Rick Warren: Best Known for Praying for Obama?

Mollie Hemingway at Get Religion is amazed that people would say the most notable, memorable thing evangelical preacher Rick Warren ever did was give the invocation at President Obama's first Inauguration. Warren's son Matthew committed suicide on Saturday.

"Not having heard of Warren prior to 2008 means that you had to have been in utero (or high school, or something similar) during 2002 or whenever [The] Purpose Driven Life came out and became one of the best selling books in history," Hemingway wrote. But Warren accomplished that massive success inside the Christian world, and the secular national media, especially TV network news, wasn't really paying attention. Check out this snippet of our 2005 Special Report on network TV religion coverage:

Southern California pastor Rick Warren’s best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life has been all over the news since former hostage Ashley Smith talked about reading it to murder suspect Brian Nichols. But well before the fatal Atlanta courthouse shootings, Warren’s book has been a bestseller for two solid years, selling more than 20 million copies by last October.

By February 28, 2005, the last date studied for religious stories in our report, the hardcover edition had been on the USA Today best-seller list for more than 110 weeks. This year, many churches across America, both mainline and evangelical, have adopted the book during Lent to help guide the devotional lives of their parishioners. Yet aside from NBC, none of the networks took notice.

NBC’s coverage consisted of two pieces, one a Dateline piece by correspondent Josh Mankiewicz on Sunday, October 3, 2004, the other an Ann Curry interview on the Today show for October 18. The Mankiewicz piece focused more on Warren’s pastoral ministry and casual style, while Curry touched mainly on the themes of the book and its success beyond strictly Christian audiences. Unlike Curry, Mankiewicz also prodded unsuccessfully for a taste of Reverend Warren’s politics.

(Religion on TV News: Secular Orthodoxy Still Reigns, by Tim Graham and Ken Shepherd)

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