For a long time I’ve held off criticizing mega-church leader Rick Warren, author of the best-selling "The Purpose Driven Life," even though I have been sorely tempted.
When he joined up with now-disgraced National Association of Evangelicals leader Ted Haggard to suggest man-induced global warming represented an impending calamity, I didn’t say too much. I questioned it, but I let it go.
When he joined Haggard again in writing an open letter to President Bush, urging government action to fight global poverty, I didn’t say a word — even though I thought it ironic. After all, it is the church’s responsibility to help the poor. It is not government’s responsibility.
But now that Warren has traveled to and provided legitimacy to a hostile foreign government, presided over by a brutal fascist dictator who hates Jews, threatens Israel, subverts neighboring Lebanon, imprisons and terrorizes its own citizens and even kills them in massive numbers when they stand up in revolt — now I have to denounce this impostor in the strongest terms possible. It is my biblical mandate to do so.
Other Christians may be holding back, waiting to hear Warren’s explanation for his behavior in Syria. Some are cautiously suggesting that accounts of his activities there may have been distorted by the controlled press. Some want to give him the benefit of any doubt.
I’m going to give it to you straight: Warren had no business traveling to Syria and being used for propaganda purposes by Bashar Assad, the terrorist-supporting president. There are only two possibilities to explain what happened:
— He made the outrageous statements attributed to him by the Syrians, for which he should be ostracized — maybe even tried for treason, in my opinion.
— He didn’t make the statements, or was misquoted — in which case he has placed himself in the predictable position of being a "useful idiot" for the Islamofascist regime in Damascus.
Take your pick. Neither option is very attractive.
Here’s what we know now: The official press in the Syrian police state is suggesting Warren is taking sides with Syria against his own country with regard to issues in the Middle East. The reports indicate we can soon expect Warren, upon his return to the United States, to lecture Americans about our abusive role in the region.
The Syrian newspaper Umar Jaftali quotes Warren as saying: "Washington is wrong not to hold dialogue with Syria, which wants peace. I call on the Americans to visit Syria and meet its beautiful people. I will tell the Americans that their idea about Syria does not reflect the truth."
Here’s what the Syrian Arab News Agency reported:
— "(The) American delegation stressed that the American administration is mistaken not to hold dialogue with Syria."
— "Pastor Warren hailed the religious coexistence, tolerance and stability that the Syrian society is enjoying due to the wise leadership of President al-Assad, asserting that he will convey the true image about Syria to the American people."
— Warren gave Assad a "memorial drawing" to "thank the Syrian people for their … efforts exerted for maintaining peace and harmony."
— Warren was quoted as saying: "Syria wants peace, and Muslims and Christians live in this country jointly and peacefully since more than a thousand years, and this is not new for Syria."
— He would, in the words of the official news agency, "tell the Americans that the ideas which had been shaped about (Syria) didn’t reflect the truth and they have to come to Syria and see by themselves and realize her nice people and visit her wonderful and historical ruins."
— It was reported he told Syria’s Islamic grand mufti that there could be no peace in the region without Syria and that 80 percent of Americans reject what the U.S. administration is doing in Iraq.
— He praised Islamic-Christian co-existence in Syria.
If I were a betting man, I would wager that Warren will come home and allege he was widely misquoted. He probably was. I HOPE he was. But here’s the problem: When you place yourself in the position of being used — and you ARE used — whose fault is it?