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The story of Rick Warren and his best-selling book the "The Purpose Driven Life."

What is he doing with all the money?

USA Today article: June 4th 2006 edition:

A uniter, not a divider

Warren is no liberal. He backed President Bush in the 2004 election and opposes abortion and stem cell research.

But in a refreshing change from today's unhealthy norm, Warren is spending his time and clout not on the divisive issues that have come to define the Christian right -- abortion, stem cell research, a supposedly anti-God judiciary and so on -- but on a campaign that can bring people together and save many lives in the process.

Warren is taking on poverty and AIDS and on a continent -- Africa -- that tends to command the least of the world's attention and resources.

PEACE is the moniker Warren has devised for his program in Rwanda. It stands for "Plant churches, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation."

In the tradition of evangelical Christianity, he believes the path to a better world runs through human hearts, and he is counting on churches and their members to lead the way against the seemingly intractable problems pressing down on Africa. "I'm coming from the fact that Jesus said, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' " Warren said at a news conference in November at a global health summit. "So what motivates me is not politics."

As Warren told The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper recently, "The New Testament says the church is the body of Christ, but for the last 100 years, the hands and feet have been amputated, and the church has just been a mouth. And mostly, it's been known for what it's against. ... I'm so tired of Christians being known for what they're against."

Some might be repelled by the explicitly Christian underpinnings of Warren's PEACE effort, but he has a talent for giving religion a friendly, welcoming face. Despite his conviction that homosexuality is wrong, Warren doesn't condemn gays or accept AIDS as God's retribution for unholy living, as have some of his conservative Christian fellows.

While he holds the belief that Jesus is the one true path to salvation, he does not make a point of predicting hell for non-believers, and he makes alliances with left-leaning, maverick Christians (such as U2 singer and global activist Bono) and some who are not Christian at all.

Certainly, Warren is not the only evangelical leader transcending the narrow spectrum of social issues that have come to define the public face of evangelicals in the minds of many Americans.

Bruce Wilkinson, whose Prayer of Jabez made him wealthy and famous, forsook the opportunity to parlay his book into greater profits and stardom in the USA. He went to South Africa, where he fought AIDS and worked for racial reconciliation until his recent retirement.

On the political side, a group of prominent evangelical leaders petitioned the Bush administration last year to pay more attention to poverty issues. More recently, another group of evangelical leaders -- Warren included -- announced a broad initiative to fight global climate change.

What makes Warren and his message attractive to some also makes him anathema to others. One posting at the Slice of Laodicea website, commenting on Warren's message at a United Nations prayer event, is representative of the sort of criticism he often generates: "A Benedict Arnold to the Gospel.

We can now see the TRUE COLORS of Rick Warren -- UN blue and Christian 'yellow.' " Some fundamentalists condemn his Purpose-Driven theology as unscriptural. Meanwhile, from his political left have come charges that he's a conservative wolf in ecumenical clothing and that his recent undertaking in Africa is a naive exercise in futility.

ii. Fortune Magazine Oct. 2005: Will success spoil Rick Warren?

The first time I saw Warren, he was striding down the aisle of a United Air Lines flight--the middle leg of a 24-hour journey from Los Angeles to Kigali, Rwanda--handing out Chick-fil-A sandwiches to church members on the trip. He stopped to help a stranger get her luggage into the overhead, glad-handed the flight attendants, patted people he knew on the shoulder, and went back to his seat in business class. Like a politician who loves the campaign trail, Warren feeds off people. A large, gregarious man with spiky hair and a goatee, Warren dresses in Hawaiian shirts and wears no socks, even on stage at Saddleback. He's known as Rick or Pastor Rick, not Reverend Warren. "Rick is not sophisticated in any way," says his wife, Kay. "He's always been the class clown." He jokes about his weakness for doughnuts, and he uses one-liners to deflect questions he'd rather not answer. Ask about politics, and he'll reply, "I'm not left wing and I'm not right wing. I'm for the whole bird." Rick and Kay, married 30 years, were both the children of small-town pastors. Rick's father, Jimmy Warren, was a "church planter" and carpenter; he literally built dozens of small churches. The family never had money, but Jimmy, like Rick, was a down-to-earth guy with a big personality. Rick first thought about going into politics but turned to the church in high school. He started Saddleback in his apartment in 1980.

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