Rick Warren and The Purpose-Driven Lie

Via David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

Yesterday famed “Christian” pastor Rick Warren, wealthy author and megachurch leader, tweeted the following:

HALF of America pays NO taxes. Zero. So they’re happy for tax rates to be raised on the other half that DOES pay any taxes.

Stupid or evil? Both. That’s such an old lie, told so often by old liars and debunked so frequently that Warren can’t have believed it unless he had spent the previous three decades somewhere with no television, no radio, no newspapers and no Bibles.

After his original tweet created a firestorm, Warren deleted it and fired off a few attempts at conciliatory statements — things like, “Whenever I think I understand it all, I realize I haven’t been listening” or “You are 100% right! It did sound mean.”

These aren’t corrections — his lie hasn’t been retracted. Nor are they apologies. They are excuses and they are not believable.

The nasty lie he told was not a faux pas, or an innocent bit of misinformation.

First of all, he knew it was not true.

Rick Warren gets a paycheck and sees the payroll tax deducted from it. Rick Warren goes shopping and pays sales tax. Rick Warren fills his gas tank and pays gas tax. Maybe he’s forgotten that the laity — most of us aren’t clergy — also pay property taxes. (Yes, renters too — don’t you dare try to suggest that property owners don’t pass that cost along to their renters and try to pretend that landlords are somehow more put-upon than those lucky-duckies that rent from them.)

He was bearing false witness. He was bearing witness that he knew to be false.

But more importantly, it was malicious false witness. This was not a piece of data that he passed along mistakenly believing it to be true. This was a slander against poor people that no one would ever pass along unless they really didn’t like poor people. It sounded mean because it was mean.

It is the sort of lie that one rich man tells another rich man when there are no poor people within earshot. Neither of them believes it, but slurring the poor is, for them, a source of amusement. “The poor are freeloaders who have it so much easier than we do,” is a lie that rich people have been repeating to one another for thousands of years, and I don’t believe that Rick Warren is the first one actually dumb enough to really believe it.

This is a lie aimed at poor people like a weapon. This is a hurtful lie and a harmful lie. It’s the sort of lie that doesn’t just violate several of the Ten Commandments, but back in Bible days it would have earned you an unpleasant personal visit from Nathan or Elijah or Amos.

It’s a vicious lie, contemptuous of the weak, haughty and detestable, arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and the needy.

But at least Sodom didn’t actively turn her power against the poor and needy — bearing false witness against them with modern versions of ancient falsehoods. As I live, says the Lord God, your sister Sodom never did as you have done here, Rick Warren.

So the question for Rick Warren is not, “Why did you tweet a falsehood?” The question he needs to answer — on his knees first, then later in public — is “Why do you resent people who have far, far less than you have?”

That is, after all, what his retelling of this ancient lie expressed — his resentment of anyone not as wealthy or privileged as him.

Ponder that for a moment. See if you can understand it, because I just can’t. I have no idea why someone as wealthy and privileged as Rick Warren would resent those who are not at all wealthy or privileged, but it seems he does.

And that’s just weird.

Poor people pay taxes. They pay payroll taxes and sales taxes and gas taxes and property taxes. As a percentage of their income, they pay way more in taxes than Rick Warren does. (Way, way more, since he’s not just wealthy, he’s a wealthy clergyman with a tax-free housing subsidy.)

And Rick Warren knows this and — weirdly, bizarrely, perversely, abominably, sinfully — he resents them for it. He resents them.

That’s like the rich man resenting Lazarus.

Maybe Rick Warren should re-read that story.

  • Tonio

    Who are those whole lot of people besides the ones that want to USE it to spin their own particular agenda?

    I know about a dozen of them. They aren’t politicians or commentators, but they deeply resent poor people and non-whites.

    Perhaps we all need to ask ourselves why, if he resents the poor, are we not in that light checking  our own attitudes  towards the poor and the rich? Should we despise the rich?

    One doesn’t have to advocate despising anyone to see that the equivalence you offer is a false one. Rich and powerful people probably don’t care if others despise them, because it doesn’t affect how much money or power they have. But despising the poor is what directly leads to policies that hurt the poor and create more poor people. It’s related to the principle that satire aimed at the powerless is cruel. Despising the poor is almost like despising people with catastrophic illnesses.

  • http://dailydumpbydave.blogspot.com/ liberaldemdave

    no, there’s a difference in that obama knows there are only 50 states.

    what part of the points raised should rick warren be ignorant of, considering e also holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Fuller Theological Seminary. somewhere in his education, he had to have studied (at minimum) the Beatitudes and most likely, pretty intense education in ALL the Gospels.

  • http://dailydumpbydave.blogspot.com/ liberaldemdave

    you don’t have to give up your belief in Christ OR church because of what you’ve been taught or don’t like what’s being taught…i found a very good home in the United Church of Christ, whose beliefs are in alignment with my philosophy of social justice and the dignity of ALL people.

  • http://dailydumpbydave.blogspot.com/ liberaldemdave

    “It’s a vicious lie, contemptuous of the weak, haughty and detestable, arrogant, overfed and unconcerned. This was the sin of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and the needy. ”

    HOW REFRESHING!!! to see the sodom story used CORRECTLY!

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Churches don’t pay property tax.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You know what just amazes me about taxes? That people don’t know the top rate is 33% now and was 91% in the fifties.

    Amazingly, the US economy did not collapse under all that onerous taxation.

  • P J Evans

    At least not on the property used only for religious purposes. The other stuff, however, may be paying taxes. (Renting out your hall probably doesn’t qualify for a tax exemption.)

  • Anonymous

    Warren has always been vehemently homophobic. Why did you believe he was any different than Falwell and Robertson? Saying hateful things in a “nicer” tone of voice doesn’t make them any less hateful.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Matheson/100000365555746 Mike Matheson

    When they rent they do, and the average church in America is under 50 people and renting . It’s only the large ones that ever get any press, much of it bad.
    Many if not most of these average churches in America have an unpaid Pastor working a full-time job and supplementing the lack in the ministry and the needs of people with their own income. These are the unseen troops. Unfortunately the bad-press from the Big Ones leaks down. On a per capita (per individuals that get real help) basis the small churches actually do more work, ie helping the poor, teaching that leads to actual discipleship, and makes other teachers leaders etc.

    I was in that trench(war) for 11 years.

  • Tonio

    Valid point. I had thought that the only major difference was that Warren isn’t known for saying that victims of natural disasters and terrorist attacks were basically asking for it.

  • Tonio

    When they rent they do, and the average church in America is under 50 people and renting .

    Huh? Most of the churches in my community are in established denominations with permanent structures. There are a handful of independent churches in warehouse-type buildings, and a few that rent school gyms on Sundays.

  • Anonymous

    Most of the churches in my community are in established denominations
    with permanent structures. There are a handful of independent churches
    in warehouse-type buildings, and a few that rent school gyms on Sundays.

    The local UUs rent from the local Jews.

  • P J Evans

    There are a lot of storefront churches in my area, and I have to assume they have leases, since they don’t appear to own the buildings they’re in.

  • Tonio

    My original question was about the contention that “the average church in America is under 50 people and renting.” To me, that suggests that mainstream denominations have declined drastically as to represent a small minority of Christianity, or else those denominations have taken to renting storefronts instead of planting churches. Am I misreading the quote?

  • Tonio

    My original question was about the contention that “the average church in America is under 50 people and renting.” To me, that suggests that mainstream denominations have declined drastically as to represent a small minority of Christianity, or else those denominations have taken to renting storefronts instead of planting churches. Am I misreading the quote?

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_GVT7C7S6IP2OC44PFUZGAJ4OBM JohnK

    It’s possible that, while there are a lot of large churches, there are also many, many tinier congregations. I know that the church my family attended when I was a child was extremely small (I think it was just our family and the pastor’s family — maybe 15 people in all) and the space was rented out by the hour at the local community center. We were both made up of Liberian immigrants so this might be atypical.

    Does anyone know of any surveys or studies on church sizes in the US?

  • cyllan

    USA Churches (http://www.usachurches.org) lists 1727 “small churches,”  3018 “medium churches,” 816 “Large Churches” and 448 Mega-Churches. Sizes are less than 50; between 50 and 300, between 300 and 2000 and over 2000.

    The Harford Research Site (http://hirr.hartsem.edu/index.html) “estimates there are roughly 335,000 religious congregations in the
    United States.  Of those, about 300,000 are Protestant and other
    Christian churches, and 22,000 are Catholic and Orthodox churches. 
    Non-Christian religious congregations are estimated at about 12,000.”

    Again according to HIRR, the majority of congregations in the U.S. are small — around 75 active participants is the median.  However these represent only about 11% of church-goers.  Fifty percent of church-goers attend a church that places in the top 10% of congregants (350 or more people).

    So, it really boils down to what you’re measuring — people? Or buildings?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Matheson/100000365555746 Mike Matheson

    I appreciate the research. I didn’t intend to measure buildings, just congregations. Interesting stat. From my experience though a very high percentage (75% Maybe, just an estimate) of members in small congregations are actually involved in the work of the church in the community. Also from what I’ve read, most people that feel they have received a calling into the ministry were in a small church.

    Also, worth considering is that some Mega churches were small churches at one time i.e. Rick Warren’s Saddleback

  • Tonio

    Thanks for the research. I was really focusing on the “renting” part. To me, that implies not just a small congregation but an independent one that is relatively new. I’ve never heard of a Catholic or Episcopalian or Methodist congregation renting space for services, but it’s not impossible. In my community, the dates on the headstones in those congregations’ cemeteries go back two and three centuries, and many of their living descendants still attend services at those churches. By contrast, the oldest independent congregation here with its own building is probably 40 to 50 years old. Here, the growth of Baptist and independent churches seems to correlate with the growth of the community’s military base and with the rise of the bedroom community phenomenon.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    But the most richy rich people do not pay according to brackets. Much of their income, not counting that they are able to hide in loopholes, comes in the the form of capital gains or S corporation dividends, etc., which get taxed less than income from actual work. This is why Warren Buffet pays a lower percentage of tax than some of his employees.

  • Halfmast

    “Fred’s point, I believe, was about lying-by-omission and
    lying-by-misleading, not “lying-by-literal-flat-wording-of-statement.”"

    You mean  a half truth….


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