Jewish Journal

Rick Warren to give prayer at Obama inauguration

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 17, 2008 | 5:33 pm

At this point, the Rev. Rick Warren should really just assume the title The New Billy Graham. During the past few years, he has clearly transitioned from being just a megachurch pastor to an international evangelist, crusading for Christ and social justice in America and Africa. His “Purpose-Driven Life” is, I think, second in total sales to one book: the Bible.

Today we learn that Warren spring-boarded from this summer’s faith forum, hosted at Saddleback Church, to delivering the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration Jan. 20. Obama will be the first president since Harry Truman to

have someone other than Graham do the honors

not have a close relationship with Graham.

I’m not sure this will even register with conservatives and evangelicals; I’ve never before put any weight in the prayer given at the president’s inauguration. If I did, I’d really have to wonder what Graham said wrong at both of Bush’s. But if musings at The Reality-Based Community are any indication, liberals aren’t happy:

Can’t we have Jeremiah Wright instead?

In the above video, which I was already planning to post today before the inauguration news, Warren talks with Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman about gay marriage, torture and his dark nights with God.

Christianity Today has something of a synopsis of the interview. It’s after the jump:

Most Likely to Infuriate Liberals:


  • Gay marriage is morally equivalent to allowing brothers and sisters to marry.  Watch.

  • He opposes torture but didn’t try to convince President Bush to change course because “I never had the opportunity.”  Watch.

  • A possibly veiled slap at Islam: “He could have made us all puppets. ... He could have put us on strings and we’d pray five times a day and we’d have no choice.” Watch.

  • “Abortion reduction” efforts are mostly a “charade.”  Watch.

  • His historical argument that “social gospel” Protestantism was “just Marxism in Christian clothing” and that “the mainline [Protestants] died.” Watch.

Most Likely to Infuriate Conservatives:


  • He supports partnership rights for gays including insurance and visitation benefits. This appears to be a similar position to that which just prompted the resignation of a top official of the National Association of Evangelicals. Watch.

  • His declaration that it’s a “no brainer” that divorce is a bigger threat to the American family than gay marriage, and that Christian leaders focus on gay marriage instead because “we always love to talk about other people’s sins.” Watch.

  • Religious conservatives have misled people into thinking Christ’s message was primarily about conservative politics and that politics is the primary way to change culture. Watch.

  • The Bush administration seems to have engaged in torture, which he condemned.  Watch.

  • While condemning abortion as a Holocaust and abortion reduction as a “charade” he nonetheless said he would support those efforts, which he equated to Schindler’s list—a way of reducing the harm of an overall evil. Watch.

Most Likely to Titillate Theologians:


  • While your behavior doesn’t determine whether you get into heaven, it does determine what you do once you’re there.  Watch.

  • His statement that “I really don’t know” whether people who don’t know about Christ will be blocked entry into heaven.  Watch.

  • “God’s will is not done most of the time on earth. When people go, ‘oh, that hurricane must have been God’s will’ - baloney!”  Watch.

Most Likely to Inspire and Challenge:


  • The story of his daughter in law’s brain tumor and its surprising lesson the family learned. Watch.

  • His relentless commitment to awakening Americans to African poverty.  Watch.

  • His personal Christmas prayer. Watch.

  • His argument that the economic collapse comes from abandoning Biblical principles of thrift. Watch.

Moment I’d Most Like To Follow Up About:

Everyone will have their favorites. But for me the most interesting moment was after he described the gift of grace, and I then asked: “Why if he forgives us for murdering or raping would he not forgive us for not believing in Him?” He took his best shot, but I’m not sure he totally nailed it. Watch.

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