Steven Waldman Interviews Rick Warren

Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church and author of "The Purpose of Christmas," spoke with Beliefnet Editor-in-Chief Steven Waldman at the offices of our partner, The Wall Street Journal.

Continued from page 11

Did you ever talk to President Bush to try to convince him to change his policy?

No. No.

Why not?

Never got the chance. I just didn’t. In fact, in the first place, I’m a pastor, and people might misunderstand – I don’t deal with policy issues with Barack Obama or President Clinton or John McCain. I just don’t. That’s not my role. My role is to pastor these guys. As a leader I understand stress.

And even when I disagree with positions they hold, they’ve got plenty of political advisors. They don’t need me to be a political advisor. I’m not a pundit. I’m not a politician and that’s why I don’t take sides. But I am a pastor. And I can deal with “how’s your family doing? How’s your stress level doing?”

But you said you did talk to Barack Obama about his position on abortion so why wouldn’t you have talked to Bush about torture?

I just didn’t have the opportunity. It’s actually when Barack, the first time I’d invited Barack-before he’d even decided to run-when I’d invited him to our AIDS conference and we came out and we were just sitting around and we were talking about different issues and that one came up. Actually, that’s not true, it even started before that. I was invited, before I invited Barack out, to speak to the Democratic Senate Caucus and it was Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer--all of these guys in the room. And Barack actually brought it up. And he said, “Hey Rick, let’s talk about the big elephant in the room.” And he said, ‘When we Democrats, we do stuff for the poor and we do stuff for the sick, we don’t get many letters about it. But when we vote to support abortion we get thousands and tens-of-thousands of letters. What’s the issue here?” And I had to say, “Well, let me just explain this. Almost everybody has a single issue that they care about. You know, it may be gay rights, it may be farm aid, it may be- everybody has some issue that they care about the most. And I said, “let me just go around the room.” I said, “Hillary, when you were growing up, you were probably a single issue voter because it was during the civil rights movement. And to me-uh, to you-a candidate could be right on everything else; foreign aid, jobs, economy, but if they were wrong on civil rights, there’s no way you were going to vote for them OK. That’s understandable.” And I went around the room and when I came to Chuck Schumer I said, “Chuck, how bad, if you had a candidate and he was right in EVERY SINGLE AREA that you agreed with but he’s a holocaust denier, there’s no way you’re gonna vote for a holocaust denier. That’s a single issue issue for you. And I said, “For these people who believe life begins at birth, alright--at conception--it’s an America holocaust. They believe that there’s 40million people who should be here. And to them that’s an issue.”

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