Mega-church pastor flexes political muscle on World AIDS Day
Rick Warren's Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health was an attempt to demonstrate the mega-church pastor's political muscle in the global AIDS community, both at home and abroad.
Warren gave president Bush a medal for his work on AIDS. Barack Obama released his World AIDS Day address at Warren's event.
Warren is a master of the evangelical soft sell. He's committed to fighting AIDS and he says he'll work with anyone to get the job done, including governments and atheists. It sounds tempting, especially considering the vast resources of Warren's 26,000-member church and merchandising empire.
It's easy to forget that Rick Warren's overarching goal is quite literally to colonize the world for Christianity.
What happens when church dogma conflicts with scientific knowledge about how to prevent AIDS. I approached the Saddleback Church for an interview, and they promised to get back to me, but I haven't heard from them. The current funding scheme mandates instruction on condoms in addition to abstinence indoctrination. What if a Christian "partner" doesn't believe in promoting condoms at all?
Does the United States want to tie AIDS relief so closely to Christian missionaries? If other faith-based initiatives are any guide the overwhelming majority of partnerships will be with Christian organizations.
A frequent obstacle to fighting AIDS is the perception that foreign "help" comes with strings attached.
Packaging AIDS relief in a Christian wrapper reinforces those perceptions, especially in countries where missionaries are actively trying to take converts away from the indigenous religion.
Obviously, medical missionaries are nothing new. We can respect their methods without committing the US government to that model.
Clearly, Rick Warren has major political pull. In my latest story in RH Reality, I discuss how Obama's AIDS agenda might clash with Warren's.