From Warren’s lips to Muslims’ ears

Rick Warren bolstered his non-extremist bonafides this past weekend by preaching interfaith action to a group of 8000 Muslims.  The problems that he proposed tackling together include what he called “the five global giants” — war, poverty, corruption, disease, and illiteracy.

This list recalls the “common enemies of man” that JFK lamented in his 1961 inaugural address: “tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.”  Warren kept most of JFK’s checklist but removed tyranny and added corruption and illiteracy.  (Might we surmise that Warren is OK with dictatorships as long as they’re honest and well-read?)

Be that as it may, Warren’s talk continued his recent trend of distancing himself from the far right-wing of the evangelical movement, which tends to recoil at interfaith collaboration on the grounds that it tacitly approves of the existence of non-Christian religions.  Warren, however, seems to have other priorities — including, you know, helping people.  And the fact that he is now probably the leading evangelical voice in America signals that the old religious right has lost much of the sway it once had.

Now don’t get me wrong.  Warren is no liberal, either religiously or politically.  He’s a biblical literalist who strongly opposes abortion rights, gay marriage, and the rest.  But progressives who insist he’s nothing but a raging righty are guilty of a common fallacy: that you’re no more progressive than your most conservative positions.  The fact is that Warren has earned no small amount of centrist evangelical cred over the past few years.  He has worked persistently on AIDS and poverty in Africa.  He has refrained from engaging in harsh and divisive rhetoric to stir up the right.  And he has repeatedly given a platform to Barack Obama and stayed neutral in last year’s presidential race.  If that doesn’t put him in a different category than Tony Perkins and James Dobson, what good are the categories?

Here’s how Warren himself put it in his weekend speech to Muslims: “You know as an evangelical pastor, my deepest faith is in Jesus Christ.  But you also need to know that I am committed not just to what I call the good news, but I am committed to the common good.”

Fair enough.  And if the evangelical movement continues to move in this direction, the state (and perception) of American religion could be in a very different place a generation from now.

Jesse Lava also blogs at jesselava.com.

2 Comments

  1. zdenny
    July 6, 2009

    Your right on target with this!! Keep it up. The common good is the good news so I guess his priorities are a little messed up…Nice play on words though…

    Please send me a friend request on FACEBOOK so that I can get your new post on my page. Just post a link to your facebook so I will see the updates after we are friends. You will get a lot more visits to your post too…Thanks

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  2. Jesse Lava
    July 6, 2009

    Hi Zdenny. Please feel free to look us up and become a fan of our Facebook page. (Our page doesn’t allow for friends, per se. It’s fans instead.) You’ll see our stories in your feed.

 
 

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