Southern Religion

Fact-checking Rick Warren [Update: Got $2.4 million]

The Miracle is pastor Rick Warren’s characterization of a week that included an appeal for $900,000. There are unsubtle hints on the Saddleback Community Church Web site that the appeal was successful, as Warren’s staff told the Orange County (Calif.) Register (OCR) it would be.

Blog reaction ran from supportive to excoriating (1, 2, 3) and press coverage, beyond painstaking work by the OCR, was in general competent (1, 2, 3) if disinterested. Although parts of some reports were just wrong. All to be expected in reaction to public plea for funds by an internationally controversial figure.

It didn’t suit Warren, as he made clear in a twitter comment that was as silly as the worst of the blogs and news stories:

Ann,again media got it 100% wrong.Fact-checking is dead.I’ll share the miracle this wkend.09-our best yr yet-11records set!

Because Saddleback Community Church doesn’t and isn’t required to publish financial reports, though Warren is usually uncritically admired for his personal generosity, fact-checking Warren’s financial claims was problematic.

Given his self-contradiction in the Proposition 8 controversy and other dubious claims (1, 2) revealed when he could be fact-checked, Warren has every right now to expect skeptical reactions from journalists. With the help of Mark Silk, we have argued for the creation of a science of Warrenology to handle the big guy’s penchant for having things both ways.

Under the circumstances, Warren’s suggestion that “Fact-checking is dead,” sounds like wishful thinking.

Asked $900,000 -> Got $2.4 million

Success! The OCR reported:

In what Pastor Rick Warren called radical giving, Saddleback Church members not only heeded his call to quickly raise $900,000 but exceeded it by at least $1.5 million.

A packed church erupted today in applause and cheers when Warren made the announcement at the 4:30 p.m. service. By New Year’s Eve, church members brought $2.4 million to the church, a tally that does not include mailed donations, Warren said.

“This is pretty amazing,’ Warren exulted. “That’s a record. I don’t think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter.”

“We’re starting the new decade with a surplus,” he said. “It came from thousands of thousands of ordinary people. There was not one big fat cat.”

Read the entire story here.


January 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 1 Comment

Warrenology: A science?

Warrenology was invoked by Mark Silk of Spiritual Politics yesterday for another run at Rick Warren’s inauguration invocation.

He and Dan Gilgoff now agree with us that Pastor Warren’s ever so carefully inclusive prayer, wasn’t.

Until he actually stood to deliver at the inauguration, a great many of us thought Warren was a contender for the “America’s Pastor” role created by the Rev. Billy Graham. As Beliefnet’s Steven Waldman explained:

[Graham] pulled it off by using broadly inclusive language. In 1989 he referred just to “God” and in 1993 he declared: “I pray this in the name of the one that’s called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace.” Note, too, that he used the word “I” rather than “we,” which would have assumed all in the audience were Christian.

Warren, says Mark Silk, “wanted to have it both ways–gesturing at inclusivity while sacrificing nothing to exclusivity.”

It didn’t really work, and one scholar and friend of Warren’s has flatly called it “a mistake,” although Warren’s core audience on the evangelical right seems to have been well-pleased.

What were we to expect of a man given to inspirational references to Hitler youth, confusion of gays with pedophiles (and later denying that), support of condom-burning African regimes and other, similarly interesting views and involvements? All mined from his recent past, where it lay fresh and unfossilized.

Whatever Warrenologists may conclude about the big guy’s intentions and effects, he was never asked to audition for the role as “America’s pastor.” Not by a president who not only pulled an unprecedented range of American faith traditions into his inaugural festivities, but was also the first to acknowledge nonbelievers.

Ours is a more complex, democratic era than the one the elder Rev. Graham handled so well. Even if he is later invited to audition for the role, it may be beyond Warren to preside now as Graham did over his era.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | Cultural, Politics, Religion | , , , , | 1 Comment