Rick Warren purpose driven calls abortion a holocaust

Nov. 29: Rick Warren,talks with David Gregory

MR. DAVID GREGORY: This Sunday, giving thanks and giving back. As we take a break from the rough and tumble world of politics here in Washington, we sit down with three very well-known Americans who are blessed with good fortune and who are using those fortunes to help those with far less.

His “Purpose Driven Life” has sold more copies than any other book in history other than the Bible, and he leads one of America’s largest congregations at his Saddleback Church in California. Pastor Rick Warren joins us for an exclusive discussion of faith and charity.

Then he’s the world’s richest man, founder of computer giant Microsoft. Together with his wife, Melinda, Bill Gates also runs the largest private charitable foundation in the world. They’re here exclusively to discuss their mission to improve global health and education.

But first, our focus on giving thanks and helping others during a tumultuous period in our country economically and politically. With us: pastor, best-selling author and no stranger to Washington Rick Warren.

Pastor Rick Warren, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.

MR. RICK WARREN: Good to be back. Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: And I will call you Pastor Rick, as I know you like to be called.

MR. WARREN: Yeah, just call me Rick. Just call me for dinner.

MR. GREGORY: What is testing the faith of Americans, do you think, as we approach this holiday season?

MR. WARREN: Well, no doubt about it, the economy, the, the war in Afghanistan; but also I just think the political divisions are a big deal, that the, the coarsening of our society, that we’re, we’re demonizing differences. Those things need to be dealt with.

MR. GREGORY: We think about Thanksgiving, we think about giving and being thankful for blessings.

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: You have talked about giving in your own life. You’ve acted on giving. You give.

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: And you say that it’s not a sin to be rich, but it’s a sin to die rich.

MR. WARREN: I believe that. That’s a personal conviction of mine. You know, thanks and giving go together. You, you can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. You spell love G-I-V-E. Probably the most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16, “God so loved the world that he gave his son.” The Bible says every good gift comes from God. We’re most like God when we’re giving, when we’re generous, because everything we have is a gift. And I’ve gone on this journey for many years. When Kay and I got married 35 years ago, we began the biblical practice of tithing 10 percent. Ten percent we would give away to help other people. At the end of our first year we raised it to 11 percent; at the end of our second year, raised it to 12; the end of our third year, raised it to 13. And each year–now, the Bible doesn’t tell you to do this. We were just–every time I give, it breaks the grip of materialism in my life. My heart grows bigger. And on years that things were financially tight and we didn’t have a lot of money, we’d still raise our giving maybe a quarter of a percent. And then when I’d get a raise or something, we’d raise it 4 or 5 percent. Well, now, after 35 years, we actually give away 90 percent and live on 10. And I play this game with God where God says, “Rick, you give to me and I’ll give to you and we’ll see who wins.” I’ve lost it for 35 years.

MR. GREGORY: But also in the Bible, in Deuteronomy it says, “Do not harden your heart and shut your hand against your impoverished brother.” But at a time…

MR. WARREN: Absolutely.

MR. GREGORY: …of so much economic fear, of resentment, of anxiety…

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: …how do you encourage people to, to avoid hardening their heart?

MR. WARREN: Well, you can get compassion fatigue, because you see it all the time. But it is always possible to give thanks by giving. All–you can see–what God looks at is not the amount you give, he looks at the amount left over compared to what you give. And, you know, even if you didn’t have any money, you can give time, which is actually far more valuable. You can always get more money. But when you give your time, you’re giving away your life. So it’s possible to always give something. By the way, when some people talk about giving, they, they stop at nothing.

MR. GREGORY: Right.

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: We’ve seen that giving has–in 2008, charitable giving was down.

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: But not to religious institutions.

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: It was as strong as ever. Why?

MR. WARREN: Well, I think because faith communities teach the importance of generosity, that it’s, it’s a Godly quality. As I said, we’re most like God when, when we’re giving. The, the issue of, of, of God is love, as I said, is a matter of giving back, and I, I think it’s just a spiritual discipline. If you don’t have that spiritual discipline, it’s pretty easy–by the way, it’s not an accident the word “miser” and “miserable” come from the same root word.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm. It’s interesting, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin in his book “A Code of Jewish Ethics” writes something that caught my eye.

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: I’ll put it on the screen here. “We become good people not by thinking good thoughts but by doing good deeds again and again.” And it’s the repetition of that. But how do you see a distinction between a lot of people who get caught up in giving where it may be that they’re checking a box, they’re sending in a check.

MR. WARREN: Right, right.

MR. GREGORY: But, but they’re not emptying themselves.

MR. WARREN: Right, right.

MR. GREGORY: Or they’re not really giving a gift of their heart.

MR. WARREN: Right.

MR. GREGORY: Are there differences?

MR. WARREN: Well, I think there are different kinds of levels of giving. There is–at, at the shallowest level is what I call the impulsive giving. And that is, I see a commercial and I give or I see somebody on the street and I give and it’s just an emotional response. That’s good, it’s better than nothing. But moving from impulsive giving up to regular giving, where I make it a habit in my life. The–as–whether I need–whether other people need it or my temple or church needs it or not, I’m giving for my own benefit to, to be, to become generous. Then there’s systematic giving, there’s proportional giving and then there’s sacrificial giving, which is, is giving when you really can’t afford it. And, and that is really the highest, giving yourself away when you can’t afford it.

MR. GREGORY: Let’s talk about the stewardship of influence and affluence.

MR. WARREN: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: Something that you’ve talked about before.

MR. WARREN: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: What kind of influence…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …are you having on fighting some of the most difficult problems around the world, including your work on the continent of Africa?

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm. Well, David, in, in 2002 when I wrote “Purpose Driven Life,” and then it became a, a big best-seller and sold a lot of copies, it, it honestly brought in tens of millions of dollars. When you write the best-selling hardback in American history and the most translated book in the world except for the Bible, it’s tens of millions of dollars. And frankly, when this money started coming in, I–it scared me. I thought, I’m a pastor, I live a pretty simple lifestyle and I don’t need money, and so what am I supposed to do with this? And when you write a book and the first sentence says, “It’s not about you,” then you figure the money’s not for you, too.

So we made five decisions. The first one was we’re not going to change our lifestyle one bit. I still live in the same house I’ve lived in 16 years. I drive a 10-year-old Ford truck, bought my watch at Walmart. You know, to me if you’ve got a good pair of jeans and a comfortable T-shirt, you don’t have a whole lot of needs. So we didn’t change it. Second thing is I stopped taking a salary from Saddleback Church now seven years ago. The third thing is I added up all the church had paid me in the first 25 years and I gave it all back. And I did that because I didn’t want anybody thinking that I do what I do for money. I do this because I love Jesus Christ and I love God, and it’s, it’s out of my motivation–and I love people that do this.

We set up some charities. We have one called Acts of Mercy which my wife leads that helps people infected and affected with AIDS, and another one called Equipping Leaders, and we pay for leadership training all around the world. We set up a program called the PEACE Plan, P-E-A-C-E, which stands for Promote reconciliation, equip servant leaders–ethical leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, educate the next generation. By the end of December next year, we will have–we will have, the PEACE Plan, have been to every single country in the world. There’s 195 countries, 193 in the U.N.–North Korea and Bosnia aren’t in the U.N. We will have been in every country doing these humanitarian works.

MR. GREGORY: Where is the need the greatest?

MR. WARREN: Well, the most oppressed country by far is North Korea, there’s no doubt about it. The, the people there are suffering because of the idolatry of their own leader and things like that.

But I would say the greatest need right now are the 146 million orphans in the world. There are 146 million kids growing up without mommies and daddies. That is anarchy waiting to happen. And whoever gets there first and loves them first will have their heart and devotion. And I always say to our government leaders that, that health care and poverty and relief is–and orphan care, that’s–this is good foreign policy. I, I discovered in–during the President Bush years that–during PEPFAR that when you save a life, people tend to like your country. They say, you know, “My husband’s alive because of PEPFAR. My”–and so these things are important that we, we continue them because people will die, but also it’s, it’s good policy.

MR. GREGORY: It raises the point about what our priorities are. Bill and Melinda Gates, who we’re also talking to in this program…

MR. WARREN: Right. Hm.

MR. GREGORY: …make the point that, that even a foundation like the Gates Foundation, which has the resources, which has scale…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …it’s still the government that has to be involved…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …to really have the, the biggest impact that’s possible on this kind of problem.

MR. WARREN: Yeah. Well, actually, there, there, there are three different sectors, and they all have a role. I’ve spoken at Davos several times, and when I go I hear them talking about we need public/private partnerships. And they’re talking about public/private partnership for ending poverty, for ending malaria, for, you know, all of these chronic global issues. And they say we need this partnership, but actually, they’re missing the third leg of the stool. A one-legged stool will fall over, two-legged stool will fall over. There is the public sector, which is government and the NGOs, the nonprofits; there is the profit sector, which is business; and there is the faith sector. There’s three sectors to society, not, not two, and each of them bring something to the table that the other doesn’t have. Government has agenda-setting ability, priority-setting ability. Somebody’s got to pave the roads and, and they–and government often will take the lead in this. Business brings things to the table like expertise, like capital and a, a really good thing is management, because most governments, most churches and most businesses are poorly managed. But temples and churches and houses of worship, mosques, they bring things to the table that government and business will never have. They have volunteer manpower, they have local credibility, they have the widest distribution. I could take you to 10 million villages around the world, the only thing in it’s a church. They don’t have a government, they don’t have a hospital, they don’t have a school, but they got a church. The church was global 200 years before anybody started talking about globalization.

MR. GREGORY: How close are we to getting an AIDS vaccine?

MR. WARREN: I don’t think it’ll be soon. My prayer is that we get it in this–within this generation. But I think what we have to do is even while we’re waiting for the vaccine, we just keep on working for education. So much of AIDS is behavioral based and, I mean, you don’t just get it out of the air. And we want to, we want to stop AIDS, we want to end AIDS, and we work with anybody and everybody who’s willing to work. This is an important thing that I think even at this Thanksgiving, as we move into the holiday seasons, you don’t have to agree with everybody to work with them on something. I can work with Muslims and atheists and other religions and gays and straights and–I can work with any–if you want to save a life, that’s a human issue. And, and so you don’t have to water down your beliefs, but you, you can work for the common good. And that’s what we need. I believe in the good news and I believe in the common good.

MR. GREGORY: As you have, you and Kay have embraced people living with AIDS…

MR. WARREN: Oh, yeah.

MR. GREGORY: …has it changed your views at all about homosexuality?

MR. WARREN: Oh, oh, absolutely, much more sympathetic and understanding the pains and the reactions. I, I have understood that so many people today get stigmatized for different things. Now, of course, I have biblical beliefs on–about homosexuality. But when somebody’s dying on the side of the road, you don’t walk up to them and say, you know, “What’s your nationality?” or, “What’s your lifestyle?” or, “What’s your, your gender preference?” or, you know, anything else. You just help the guy. And this is the, by the way, the difference–I was asked the other day about illegal immigration, things like that. The role of a pastor and the role of the government are different things. My role is to love everybody. I am called to love everybody. In fact, the Bible says love your enemies. I am forbidden to hate anyone, OK? So I can’t–I am to love everybody. And if someone’s hurting, I don’t walk up and say, “Are you illegally here?” I just want to hurt–help the person. But the government does have a right to decide who’s in and who’s out and things like that.

MR. GREGORY: Well, when you think about the debate about Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage in California, and you think about how much money, the tens of millions of dollars spent on both pro–for and against Proposition 8.

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: And as you look back at that do you say, well, maybe that money’d be better spent trying to fight AIDS and find a vaccine for AIDS rather than having that fight?

MR. WARREN: I could give you a hundred campaigns where that would be true. I mean, I think we spend…

MR. GREGORY: Is it true in this one, though?

MR. WARREN: Oh, of course. I spend–we spend way too much money on everything else that, that–and not on what matters. If–you know, as a pastor, I’m always looking at how do we relieve the suffering, and I’m also looking at how do we increase prosperity for everybody? For instance, you know, you’ve heard the phrase, “Don’t give a man a fish, teach him to fish.” Well, that’s not even good enough. If you–I’ve discovered if you teach a man to fish, you create a village of fisherman; they all catch the same fish and they have a, a subsistence economy. You need to teach a man how to sell a fish. You need to teach him how to build a business. You need to teach to some build the nets and some builds the boats and, and create a free enterprise so that the, the society raises itself out of, out of just subsistence on a, a more complex economy.

MR. GREGORY: Just sticking with that topic for just a moment. If the issue of legalizing gay marriage comes up again…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …on the ballot in California…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …would you work to fight that?

MR. WARREN: You know, my position on gay marriage is very clear and it hasn’t changed. What I do believe in is that it is my job to love everybody, no doubt about it.

MR. GREGORY: So you would fight it?

MR. WARREN: Well, again, I’m not a politician. I didn’t fight it in the last issue. What was misunderstood is people, people on both sides tried to make me the campaign leader. I only mentioned it one time, and I mentioned it to my own congregation when I was asked, “What is our position on this?” and I made a video for our congregation. Well, that was dumb, because it immediately went everywhere and then all the sudden it looked like I was the big campaigner. And–but I wasn’t. Of course I have a position on it. As a pastor, I happen to believe what the Bible says. But I also believe that I understand the pain that people feel from rejection. So I care about both angles.

MR. GREGORY: Let me talk a little bit about leadership. We’re in Washington…

MR. WARREN: Sure.

MR. GREGORY: …and we’ll talk about President Obama. You were chosen to give the invocation at the inauguration, and here’s a portion of what you said that day. Let’s watch.

(Videotape, January 20, 2009)

MR. WARREN: Give to our new president, Barack Obama, the wisdom to lead us with humility, the courage to lead us with integrity, the compassion to lead us with generosity.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: How’s he done?

MR. WARREN: Well, I think he’s–I think this president came with a, a number of cards stacked against him, that’s for sure. He entered the presidency with more on the plate than many of the previous presidents entered with. And my biggest fear is that there’ll be too much on the agenda and that things will get bogged down. I, I personally believe that the number one thing we need to do is get America back to work. I think before, I think before health care or anything else, we need to get people back to work. There’s nearly 10 percent unemployed. That’s the equivalent of Canada being unemployed. And so we have to look at this fact that if we get people back to work, then we can work on some of these other issues. Now, Afghanistan, of course, was already going on. But that’s what leadership is, is being able to balance balls and juggle things like that. And, you know, I certainly pray for him.

MR. GREGORY: Would you give him a grade so far of how he’s conducting…

MR. WARREN: I don’t–I wouldn’t grade. You know, again, my, my whole goal is–as a pastor, my goal is to, to encourage, to support. I never take sides. I have friends who are Republicans and I have friends who are Democrats, and I’m for my friends. People ask me, “Are you left wing or right wing?” and it’s pretty well known I say, “I’m for the whole bird,” because I’m for America. And so I want the president to succeed, I want the Congress to succeed.

MR. GREGORY: You talk–you mentioned health care just a minute ago. It’s interesting, do you–you say it shouldn’t be as high a priority…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …as getting people back to work. Is there a moral obligation, though, for–of leadership to provide health insurance more widely in our society?

MR. WARREN: Well, let’s go back to that issue of the stewardship of influence. When the book came out and all the sudden I started getting interviews–requests to, like, be on MEET THE PRESS, and this was new for me. I said, “I’m just a pastor. I’m not a politician, I’m not a pundit.” And so I began to say, “What am I supposed to do with this, this platform?” And I don’t believe God gives you money or influence for your own ego, so you can just be a fat cat and be a celebrity. We need more heroes, fewer celebrities. Heroes sacrifice for others, celebrities sacrifice for themselves.

Now, I found one day as I was praying in the–and reading the Bible, in Psalms 72 we have Solomon’s prayer for more influence. And when you read this prayer, it wounds like the most self-centered prayer you could imagine, because he says, “God, I want you to make me famous.” He said, “I want you to spread the fame of my name through many countries. I want you to give me power. I want you to bless me.” And then you read why Solomon prayed that. He says, “So that the king may support the widow and orphan, care for the sick, defend the defenseless, speak up for the oppressed.” He talks about the marginalized of society. Today he’d talk about those in prison, he’d talk about the elderly, the handicapped mentally and things like that. And out of that passage God spoke to me in a personal way and said, “The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.” So absolutely, one of the stewardships of leadership is to speak up for those who have no voice. Now, I personally believe that includes the unborn, because they have no voice. But speaking up for the poor, for the sick, for those who are disenfranchised is part of what leadership’s all about.

MR. GREGORY: You bring that up. What more should the president do, in your mind–and you talked about this during your, your forum that you had with both McCain and Obama last year.

MR. WARREN: Yeah. Yes.

MR. GREGORY: What more should he do to restrict abortion?

MR. WARREN: Well, you know, to me–who was it, Peggy…

MR. GREGORY: Noonan?

MR. WARREN: …Noonan said it.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah.

MR. WARREN: She said, you know, “If you ask the question when does life begin,” she said, “any 16-year-old boy who’s bought a condom knows when life begins.” And I happen to agree with that.

MR. GREGORY: And so how should–what should the president do?

MR. WARREN: Well, I, I certainly am–I think we’ve had 46 million Americans who aren’t here, those who could be here since Roe v. Wade who are not voting. And I, I think that, in a sense, is a holocaust. I really do. Now, I think that we have to get beyond the, the name-calling and find common ground to work on, on these issues. Now, I don’t understand the, the idea of it should be rare and, and less. Well, either you believe it’s life or you don’t. It–why would you believe it should be rare? Because if, if it’s not–if a baby, a fetus is not a life, then why restrict it?

MR. GREGORY: It’s interesting. This is playing out in the healthcare debate about whether…

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: In, in the House there was an amendment to prohibit public funds be used…

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: …to pay for abortion if there’s a public plan in health care.

MR. WARREN: Yeah.

MR. GREGORY: E.J. Dionne wrote this in The Washington Post recently about the involvement of Catholic bishops, saying, “Catholic bishops…have a long history of supporting universal coverage,” health insurance…

MR. WARREN: Mm-hmm.

MR. GREGORY: …”but [have] devoted most of their recent energy to the abortion battle. How much muscle will the bishops put behind the broader effort to pass health-care reform? Their credibility as advocates for social justice hangs in the balance.” Raising the question, is there a moral equivalency between fighting for the unborn but also fighting for universal coverage? Should there be equal energy to both efforts?

MR. WARREN: Well, this is what I call–I’m not pro-life, I’m whole life, which means I don’t just want to protect that little baby girl before she’s born; I want to make sure she gets an education, she’s not raised in poverty, she gets her vaccinations. And so this is what I call the whole life platform, which, beyond just pro-life of protecting that unborn child, goes on. And, and part of my goal has been to not deny what I believe, that historically Catholics and evangelicals have stood firm on together, but expand the agenda to say we can’t just care about that, we’ve got to care about the child after she’s born and make sure she gets an education, she grows up healthy and grows up to be a productive human being.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: