Thursday, July 28, 2011

Rick Warren Can't Get It Straight

At first thought: Rick Warren should stay out of politics. At second thought: Rick Warren should stay in politics.

After President Obama's televised statement Monday night detailing his efforts to end the debt ceiling crisis, Reverend Rick Warren of Saddleback Church tweeted

HALF of America pays NO taxes. ZERO. So they're happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES.

Criticism from individuals who know better immediately followed. Blogger Karoli characterized it as "odious" and quoted Matthew 25:31-46, prompting Warren to delete the post from his twitter feed, then respond "Karoli You are 100% right! It did sound mean."

Salon's Joan Walsh sent this Twitter message

Hi @RickWarren many hard working but low-paid Americans don't pay taxes, thanks to a George H.W. Bush era charitable move to bolster income

I assume @RickWarren won't be giving the invocation in 2013. He lacks a preferential option for the poor. Very sad.

Class warfare against the poor. Is that what Jesus would do?

Warren responded to such criticism by sending two Twitter messages, the first to the general public, the second privately to Walsh:

Never engage those who insult you online. They're just looking for a fight, not clarity."Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions" Prov18:2

I take zero salary & we feed over 2000 familes a wk. But thank u Joan for the opportunity to pray God blesses your life greatly

When Walsh wrote her post outlining her exchange(s) with Reverend Warren, he responded in the letters section with the following explanation, which Walsh reprinted:

Thank you Joan - from Rick Warren

I never respond to insults but Joan's article is accurate & fair (except for the headline), so here's my view. I try to give anyone who tweets or speaks publicly a 10% "grace factor" because we all inevitably makes dumb statements, given enough words. I use up my 10% allowance by noon daily. I removed the tweet as soon as I saw how dumb & mean it sounded. What I should have said was that I honestly don't believe our nation can tax its way out of bankruptcy. There simply aren’t enough taxpayers. The unemployed CANT pay taxes, and right now 11% of our church is out of work. Saddleback is not a rich white church- we are multicultural & speak 67 languages. My view is that a better solution to increasing revenue is to focus instead on incentivizing JOB CREATION which will spur both consumer spending AND tax revenue. Finally, it is arrogant nonsense to insist (as many hate-filled responses tweeted) that only those who support larger government love the poor. That’s absurd. I'm a small-govt Independent (neither Dem nor Rep), yet I've given my life to helping the poor & sick in 164 countries. I drive a 12 yr old Ford & wear a $15 watch from Wal-Mart so Kay & I can give 91% of our income to help others. If you need a reason to hate me, attack my pro-life position, or my belief that Jesus is the only Way to salvation. But to accuse me of siding with the rich & wealth, being a GOP shill, or not caring about the poor, the sick, & those needing education, is nonsense. My life, ministry, and philanthropy for 30 years is a public record of caring “for the least of these.” THAT is why both Bush & Obama had me pray at Inaugural events.

Perhaps a well-thought out letter should not be criticized when it is preceded by an ignorant original post,a self-righteous post to the public, and a patronizing private tweet to a prominent Salon blogger. Warren would have better served his cause and himself if he had resisted the Twitter impulse and instead found a forum to post a letter explaining his opinion about taxation and patting himself on the back ("I'm a small-govt Independent (neither Dem nor Rep), yet I've given my life to helping the poor & sick in 164 countries. I drive a 12 yr old Ford & wear a $15 watch from Wal-Mart so Kay & I can give 91% of our income to help others.") It would have been a little like Nixon going to China, with Warren emphasizing that he has the personal and moral standing to advocate a conservative economic policy.

But criticize I will, because I want to. The revulsion over some Americans of limited means not paying federal income taxes is impeccably conservative- and has been thoroughly debunked, including here and here. Additionally, after an orgy of self-promotion, Warren pleads that he not be attacked personallyf or for his political stance, but on the issues of personal salvation- and abortion. He then refers to opposition to abortion two sentences- two sentences!- after claiming to be "a small-govt Independent (neither Dem nor Rep)."

Reverend Warren probably is a registered Independent- it could be easily refuted otherwise. But opposition to reproductive freedom does not qualify anyone- even a clergyman- as a supporter of small-government. He might have said, perhaps accurately, that he is a small-government supporter except when it "regards human life," but that is far less pithy than to describe oneself neatly as "a small-govt Independent."

But then, if claiming inaccurately to be a supporter of small government is borderline dishonest, there is nothing borderline about implying, by arguing the U.S. government cannot "tax its way out of bankruptcy," that the federal government is bankrupt.

The federal government is not bankrupt, though it is a GOP talking point to claim bankruptcy or insolvency of whatever the party doesn't like, including Social Security or the federal government itself. But of course, Warren is not a GOP shill.

Really, Rick? Warren, in Walsh's term at the time, "sandbagged" Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential debate at Saddleback Church. He lied about McCain being in a "cone of silence" while his opponent was being interviewed, opened a line of abortion questioning partial to Republican McCain, then later compared "an evangelical Christian voting for a pro-choice politician to a Jew voting for a Holocaust denier."

Independent or not, the guy gives a pretty good imitation of a "GOP shill." That does not mean, however, that Warren should eschew politics, by which he has done well. He undermined Barack Obama during the campaign, then gets invited to speak at the man's inauguration. Given this President's way of doing business, if Reverend Warren continues to criticize liberal economic policies, he may one day become Secretary of Treasury Warren.

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