mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Rick Warren Does the Right Thing

In 2008, Pastor Rick Warren hosted a forum for both presidential candidates at his Saddleback Church. The event became one of the most popular and celebrated parts of that election.

Those looking for a repeat performance this year will be disappointed: Warren has just announced that he is cancelling this year’s forum because he believes the race is getting too dirty. The Orange County Register reports:

“We created the civil forums to promote civility and personal respect between people with major differences,” Warren said. “The forums are meant to be a place where people of goodwill can seriously disagree on significant issues without being disagreeable or resorting to personal attack and name-calling. But that is not the climate of today’s campaign. 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.

“It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day,” Warren added.

This is an interesting choice by the man who some considered Billy Graham’s successor as the most prominent Evangelical preacher in the U.S. Interesting, but not too surprising: for some time, Rick seems to have thought of himself as a pastor trying to build a church and ministry more than as someone seeking to be the national public face of one of America’s most important religious traditions.

If Warren were trying to be the Evangelical equivalent of a Pope, he would have run the forum almost no matter how nasty the race got. By avoiding the limelight rather than seeking it, he’s not only making a statement about the campaign.; he’s saying something about his personal purpose and sense of vocation.

A man who chooses principle over publicity (and there’s no doubt that the forum would have generated much more publicity than the cancellation announcement) is a rare thing in American life these days. While Via Meadia doesn’t share Warren’s full dismay about the campaign (it’s not that this one is great; it’s just that it isn’t markedly worse than some others we remember), we applaud his willingness to follow the voice of conscience. We hope others, in Saddleback and beyond, will be inspired to do likewise.

Features Icon
show comments
  • Luke Lea

    it’s not that this one is great; it’s just that it isn’t markedly worse than some others we remember. . .

    But this one isn’t over yet. What’s the dirtiest one you remember?

  • Luke Lea

    Citizen’s United is likely to make this one the dirtiest ever. We’ll see.

  • Kenny

    Rick Warren should have kept his nose out of it in 2008. Maybe he earned something since then.

  • thibaud

    Giggle. Mead’s been conned again, this time by Rick Warren’s transparently fraudulent attempt to disguise his irrelevance – to both campaigns – as somehow _his_ rejection of _them_ instead of vice-versa.

    So Rick Warren “did the right,” eh?

    How? You mean by canceling a non-event?

    Clue for Mead: Do you see an event listed on this Saddleback Church calendar?

    The “Cross Training Fitness” event scheduled for 8/23 is described as “CANCELLED.” So where is the candidate forum?

    Clue #2 for Mead: the non-event that was never scheduled, hence, not listed, hence not listed as “cancelled”, was rejected immediately by BOTH campaigns the moment that Warren first floated the idea.

    Clue #3: Both candidates moved forward with their plans to give detailed interviews on their religious views to the same serious, credible media outlet rather than to Saddleback Circus.

    That outlet is Cathedral Age,the official publication of the Washington National Cathedral. The interviews were published by Cathedral Age just before Warren shut down his own non-event. You can find them here:

    A gentle suggestion for Mr Mead and the Via Meadia crowd: take your fingers off the trigger and widen your reading base a bit.

    You’re making your blog into a laughingstock. You can do much better.

  • Corlyss

    I’m with Kenny. Additionally, I think 2008 was Warren’s bid to expand his pulpit’s visability.

  • Corlyss

    @ Luke

    “What’s the dirtiest one you remember?”

    Personally, or historically?

    IMO the nattering hoopla about “dirty campaigns” only exhibits the speakers’ massive historical ignorance.

    And while I’m at it, God Bless Citizens United for restoring a freedom that never should have been stipped from organizations in the first place! Let every interest have its say. Political speech is the most important speech a society can have.

  • WigWag

    Rick Warren, a man of principle; that’s a joke. I guess you can conclude that he’s a man of principle if your partial to self-aggrandizing bigoted hucksters.

    How exactly is the race between Obama and Romney any more dirty than the race between Obama and McCain?

    Obama’s decision to invite Warren to give the invocation at his inauguration was merely the first of many bad decisions. We already know that Warren is contemptuous of the desire of gay people to live like normal Americans. Given his animosities maybe he cancelled his forum because he couldn’t stand the idea of moderating a debate that included a member of the Church of Latter Day Saints.

    I wonder if Rick Warren thinks Romney is a Christian. Who do you suppose he thinks God finds more repugnant; practicing homosexuals or practicing Mormons? I suppose it’s both; after all, we all know where he is sure they are both going to end up.

  • John

    During the time of Jesus, the Romans accepted infanticide, levied exorbitant taxes against the Hebrews and practiced heinous forms of punishment. Yet Jesus never spoke out against these. His followers wanted to make Him and earthly king and He refused. When He had an audience with a king, He was silent.

    Jesus did not concern himself with politics or popularity. Rick Warren does.

  • JohnInMA

    Some of the ranting responses to this post prove one thing at least: Mixing politics and religion brings out some of the most passionate and at times near hysterical emotions, not to mention religious bias. It seems to be one of the few areas where anti-religious types and anti-Mormons (or fill in the blank religion) can get together and vent.

    Whether or not Rick Warren was and is sincere about his efforts, nothing he has said is wrong or provably false. But, boy, has it ever caused people to want to assign bad motives to him or question his integrity. It in enlightening to see how that level of anger and vitriol is applied to Warren who uttered words we have been reading and hearing for months from the political/media class, let alone the public at large. Somehow it is different because he is a pastor.

    Perhaps the statement that no good deed goes unpunished IS actually an age old truism.

  • thibaud

    #9 – Warren has told at least one lie for certain, and probably several others, in the course of this ludicrous attempt to spin this.

    In July Warren announced that his church had staged a public lottery for tickets to the forum, but there’s no evidence of this anywhere, not on his website or in any other public forum.

    Of course the big lie here is that there was ever an event to cancel. No such event had been created: no date, no agenda, no confirmation from either camp. In fact, the Romney people stated unequivocally that they told this clown that they had no interest in the hypothetical forum.

    For those who’d like some real insight into “Reverend Irrelevant” and his ludicrous attempts at spin, here’s religion expert Amy Sullivan’s dissection of this farce:


    “Yesterday, Warren declared that he was canceling this year’s candidate forum because the presidential campaign had become too uncivil. It was a ridiculous excuse and a transparent attempt to save face. In reality, there was no event to cancel.

    “The first sign that Warren has misjudged his influence should have been the fact that he never had a firm date for his forum…. By comparison, Warren only unveiled plans for the 2008 forum after weeks of intense negotiations with both sides and after getting commitments from both campaigns to participate. He also announced the scheduled date for the event….”

  • thibaud

    What is it about Mead and religious hucksterism?

    Why does his judgment go out the window whenever a transparent phony, be it an ambitious Orange County Elmer Gantry or a Kremlin thug, drapes his power grab in claims to be acting on behalf of Christian principle?

  • memomachine

    I see that Rick Warren has found something above his pay grade.

  • Vickie

    I am very disappointed in Pastor Warren. I think he should have the DEBATE this year more than 4 years ago. If Obama gets re-elected there will be no more AMERICA and that is a FACT!!. I have been watching TBN & Daystar and they have said there were thousands of Christians that did not vote last time. That is a SIN!! We have a right to vote as an AMERICAN and vote the way GOD wants us too. PRAY FOR AMERICA AND GOD BLESS AMERICA!!!!!!!!!!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service