There's something sinister about Rick Warren. I can't quite nail it down, but the more I read about him, the less I feel ...safe. There are lies behind Warren waiting to be discovered and publicized, I think. His Purpose Driven framing of everything on earth is too manipulative, too formulaic, too pandering - to the masses. At the slightest bit of inquiry, of criticism, he changes positions. He's too canny about human nature to be steadfast in his philosophies: he counts on the American public's fascination with all things counterintuitive.
If we see a pastor who doesn't look like a pastor or a church that doesn't look like a church, we're hooked. We love to cheer people going against the mainstream and the norm.
Out of his element: terrible taste in shirts and ties.
We also love showmanship. Remember: in America, we've made a religion out of entertainment and an entertainment out of religion. Warren's ability to stage the two presidential candidates together for a "forum" was pure showmanship. And his timing for endorsing Prop 8 was calculated showmanship. He tries to appear apolitical and almost fearful of unduly swaying people's votes, but a vote for Prop 8 was not really a vote in a political contest; to Warrenites Prop 8 was not an ordinary proposition, but a moral mandate.
I started to distrust Warren when I saw pictures of him and his Saddleback Church "campus." Saddleback eschews spiritual inspiration supposedly because it is for the "unchurched." The main "worship center" looks like the basement of a federal building. He flaunts Hawaiian shirts (unchurched people are always put off by clerical garb of any sort) and wearing a tie is meant to shock people with the gravity of what he is about to say. I, however, only wind up recoiling from his bad taste (see photo).
Warren quotes Scripture, confident in the fact that most (unchurched) people don't read the Bible. His quotations, however, are frequently taken from as many as five different versions. His modus operandi is to be totally applicable to the story or situation regardless of any inconsistencies in style or meaning.
He presents his philosophies in the same way, confident that people are poor students of history: for example, he declares that marriage between one man and one woman has been the norm for all societies in the last 5,000 years (not true). His camouflage of "hipness" hides the fact that he is a devout Southern Baptist, adhering to dogma which is used as a weapon to defeat what the Convention considers "sin."
Then there is his Purpose Driven motto: "Whatever It Takes." He never really qualifies it nor does he refine it. To Warren, the end really does justify the means. And Warren's "end" is not Heaven, but world conversion: if you have to feed the world first, if you have to set up AIDS programs in Africa, if you have to lie, cheat and even... Conversion to Warren's precepts is paramount because Warren's precepts are God's precepts.
"Whatever It Takes."
I hope Rick Warren fails.