Friday, January 16, 2009
You Give A Guy A Little Power And It Goes To His Head
On April 17, 2005, at the southern California Anaheim Angels sports stadium thirty thousand Saddleback Church members, more than ever gathered in one spot, assembled to celebrate Saddleback's 25th anniversary and listened as Rick Warren announced his vision for the next 25 years of the church: the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.
Towards the close of his nearly one hour speech, Pastor Warren asked his followers to be as committed to Jesus as the young Nazi men and women who spelled out in mass formation with their bodies the words "Hitler, we are yours," in 1939 at the Munich Stadium, were committed to the Führer of the Third Reich, a major instigator of a World War that claimed 55 million lives. Rick Warren has exhorted Christians towards Nazi-like dedication in at least several public speeches and also during a one hour video recording of a talk by Warren, explaining his P.E.A.C.E. Plan, that is currently hosted on the official P.E.A.C.E. Plan website (see 'video page', "The Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan"). A version of the anecdote can also be found on page 357 of Rick Warren's 1995 book The Purpose Driven Church, which sold over one million copies.
During his Anaheim stadium speech Warren, sometimes called 'pastor Rick' talked about a number of visions and communications he had received from God. By calling on his church members to follow Jesus with the fanatical dedication with which the Nazis, or Hitler Youth, gave to Adolf Hitler, Rick Warren appeared to be in effect asking his Saddleback members to be fanatically dedicated to Warren's own leadership, given his role in divining God's intent for the Saddleback church flock. During his speech, Rick Warren also explained that God had personally instructed him to seek, for the good of the world, more influence, power and fame.
Warren moved on, from his celebration of Nazi dedication to purpose, and held up Lenin, and Chinese Red Guard efforts during the Cultural Revolution, as behavioral examples for his Saddleback flock, whom Warren called on to carry out a "revolution".
Concluding his motivational speech, the Saddleback Church founder instructed his ranks in the stadium to hold up signs, from their official programs, with the preprinted message "whatever it takes". Warren then introduced, as leader of the first nation on Earth in which the P.E.A.C.E. Plan would be implemented, Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
In 1998 under Kagame's leadership Rwanda, along with the now officially "Purpose Driven" nation of Uganda, invaded the Democratic Republic of The Congo, touching off a conflict that has claimed more civilian lives than any since World War Two. On December 12, 2008, the United Nations accused Rwanda of aiding Congolese warlord Laurent Nkunda, accused of massacres and human rights violations and whose recent offensive has created several hundred thousand Congolese refugees.
In March 2008, Rick Warren's Saddleback launched an official national "Purpose Driven Living" program in Uganda, a country which was indicted in 2005 by the International Criminal Court for perpetrating "massive" human rights violations by invading and looting the natural riches of the Congo. Uganda is know for brutalizing its own population too. In the late 1990's under president Yowerie Museveni, whose wife Janet Museveni has spoken at Saddleback Church conferences, the Ugandan military drove upwards of two million Acholi tribe members in Northern Uganda, through a terror campaign of massacres and bombing, into crowded concentration camps on the Congo-Uganda border where many languish to this day, in what one Former Undersecretary for the UN has described as an ongoing, slow genocide.
Mega-pastor Warren, who will give the opening prayer at the inauguration of president-elect Barack Obama on January 20, 2009, aspires to great moral and spiritual leadership. Rick Warren has called for a second Christian Reformation, and he has stated his intent of inspiring 'one billion' Christians, half of all Christians globally, to become personally and 'radically' committed to changing the world.
With his impressive managerial skills and through his global network of four hundred thousand Christian pastors who have been trained by Saddleback over the last two decades, Rick Warren might well be able to start such a movement.
"Stop dreaming and start doing," the "Purpose Driven Life" author told his Anaheim Stadium crowd. Warren described a global Christian movement to bring the message of Jesus Christ to every man, woman and child on Earth. "It's going to cover the planet," he proclaimed, "and then the end is going to come."
Calling for "total mobilization of this church" and "radical devotion" to the cause, Pastor Warren sketched out his vision, which he declared was from God, of a "revolution", launched through Warren's "Purpose Driven" network of hundreds of thousands as pastors globally, to create a Christian world regime.
Though Warren's speech was in the idiom of Christianity, he did not seek to inspire his Saddleback audience with examples of great religious leaders who have changed history through persuasion or other nonviolent approaches. Rick Warren looked to 20th century exemplars of vision and dedication but not to Mohatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, or any other religious leaders.
With more than a hint of admiration in his voice, pastor Warren described how in 1939 in a packed Munich Stadium before the leader of the Third Reich, young brown-shirted men and women spelled out in formation, with their bodies, words in German which read "Hitler, we are yours."
"And they nearly took the world, " pastor Rick told the stadium crowd. He moved on to quote another inspirational example from the 20th Century, Lenin, who said 'give me 100 committed, totally committed men and I'll change the world.' Once again Warren observed, "They nearly did."
Having cited dedication and zeal of young Nazis and the efficacy of Bolshevik Revolutionaries, Warren moved on to describe how the sayings of Chairman Mao, printed up in the "Little Red Book", had helped propel the revolutionary fervor of the Chinese Red Guard who had carried out the violent, anarchic revolutionary spasm known as the Cultural Revolution.
With those examples fresh in his audiences mind, Rick Warren instructed the crowd of his thirty thousand to hold up pre-printed signs, within their programs, white letters against a red background, that said "Whatever it takes."
Looking out at the crowd Warren enthused, "I'm looking at a stadium full of people who are saying, 'whatever it takes, God'.
Initially, the "P" in Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E. plan stood for "planting churches". In a later iteration the "P" was recast as standing for "promoting reconciliation". But as Warren's one-hour talk currently on his official P.E.A.C.E. Plan website makes quite clear, the plan is primarily about evangelizing the world and multiplying Christian leadership to help carry that out. Compared to the need to save souls, alleviating human suffering is secondary.
As described in a January 7th, 2008 Daily Beast article by journalist Max Blumenthal, the reputation of Rick and Kay Warren, for work on HIV/AIDS reduction, appears considerably overrated. As Blumenthal writes, "a survey of Warren's involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with draconian right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating in favor of abstinence-only education. Most disturbingly, Warren's allies have rolled back key elements of the continent's most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Their activism, according to Stephen Lewis, the United Nations' special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, is 'resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which never should have occurred.' "
As Blumenthal's article goes on to explore, one of Rick Warren's allies in Uganda, Martin Ssempa, has played a key role in reducing the availability of condoms in Uganda. Known for publicly burning a pack of condoms at Uganda's Makerere University, Ssempa advises Ugandan First Lady Janet Museveni on HIV/AIDS policy and has successfully lobbied the US Congress to de-fund Population Resources International, a world distributor of condoms. As abstinence-only has ramped up and condom availability decreased in Uganda, the HIV/AIDS rate has begun to climb.
Martin Ssempa has delivered two speeches, and also led workshops, at Rick and Kay Warren's HIV/AIDS conferences. As public health expert Dr. Helen Epstein described, in an excerpt from a recent book of hers published in the New York Review of Books, Martin Ssempa told her that 'Satan worshipers under Lake Victoria' make deals with the devil to stage car accidents and kidnappings in exchange for cash.
Ssempa, a charismatic pastor, runs a church which performs regular exorcisms. Pastor Ssempa is also highly active in antigay activism in Uganda, where homosexuality is illegal, and has publicized names of accused homosexuals who have subsequently gone into hiding.
Media coverage has tended to emphasize the component of the P.E.A.C.E. Plan in which Christians would work to alleviate diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, and address poverty and illiteracy. But the two top problems, according to Rick Warren, have nothing to do with human material or physical needs. The top problem, according to Warren, is "spiritual emptiness".
As Warren explained to a Dallas gathering of 12,000 Baptists, charismatic and nondenominational evangelicals in May of 2005, "spiritual emptiness" is an acute disorder characterized by aimlessness, fear and lack of purpose, afflicting non-Christians, that arises in the absence of a personal relationship with Jesus; "Billions of people live without Jesus Christ. Billions of people don't know God has a purpose for their life," Warren told his Dallas audience. "Egocentric leadership", the second greatest cause of world problems according to Rick Warren, is due to a lack of 'servant leaders' who model their behavior after Jesus.
Having defined the paramount world problems as, in essence, the fact that evangelicalism has not fully converted everyone on Earth into Christians, Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E. plan squarely addresses that dire need -- for the Christian belief system to envelope the globe.
During his Anaheim speech, Warren revealed that he'd received a message from God to seek more influence, power and fame. God, Warren narrated, led him to Psalm 72, "Solomon's prayer for more influence... in Psalm 72 [Solomon] says 'God, I want you to make me more influential. God, I want you to give me more power. I want you to bless my life more. God, I want you to spread the fame of my name through other countries.' "
"It sounded pretty selfish," mused Warren but, as he explained to the crowd, God had led him on a path towards solving the five biggest global problems.
Beyond 'spiritual poverty', egocentric leadership is the next most oppressive 'global giant', according to Rick Warren, and thus a higher priority than HIV/AIDS, poverty, and other material afflictions. "The world is full of little Saddams," he observed, "they're in every country, they're in every church, they're in every business, they're in every homeowner's association. They're everywhere. You give a guy a little power and it goes to his head. "