(Photo: Reuters/Tami Chappell)
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, has corrected critics who claimed he had suggested in a tweet that evolution was to blame for human tragedy and presumptuously linked his statement to the recent Colorado shooting.
Several critics assumed Warren's tweet was in reference to the massive shooting spree that occurred in the early hours of Friday morning in Aurora, Colo., during which suspect James Holmes, 24, allegedly opened fire in a full movie theater, killing 12 people and injuring 59 others during the midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Warren is denying any reference to the shooting, arguing that his tweet has been misinterpreted.
"TWITTER'S limit on words allows no context for statements. A lack of contxt (sic) causes misinterpretation. So when you tweet what's on your mind, people preassume (incorrectly) that you are talking about what's on THEIR mind," Warren wrote in the "comments" section of a blog post on Patheos.com criticizing his assumed comparison of evolution and the shooting.
Warren went on to explain that his tweet was a response to sexual promiscuity, as earlier that day he had received an email from a dad that read: "Pastor Rick, my daughter told me her teacher said in class 'There's nothing wrong with sex with multiple partners! Sex is a natural, inate (sic) drive, and any attempt to limit it to one, single partner is a manmade construct.'"
"THAT is what I was commenting on. Unfortunately, you also incorrectly presumed the context," Warren concluded his comment.
The online upheaval was caused when Warren tweeted at 2:00 p.m. July 20: "When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it."
Two days later, Warren's tweet was deleted from his Twitter stream, but it remained on his Facebook page as a status update.
Several critics took his single sentence to be a direct reference to the Colorado shooting, arguing that Warren was saying the teaching of evolution caused suspect Holmes to allegedly kill 12 innocent people with little conscience, as he allegedly saw them as nothing more than animals.
Although Warren's statement did not mention Holmes or the Colorado shooting, it nonetheless sparked an online debate about creationism versus evolution.
"[Warren] should issue a full apology through the media to actual people. Science education is a serious problem in this country and blaming this horrific attack on the teaching of evolution in science classes doesn't help," wrote Staks Rosch in an opinion piece for The Examiner.
James McGrath wrote in a blog post for Patheos: "[…] whether one views people in a way that is scientifically well-informed, or based on ancient stories, or some combination thereof, the choice to value and treat others with respect still lies with us as individuals."
In the comments section of McGrath's blog post, a reader with the username "TomLosAngeles" defended Warren, criticizing McGrath for jumping to conclusions and using the Saddleback pastor's comment to start a creation-evolution debate.
"A more charitable reading would indicate he meant what I explained and what you say you also believe – that the Christian view of man is as more than an animal," commented "TomLosAngeles."
"Is this view of man taught in our public schools? My reading of Warren's tweet is that this view is NOT taught, and it's part of the problem with modern society," he added.
"What I'd like to see is you asking Rick Warren what he meant. Your latest posts looks like you want to play the evolution-creationist thing instead, so I imagine this is the end of it. But I don't think you gave him a fair shake," he concluded.
Others who initially criticized Warren later apologized for jumping the gun.
"The lesson, I suppose, is that we lept (sic) to conclusions too fast, perhaps conditioned by other pastors' previous actions in blaming tragedies on evolution […] But in light of this clarification, I feel compelled to retract my accusation," wrote a blogger on the website Why Evolution Is True.
Warren is the evangelical Christian pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. The church boasts a weekly attendance of 20,000 people.
Warren has over 670,000 followers on Twitter.