Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rick Warren on Christians Muslims to Work Together

Rick Warren works "outside the box" as a Christian leader. He's on the right road, IMHO. For Muslims and Christians to "work in action together" seems unrealistic and superficial, as serious theological differences make it difficult if not impossible to make such actions long-lasting. Yet. Still, the call to respect each other seems to me to be true and needed. What do you think? JRK

Rick Warren calls on Muslims and Christians to work together
Saddleback pastor urges Islamic Society convention to form an interfaith coalition to combat prejudice.
The Orange County Register

WASHINGTON – Speaking to a crowd of nearly 8,000 Muslims at the Islamic Society of North America's annual convention in Washington D.C., Saddleback Church Pastor Rick Warren called on Muslims and Christians to form an interfaith coalition to combat prejudice and stereotypes.

While Fourth of July revelers staked out seats to watch fireworks at the nearby Capitol Building, Warren addressed convention-goers – some of them from Orange County Muslim student associations – about the need for mutual respect.

"Tolerance is not enough," Warren said. "People don't want to be tolerated, they want to be respected, they want to be listened to. They want to be valued."

Armed with four ideas for action, Warren called on Muslims and Christians to work together to create respect, restore civility to civilization, promote peace and tackle major world problems.

"I am not interested in interfaith dialogue, I am interested in interfaith projects," Warren said. "Talk is very cheap."

The evangelical minister and bestselling author has played an increasingly prominent role in public forums. Saddleback, which Warren founded in 1980, has five campuses in Orange County and is one of the largest churches in the country.

In 2008, he hosted a presidential candidate forum with Sen. John McCain and then-Sen. Barack Obama. His Lake Forest church also hosted then-Sen. Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Warren acknowledged that he was likely to receive criticism for addressing the Islamic convention. He declined to give any interviews about his appearance at the convention, according to a spokesperson. But in a blog last week the pastor addressed criticism he receives for speaking at non-Christian events.

"Every time I speak to any non-Christian group, I get criticized by well-meaning believers who don't really understand how much Jesus loves lost people," Warren wrote in the blog. "They are more concerned with their own perceived purity than the salvation of those Jesus died for."

Warren also listed his speaking engagement at the convention, in case people wanted to pray for the event.

Organizers of the convention were likely to get criticism for inviting him to speak as well, Warren said.

A popular minister whose churches minister to an estimated 20,000 people every week, Warren is not new to criticism. He supported the passage of Proposition 8 in the November election and gay rights protesters demonstrated outside his church after the gay marriage ban passed.

It was Warren's support of Proposition 8 that fueled much of the controversy over his invitation to participate in the inauguration. Many gay rights activists were vocal in their opposition to then-President-elect Obama's choice.

However Warren was praised for steering clear of controversy on inauguration day and delivering what was deemed a conciliatory and inclusive prayer.

"You can disagree with someone without hating them, without being afraid of them," Warren said.

Some are taking Warren's participation Saturday as a sign of Islam becoming more accepted in America, according to a recent article on the event by the Associated Press.

ISNA President Ingrid Mattson discussed the diversity of Islam, and Muslims' changing place in American society.

Many Muslims were relieved to be recognized in President Obama's inaugural address as being an important part of the fabric of American diversity, she said.

Mattson said she admired Warren's dedication to his community. Warren emphasized that governments cannot solve all the worlds problems, and emphasized the success of his interfaith work improving healthcare in Africa.

"I think what he said was fantastic," said Shiran Elkoshairi of the Adams Center Mosque in Virginia. "Historically, that (interfaith co-operation) was the way things got done, but we have forgotten that over time."

Elkoshairi said he especially liked how Warren said that love is a verb, an action rather than an emotion.

"I am commanded to love and I am commanded to respect everybody," Warren said.

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