Remember 2008 when Barack Obama and John McCain had to appear before the mighty arbiter, Rick Warren, to display their religious cred before the nation? Liberals said, “Don’t do it!” We recognized that Rick Warren was a bigot and about as partisan in his views as you can be. But Obama went. Apparently, at the time, he thought he could get a fair break from religious conservatives. He has since learned how wrong he was.
There was supposed to be another forum this year. Rick Warren said it would take place. He would talk to Barack Obama and Mitt Romney about their religious beliefs. He announced it in a conference call back on July 16. “Warren said the forum will last two hours, with 5,000 tickets available which will be distributed via lottery. He said the 2008 forum was one of the highest-rated campaign events on television, drawing in more viewers than any of the debates.”
There is every evidence he fully expected to play his self-proclaimed role as arbiter again. But two days ago he canceled it. Out of the blue. It isn’t going to happen. Barack Obama will not, as Amy Sullivan referred to it last month at The New Republic, have to go into the lion’s den.
The question is why Rick Waren, whom CNN calls a “high-profile” pastor, canceled the event. Warren himself says it is because the campaign has become too uncivil. But Fox News reported that in his conference call just a month earlier, Warren had “explained that the purpose of the forum is “to promote social civility so that people with major disagreements (can) talk without beating each other up.”
Isn’t when things are at their most uncivil the best time to promote civility? What conclusion are we to draw from this, that Warren felt his own ability to spread harmony was unequal to the task? That’s not very Jesus-like. Where’s his faith?
“It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day,” Warren told the Orange County Register Wednesday.
Oh, so he is concerned about promoting hypocrisy on the part of the candidates? Isn’t that up to them? After all, I didn’t notice any lessening of tension between Obama and McCain campaigns in 2008 after talking to the mighty arbiter.
He told the Orange County Register, “I’ve never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don’t expect that tone to change before the election.”
This from the guy who once compared gay marriage to pedophilia, incest and polygamy. The guy who says gay people are immature because they can’t control their impulses. The guy who said gay marriage is wrong “because God said so,” end of discussion. Back in 2008, reports HuffPo, John Aravosis of Americablog noticed … that Rick Warren’s church website explicitly bans gay people ”unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle” from membership at Saddleback.
Then he removed it. He has tried to pretend he doesn’t hate gay people, that nobody can accuse him of that.
Mean-spirited and dishonest – Rick Warren ought to know something about that. But look, Warren’s excuse fooled nobody. So what’s really going on?
The answer seems simple enough: Apparently the real reason Warren canceled this year’s extravaganza was because neither campaign was interested in attending. Nobody – neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney – was planning to show up.
Rick Warren’s sin was that he just assumed they’d jump at the chance.
As Amy Sullivan of The New Republic puts it, Rick Warren canceled because of his ” increasing irrelevance.” According to Amy Sullivan:
Despite Warren’s efforts to make it seem as if he was selflessly cancelling an appearance with both presidential candidates in order to avoid contributing to a toxic political climate, the evidence strongly suggests that there wasn’t any Saddleback forum this time to cancel. The Associated Press reported this morning that neither campaign was planning on attending any event at Saddleback. Saddleback’s own events calendar does not list any candidate forum. (And lest you think a listing was removed when the forum was “cancelled,” the calendar does note that the cross-training fitness class originally scheduled for today has been cancelled.)
How far the mighty have fallen!
Well, if you want to make yourself relevant again, and you’re a conservative Christian bigot, what do you do? You seize upon “religious freedom.”
And that’s exactly what Rick Warren is going to do. Instead of discussing personal religious views with the candidates, Warren says he will host a “civil forum” on ” civil freedom” in September. “The event will include national voices from varying faith-based groups.”
It’s hardly surprising neither Obama, who has nothing to gain at this point by going before Rick Warren, or Mitt Romney, a Mormon, would have any interest in appearing before Warren at Saddleback. They have both been lambasted for months by conservative Protestants regarding their religious beliefs; both, to one degree or another, have failed the unwritten religious test forbidden by the Constitution.
Nor is it surprising that a well-established bigot like Rick Warren would jump on the religious freedom bandwagon. Why pretend to be civil (not really his thing) when he can let all that bigotry hang out? Look what he had to say to the Orange County Register:
“It is the crumbling of our constitution’s first guaranteed freedom: the freedom of religion. This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America’s future. People have forgotten that America was founded by people who came here to escape religious persecution. Freedom of religion is the first freedom mentioned in the Bill of Rights – before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and every other freedom.
“And yet today, at the city, the state, and the federal levels, government bureaucrats are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions, and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals, and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean “You are free to believe anything at your place of worship but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere.”
Classic. See, he has the lingo down. He’ll be a winner at this gig. The people he is going to attract may even care what he has to say. I mean, even while trying to sound inclusive, Warren expresses the strong nature of his monotheistic exclusivity:
“I have invited the leading Catholic voice in America, the leading Jewish voice in America, and the leading Muslim voice in America to join me. We obviously have different beliefs, but we are all “neighbors” in the national sense and the scriptures command us to “love your neighbor as yourself.” But one thing we all have in common is the mutual concern for protecting religious freedom for everyone. We intend to speak out for each other. “
So…Catholics, Jews…Muslims. That’s it? That’s your idea of religious diversity in America? Really, Rick? And the thing about “loving” your neighbor as yourself? How much has that been in evidence, even in Rick Warren? Not so much. And isn’t it Rick Warren’s own bunch, his prospective audience, who are the ones trying to take religious freedom away from Muslims? It’s not liberals – they’re the ones defending Islam from attack.
Rick Warren’s world is as imaginary as David Barton’s.
It’s no wonder he’s irrelevant on the national stage. Maybe they should hold hands as they step off the precipice into oblivion.
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.