Monday, July 21, 2008

Presidential Politics & The Church

Rick Warren, author of the hugely popular "The Purpose Driven Life" and pastor of the influential Saddleback Church in California, has been stepping into the world of politics more and more lately. In an effort to encourage both his church, and the church as a whole, to be more involved in surrounding culture and society, he has established the P.E.A.C.E Plan. This plan is described as a "50 year strategy to mobilize millions of local churches around the world to address five global problems: spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy." Last November, the church hosted a Global Summit on AIDS and The Church at which Hillary Clinton gave an address, and the church is involved in numerous programs which encourage churches and members to address the problems they see throughout our society.

In another attempt to engage his flock, and other believers around the world, in this very important election, Saddleback will be the host of a Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion on August 16. Both John McCain and Barack Obama have accepted the invitation to speak at the event, and I will be extremely interested to see how this plays out. I certainly agree that the church needs to be more involved in helping to solve the problems that plague our society, and I realize that the church, as a whole, has not done enough to address these problems up to now. I also wish that our churches would become more involved in the political process. The more liberal mainstream denominations have been politically active for years, and I think it's high time the more orthodox believers stopped withdrawing from society and started changing it for The Kingdom.

I want to believe that Pastor Warren has the right intentions, I know that he wants to see the Gospel advanced, but he seems to be edging ever closer toward programs for social change, and developing the marketing scheme for his ministries, at the expense of preaching truth from Scripture. My concern is that this particular foray into presidential politics will end up like the AIDS forum back in November, at which Hillary Clinton received a standing ovation, and lavish praise from Rick Warren himself after presenting a speech that was at best an endorsement of the Social Gospel - which is no Gospel at all. This is the danger when a church begins to focus too much on social change, and not enough on the Gospel. We need to find a happy medium, but recognize that social change should come as a result of a saving knowledge of Christ, through a church that is focused on the Great Commission. I sincerely hope that Mr. Warren will engage Barack Obama and John McCain on the issues that concern Christian voters, including abortion, but I'm not optimistic. Pastor Warren has done a great deal in raising awareness about AIDS and poverty around the globe, but lately says very little about this particular plague, which claims the lives of over a million children every year IN THIS COUNTRY.

Back in 2004 Rick Warren openly encouraged other pastors and Christians to vote for George W. Bush, citing a number of issues that he deemed to be of extreme importance to believers, and claiming that "those of us who accept the Bible as God's Word" should get out the vote for Bush. This election, he seems to be trying to chart a more moderate course, and I can't understand his reasoning for this. Those issues haven't changed - they are still crucial to the direction of this nation - and the Biblical position on those issues remains the same as well. On August 17, the day after this Civil Forum, Pastor Warren will give a sermon entitled "Making Up Your Mind: Questions to Consider Before the Election." It will be very interesting to see what advice he gives to his flock after hearing what the candidates have to say.

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