“Purpose-Driven Life” author Rick Warren, who supported President Bush on the eve of the 2004 election, now says pastors should not endorse political candidates.
“I don’t support anybody for president publicly,” the pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer July 22. “I never endorse. I never campaign.”
Warren made a similar comment in a July 25 interview with CNN anchor Campbell Brown.
“I don’t think it’s right for pastors to endorse in the first place,” he said. “I would never endorse a candidate. I would never campaign for a candidate.”
Warren’s recent comments, weeks before he is scheduled to moderate a joint forum with presumed presidential nominees Barack Obama and John McCain Aug. 16, contrast to an e-mail he sent to his pastors’ network nearly four years ago.
“Tuesday, Nov. 2, will be the most important election day U.S. citizens have faced in 50 years,” Warran wrote in a missive later carried by Baptist Press. That, he explained, is because during the next four years the president might nominate as many as four Supreme Court justices.
“President Bush and Senator Kerry have very different opinions about the type of people who should become Supreme Court justices,” Warren wrote. “They could not have more opposite views about these matters, and each man would shape the court in very different ways.”
From there Warren laid out “five issues that are non-negotiable” for “those of us who accept the Bible as God’s Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose in every life.” Those issues were abortion, stem-cell harvesting, gay marriage, cloning and euthanasia.
Warren reportedly told journalists earlier this year he now regrets that e-mail, not because he’s changed his mind about abortion and gay marriage but because his wife’s battle with cancer and the success of his book, which has sold more than 25 million copies, humbled him and led him to expand the list to include other issues like fighting AIDS and caring for the poor.
At the time, however, Warren said he didn’t consider the e-mail an endorsement.
“As you know, I don’t endorse candidates,” Warren said on PBS Nov. 3, 2004. “As I pointed out in my toolbox, which goes out to about 136,000 pastors, I said, you know, well-meaning believers, good believers can disagree on a lot of issues like Social Security, the war in Iraq, how terrorism is dealt with and things like that, but if you hold to the Bible as saying we do believe this Bible is actually God’s word, there are some issues that for me are non-negotiable, like euthanasia and like abortion and some things like that.”
Later Warren took credit for President Bush’s Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers, who withdrew after failing to win strong support for her confirmation from religious conservatives.
“I think it was for this very moment that we had the last election,” Warren said in 2005.
“It’s the reason I jumped in and mobilized, you know, our network, because it’s all about the court,” Warren said. “And I think for all of the reasons already mentioned Harriet’s a great choice. I mean she’s a great person, she’s a great woman, she’s a great Christian, she’s a great thinker, and I just throw my support behind her.”
Warren told the conservative Web site World Net Daily last year he is first and foremost an evangelist. “It’s what I care about,” he said. “I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about political correctness, I don’t care about what established groups want me to do. I care about getting people into heaven.”
Warren said he believes staying out of politics is what allowed him to land the first joint appearance by the Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2008 election.
“I took a lot of heat in the early years–earlier part of the primaries when people wanted me to bet on a particular horse,” he told CNN. “I think the wisdom of that has shown up, and now I’m going to get an opportunity to spend one hour asking questions of both of the final two guys. I think as a pastor, my role is to pastor all the flock regardless of their political persuasion. So I wouldn’t have wanted endorsements anyway.”
That hasn’t stopped Warren from inviting politicians to his church. Conservatives criticized him for inviting Democratic Sens. Obama and Hillary Clinton to speak at conferences at his church without rebuking their pro-choice positions on abortion.
In addition to his primary calling to preach the gospel, Warren cited three goals for the upcoming civil forum. They are “helping individuals accept responsibility, helping the Church regain credibility and encouraging our society to return to civility.”
Warren said on CNN he believes in the separation of church and state but not the separation of faith and politics.
“Faith is simply just a world view, and everybody’s got a world view,” he said. “A secularist has a world view. A humanist has a world view. A communist has a world view. A Buddhist has a world view. Christians have a world view. Everybody has some kind of world view. And the person who says, ‘Well, I’m going to put my faith or my world view on the shelf when I make decisions,’ is either, A: an idiot or B: lying, because you can’t do it.”
“We make our decisions based on our values, based on our world views,” he said. “So I think it’s entirely appropriate for America to say, not just, ‘What is your faith?’ whether it’s in Christ or someone else, but, ‘What is your world view?’ because that’s going to influence how we live in the next four years.”
Bob Allen is managing editor of EthicsDaily.com.