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Rick Warren Basically Stating That Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, And Christians All Worship The Same God

Posted by Job on September 30, 2008

Rick Warren, Interfaith Activist

Rick Warren is our new Billy Graham – at the center of not only his own Christian tradition, but of American civil religion as well. Churches follows his direction (most recently into Rwanda), and political candidates seek his blessing (Exhibit A: The Saddleback Forum).

There has been a lot of talk about the risks that Warren has taken – inviting the pro-choice Obama to address a decidedly pro-life gathering on the topic of AIDS, for example.

Another risk he is taking – more subtle, perhaps, but equally profound – is around religious diversity. 

Last week at the Clinton Global Initiative, Warren was asked how “the church” could help to solve poverty. His response was to rattle off the numbers of Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians in the world – in that order – and make a plea that the public and private sectors take seriously “the faith sector as the third leg of the stool of successful development”.

Warren consistently used the language of a religious pluralist. He spoke of “mosques, temples and churches” as central to the life of villages in the developing world. He underscored the fact that there are huge numbers of people of faith in the world, and huge numbers of houses of worship in places where clinics, banks and schools don’t exist. Those people of faith can be trained to be the arms and legs of any development plan, and those houses of worship can double as clinics, banks and schools.

This is a big deal, because it signals an important turn in the American Evangelical tradition – from viewing people of other faiths primarily as lost souls requiring conversion to viewing them as partners in the plan to make earth more humane and just. “Progressive Evangelicals” like Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren and Tony Campolo (read an interview here with Campolo on interfaith cooperation), have long been involved in interfaith efforts, but the mainline of that tradition has always been more wary. That could be changing.

I caught up with Warren after the panel and asked him directly how he thought about religious diversity. He talked to me about his friendship with his Muslim neighbor, and about how excited he was to speak at the upcoming MPAC conference in December. He was keenly aware of the important role that Muslims played in helping victims during the genocide in Rwanda, and he was engaging that community in his current efforts in that country.

That approach is American pragmatism at its best: a visionary leader engaging all possible partners in his plan to transform earth.

When I asked Warren to name something that he admired about Muslims, he answered without hesitation: “you people are not afraid to talk about God, he said with a smile. It’s always, ‘God willing’, or ‘God bless’, or ‘Thanks be to God.’ That’s something I admire, because I come from the same place.”

That is American religion at its best. Let’s hope the church and the country follow.

4 Responses to “Rick Warren Basically Stating That Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, And Christians All Worship The Same God”

  1. Metro State Atheists said

    Instead of building churches, mosques, and temples to treat the sick, provide shelter, and feed the hungry, why don’t they just build shelters and hospitals? I fail to see the necessity of involving religion in the process.

  2. John Kaniecki said

    Metro State Atheist,

    Hi hope you are well and welcome to the blog.

    A major component missing from politcial theories is the spiritual component. Marx for example, my opinion, said some worthwhile things. Yet Marxism as I have seen in implemented has always went off course. I feel the primary reason for this is that Marx had no understanding of the spiritual realm. Anything not done according to God’s way is like building a building on sand. When the storms come the building will got washed away.

    There is great evidence that more than material things are needed for man’s survival. Do you know that more people commit suicide in the higher money earning brackets. The reason for this is that they have bought into the lie that money will bring happiness. They then examine their position and see that they have money and no happiness. Unfortunately they kill themselves. There is a spiritual aspect to life. To deny it would be very foolish.

    I would like to discuss these things more.

    Love,

    John

  3. Metro State Atheists said

    John,

    While I do think that incorporating a spiritual component enhances the effect of many causes, it seems only necessary that people believe in the spiritual aspect, and that it not actually need to be based in fact. A placebo, in some sense. I think your position also ignores that idea the secular non-spiritual philosophies can provide the same kind of comfort and contentment that spiritual philosophies do. Denying God does not necessarily reduce one to seeking happiness solely in material gain.
    – Chalmer

  4. Metro State Atheists said

    John,

    While I do think that incorporating a spiritual component enhances the effect of many causes, it seems only necessary that people believe in the spiritual aspect, and that it not actually need to be based in fact. A placebo, in some sense. I think your position also ignores that idea the secular non-spiritual philosophies can provide the same kind of comfort and contentment that spiritual philosophies do. Denying God does not necessarily reduce one to seeking happiness solely in material gain.
    – Chalmer

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