Rick Warren on His Saddleback Summit with McCain and Obama
The Purpose-Driven pastor assesses the nominees' performances, knocks Democratic faith outreach, and denies McCain had a leg up.
It all depends on the hierarchy of their worldview of what matters most to them. My gut reaction when it was over was that Obama will pick up probably some younger votes and McCain will probably pick up some older votes, and it might come down to which group winds up showing up at the polls.
The Democrats recently added language to their party platform that they say is aimed at reducing demand for abortion. Does it represent a significant step toward a pro-life position?
It is a step, there's no doubt about that. I've been getting a lot of feedback on it. I was out of the country, and people starting writing me about it. The general perception was: too little too late--window dressing. I'm not saying I would say this, because I haven't even read it, but what I was hearing form people was that [Democrats] were saying "It's OK to be pro-life and be a Democrat now." In other words, "You can join us. We're not changing our firm commitment to Roe v. Wade, but you can now join us." Well, for a person who thinks that abortion is taking a life, I'm sure that's not going to be very satisfactory to most of those people. And to put it in right at the last minute at the end of a campaign, there was some question about that: Why are they doing this?
When you asked Obama about when life begins, he punted, saying "It’s above my pay grade." Should someone running for the highest office in the land have a clear answer to that, or is that kind of ambivalence acceptable?
No. I think he needed to be more specific on that. I happen to disagree with Barack on that. Like I said, he's a friend. But to me, I would not want to die and get before God one day and go, "Oh, sorry, I didn't take the time to figure out" because if I was wrong, then it had severe implications for my leadership if I had the ability to do something about it. He should either say, "No, scientifically, I do not believe it's a human being until X" or whatever it is or say, "Yes, I believe it is a human being at X point," whether it's conception or anything else. But to just say "I don't know" on the most divisive issue in America is not a clear enough answer for me.
That's why to say that evangelicals are a monolith is a myth, but the other thing is that you've been hearing a lot of the press talk about "Well, evangelicals are changing, they're now interested in poverty and disease and illiteracy, and all the stuff I've been talking about for five years now." And I have been seeding that into the evangelical movement and it's getting picked up, and a lot of people are talking about doing humanitarian efforts.
But I really think it's wishful thinking by a lot of people who think [evangelicals] are going to drop the other issues. They're not leaving pro-life, I'm just trying to expand the agenda. And I've moved from pro-life to whole life, which means I don't just care about that baby girl before she's born, I care about it after she's born. I care about whether she's born into poverty. I care about whether she's born with AIDS because her mother had it. I care about whether she's a crack baby. I care about whether she's going to have an education.
If an evangelical really believes that the Bible is literal—in other word in Psalm 139 God says "I formed you in your mother's womb and before you were born I planned every day of your life," if they believe that's literally true, then they can't just walk away from that. They can add other issues, but they can't walk away from the belief that at conception God planned that child and to abort it would be to short circuit the purpose.
It sounds like it would be unconscionable for an evangelical to vote for a pro-choice candidate like Obama.
All I can say is you’ll see what happens. This is why there's a difference between simply talking the lingo….After the 2004 election the Democratic pundits were saying, "The Democrats lost in '04 because they didn't talk the language of faith." And actually that's kind of, not paternalistic, but it's talking down. It's basically saying, "If you just get the right words, then they'll think you’ve got the lingo." And just because a person can say God and Jesus and salvation and whatever doesn't mean they have a worldview. And people want to know what do they believe, not just their personal faith. It's just like how many different beliefs do Jews and Christians have and still call themselves Christians or Jews? It's all over the spectrum.
Some Obama supporters are claiming that McCain saw the questions before the forum began, giving him a leg up on Obama.
They're dead wrong. That's just sour grapes. They both did fantastically well. The only question he knew--I gave them the first question, and I was changing the questions within an hour [before the forum began]. I talked to both of them a week before the debate and told them all the themes. I talked personally to John McCain and I talked personally to Barack Obama. I said, "We'll talk about leadership, talk about the roles of government," I said I'd probably have a question about climate change, probably a question on the courts. I didn’t say, "I'm going to ask which Supreme Court justice would you not [nominate]." They were clearly not prepared for that.
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