Everyone once and awhile Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life, does something that is admirable and it requires that I admit conservative evangelicals aren't all Republican stooges. Just most of them. Quick to prove my point are those in the Religious Right now attacking Warren for inviting U.S. Senator Barack Obama to talk at a church conference on AIDS that Warren's congregation is sponsoring.
A coalition of Religious Right leaders wrote an open letter to Warren explaining their anger over Obama's invite:
Senator Obama comes to Rick Warren's church believing that abortion should be kept, "safe and legal". When Barack Obama campaigned for the U.S. Senate in 2004, his wife wrote a fundraising letter for him that revealed his support of partial-birth abortion. She said Obama's position is that the "partial-birth abortion ban . . . is clearly unconstitutional and must be overturned." Support of partial-birth abortion goes a lot farther than the politicians who want abortion to be "safe and legal." Senator Obama actually supports the barbaric practice of allowing abortionists to kill babies by allowing them to be partially, born, their skulls punctured and their brains sucked out. Further, he repeatedly opposed an anti-infanticide bill in the state of Illinois that only passed after he left. Killing a child at any stage of life is a violation of God's clear command, "Thou Shall Do No Murder". In addition, Obama's solution to the growing AIDS crisis has been and continues to be the widespread distribution of condoms, not chaste behavior as directed by the Bible.
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.
When you're part of the Religious Right it must be against their charter to invite voices into church that don't echo their own. Life is always easy when you and you alone know the will of God.
Warren and Obama are drawing support from other religious leaders in America, however.
Several right-wing religious organizations, including the National Clergy Council, recently blasted Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church for inviting Senator Barack Obama to speak on World AIDS Day this Friday, December 1. It's unfortunate that these groups would exploit the Christian faith to advance their divisive agenda -- an agenda that gives almost exclusive attention to a few wedge issues while ignoring the diversity of problems plaguing American communities.
We reject the creation of an unbiblical litmus test to exclude believers from the body of Christ. We are called to the ministry of reconciliation and the liberation of all people, spiritually and socially.
We also wonder why any organization claiming to represent believers in Jesus Christ would choose to play what amounts to partisan politics instead of encouraging our leaders to address the scourge of AIDS.
AIDS has claimed the lives of 25 million people since 1981. Forty million people across the globe, including 2 million children, live with this wretched disease. And nearly 7 million people are now in desperate need of life-saving drugs, without which they will die. In the face of this crisis, it boggles our minds and offends our God-given sense of justice that these groups would choose to attack Senator Obama and Reverend Warren -- Christians both -- for working together to stamp out AIDS.
It is time for believers to unite under the banner of truth and work to address our society's most pressing problems. The time for scare tactics and divisiveness is over. As leaders in the Christian community, we will not stand silent in the face of these attacks, but will instead serve as voices for equality, fairness, and justice for all people.
Click here to see the list of those that signed this statement. It includes several United Church of Christ clergy. Obama is a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago.
Warren is providing a good example of ministry in action. Not only is he holding a conference on AIDS but he is inviting diverse voices to address the critical issues involved with fighting the disease.