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A number of years ago, John McCain did a hilarious segment on "Saturday Night Live" in which he did a spoof commercial for an album called "McCain Sings Streisand."
The "commercial" featured a crooning McCain torturing a number of Streisand hits — "People," "Memories," "The Way We Were."
The senator then pitched, "I’ve been in politics for 20 years, and for 20 years I’ve had Barbra Streisand trying to do my job. So I decided to try my hand at her job."
Pastor Rick Warren’s presidential candidate "Civic Forum" at his Saddleback Church brought this SNL highlight to mind.
I’m picturing a segment with Lou Dobbs or Brit Hume preaching a Sunday sermon in a crowded church and then looking into the camera and saying, "Rick Warren is taking a fling at my job, so I thought I’d try my hand at his."
My apologies to Pastor Warren. Who am I to question a pastor who has sold 35 million books that flick on the light for folks to see that life is more than just about themselves?
God Bless Pastor Warren for this.
But I think his foray into presidential politics carries a lot of baggage and creates problems.
If anything characterizes the problems we’re having today it is relativism and ambiguity. A blurring of lines between everything. John McCain’s "Saturday Night Live" sketch jokes about one part of this. Our elevation of entertainment and celebrity to the point where movie stars start thinking they should be setting public policy, and the public taking them seriously.
In our materialism, we’re losing the distinction between money, power and celebrity as compared with knowledge and wisdom.
Now we’re seeing a world in which clarity between good and evil, right and wrong, knowledge and ignorance, men and women is disappearing into a borderless and indistinguishable gray.
For whatever good intentions, Warren may have, by posturing as a neutral broker between different points of view, many of which have profound moral and religious implications, and he contributes to the moral ambiguity which we’d expect a pastor to be combating.
We have institutions for civic and political forums. The press, universities, town halls, etc. If they’re not delivering well, let the marketplace work to improve what we’re getting. But this is not the job of pastors or churches. If it is, where do we go to learn about good and evil?
What exactly is going on in America when our obsession is to cleanse every inch of public space from religion, yet somehow we think it is appropriate to bring a presidential political forum into church?
Our kids can’t pray in public school. Or read the bible or learn to apply traditional values in managing their lives. The Ten Commandments cannot appear in our courthouses. A creche cannot be displayed in a public space during Christmas season.
Yet somehow we think a church is an appropriate forum for hosting candidates for president?
Our world is turning upside down. Rather than raising our public and private lives to a higher moral standard, we’re politicizing religion.
It’s actually worse, I think.
The pretense of neutrality is really a left-wing illusion. It’s a sleight of hand to buy into relativism and somehow Warren seems to have fallen into the trap.
When a pastor hosts a political candidate that has a 100 percent rating by NARAL Pro-Choice America and a zero percent rating by the National Right to Life Committee, he gives legitimacy to that candidate. When legitimacy is given to a line reasoning that says that poverty and AIDS are symptoms of anything other than moral breakdown, the relativist views of the left are justified.
To a disproportionate measure, when we are talking about poverty and AIDS in America, we are talking about black communities. These communities are in disarray because of moral ambiguity. They not only need moral clarity and leadership, they crave it.
Partisanship is not our problem today. Healthy partisanship is vital to freedom.
Our problem is moral ambiguity. Anyone that thinks this ambiguity is helpful in addressing poverty, crime, and disease is misinformed.
We need political leaders that are more moral, not church leaders that are more political.
(Star Parker is president of CURE, Coalition on Urban Renewal and Education (www.urbancure.org) and author of three books. She can be reached at parker(at)urbancure.org.)