When I sat down with Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church for “This Week,” I asked him about the current “Newsweek” cover story written by conservative Andrew Sullivan, who argues that Christianity is in “crisis” with too little focus on spirituality instead of politics. Here is what Warren had to say in response.
TAPPER: This week’s “Newsweek” magazine, which has a very provocative cover, has a different perspective on what ails America’s religious communities, under the headline “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus,” Andrew Sullivan argues that American Christianity is in a crisis, it’s too focused on politics and policy, too little on spirituality. And that’s the same theme that was in this video by Jeff Bethke that was — that went viral earlier this year, with over 20 million views. So what is your reaction to this line of criticism from people who like faith but don’t like religion?
WARREN: Sure. Well, first place, let me give a little personal gripe. I think it’s disingenuous that magazines like “Newsweek” know that their circulation goes up at Christmas and Easter if they put a spiritual issue on the cover, but it’s always bait and switch. They never tell the stories, never tell the stories of what the good — what good the church is doing. Never. It’s always some obscure scholar, who’s debating something that kind of supposedly disproves this or that, or Andrew Sullivan — I don’t consider Andrew Sullivan to be a religious authority, okay?
And so it is — they know they’re going to make money, every time you put Jesus on the cover of a magazine, it skyrockets. You go do the history. “Time” magazine, “Life” magazine, “U.S. News and World Report,” those are always the best issues. So they make money on it, but then it’s a bait and switch, and it’s always a disappointment. And I wish they would have a little bit more integrity than that, and tell the other side of the story, maybe just occasionally.
TAPPER: All right. Fair enough. But what do you think of the — I mean, there obviously is something going on out there if this YouTube video has 20 million hits, people responding to this idea of ‘I like faith, I like spirituality, I love Jesus.’ But organized religion is really bothering them.
WARREN: Well, in the first place, that video in itself, that young man who did that is a member of a local church. So he did not give up on the church. Now the Bible calls the church the bride of Christ and the body of Christ. For me to say, ‘I like you, but I can’t stand your body,’ or ‘I like you, but I hate your wife,’ that’s offensive. The Bible says that we are members of the body of Christ. We’re a part of the family of God. A Christian without a church family is an orphan. And a hand disconnected from the body will not have its connection. We’re not meant to just be believers. We’re meant to be belongers.
So I dispute that. Does the church have problems? Of course it does, like every other institution that’s made up of human beings. So there’s sin, failure, mistakes, stuff we would disavow? Of course. But there’s a general tendency throughout our society to distrust leadership and institutions, and not just the church, but government –
TAPPER: Sure, corporations.
WARREN: — corporations.
WARREN: And academics –
WARREN: The media, everything like that. So this is a general trend. It’s like, ‘This is news? This is worthy of putting on the cover?’