Q & A: Rick Warren
Rick Warren found himself in a hotbed of controversy when he accepted President Obama's invitation to pray at the inauguration in January.
Several gay and liberal activists decried the choice because Warren opposes same-sex marriage, even though the California megachurch pastor's recent activism has been focused more on poverty reduction and HIV/AIDS around the world. In fact, Warren spent some time on the phone this week with Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, to talk about the 15th anniversary of the country's genocide.
Since the inauguration, Warren has declined to do interviews with the media, but he spoke with Christianity Today on Tuesday about the backlash from that invitation, his newly launched magazine, and how the economy is affecting his church's global outreach.
Easter is coming up this Sunday. What do you plan to preach on?
This is a very significant Easter for us because I started Saddleback 30 years ago. I held the first Easter service in 1980, when 205 people showed up at a high school. Now, 30 years later, I'll be doing 14 services starting on Thursday, and we'll have somewhere between 45,000 and 50,000 people. We're getting ready to start a series called, "Making sense of life's biggest mysteries."
You told Larry King last night, "During the whole Proposition 8 thing, I never once went to a meeting, never once issued a statement, never never once even gave an endorsement in the two years Prop. 8 was going." But just before the election, you filmed a video for your congregation and said, "If you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8."
What I was trying to say is, those who obviously opposed my viewpoint on the biblical definition or the historical definition of marriage were trying to turn me into an anti-gay activist. The truth is, Proposition 8 was a two-year campaign in the state, and during those two years, I never said a word about it until the eight days before the election, and then I did make a video for my own people when they asked, "How should we vote on this?" It was a pastor talking to his own people. I've never said anything about it since. I don't know how you take one video newsletter to your own church and turn that into, all of a sudden I'm the poster boy for anti-gay marriage.
Obama called me the first week in December and asked me to do the invocation [prayer]. I made a commitment to say nothing to the press about it until after the inauguration. For nearly 40 days or 50 days I called it 40 days of persecution (laughs) I took all kinds of flak and never responded back.
The only response that I made was, I wrote an e-mail to all of the gay leaders that I know. I have many friends who are gay leaders whom we've worked with on AIDS campaign on health, poverty, and disease. The guys that I knew, I apologized to them.
In a Beliefnet interview, which was an hour long, Steve Waldman asked me about gay marriage. I said I believe marriage, that term, should be reserved for a man and a woman. I'm not saying same-sex couples don't love each other. I gave some examples of what I think shouldn't be considered to be marriage, like an older guy with a younger woman. Then [Waldman] said, "Are you saying that those are the same thing?" I said, "Oh sure." It made it sound like I was equating homosexuality with pedophilia and incest. I don't believe it, never have, and never would.
I don't believe that, but because I made a commitment to not say anything about it, people just ran with it. They were looking for a new poster boy. There's a lot of hatred out there. People don't realize that you don't have to agree with somebody to love them. I am commanded to love everybody. I can disagree with people, but I'm not free to not love them.