The problem is not that Rick and Kay Warren invited Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to be the keynote speaker at their third annual Global Summit on AIDS and the Church at Saddleback Church. The problem is that Rick Warren never engaged the Senator on the points where many evangelicals are at odds with her agenda.
Giving Senator Clinton a platform in one of the largest evangelical churches in America exposes her agenda, allowing us to engage her in the arena of ideas on the social issues on which we fundamentally disagree, something conservative evangelicals should welcome.
Senator Clinton was welcomed by the ostensibly evangelical crowd with a standing ovation. She spoke for just under 30 minutes, taking as her text James 2:26, “Faith without works is dead.” Wrenching it from its context, Clinton began:
One of my favorite passages in Scripture is that famous line from James that “faith without works is dead.” But I have concluded that works without faith is just too hard. It cannot be sustained over one’s life or over the generations. And it’s important for us to recognize how, here in what you’re doing, faith and works come together.
There’s just one problem: faith and works don’t “come together.” Our works are never independent of our faith. We don’t add our faith to our works. Our works flow from and validate our faith.
The point of the James passage is not to suggest that we add faith to our works in order to make our work easier and more fulfilling. Rather, our works flow from our faith in Jesus Christ to give evidence of our salvation from sin, and this faith is “not of ourselves” but is itself “the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8-9). The point of the James passage is not to say that what we do can somehow be made easier by our belief in what we are doing, but rather to say that we can do nothing ultimately pleasing to God unless it flows from our faith in Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6). Senator Clinton, it seems, has redefined faith to mean faith in our works rather than faith in Jesus producing our works.
Throughout her speech the Senator similarly mishandled the Word of God, at one point paraphrasing 1 Corinthians 12:12 saying, “Corinthians tells us that the body is made up of many parts, and though all its parts are many, they form one body.” She then went on to interpret the “the parts of the body” as the combining of government resources (tax revenue) with the resources the church can provide (comfort care). However, the text of Scripture clearly indicates that the body is Christ’s Church and believers are the individual members thereof.
But the most egregious misapplication of Scripture came when the Senator from New York said:
We are taught to heal the sick, to love them as our own, but 25 years ago too many died alone ashamed to tell their families what had made them ill. In the Gospels we learn that one-third of Christ’s ministry was healing the sick. And if you read those moments when Jesus is presented with someone who is ill, it becomes abundantly clear that Christ had a choice. He could have been too busy. He could have thought, you know, “This is not the message of the day. I don’t need to do this. I’ve already done it in Capernaum, so I don’t need to do it again.” But he made the choice. He never asked why someone was sick. He just healed and ministered to those in need.
In that quote Clinton humanizes Jesus, bringing him down to a level equal to fallen man. The reality is, Jesus didn’t heal everyone who came to him for healing (John 2:23-25). She further humanizes Jesus by forgetting that the reason Jesus never asked why a person was sick before healing them was because he didn’t need to. As God, he knew why they were sick. (Clinton is implying here that Jesus never associated a person’s behavior with their illness, as evangelicals associate the sinful behavior of homosexuals with AIDS/HIV.)
But Clinton is wrong. On at least one occasion, the healing of the paralytic in Matthew 9, Jesus healed the man by saying, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus demanded repentance as he went about healing the sick, an important part of the gospels Clinton seems to have forgotten.
In addition to walking the audience through her own comprehensive AIDS/HIV agenda, she offered at least three objectives her presidency would seek to achieve with respect to the AIDS/HIV crisis. In doing so, Clinton further exposes her socialistic worldview: (1) she would ask for $50 billion over five years to combat HIV/AIDS; (2) make the education of the world’s children a priority in the fight against AIDS (what she called “a social vaccine against the spread of HIV/AIDS”); (3) “stand up for Women’s Rights” by “working to empower women to take responsibility for themselves and for their futures with initiatives on everything from maternal health, to micro credits, and entrepreneurship.” (For Clinton, “maternal health” is a code word for “reproductive rights” which is itself a code word for “abortion on demand.”)
Her words were greeted with rousing applause by an evangelical audience.
Senator Clinton also offered six things the church could do to combat AIDS/HIV: (1) care for those who are infected and their families; (2) encourage testing, even become testing centers; (3) unleash volunteers; (4) reduce the stigma by showing it’s not a sin to be sick; (5) champion healthy behavior; (6) be treatment coaches for those taking medication. She added that churches “must tend to the spiritual side of this crisis,” which she defined as comfort care for orphans and psychological care for those diagnosed with AIDS/HIV. Nothing in Clinton’s list vaguely resembles the mandate Jesus left His Church.
While Senator Clinton is correct that Jesus spent one-third of his ministry healing the sick, she conveniently leaves out that the bulk of Jesus’ ministry—the other two-thirds—was spent preaching and teaching, calling men and women to repent of their sins. This is the priority of the church. While we should not ignore the plight of the suffering, the sick and the dying, neither should we fail to fulfill the one mandate our Savior gave: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature’ (Mark 16:15; emphasis added).
Rick Warren has become the new face of the evangelical right in America. Mark Pinsky, religion writer for the Orlando Sentential, in an opinion piece for USA Today last August, described Warren as “pragmatic, politically sophisticated,” and among the evangelical leaders who make up the “emerging face and voice of American evangelicalism.”
As the new face of American evangelicalism, Rick Warren has a responsibility to resist the temptations of political expediency by remaining true to his first calling: preach the Word (2 Timothy 4:2). But it seems Pastor Rick has learned you get much more favorable media coverage when you cover what the media favors. Rather than take a bold stand for the Gospel and its clear message of repentance, Warren has opted to follow today’s religious left as they revive the social gospel of the early decades of the 20th century, allowing Clinton’s mishandling of the Word of God and the presentation of her socialistic agenda to go unchallenged.
Not only did he not challenge her agenda, at the conclusion of the Senator’s speech Rick Warren came to the podium and in remarks that were picked up by the microphone he said to Senator Clinton: “Fantastic! Home run … home run … home run! Great message!”
Either Rick Warren wasn’t listening to what his guest was saying for the previous 30 minutes, or Warren is being less than candid with evangelicals about his own agenda.