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:



David Zurawik, a TV writer for The Baltimore Sun, slammed "pretend journalist" Chelsea Clinton on The Daily Download for her work on NBC.

"I continue to be fascinated by a network news division putting someone as outrageously unqualified as Clinton on a prime-time newsmagazine," he wrote. "I watched her again last week in a softer-than-soft piece on a weight loss program started by Pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church, and I can say with absolute certainty that she has not improved one lick in the last year."



On Tuesday's CBS This Morning, Norah O'Donnell hounded popular Christian pastor Rick Warren over his support of defining marriage as being between one man and one woman. O'Donnell quoted the second greatest commandment of Christianity - "love thy neighbor as thyself" - to Warren as she asked, "Why do you oppose same-sex marriage?"

When the Saddleback Church senior pastor affirmed that he was "in favor of not redefining marriage," the anchor used the current trend in polls towards approval of such unions to lobby her guest to change his views:



When ABC’s Jake Tapper held up Andrew’s Sullivan’s “Forget the Church, Follow JesusNewsweek cover story on how, as Tapper described Sullivan’s premise, “American Christianity is in a ‘crisis,’ it’s too focused on politics and policy, too little on spirituality,” Pastor Rick Warren took the opportunity to air “a little personal gripe.”

He contended: “I think it’s disingenuous that magazines like Newsweek know that their circulation goes up at Christmas and Easter if they put a spiritual issue on the cover, but it’s always bait and switch. They never tell the stories, never tell the stories of what good the church is doing.”



To Washington Post religion reporter Lisa Miller, evangelical ministers like Rick Warren and Tim Keller should be applauded for their "clinical frankness" about God's design for sexual pleasure within the covenant of marriage in their sermons, books, and even tweets.

Now if only they could just get over that silly biblical injunction against homosexuality, Miller lamented in her November 10 "Belief Watch" blog post:



On ABC last Wednesday, both World News and Nightline featured a report filed by correspondent Dan Harris in which he linked the activities of some American evangelical Christian pastors with anti-gay hatred and attempts by Uganda’s parliament at passing death penalty legislation to punish homosexuals in the African nation. Each of the reports focused on the extreme views of American pastor Scott Lively and Ugandan pastor Martin Ssempa, without including the views of more mainstream American evangelical leaders.

On World News, anchor Diane Sawyer teased: "Gay terror: Have some American evangelical ministers helped threaten the lives of homosexuals in Africa?" She later plugged the report again: "And still ahead on World News, a death threat for gays. It happened after American evangelicals delivered a potent message."

In the version of the report that ran on Nightline, Harris made a point of mentioning Pastor Rick Warren as being a "one-time friend" of Pastor  Ssempa. And, though Harris’s reference to Pastor Warren as a "one-time friend" perhaps implies a falling out between the two men, the ABC correspondent could have more directly informed viewers that Pastor Warren released a statement last October declaring that he had not associated with Pastor Ssempa since 2007.

Furthermore, last December, Pastor Warren released a video message for Christians in Uganda in which he attacked the proposed anti-gay law as legislation "I completely oppose and I vigorously condemn," as he went on to declare, "The potential law before your parliament is unjust, it’s extreme, and it’s un-Christian toward homosexuals, requiring death penalty even in some cases."



While she pronounced his prayer as a "good job" for being generally non-offensive and inclusive-sounding, Newsweek's Lisa Miller -- who earlier this month suggested ditching inaugural prayers altogether -- was nagged by the "lingering question" that "remains" from the way evangelical pastor Rick Warren closed his inauguration ceremony invocation in the name of Jesus:

Warren's conservative theology teaches him that there is one path to God, and that is Jesus. So when he wraps his great big arms around Muslims and Jews (and homosexuals), does he really believe there's hope for us? Or is he just being nice?

Miller, as a religion reporter, should know better. Yes -- the evangelical Christian would answer -- there is hope for everyone who puts his or her hope in Christ alone, and that's why preachers like Rick Warren preach the Gospel of salvation in Christ alone. They truly believe it, and as such, it's not nice to keep the good  news of salvation and peace with God to one's self for fear of the niceness cops of the media world.



USA Today's religion reporter Cathy Lynn Grossman apparently has little use for Christian ministers who believe the Bible's teachings on sexual ethics.

Apparently already annoyed with evangelical pastor Rick Warren's stance on California's Proposition 8, Grossman took the California preacher to task for a letter offering use of  his Saddleback Church to conservative Anglicans who have left the liberal Episcopal Church USA but were deprived of their church parish property due to a recent California court ruling (emphasis mine): 

After sticking a fork in the eye of gay rights advocates by actively supporting Proposition 8 -- which overturned the legalization of gay marriage in California -- Warren compounded their outrage by equating gay marriage with incest in an interview with Beliefnet.



When during its first half-hour this Christmas morning "Today" moved to a conversation between Matt Lauer and Pastor Rick Warren, I braced myself.  Don't tell me, I thought, they're going to get into the invitation Pres.-elect Obama extended him to give the invocation at the Inauguration, and the reaction of some gay-rights groups. Well, surprise!  They didn't: not in word or implication.  Warren appeared strictly in his role as pastor, and the conversation focused exclusively on the meaning of the day.  

The video clip is of the portion of the conversation in which Warren describes the origin and practice of a Warren family tradition of holding a birthday party for Jesus on Christmas Day.  



Conservatives still licking their wounds over the results of the November elections finally have something to cheer about: you don't have to read Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne's articles anymore because you know he's supporting Barack Obama.

So deliciously said MSNBC's Joe Scarborough to Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart on Tuesday's "Morning Joe" with the latter actually not disagreeing. 

The context of the discussion was another Post writer's Tuesday column in which Richard Cohen came down strongly on Obama's decision to have Rick Warren give the invocation during the upcoming Inauguration.

This led to the following fabulous exchange between Scarborough and Capehart (video embedded below the fold, h/t Ms Underestimated, file photo):



Given some of the reactions to an item I wrote yesterday about Barney Frank's objections to Rick Warren giving the invocation at the inauguration, let me state for the record that I lean libertarian on marriage.  On the one hand, I don't like courts substituting their judgment for legislatures or the will of the people.  But in the long run, I think it might be better for government to recognize that marriage is a religious or spiritual institution, and confine its role to enforcing agreements between partners.

That said, I can't help but chuckle at the way the MSM is twisting itself into knots over the Rick Warren issue.  The latest, most entertaining episode occured on this evening's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, on MSNBC. David Shuster discovered that, contrary to his presumption, civil rights pioneer Rev. Joseph Lowery, also on the inaugural program, does not support gay marriage!



Does Barney Frank think incest is worse than pedophilia?  The question arises because, chatting with Andrea Mitchell this afternoon, here's how Frank reiterated his opposition to Barack Obama having granted Rick Warren the honor of pronouncing the invocation at the inauguration. 

BARNEY FRANK: I think Rick Warren's comments comparing same-sex relationships to incest is deeply offensive, wildly inaccurate and very socially disruptive.

View video here.

But Warren didn't limit his comparison of gay marriage to incest.  In the same statement  in which Warren alluded to incest he also invoked polygamy and pedophilia.