Juan Cole likes Rick Warren because he’s so personable. From my experience having a jolly social day with someone is a poor measure of their willingness to do evil. Rick Warren is of a type, a type that we need to learn to recognize in this day and age, the type that sells fake solutions to real problems.
Because while Rick Warren takes a great deal about ending global poverty, egocentric leadership, and ignorance, what he really sees is a big gravy train for his church to jump on. If Bush-Cheney sell disaster capitalism, then Rick Warren is the pastor for it. He’s a fat bastard who charms people with easy smiles, and takes the money from behind. It is the new bi-partisanship.
Let us begin with A Purpose Driven Life. It is a book that is like a cigarette commercial, it is designed, not to persuade people who have some question about religion, but to make people who are already addicts switch to Saddleback. Coherence is not on display anywhere. In philosophy, there is what is known as the "teleological fallacy." Teleology is the study of purpose. Religions and superstitions continually assume a world created by a purpose, and then argue backwards from there. It is the argument neatly summed up by "a watch implies a watchmaker." Warren is not even so clever as to have a good phrase, instead, he simply assumes it and harangues the reader to come up with an a priori purpose. It is a fundamentally illiberal and anti-human point of view, in that the idea of humanism in the West is that each individual create their own purpose.
Warren’s world, like most brands of Calvinism, assumes predestination. He declares, this without biblical support, that every detail of who you are is ordained, and your place in the world is set by it. It’s like a badly written Malcom Gladwell, another determinist, only one who invokes the god of Demographics.
In short, the entire purpose of "A Purpose Driven Life" is to beat down the reader into submission, and then once they are there, declare that they must take orders from a higher authority, specifically the representative of God before them. Warren even goes farther into dishonesty than most, in that he does not even give the biblical citations in the text, but throws them into footnotes, making it all the harder to even argue within the context of biblical theology. Warren uses the Bible when it is convenient, but hides it when it is not.
Many people praise his social engagement, in for example, AIDs intervention. The people who I know in NGOs are considerably less impressed. It turns out that Warren’s social gospel is a great deal like his theological gospel: a fraud, used to beat down opposition by declarations of love and submission, and then a demand for money to be used for the multiplication of his, rather than His, servants. Let me take two examples from his PEACE project.
The arguement of PEPFAR, Bush’s AIDs plan, is that churches, already being present and having authority, can be used for service delivery. However, the "P" in "PEACE" stands for… "plant churches." If Churches are already present, then there is no need to plant them, now is there? If they are not already present, it means that funding for PEACE is really government funding for missionary conversion work. In fact, the second letter is to create missionaries. One has to get to "A" before doing anything for actual people. Warren pays himself first.
Let’s take two examples: one is the PEACE, "Hispanics for Christ" project. It’s sole objective? Create churches among American Hispanics and convert them. That’s the whole project. One can say many things about the American hispanic population, but an absence of Christianity isn’t any of them. As a group Hispanics attend church more than whites. Saturation planting of churches is its aim, with no other objective. PEACE means sectarian conflict first. There is one for Mexico too. Note that the "ACE" is dispensed with, and only the "PE" is funded. Help the poor? First get their donations and devotion. Rick Warren Pays himself first.
Now let’s take another PEACE project, the community in the Philipines:
We shall help bring Christ into the lives of these people by insisting in them to form into small groups and study small group materials that would direct them to God and to growth in character. Hopefully, we can also assist in building a network of support (government and non-government) for these people from whom they can appeal for financing assistance (livelihood loans and funding) and other things that can add to the welfare of the community. This would include building a network of churches that would be ready to receive new attendees coming from the small groups we have formed.
After the recitation of facts, the core of their proejct is laid out: set up a community they control, including the political leaders, and make them meet every week to study the Bibles that they pass out and the materials they send. This is Disaster Christianity. Find hopeless people, give them a few goods and services, and then build a theocracy. It is the model of Hamas in Palestine. Clearly the argument that "churches are already present" is a sham, their projects go, instead, where their churches are not already present, and bargain the stuff of life, for political theocratic control. Rick Warren, again, pays himself first.
Rick Warren is that typical figure from Christian history, the pastor who consorts with Mammon, such as Rupert Murdoch, and tells them that wealth is good. In his book he repeatedly says that handling worldly wealth is a sign of spiritual good. This ignores the admonitions of Christ about the souls of rich men, and giving all to the poor. Just enough to the poor so that they have to join your church for their daily bread.
Rick Warren’s PEACE projects are nothing more than theocracy in action. Find hopeless people, plant churches, take over the political and social structure, and then make everyone’s livelihood dependent on the Church. Like his theology, Rick Warren’s activism is about one thing: expanding the size of his business empire. He lives well, and is fat, while he expects others to slave away for pennies in distant lands. Rick Warren pays himself first.