Thursday, May 31, 2007

Coalition and cleanliness

Read an article today in Christian Century (see link above) reporting that Rick Warren (purpose-driven pastor of Saddleback Church, among other achievements) is being criticized by the Christian Accountability Network, among others, for failing to publicly reprimand media giant Rupert Murdoch (Fox TV, et nauseum) for his holdings of porn channels. The attack is based on Warren's claim that he is Murdoch's pastor.

The article quotes Warren as saying: "I don't have to agree with 100 percent of what another person does in order to work with them on the 20 percent that we do agree on." Murdoch was credited with donating $2m to Warren's PEACE plan almost immediately, and one of his publishing companies puts out some of Warren's books.

There are lots of good reasons to like and dislike Rick Warren, and even more reason to dislike Rupert Murdoch. But Warren is the only major evangelical I've seen come out very strongly against poverty, corruption, illiteracy, and other ills abroad and at home.
If Murdoch is helping him do that, good for him.

As a Christian, publicly calling someone out is one's last resort. (See Mt. 18 for our dispute process). If Warren is indeed Murdoch's pastor, the last thing he should be doing is publicly disciplining or reprimanding him. Ecclesiastically and practically, it's the wrong thing to do.

There is also a tone to the criticism that leans toward levitical purity: Rick Warren should walk through the streets shouting "unclean" until he chides (and, presumably rejects the money of) Murdoch. How Jesus-like.

I pray we continue to find ways to work together when we can, and find others to work with when we can't. The kingdom is just too important.

(A small BTW -- the Christian Accountability Network was "founded in early 2007 to provide balanced Biblical accountability to America’s prominent pastors and teachers regarding their teaching and life." This is, apparently, its first foray into ethical discernment and teaching, though founder Rosebrough seems to live out loud in many places in the blogosphere. He has now achieved some of the notoriety he clearly desires.)


Chris H said...

Murdoch's involvement with porn may be the one thing about him that doesn't make my skin crawl. But still, I can see CAN's point; in every other context, Warren sells the same package of sexual shame as every fundamentalist unless you're in a heterosexual, monogamous marriage. (For those who qualify, admittedly, he's a little lighter on the shame than his contemporaries.)

But given that, it seems that his attitude towards Murdoch is rather like that of the old Catholic Church's practice of selling indulgences. Murdoch has money, and so he gets a pass. For the rest of us, porn is teh evul.

Elane said...

There is a difference between speaking out on a theological topic and pointing fingers. It has not been my experience that Warren takes personal potshots at people publicly. To suggest that it would be appropriate that he do that in one specific case smacks of Phariseeism. I do not know what they discuss in private, and I suspect Rosebaugh does not either.
I must pray that Warren does not excoriate any of his flock publicly -- whether I agree with his particular stances or not.

On the other topic (the taking of soiled cash), I've changed my view a lot over the years. If it were lining Warren's purse, or being used to refurnish Saddleback, that would be one thing. Working on third world poverty is another.

On the other other topic (sexual shame), there's some very interesting movement happening in evangelical circles. I'm watching to see where the Spirit moves next.

Thanks for writing, Chris.

Chris H said...

BTW, were you by any chance my political philosophy teacher many years back?

Tim said...

Elane, I appreciate the sanity and restraint and wisdom of your comments. You do well to keep the focus on accomplishing the work of the kingdom and to remind us of Jesus' disavowal of public condemnation. You see through the issues that stir us up to the issues that stir Jesus up!

What disturbed me in the article was not Warren's failure to censure Murdoch but his eagerness to claim him publically as a "parishioner:"

"I had dinner with Jack Welch (former chief executive officer of GE) last Sunday night. He came to church, and we had dinner. I've been kind of mentoring him on his spiritual journey. And he said to me, 'Rick, you the biggest thinker I have ever met in my life. The only other person I know who thinks globally like you is Rupert Murdoch.' And I said, 'That's interesting. I'm Rupert's pastor! Rupert published my book!"

To whom do we witness? To whom do we point? To whom do we give glory?

Elane said...

Chris -- stranger things have happened. Where did you go to school?

Tim -- you'll get no argument from me: pride is all of our not-so-secret shame. Personally, I'm glad no one is following me around with a recorder/camera/pda -- I'm sure I sound idiotic most of the time!

Thanks for the comments, gents.

Chris h said...

Chris -- stranger things have happened. Where did you go to school?


On the other other topic (sexual shame), there's some very interesting movement happening in evangelical circles. I'm watching to see where the Spirit moves next.

I doubt it's so interesting that bisexual, polyamorous atheist BDSM geeks aren't still going straight to hell. At least I'll be in good company. ;)

Elane said...

Moorpark? Ya betcha.

Since the definition of hell is chosen distance from God, the atheist part could be a problem... But the rest, at this moment in history, is up for grabs. Or at least under discussion: there is serious (if not always competent) Christian theological argument happening around polyamory. Some around BDSM (although that's a tougher theological sell, frankly). Bisexuality, for a lot of Christians, is a dead issue: if you're chasing God and being monogamous, who cares?

You'd be surprised. And here's the key: God in Christ loves even you, and there is nothing you can do to change that.

Chris said...

Moorpark? Ya betcha.

I kinda thought so. I was in your class your last semester there, and it was profoundly memorable. You were a great teacher, and I kept the reader for years.

Since the definition of hell is chosen distance from God, the atheist part could be a problem...

That's a definition of Hell; the fundamentalists, in my experience tend to go for a much more literal interpretation. One of the major reasons that I see Christ as being a flawed moral teacher is his belief in Hell, which I consider to be an inherent injustice.

Also, this definition makes some assumptions: 1) that god exists; and 2) that one would consider that to be a good thing. I don't accept either.

The closest I get to accepting a definition of god is a psychological one: that god is the best, most noble part of yourself. Someone once said that the difference between religion and spirituality is that in the former, God is in the sky and in the latter, God is in yourself. I've rejected the one, but not the other.

Elane said...

It's also been said that spirituality is for those who can't hack accountability.

Glad you found something worthwhile in the class.

Got a couple of books for you: Messy Spirituality, by Mike Yaconelli; and Finding Faith, by Brian McLaren.

Having experienced God, and having had my life saved by Someone much bigger than I am, I'm conscious that God is more than just. God is also merciful. A huge grace.

Mrs. M said...

Try Jim Wallis and Tony Campolo for other evangelicals eager to talk about poverty, corruption, evils and home and abroad... there are others, but those two are the first who come to mind.

Elane said...

Absolutely! Both men have a commitment think of "the least of these" which is admirable. I've also been thrilled to see the great rise in evangelicals concerned with environmental stewardship. Younger ones are even better, which is fantastic!