Monday, August 18

What Warren Should have Asked

I agree. Warren did well in bringing up the what are normally considered "the moral questions." That is abortion and marriage. He failed in his questions to illuminate why they were Christian positions. He also has a very poor and shallow understanding of a Christian worldview on economic and educational issues. The remarks below highlight some of the exact same concerns I had.

In his opening remarks, Rev. Rick Warren,
Saddleback's pastor and forum moderator acknowledged that "faith is
just a worldview and everybody has some kind of worldview and it's
important to know what they are." Intentionally or not, understandably
or not, Warren's questions were grounded in the priorities and
worldview of American cultural conservatives.

But as pastor of a church in a worldwide Christian community, Warren
had an opportunity to go beyond conservative political talking points
and ask questions grounded in the church's alternative and
countercultural worldview.

Some examples:

Warren asked: "Does evil exist, and if it does, do we ignore it, do we
negotiate with it, do we contain it or do we defeat it.?"

This is a first-grade multiple-choice question. No candidate in his
right (or left) mind would say anything other than "Yes, and we defeat
it." For the church, the question isn't whether we confront or defeat
evil but how.

A better question: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a
Christian pastor, said 'The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is
a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.' Do you agree? As
Christians, how should we confront violent evil such as terrorism?"

2. Warren asked: "The Civil Rights Act of '64 says that faith-based
organizations have the right to hire people that believe like they do.
Would you insist that faith-based organizations forfeit that right to
access federal funds?"

Like the abortion and gay marriage questions Warren asked, this is a
litmus-test question for conservative evangelicals who want the right
to hire people whose beliefs fit their missions and worldviews.

A better question: "As Christians, we are called to
help orphans, widows, the sick, the poor and others in need. Should we
ask or expect the government to pay us to do what God calls us to do?"

3. Warren asked: "America right now ranks 19th in high school
graduation. We're first in incarcertaions. Eighty percent of Americans
recently polled said they believe in merit pay for teachers. . . Do you
think better teachers should be paid better?"

Another no-brainer. Who believes better teachers should be paid
less? Or less than other teachers? This was another litmus-test
question that plays to the church-supported home-school and
church-school crowd, and ignores the complex realities of inner-city
public schools, the shortcomings of voucher plan and so on.

A better question: As Christians, we are called to
help those in need and children in particular. How can we ensure that
each and every child attends an excellent schools, regardless of their
geographic location, test scores or family incomes?

A followup: As Christians, how can we create a redemptive rather than a punitive criminal justice system?

4. Warren asked: Define rich. I mean, give me a number. Is it
$50,000, $100,000, $200,000? Everybody keeps talking about, 'Well,
we're going to tax the rich.' How do you define that?"

Give me a number? An odd question for anyone other than a tax
attorney to ask. Are we talking $50,000 in Southern California or
Southern Sudan? Rich for people who spend hundreds of millions running
for public office or rich for people who work three jobs and can't
afford health insurance?

A better question: Jesus never said anything about
abortion or homosexuality, but he said plenty about wealth and poverty.
As a Christian, define the difference between need and greed. How much
is enough?

I still think a church is no place for a campaign event, and a
clergy person has no business posing as political moderator. But if the
church is going to insert itself into the electoral process, it should
do so as the church and not as a political action committee.