The Resurrection of President George W. Bush as Presided Over by Pastor Rick Warren

For a president with little to do but pardon turkeys in honor of Thanksgiving, little to look forward to but packing his bags and evacuating the White House, and less positive accomplishments to look back on than most presidents, this year’s World AIDS Day will clearly be a high point.

On World AIDS Day, Monday, December 1, Rick Warren, pastor of the Lake Forest, California-based Saddleback Valley Community Church and who is well on his way to becoming one of the most recognizable and powerful pastors in America, will be hosting his Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health at the Washington, D.C.-based Newseum. As part of the event, Warren will be giving President Bush the first “International Medal of PEACE” from the Global PEACE Coalition, in recognition of Bush’s “unprecedented contribution to the fight against HIV/AIDS and other diseases,” a Saddleback Church press release announced.

According to the press release, Warren will discuss with both Bush, and the First Lady, their “past accomplishments and priorities moving forward regarding international health issues — including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.”

President-elect Barack Obama, who appeared with Senator John McCain at this past August at the Saddleback Forum on the Presidency, will provide a video-taped message addressing the future of global health.

“No U.S. president or political leader has done more for global health than this Administration, which has raised the bar on America’s role and responsibility for providing critical humanitarian assistance around the world,” Warren said. “Over the past eight years, the President and Mrs. Bush have traveled the globe as they and their staffs have worked tirelessly to bring awareness and solutions to pandemics such as HIV/AIDS, and we are privileged to honor their efforts on World AIDS Day.”

Bush, whose approval ratings with the American public is amongst the lowest recorded since polling firms began asking the question, will no doubt cherish receiving this award. It may be one of the few note-worthy aspects of his presidency.

Warren’s recognition of Bush revolves around the Administration’s “implementation and success of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which has provided $18.8 billion since 2003 to combat global HIV/AIDS,” the press release pointed out. “Congress has recently authorized an additional $48 billion for ongoing efforts to address this pandemic as well as tuberculosis and malaria over the next five years.”

“As my wife Kay and I have been implementing the PEACE Plan in 68 developing countries, we have seen firsthand many of the hundreds of thousands of lives that have been saved through PEPFAR and the President’s Malaria Initiative,” Warren said. “I hope that this Forum will show the American people that our global health programs represent more than compassionate humanitarian efforts, but are also a strong, prudent pillar of American foreign policy.”

Warren, recently dubbed a “celebripastor” by DMN News, is the author of The Purpose Driven Life, a book that has sold over 50 million copies. He recently announced a partnership with the Reader’s Digest association that will pool their international resources to develop an entity called The Purpose Driven Connection, a multi-media “platform to help people who are seeking their purpose in life and wish to interact with others on their spiritual journeys.” The will be “The Purpose Driven Connection” quarterly magazine; study materials delivered in DVDs, workbooks and downloadable discussion guides; and a state-of-the-art Christian social networking website.

Earlier this month, Warren “released his first book since his best-selling Purpose Driven Life as part of a special three-tool outreach for the Christmas season,” the Christian Post reported. The new book is called The Purpose Driven Christmas. “People are more open to the Gospel at Christmas than any other time,” said Warren.

According to the Christian Post, “All three tools are based off a Christmas message Warren had delivered two years ago at his Southern California megachurch that drew around 4,000 people and saw more than 2,000 accept Christ.”

Warren said that “Fox News then showed it on their television show the next year. The year after that, the Armed Services Network asked to show it to their entire Armed Services network around the world, so I decided, ‘Why don’t I turn this into a little booklet – kind of a handout for evangelism?’”

In August, Warren said: “I have never been considered a part of the religious right, because I don’t believe politics is the most effective way to change the world.” However, a week before the election, Warren told his congregation: “Here’s an interesting thing: there are about 2% of Americans [who] are homosexual, gay, lesbian people. We should not let two percent of the population determine—to change a definition of marriage that has been supported by every single culture and every single religion for 5,000 years. This is not even just a Christian issue, it is a humanitarian and human issue, that God created marriage for the purpose of family, love and procreation. I urge you to support Proposition 8 and to pass that on.”

After the initiative passed, hundreds of anti-Proposition 8 protesters targeted Warren’s church. According to CNSNews.com, a conservative news service, “the same-sex marriage advocates were expressing their anger at Warren, pastor of the Southern California mega-church, for speaking out in support of the California initiative.”

A mid-November piece at The Daily Beast, Max Blumenthal, one of the most intrepid reporters covering the Religious Right, pointed out that “In the past, Warren’s crusading against gay rights was generally ignored. When Warren shepherded his congregants to the polls in 2000 to vote for Prop 22, a California ballot measure banning same-sex marriages … [overturned by the state Supreme Court earlier this year; a decision that led to Proposition 8 being placed on the ballot], he hardly caused a stir outside evangelical circles.”

At the time Warren received a “letter of gratitude” from the Christian right godfather James Dobson, Blumenthal noted.

In 2004, “in the last days of the presidential race … Warren sent an urgent blast email to hundreds of thousands of evangelicals insisting they base their votes on five ‘non-negotiable’ issues: abortion, stem cell research, gay marriage, human cloning, and euthanasia.”

At a time when the old timers on the Religious Right are passing on and/or losing their cache, Warren is clearly in line for the role of the Billy Graham of this generation: His August presidential forum; his close relationship with President-elect Obama; his multi-million dollar media deals; his willingness to extend the evangelical agenda to include AIDS, combating poverty and global warming; and his celebrity will contribute to his garnering the mantle of “America’s Pastor.”

Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement. His column, "Conservative Watch," documents the strategies, players, institutions, victories and defeats of the American Right. Read other articles by Bill, or visit Bill's website.

13 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. John Hatch said on November 29th, 2008 at 2:20pm #

    Only in America would hateful con-man nut-cases be considered ‘religious’. No wonder America is in such a goddam mess!

  2. DavidG. said on November 29th, 2008 at 2:30pm #

    That Warren has any credence at all is tribute to the inability of humans to think.

    That his fraudulent message of life after death and heaven and angels continues to flourish is tribute to the continuing primitiveness and gullibility of most human beings.

    We don’t need a new Billy Graham! We need to get rid of religion and all those who use it to exploit the weak-minded and divide them!

  3. Don Hawkins said on November 29th, 2008 at 2:41pm #

    John good one and I watch these people sometimes in pure amazement and I have seen more than once a certain thing happen. A Hawaiian shirt is square cut for a reason you are suppose to wear it out free like the wind. More than once I have seen these conmen wear a Hawaiian shirt and tuck it in. It’s a sign of something very very wrong.

  4. bozh said on November 29th, 2008 at 4:07pm #

    davidG,
    no offense meant but there may not be week-minded people. we all have talents and r equally valuable.
    a label is a human (and delusional) category but is not a category of nature,
    nature doesn’t make junk. people do. thnx

  5. DavidG. said on November 29th, 2008 at 4:13pm #

    Bozh, look hard at the chaos of our world. It is but a reflection of who and what we humans are!

    By their works ye shall know them.

  6. bozh said on November 29th, 2008 at 4:54pm #

    davidG,
    no one knows what weak-minded means. in my experience, more peaceful, gentler, kinder people do less evil than the ‘strong minded’, whatever that may mean to each of us.
    important caveat is to consider the probability that the meanings r not in words/labels but in every cell of one’s body; which also includes brain. thnx

  7. bozh said on November 29th, 2008 at 5:08pm #

    david,
    in order to end talking ab what people r, i wld like to iterate this:
    we r ok. we r what nature made us. it did all it was able to do; this is the best it cld do.
    and i’m no longer arguing w. my maker.
    we r not ok to clero-politico-educational class of life. that’s the difference. thnx

  8. Don Hawkins said on November 29th, 2008 at 6:22pm #

    we r not ok to clero-politico-educational class of life. Bozh I am very sure who you are talking about here and I think there is something very wrong with these people they need help all the help we can gave them and knowing them they will probably ask for more and there dry cleaning bill a month must be astounding.

  9. Hue Longer said on November 29th, 2008 at 8:21pm #

    That Bush appointed money spent on Aids operates outside the world organizations who are free to purchase medicine at the lowest cost…instead it is is pumped into big pharma. I’m sorry I haven’t the statistics for this but it’s also worth mentioning that the money has to at least in part go to faith and abstinence salesmen. The award should be for theft

  10. bozh said on November 30th, 2008 at 8:08am #

    if one looks at gorillas, we’d see how peaceful and gentle they r to each other.
    we’v been around as long as apes. perforce, we were like that some 40td yrs ago.
    if we behaved then as we behave now, there wld have been bloodbath in every clan or tribe. wld we have survived at all? well, we don’t know.
    but at certain time deception evolved and is w. us to this day.
    and because of that there is daily bloodbath going on in many regions.
    even in US, w. its strong and large police, cia, fbi, army, other agents there r robberies, murders, rape, divorce, drugs, etc.
    and we can postulate some causes for this. some we know! thnx

  11. bozh said on November 30th, 2008 at 8:16am #

    natch, to the ruling classes almost everywhere, we the lower classes r to blame for all this.
    to the ruling classes, ruling classes do everything possible to civilize/teach us, the unwashed, and shld receive accolades and finacila rewards for their troubles.
    and all that in spite of the fact that we all come from the same genetic pool. thnx

  12. Joe Bua said on December 1st, 2008 at 5:37pm #

    Interesting, I’m from his neighborhood, close to the church, and yet I know not one person who attends the Saddleback Church.

    Where do these people come from?

    And who would possibly give this Bush a medal for peace? I know Sarah Palin didn’t know what the Bush Doctrine was, but I thought maybe possibly Rick Warren might be better read.

    Or is he just reading his own books, over and over and …

    The whole thing just makes me sick.

  13. Phil said on December 2nd, 2008 at 10:29am #

    Only in America would hateful con-man nut-cases be considered ‘religious.’

    Hardly….. it’s not as if there are any shortage of hateful con-man nutcases under the Jewish or Muslim umbrellas too. Let’s give fair recognition to all sides.