(Photo: AP Images / Carlos Osorio, File)
While Rick Warren made it clear that his role is that of a pastor and not a politician, the Southern California preacher offered a glimpse Sunday of the kind of statesman he might be if God had shaped him to take on the position and what his top domestic and global priorities would be.
In an appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press, Warren spoke on a variety of topics including charitable giving, the role of the faith sector in tackling chronic global issues, homosexuality, abortion, Islam, and how to live up to what a person identifies as their purpose.
When asked about how he felt President Obama has been doing since stepping into office, Warren avoided “grading” Obama and instead acknowledged that the former senator from Chicago had entered the presidency with more on the plate that many of the previous presidents had entered with.
Still, the prominent megachurch pastor expressed his personal belief that the number one thing the nation’s leaders need to do domestically is "get America back to work."
“I think before health care or anything else, we need to get people back to work,” Warren told NBC’s David Gregory.
“There's nearly 10 percent unemployed. That's the equivalent of Canada being unemployed. And so we have to look at this fact that if we get people back to work, then we can work on some of these other issues,” he added.
As for where the need is greatest in the world, Warren pointed to the 146 million orphans who are currently growing up without parents.
“That is anarchy waiting to happen,” Warren said.
With that, Warren said orphan care – as well as health care, poverty, and relief – is good foreign policy, noting that people tend to like a country when it saves a life.
“They say, you know, ‘My husband's alive because of PEPFAR,’” Warren stated as an example, referring to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – the largest commitment ever by any nation to combat a single disease – HIV/AIDS – in history.
“And so these things are important that we continue them because people will die, but also it's good policy,” the pastor stated.
Also during the course of the interview, Warren was asked about his opinion on health care legislation that is currently making its way through Congress.
“Is there a moral equivalency between fighting for the unborn but also fighting for universal coverage?” asked Gregory. “Should there be equal energy to both efforts?
In response, Warren called himself not pro-life, but “whole life,” meaning that he doesn’t just want to protect babies before they’re born, but that he also wants to make sure that they get an education, that they are not raised in poverty, and that they grow up healthy to become productive human beings.
“[T]his is what I call the whole life platform, which, beyond just pro-life of protecting that unborn child, goes on,” Warren stated.
Though over the past several years, Warren has risen to become one of the most prominent church leaders in America, the evangelical minister has received a great deal of flack, especially in recent years, over his middle-road stances.
While he believes homosexuality is a sin and has on several occasions compared abortion in America to a holocaust, Warren also makes the case for cooperation among different faiths and often avoids taking a stance on legislation deemed “anti-gay” by critics.
“[M]y whole goal is, as a pastor, … to encourage, to support. I never take sides,” Warren told Gregory.
“I have friends who are Republicans and I have friends who are Democrats, and I'm for my friends. People ask me, ‘Are you left wing or right wing?’ and it's pretty well known I say, ‘I'm for the whole bird,’ because I'm for America,” Warren added.
Despite weighing in on a number of societal issues, Warren insisted throughout the interview that his role is that of a pastor and not a politician, campaign leader, or a pundit.
For nearly 30 years, Warren has served as senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., not rising into national and international prominence until 2002, when his devotional book, The Purpose Driven Life, became a New York Times best seller.
Since its publication, The Purpose Driven Life has sold more copies than any other book in history, other than the Bible, and has been on the New York Times Best Sellers list for advice books for one of the longest periods in history.
The book has also been translated into over 60 languages.
Warren is currently working on a follow up to the book, which is expected to hit bookstores on Easter Sunday of 2010 - the 30th anniversary of Saddleback Church.
Last month, a design for the cover of the follow-up book, The Hope You Need, was confirmed after more than 3,500 suggestions were submitted online.
Simona Dall’Argine and Simone Salardi from the design firm Kimejoe.com in Sardinia, Italy, were awarded $5,000 for having their selected cover entry.
Correction: Thursday, December 3, 2009:
An article on Monday, November 30, 2009, about Rick Warren's appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" incorrectly reported the release date of the megachurch pastor's upcoming book. The Hope You Need is scheduled to release Easter Sunday of 2010, not January 2010.