our President-Elect understands that there is still evangelical gold to be mined in the pastor from Saddleback Church.

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright can explain how Barack Obama uses pastors. Obama sat in his church for 20 years and used his words for the title of his best-selling book, then discarded him when he became a political liability.

Regarding the Billy Graham comparison, it challenges even the most creative imagination to picture the Rev. Graham's ever hosting a forum for political candidates.

In an interview, Barack Obama recalled a previous invitation to Saddleback Church. "...I was invited to Rick Warren's church to speak, despite his awareness that I held views that were entirely contrary to his when it came to gay and lesbian rights, when it came to issues like abortion." I doubt that Billy Graham would see this in the spirit of his own calling to bring the gospel to all who would listen.

Nor would I see the Rev. Graham signing onto the Evangelical Climate Initiative, as has Rick Warren. This gives Christian cover to the left to raise our energy costs to address still-unsubstantiated environmental claims.

But on global warming, Rick Warren and Barack Obama are on the same page. Perhaps these will be the first post-inaugural chips that our new president will call in.

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Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org). She can be reached at parker(at)urbancure.org.

 

Star Parker

Star Parker is the founder and president of CURE, the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education, a 501c3 non-profit think tank that provides a national voice of reason on issues of race and poverty in the media, inner city neighborhoods, and public policy.

Prior to her involvement in social activism, Star Parker was a single welfare mother in Los Angeles, California. After receiving Christ, Star returned to college, received a BS degree in marketing and launched an urban Christian magazine. The 1992 Los Angeles riots destroyed her business, yet served as a springboard for her focus on faith and market-based alternatives to empower the lives of the poor.

As a social policy consultant, Star Parker gives regular testimony before the United States Congress, and is a national expert on major television and radio shows across the country. Currently, Star is a regular commentator on CNN, MSNBC, and FOX News. She has debated Jesse Jackson on BET; fought for school choice on Larry King Live; and defended welfare reform on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

Star Parker's personal transformation from welfare fraud to conservative crusader has been chronicled by ABC's 20/20; Rush Limbaugh; Readers Digest; Dr. James Dobson; The 700 Club; Dr. George Grant; the Washington Times; Christianity Today; Charisma, and World Magazine. Articles and quotes by Star have appeared in major publications including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

Star has written three books, "Pimps, Whores, and Welfare Brats" (1996), "Uncle Sam's Plantation" (2003), and "White Ghetto" (2006), resides in Southern California.

Today, in addition to heading CURE, Star is a syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard News Service, offering weekly op-eds to more than 400 newspapers worldwide.