The emerging right-wing narrative coming out of Saturday’s faith forum at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church is John McCain won in a landslide. That is not particularly surprising – and neither is the fact that Religious Right leaders are now smitten with Rick Warren himself. As Catholic Online put it, “at the Saddleback Forum, Pastor Rick Warren and Senator John McCain both took the Gold” and that seems to be a view widely shared by others on the right as well, such as FRC’s Tony Perkins:
Warren, who was urged to ask some weighty values questions, did not disappoint and drew some stark contrasts between the candidates on key issues …After the forum, I gave some of my perspective as part of CNN’s pre- and post-panel discussion from Washington. As I saw it, there were two winners-Sen. John McCain and Pastor Rick Warren …As for Pastor Warren, who has been called the Billy Graham of this generation, he asked the right questions. Some have implied that Pastor Warren with his non-confrontational style is evidence that Evangelicals are moving to the Left. I would suggest he is evidence that Evangelicals are more involved and more committed than they were 25 or 30 years ago. If he is the new Billy Graham, and he certainly has similar favor with elected leaders of all political persuasions, there is a big contrast. Pastor Warren showed Saturday night that you can have a personal relationship with those in positions of power and still ask the hard questions.
While the Right was initially nervous that Warren and his forum were being “influenced by some socialist-minded people who claim to be evangelicals,” it turned out that they had nothing to worry about since Warren focused on all the social issues that they care about. And that was to be expected considering that Warren clearly shares their concerns as demonstrated by this email he sent out to his congregation just before the 2004 election – an email that, if you didn’t know better, you’d assume was sent out by someone like James Dobson or Jerry Falwell:
Dear Saddleback Church family,
Tuesday, November 2nd, will be one of the most important elections Americans have had in 50 years. How could that be?
Because up to four of the Supreme Court Justices will likely retire during the next presidential term and their replacements will be selected by whomever is the next president. These new judges will affect the future of America for at least the next 40 years. It would be difficult to overestimate the impact that these judges will have on our lives, our families, our culture, and the direction of this nation.
Presidents serve for only 4 years, so they can only make a limited impact. But Supreme Court Justices serve for life, and they are the ones who decide on issues like abortion, gay marriages, human cloning, harvesting babies for stem-cell research, revoking the tax exemption of churches, removing “under God” from the flag pledge, and “in God we trust” from our money. In most ways, the Supreme Court has far more influence and impact on our day-to-day lives. This extremely important fact has been overlooked in most of the campaigning.
President Bush and Senator Kerry have VERY different opinions about the type of people who should become Supreme Court Justices. They could not have more opposite views about these matters. Either man will shape the court in very different ways.
If the members of our congregation fail to vote on Tuesday, we are actually surrendering our responsibility to choose the direction of our country for the next 40 years. If we do not vote, we have no right to criticize or complain when unbiblical decisions are made by the court in the decades ahead.
Over the past several months at Saddleback, we’ve been urging our members each week to register to vote. We even arranged to have a voter registration booth set up on our church patio because we believe it’s that important that every Christian citizen exercises his or her right to vote for those who will govern us.
During the last presidential election in the United States, there were about 4 million Christians who weren’t even registered to vote! To me, that is inexcusable when you consider what the Bible says about our responsibility as citizens and when you consider the many, many men and women who’ve given their lives to provide and protect our freedom to vote.
The U.S. election of 2000 was a clear reminder that every vote counts and that every voter has a duty to be involved. As church leaders, we know our congregations are not allowed to endorse specific candidates, and it’s important for us to recognize that there can be multiple opinions among Bible-believing Christians when it comes to debatable issues such as the economy, social programs, social security, and the war in Iraq.
But for those of us who accept the Bible as God’s Word and know that God has a unique, sovereign purpose for every life, I believe there are 5 issues that are non-negotiable. To me, they’re not even debatable because God’s Word is clear on these issues. In order to live a purpose-driven life – to affirm what God has clearly stated about his purpose for every person he creates – we must take a stand by finding out what the candidates believe about these five issues, and then vote accordingly.
Here are five questions to ask when considering who to vote for in this election:
1. What does each candidate believe about abortion and protecting the lives of unborn children?
2. What does each candidate believe about using unborn babies for stem-cell harvesting?
3. What does each candidate believe about homosexual marriage?
4. What does each candidate believe about human cloning?
5. What does each candidate believe about euthanasia – the killing of elderly and invalids?
Please, please do not forfeit your responsibility on these crucial issues! This election REALLY counts more than most others have.
Be sure to vote, and be sure to encourage every Christian you know to vote on Tuesday. If you are able to vote early, do so. Then ask all your Christian friends on Tuesday “Have you voted yet?” and pray for godly leaders to be elected.
Pastor Rick Warren