Rick Warren's 'Punish Evildoers' Comment Raises Flags

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren is under a bit of fire following his recent comments on Fox's Hannity and Colmes show.

On the program, host Sean Hannity had asked Warren if expressing the need to "take out" Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was "advocating something dark, evil or something righteous."

"Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped," the Southern California pastor responded before being cut off by another question.

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"By force?" Hannity asked.

"Well, if necessary," Warren replied.

"In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers," Warren added, referring to Romans 13.

Shortly after, when asked by Hannity if killing an intruder to his house was justified, Warren said he would "absolutely" be justified to protect his family.

"But it's not murder at that point?" Hannity asked.

"No," Warren replied. "Murder is not self-defense."

Following Warren's appearance, Matthew Duss, a research associate with the Center for American Progress Action Fund, criticized the influential megachurch pastor for his "brief, if regrettable, foray into foreign policy."

"[I]t's alarming to hear Warren deploying his spiritual influence in support of the ultranationalist ravings of someone like Sean Hannity," Duss wrote in a commentary on Friday.

"I suspected that Warren was referring to Romans 13, which his office confirmed. But Romans 13 concerns the power of civil government to punish criminals, and has nothing to do, as far as I know, with invading foreign countries or assassinating foreign leaders," he argued.

"[W]hen he offers his blessing to Hannity's hate, he does a disservice to his message and his faith," Duss added, after acknowledging Warren's positive contributions toward society. "He also gives ammunition to extremists, here and abroad, who posit a war of civilisations between Islam and the west. I think God would be against that."

The timing of the comment also comes at an awkward time for Warren, as the evangelical leader is scheduled to speak during the Muslim Public Affairs Council's 8th annual national convention.

The Dec. 20 convention in Long Beach, Calif., will explore the theme of "A New Era, A New Role," and features leading thinkers, media professionals, and community leaders on the historic possibilities facing all Americans at this unique point in the history of the nation and the community.

"Seems to me that Rick Warren, one of the most popular Christian evangelical pastors in the nation, has some splainin' (sic) to do to the Muslim bruthas (sic) when he speaks at the Muslim Public Affairs Council national convention in two weeks," commented Richard Silverstein, a freelance writer and blogger at the Huffington Post. "Somehow, I don't think that's going to go over too well with the Convention guests."

Kevin Eckstrom, editor of Religion News Service, meanwhile, offered a word of caution to the increasingly popular megachurch pastor.

"Strikes me that Warren (who's generally an all-around pretty good guy) needs to be careful here that he doesn't slip into Pat Robertson territory (he knows better), who advocated the assassination of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez," Eckstrom commented last week.

As founder and senior pastor of the fourth largest church in the United States and author of the bestselling book The Purpose Driven Life, Warren has been one of the most prominent Christian figures in society today.

This past summer, he hosted the Civil Forum on The Presidency featuring both presidential hopefuls John McCain and Barack Obama at his church. Warren has also been named one of "America's Top 25 Leaders" by U.S. News and World Report, one of "15 World Leaders Who Mattered Most" and one of the "100 Most Influential People in the World" by Time magazine, and one of "15 People Who Make America Great" by Newsweek magazine.

Over 20 million copies of his New York Times Best Seller have been sold worldwide since 2002.

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