Austin Hill

Barack Obama has a controversial relationship with a Pastor.

I am not here referring to Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Obama has fallen under harsh scrutiny because of the actions of his own Pastor, and this has become quite widely known within the last week.

But Mr. Obama has also had at least some sort of “connection” with a Pastor of a different church, and the very fact that this “connection” exists has implications for the next election.

Pastor Rick Warren heads up the popular “Saddleback Church” in suburban Orange County, California (it’s name comes from the nearby Saddleback Mountain range). A trend setting institution within the Evangelical “mega church” movement, the congregation makes up the largest church in California, and the fourth largest church in the United States.

Yet Pastor Warren’s influence reaches far beyond his own, local pulpit. Widely known for publishing “The Purpose Driven Life” book earlier this decade (a New York Times’ bestseller), Warren’s pastoral advice has impacted untold numbers worldwide. And Warren’s influence among Evangelical clergy has been steadily building for at least the past two decades, reaching a high point with the publishing of “The Purpose Driven Church” book back in the mid-90’s.

To his credit, Warren has tried to compel Evangelicals (and thoughtful Christians of all sorts) to engage on a wider array of social and cultural concerns - - caring for the poor, fighting disease in the third world, and, yes, a proper care of the environment. In so doing, Warren has expanded upon the accomplishments of the older Evangelical activists who have over the past three decades narrowly defined their efforts as comprising the “pro-family movement” - - a movement dedicated to protecting the life of the unborn child, and the historic definition of marriage.

And this is where Obama comes in. In November and December of 2006, Saddleback Church hosted the 2nd annual “Global Summit On AIDS and the Church,” and Senator Obama, along with Senator Sam Brownback, were two of the more high-profile speakers at the event. At the time, Warren was harshly criticized by other Evangelical leaders for having invited the staunchly pro-abortion Obama. Warren’s response? "Jesus loved and accepted others without approving of everything they did” he told his detractors. “That's our position too, but it upsets a lot of people, so we get attacked from both sides."

The Evangelical reaction to Obama was predictable, and Warren’s pursuit of “unity” and “bi-partisanship” was commendable. But if Obama’s stance on abortion is troublesome for Evangelicals, why wouldn’t his stance on a variety of other policy issues - - and in particular, economic issues - - be equally as troubling?

Austin Hill

Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.