kos, Daily Kos: The hatemongers aren't happy.
Huckabee, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, and Lou Engle (pictured), the leader of The Call, a young adult movement, plan to hold a news conference Friday calling on Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to spend more time talking about issues that matter to evangelical voters.The press conference will be followed by a day of fasting and prayer on the national mall organized by The Call. Engle said thousands of evangelicals from across the country are expected to attend.The event will take place Aug. 16, the same day McCain and Obama will make their first joint general election campaign appearance. The presidential contenders will share the stage for a few minutes at a forum at Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., the 20,000-strong mega-church of Rick Warren. Warren is a pastor and the best-selling author of The Purpose-Driven Life.Warren will interview each candidate for an hour separately, but the two will appear on stage for a few minutes together. The topic will be "compassion and leadership."Engle admits that the press conference and rally on the mall are designed to counter the Warren candidate interviews, which he predicted would be more politically correct and focus more on "what the church is for rather than what it is against."Engle, a vehement opponent of abortion rights, said the goal of the rally on the mall is to "drive the issue of abortion like a wedge into the soul of the nation."
Rick Warren founded his church in 1980 from zero, and it now numbers 22,000. His book, The Purpose Driven Life, has sold 30 million copies, in English alone. It is considered the best-selling hardcover book. Ever.
But this is what scares the hate-based evangelical movement:
If "2.3 billion people in the world claim to be followers of Jesus," then why not take the next step and mobilize those people to do important things, like stop poverty, improve literacy, feed the hungry, heal the sick? Conventional relief organizations are fine, but why not tap what Warren calls "the faith sector," the armies of motivated religious volunteers who are sick and tired of polarizing rhetoric and professional crusaders? "The old paradigm was, 'You pay, you pray, you get out of the way'," he explains, but in today's global and wired world, troops of caring volunteers can be deployed to communities in need with the push of a button. Such was the case on Christmas 2004, when Warren, awake and online at 4:30 a.m., received news of a massive underwater earthquake via e-mail from a pastor in Sri Lanka. Warren, who has an e-mail list of 200,000 pastors worldwide, notified churches in Thailand and Indonesia, that immediately mobilized volunteers to tsunami disaster sites. "It's universal distribution," he says, excitedly. "There's a church in every village in the world ... the potential sits there like a sleeping giant."
You don't have to be religious (and I'm clearly not) to get excited about a faith-based movement that is focused on service and charity, and that sees its mission as improving peoples' lives, rather than dividing them. There's a new generation of evangelicals who want to focus on issues like global warming and poverty, who are less interested in partisan politics than they are in pursuing an inclusive agenda to improve the world.
While Warren's church officially declares that homosexuality is a sin, it doesn't make a crusade out of the issue preferring to focus its efforts on AIDS relief. This is probably why religious gays have approached the church for dialogue. It's a more positive approach to religion than what we've seen from the Christian Right the past several decades. As Warren said in a Philly Inquirer piece now hidden behind a pay archive firewall:
"The New Testament says the church is the body of Christ, but for the last 100 years, the hands and feet have been amputated, and the church has just been a mouth. And mostly, it's been known for what it's against," Warren said during a break between services at his sprawling Orange County church campus."I'm so tired of Christians being known for what they're against." [...]"One of my goals is to take evangelicals back a century, to the 19th century," said Warren, 51, shifting painfully in his chair because of a back sprain suffered during an all-terrain-vehicle romp with his 20-year-old son, Matthew. "That was a time of muscular Christianity that cared about every aspect of life."Not just personal salvation, but social action. Abolishing slavery. Ending child labor. Winning the right for women to vote.
And perhaps most key is this:
"I'm worried that evangelicals be identified too much with one party or the other. When that happens, you lose your prophetic role of speaking truth to power," Warren said. "And you have to defend stupid things that leaders do.""Politics is always downstream from culture. I place less confidence in it than a lot of folks. I don't think that's the answer... Politics is not the right tool to change the culture."
Needless to say, this is all 100 percent opposed to the current Evangelical right wing, that has (pathetically) put all its faith in George W. Bush, that insists on injecting itself into the political process, that insists on defining itself based on who it hates and rejects, be it gays, or liberals, or people who have sex, or whatever.
Read that first blockquote above again. This isn't some left-wing spin. Engel admits it straight up:
Engle admits that the press conference and rally on the mall are designed to counter the Warren candidate interviews, which he predicted would be more politically correct and focus more on "what the church is for rather than what it is against."
These people thrive on division and wedge. And it burns them up that the presidential candidates -- including their Republican one -- are speaking to the "politically correct" Warren.
Engle, a vehement opponent of abortion rights, said the goal of the rally on the mall is to "drive the issue of abortion like a wedge into the soul of the nation."
The Christian Right has been trying to drive wedges for decades now. And if you're looking for why Rick Warren is on his meteoric rise while Southern Baptists bleed membership, look no further. Christians are rejecting the Engel/Perkins brand of religion for Warren's more uplifting and positive message of action and change.
So Engel and Perkins and Huckabee can have their little hate soiree in DC. The contrast between them and Warren will be all the starker.