Popular and influential pastor Rick Warren told me that in today’s forum at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, Calif., with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., “we’re going to look at four different things. Were going to look at leadership, specifically their character, their competence, their experience. We’re going to look at stewardship, which is the role of the president, the role of America, the role of government. We’re going to look at worldview, which are some faith issues and some moral issues. And were going to look at America’s role international, what is their vision for America into the future.
“A lot of people expect me to ask softball questions,” Warren said. “They will not be softball, they will be fair. In fact, I’m going to ask the identical questions to both candidates. We flipped a coin and Obama goes first for one hour, and then John McCain will be in a cone of silence for an hour.”
“Oh, he won’t hear it?” I asked.
“He will not hear it,” Warren said. “To be fair.”
“Just like a game show?” I said. (Thinking of “Family Feud.”)
“Just like a game show,” Warren said. “I will ask the identical questions to John McCain. So there’s no bias. There’s no gotcha on one and not on the other, ‘[no] well he was too hard or too soft.’ The identical questions and we call it a civil forum because I think you can disagree without being disagreeable, without demonizing the opposition.”
Warren said that he’s been “working on this for about a month, questions that don’t have any wiggle room so that people just can’t go into the well.”
“Having interviewed both these guys good luck with that,” I said.
I noted that Mitt Romney — thought to be on McCain’s short list for VP — did not get a lot of evangelical votes during the GOP primaries specifically because of his Mormon faith.
“What did you think of that when that was playing out?” I asked.
“Well, I think there’s a fundamental difference because evangelicalism and Mormonism,” Warren said. “There’s no doubt about it. And there’s some things that Mormons hold to that are not ‘historic Christianity’ that all Lutherans, all Methodists, all Baptists, all Pentecostals, all Catholics, Protestants [hold true].
“For instance, all Christians believe in the Trinity. Mormons deny the Trinity. So that’s a fundamental difference,” Warren said. “All Christians believe in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Mormons believe in additional books that historic orthodox Christians reject. There may have been a misunderstanding on that. But I don’t even think that’s the whole issue. I think that there are other issues involved in terms of who has had experience, who has had leadership and who understands my problems.”
I also asked Warren about his favorite Bible verse.
“ACT 13:36 is the epitaph for King David,” Warren said. “It says, ‘He served God’s purpose for his generation. And then he died.’ And that’s my life verse. He did serve God’s purpose, that which never changes but he did it in his generation. He did it in a contemporary and relevant way. He did the timeless in a timely way. He did that which never changed in a world that’s constantly changing and that’s all that any of us can do. My goal is to serve God’s purpose in my generation and then I’ll die. Then the next guy will serve God’s purpose in his generation. And I believe God has a purpose for every life. And if you’re alive, if your heart’s beating, God has a purpose for your life. God has never done anything without a purpose.”
Gotta run. Off to Lake Forrest to the Saddleback Church.