(Photo: PRNewsFoto, The Reader)
Despite his role in President Obama’s inauguration and the attention he received in the weeks leading into it, megachurch pastor Rick Warren is known to only about half of Americans, according to a recent survey.
World renowned evangelist Billy Graham, meanwhile, remains the most well known among the nation’s high profile televangelists and megachurch leaders, with 88 percent claiming that they were familiar with him, according to HCD Research.
The results of the survey, conducted Jan. 27-28, were released a little more than a week after Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, Calif., delivered the invocation at the presidential inauguration on Jan. 20, and weeks after Obama’s tapping of Warren spurred highly-publicized protests from the gay community.
Despite all the media attention, only 49 percent of Americans surveyed by HCD said they were familiar with Warren, placing him between controversial preachers Jeremiah Wright (56 percent) and Benny Hinn (48 percent). Notably, however, the latest statistic is a big improvement from the 28 percent of Americans who said they had heard of Warren in 2006, when the faith-based Barna Group surveyed American adults regarding the nation's leading Christian ministers.
For the latest survey, HCD presented 803 participants with a list of 32 televangelists and megachurch leaders and asked them to rate each figure based on six attributes, including familiarity, likeability, believability, authenticity/sincerity, personal impact and level of controversy.
The list extended somewhat beyond televangelists and megachurch leaders as it included Graham, an ordained Baptist minister and on-stage evangelist, as well as United Methodist minister Joseph Lowery, the civil rights leader who delivered the benediction at Obama’s inauguration last month.
Others on the list included charismatic moguls Pat Robertson and Oral Roberts, prosperity preachers Joel Osteen and T.D. Jakes, and megachurch pastors Bill Hybels and Craig Groeschel.
According to the results of HCD’s survey, rated highest in level of controversy was Jeremiah Wright, the former pastor of the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago who placed former church member Obama in hot water after past sermons were splashed across the internet, including one in which he said “God damn America.”
Rated lowest in authenticity/sincerity, meanwhile, was Ted Haggard, the former pastor of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., who was ousted by the church he founded over a highly publicized drug and sex scandal.
Coincidentally, or perhaps intentionally, the results of HCD’s survey were released on the same day that HBO was scheduled to air "The Trials of Ted Haggard," a 41-minute documentary that paints a sympathetic portrait of Haggard after the scandal in 2006 brought down the charismatic leader and forced him out of Colorado.
Since Jan. 9, Haggard has given dozens of media interviews after years out of the public eye and appeared on "Larry King Live" this past Thursday.