Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Obama Outta the Saddleback?

Columnist Kevin McCullough is leading a controversial campaign to get US Senator and United Church of Christ member Barack Obama removed from the list of speakers at an upcoming AIDS conference hosted by Rev. Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in Orange, California.

McCullough accuses Warren of abandoning biblical principles by allowing Obama to speak at his church, since Obama supports no restrictions against abortion, special rights for homosexuals, and condom distribution as a way to fight AIDS.

Several prominent conservatives have signed McCullough's petition against Warren and Obama, including Phyllis Schlafy and Tim Wildmon.

In an email to participants of, Warren said that while Obama is speaking at his church, McCullough is misrepresenting the nature of Obama's visit:

"Another blogger claimed I´ve invited Barack Obama to preach in my pulpit to the Saddleback congregation. Of course that is untrue. I´d never invite ANY politician to speak from the pulpit to our congregation. Never...the Global Summit on AIDS and the Church will be held on the Saddleback campus. It is not a church service, but an international summit for pastors and world leaders. Leaders from churches, denominations, health organizations, NGOs, Christian organizations, governments, businesses, and entertainment will meet together to discuss how they can work with and through churches to end AIDS."

McCullough's original article, "Why is Obama's Evil in Warren's Pulpit?" is guilty of skewing the facts about Obama's visit to Saddleback. He's not speaking in a worship service, but a church conference. There is a difference and McCullough should have been more clear about the nature of Obama's visit to Saddleback.

Furthermore, McCullough inappropriately highlights Obama's views on abortion and other issues around sexuality when he should have focused on Obama's views about the primary topic being addressed at the Saddleback conference--AIDS.

However, McCullough raises some important points for Christian conservatives. If Obama believes that condom distribution is the best way to address the AIDS crisis, should or can that message be given weight at a church conference where most in attendance believe that sex activity outside of marriage is immoral?

Last, McCullough fears that Obama will use his appearance at Saddleback to boost his future presidential ambitions--giving conservatives the impression that since he spoke at Saddleback, he then holds conservative views, when he actually does not.

Obama probably will misuse it, but hey, that's politics. Not everything appears as it actually is--just like McCullough's article.

UPDATE: Good comment from Scot McKnight: "Evangelical Christians must cooperate with anyone and everyone on the AIDS issue; cooperation on AIDS does not mean agreement with the moral and theological and political stances with everyone with whom we cooperate; refusing to cooperate with someone like Obama to stamp out AIDS indicates, not careful theology, but infective ideology."

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