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Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency

August 17, 2008, 12:18 pm | Posted by katie

Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency powerfully demonstrated last night that religion is not the exclusive domain of any one political party or ideology and that the faith community has an important role to play in fostering civil political discourse in America.

During the primary, Faith in Public Life organized the Compassion Forum in Pennsylvania with Sens. Clinton and Obama (Sen. McCain was unable to attend), featuring questions from members of the Compassion Forum Board – a diverse coalition of faith leaders from across the ideological spectrum – to elevate compassion issues: poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change, abortion reduction, genocide in Darfur, and torture.

Faith in Public Life asked Rick Warren to join our efforts with the Compassion Forum Board to elevate compassion issues in the election by hosting another Compassion Forum with the presumptive nominees of both parties leading into the general election. Based on our experience organizing the Compassion Forum, we were happy to consult and advise Saddleback in the initial stages of planning for the Saddleback Civil Forum, but this was Saddleback’s event. While we certainly would have framed a number of the questions differently and focused more on compassion issues Rick has championed, we applaud him for providing a civil forum for discussion that moved beyond the gotcha-questions and partisan sniping of traditional debates.

We look forward to working to continue building bridges to find common ground for the common good and to elevate issues of compassion as important faith and values issues in the 2008 election and beyond.

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3 Responses to “Rick Warren’s Saddleback Civil Forum on the Presidency”

  1. Tonight’s show was predictable and a bit creepy.

    Fox, CNN and most other news stations carried the dialogue as Reverend Rick Warren quizzed senators McCain and Obama on national TV. Warren wanted to know how Christianity played out in their personal lives. He wanted to make sure neither believed in gay marriage. He pushed them on abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Pastor Rick wanted to know how they would address religious persecution around the world. When does a fetus acquire human rights? And he invited them to confess their biggest moral blunder in front of the cameras.

    The mega-church pastor didn’t talk much about the poor, except to boast that he personally had sold 25 million copies of his guide to living a more purposeful life, and to quip that an annual income of $150,000 a year, which Obama defined as middle-class, was a poverty wage in his southern California neighborhood. Funny, I remember Jesus had a lot to say about the poor and not so much about stem cell research. Me and Rick must have gone to different seminaries.

    One of his last questions to both candidates: “What would you say to folks who think it’s inappropriate for you to be talking with me here tonight?” Rev. Warren said that while it was important to keep church and state distinct, there was nothing wrong with mingling faith and politics. “Faith” was just another name for a world view, he explained, and everyone had one of those, whether Baptist or Buddhist or Bahai. Both Obama and McCain enthused about how delighted they were chatting with such a prominent religious leader.

    But I had a different reaction. I thought it was another example of America’s growing problem with boundary issues. Specifically, our nation seems to be losing sight of the appropriate lines between news and entertainment, between entertainment and religion, and between religion and politics.

    Tonight’s show tried to somehow be all of those things, set in a church that looked like a TV studio on steroids, with a host who seemed unsure whether he was a minister or talk show celebrity, quoting scripture (or misquoting) without much concern for accuracy. Info-tainment meets Inspir-mation.

    Not a pretty sight.

  2. Jande says:

    I thought the civil forum for the presidency was an outstanding moderation. We should have more like it to reveal the motives and ideas behind our presidental candidates. Religious people are voters too and need to know where the candidates stand on issues important to them and need to see them answer without written transcripts for the sake of honesty to the people.

  3. Jande says:

    PS. As far as there being a line between religion a politics, there will never be a line between them, as long as there are still Christian-voting-taxpayers that are US Citizens of America.