Friday, December 01, 2006

Rick Warren in His Own Words

"Syria's a place that has Muslims and Christians living together for 1,400 years. So it's a lot more peaceful, honestly, than a lot of other places because Christians were here first.

"In fact, you know Saul of Tarsus - Saul was a Syrian. St. Paul, on the road to Damascus, had his conversion experience and so Christians have been here the longest, and they get along with the Muslims and the Muslims get along with them. There's a lot less tension than in other places.

"It's a moderate country, and the official government rule and position is to not allow any extremism of any kind."

When I first heard these words, I was stunned. But they do support my assertion from a few days ago that Rick Warren has moved far beyond his area of expertise when he makes pronouncements about the situation facing Christians in restricted nations. For you see, these words are the exact words that Rick Warren gave in a video produced by his church and posted on YouTube before being quickly pulled down when it became public. I can see why they were taken offline. Warren has been claiming that his statements were misquoted by the Syrians. But these are his own words, virtually the same as the ones he claims were misquotes and released by his own church. They demonstrate his incredible naïveté, his ignorance of the situation facing Christians in the Middle East and some rather questionable biblical knowledge.

First, Paul was not a Syrian and never was. Tarsus was never part of Syria but was a city in the neighboring Roman province of Cilicia (part of present day Turkey). This is not mere quibbling; this is part of his argument that Christians were in Syria first.

Second, his assertion that Muslims get along with Christians and Christians with Muslims may be somewhat true, but it is worth remembering that this "getting along" is not one of two equal parties co-existing. Christians in Muslims countries, including Syria, have survived for centuries by accepting the second-class status known in Islam as "dhimmi." It is not an exaggeration to compare dhimmitude to apartheid. Imagine if Warren, had he been traveling in the 1970's, would have said about South Africa "Blacks have been here the longest, and they get along with the whites and the whites get along with them. There's a lot less tension than in other places in Africa."

Thirdly, his assertion that Syria is a moderate country is only accurate if one says that it is religiously moderate. It is true that Syria does not persecute Christians like, say, Iran or Saudi Arabia. If Christians do not evangelize Muslims and mind their own business, they can get usually along without incurring too much overt persecution. But remember that Syria is a leading centre of world terrorism today. Not even Saddam Hussein's regime was so accepting of Islamic terrorists and these folks have definite anti-Christian sentimentalities. Hardly moderation by any meaningful definition of the word. Whether you do the killing yourself or support those who do, Christians still die.


Joel Mawhorter said...

I commend you and VOM for being willing to speak up against dangerous and unhelpful statements from "within the church". Many organizations, especially those that depend on donations, are too slow to speak out against error when it may offend those who give them donations. In publicly correcting this error on Rick Warren's part you are choosing to be a voice for persecuted Christians above organizational financial self-interest. Thank you for that.

Glenn Penner said...

Thanks, Joel, for your comments. Much appreciated It's good to hear from you again. Been a while