Nov. 29: Update appended.
When it was recently announced that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Illinois) would speak at a global AIDS conference at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, radio talker Kevin McCullough was quick to denounce the partnership between the “evil” young senator and Warren, author of the best-selling “Purpose-Driven Life”:
In doing so he has joined himself with one of the smoothest politicians of our times, and also one whose wickedness in worldview contradicts nearly every tenant of the Christian faith that Warren professes.
So the question is, “why?”
Why would Warren marry the moral equivalency of his pulpit – a sacred place of honor in evangelical tradition – to the inhumane, sick, and sinister evil that Obama has worked for as a legislator?
According to McCullough, what makes Obama “a man who represents the views of Satan at worst or progressive anti-God liberals at best” is his position on abortion and his support of “the radical homosexual activist lobby.”
Obama, who in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention famously called for political ecumenism, will appear with far-right Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) to be tested for HIV on stage. But the spirit of bipartisanship in approaching issues, like AIDS, that cross the ideological divide is not enough to tamper the Right’s political efforts. Perhaps hoping to preempt a future presidential bid by Obama, right-wing leaders are coming out unusually strong against the AIDS Day appearance.
Today, McCullough released a press release signed by an impressive roster of right-wing figures, including Phyllis Schlafly, Tim Wildmon of the America Family Association, Judie Brown of the American Life League, Janet Folger, Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League, Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth, and representatives of Operation Rescue, Christian Action for the Preborn, and Missionaries to the Preborn. According to the release,
In the strongest possible terms, we oppose Rick Warren’s decision to ignore Senator Obama’s clear pro-death stance and invite him to Saddleback Church anyway. If Senator Obama cannot defend the most helpless citizens in our country, he has nothing to say to the AIDS crisis. You cannot fight one evil while justifying another. The evangelical church can provide no genuine help for those who suffer from AIDS if those involved do not first have their ethic of life firmly rooted in the Word of God. Accordingly, we call on Pastor Rick Warren to rescind his invitation to Senator Obama immediately. The millions of silent victims who have died because of the policies of leaders like Senator Obama demand a response from those who believe that life is a gift from God. The name of the seminar at which Senator Obama will be appearing is entitled, “We Must Work Together.” No, Mr. Warren, Mr. Obama, we will never work with those can support the murder of babies in the womb.
Also today, Rev. Rob Schenck of the National Clergy Council announced, “Senator Obama’s policies represent the antithesis of biblical ethics and morality, not to mention supreme American values.”
And finally, Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition said today,
Having Senator Barack Obama speak on issues of social justice is like having a segregationist speak on civil rights. Mr. Obama supports partial-birth abortion and has voted against bills prohibiting taxpayers paying for abortion. It is hypocritical at best for him to speak out against the horror of AIDS on children and then support abortion which has killed 50,000,000 children in America alone.
Pastor Rick Warren, who is one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the world, should realize the terrible signal he is sending by inviting a speaker who tramples on the historic teachings of Christianity and the Bible. It is clear Rick Warren would never have a racist or sexist speak at his church concerning any topic. In light of that fact, why would he feature a speaker who supports violence against women and children?
Obama has also been noted for his efforts to reclaim religion’s place in politics from the Religious Right. At a time when religious voters are turning away from McCullough’s definition of abortion and homosexuality as “the greatest moral tests of our time,” and when conservative religious voters were willing to look elsewhere than the anointed party on Election Day, perhaps these Religious Right activists are reacting more out of an attempt to salvage their influence than any objection to working across the aisle against the AIDS pandemic.
UPDATE, Nov. 29: Saddleback Church responds in a statement. According to the church, the goal of the conference is “to put people together who normally won’t even speak to each other.”: “We do not expect all participants in the Summit discussion to agree with all of our Evangelical beliefs. However, the HIV/AIDS pandemic cannot be fought by Evangelicals alone. It will take the cooperation of all – government, business, NGOs and the church. That is the purpose of this Summit.” Sen. Brownback echoed this sentiment, saying, “I think you are seeing the beginning of a great coming together on the left and right dealing with Africa.”