By Michelle Boorstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 5, 2008 5:03 PM
Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor and philanthropist who is courted by political leaders worldwide, says he thinks Christianity needs a "second Reformation" that would steer the church away from divisive politics and be "about deeds, not creeds."
Speaking today to a group of Washington Post reporters and editors, the evangelical author said he had an "epiphany" in recent years due to his wife's battle with cancer and the success of his book, "The Purpose Driven Life," which has sold more than 25 million copies. Humbled and scared, he said he decided to focus on helping the needy and the sick, particularly those with AIDS.
That meant advocating for a broader agenda for evangelicals beyond same-sex marriage and bioethical issues like abortion and stem cell research. That's a shift from the e-mail Warren sent before the 2004 election to his regular distribution list of 136,000 pastors, telling them to focus on those hot-button issues, which he called "non-negotiables."
Warren said he now regrets that e-mail -- not because he's changed his views in opposing abortion and same-sex marriage, but because he places them on a longer list of priorities.
Now, he says, he wants to promote personal responsibility and restore civility in American culture.
"I just think we're becoming too rude," he said. "You have no right to demonize someone just because you disagree with them."
Changing the culture, he said, is not done only through politics but also through things like art, music and sports.
"Outside the Beltway politics is just not that important. No kid in America has a poster of a politician on their wall," he said.
Warren, whose ministry has trained a half-million pastors, said partnerships between government and industry can't succeed in solving social problems unless they include faith groups, with their large volunteer forces and their worldwide networks.
"People are so worried churches are going to be about conversion," he said, "but everyone has a motive. Everyone has a world view. Christianity is a world view. . . . I don't care why you do good as long as you do good."