From the archives: Rick Warren and The Purpose-Driven Lie

This video —

— makes this post from July of 2011 newly pertinent, so I’m re-posting it today.

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Via David Atkins at Hullabaloo:

[On July 25, 2011] 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These aren’t corrections — his lie hasn’t been retracted.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.

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  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    I don’t know if there is a sociological or psychiatric term for the phenomenon of “I’m doing great but hell if anyone but me deserves anything!,” but if not, there should be. Narcissism, is it?

    I heard someone tell a story today that I can’t cope with.

    This woman (early 50’s upper middle class double income family) was explaining how her oldest daughter (early 20s) announced the other day that she’d realised that since her younger sisters both needed braces growing up and she didn’t, that her parents had spent $8,000 on each sister that they didn’t spend on her, so she reasoned that they owed her $8,000. The woman was annoyed because she and her husband bought the daughter a house–paid the deposit and were making the mortgage repayments–and the daughter didn’t factor this in.

    I couldn’t get past that they’d bought the daughter a house. Not chipped in $20,000 on the deposit, which is amazing enough but common among my middle class friends, but bought the entire damn thing. A fucking house, and she wants to know where her braces money is.

    I really can’t cope with that story.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Calling out someone of power who is blatantly abusing said power to attack those without defense is not throwing stones, and you are a sick person for trying to defend him. 

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    God, national mythologies. Imagine if the Dutch made the Hunger Winter* all about how Audrey Hepburn got her petite figure.

    *in which thousands starved to death under a blockage by the friggin Nazis

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    It would be any kind of government-mandated social payments tax, in Europe.

    Not in Europe, but we don’t separate tax for social security payments from other tax. It just comes from general revenue.

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    There is a Jewish belief that the first question G-d askes you after you die is “Where you honest in your business?” This comes before asking what you believed and how much you studied the bible. I don’t know where I’m going with this other then I hope it’s true.

    Given the one story recorded as being told by Jesus about judgement after death, I can safely say that this belief is not alone in Judaism; and I also hope it’s true.

  • christopher_young

    “He that shall not worke shall not eate!”

    Funny, I associate that slogan with Lenin.

  • The_L1985

     The truth was, they weren’t lazy so much as they were planting the wrong thing.

    See, corn is super-simple.  Bury it in the ground and forget it.  Three months later, FOOD!

    Tobacco, on the other hand, is extremely labor-intensive and produces an inedible crop.

    Guess which crop the colonists planted in “every spare space?”  If you said the first one, you’re not cynical enough.

  • Re: Braces money story

    …. entitlement?

    It’s astonishing how out of touch some people can be with their own material benefits.

  • I am now facepalming repeatedly. You can’t even EAT tobacco!

  • I actually had to break one of my long-held rules this morning and start shit on Facebook.  One of my oldest friends popped up on Facebook for the first time in, like, six months or a year and posted this:

    am so glad that only 47% of American’s get free stuff. To live in a
    world where more than 47% of American’s get free stuff would be
    ridiculous. This country was founded on hard work, not food stamps;
    therefore, a president should be voted on based on his hard work, not
    his ability to hand out food stamps. Why can’t we come together as a
    county to create jobs, make taxes easier to understand, end welfare, and
    enjoy the life that God gave us to live?

    He’s been drifting deeper and deeper into conservative Christian land over the last few years, which worries me, but there’s not much I can do about it.  I didn’t realize that he’d gone over to the point of being suckered by asshole talking points.

    Anyway, I replied thusly:

    47% of the population is made up of students, retired people, and the
    working poor, which is generally people making less than $15,000/year.
    They aren’t exactly leading a life of hedonism. Those people still pay
    Medicare and Social Security taxes, any state income tax they might have
    to deal with, and local sales and property taxes. They aren’t getting
    anything for free.More specific to that final point, you really ought to read this:, since Jesus had a whole hell of a lot more to say about helping the poor than heaping burning coals atop their heads.


  • The_L1985

     No, but in those days you could get filthy rich off of it.

    That’s right, they let their greed for sovereigns and doubloons get ahead of their need to eat.  People were eating housepets and rats (sometimes even each other!) but somehow it didn’t occur to them, “hey, maybe I should have at least set aside a few square yards of my Hueg Tobacco Field Of Awesome for some damn food crops.”

  • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Heart

    Looks like they get free apostrophes too, eh? ;)

  • Isabel C.

    Yep.  I’m not sure how much tax I actually pay. I get a refund, generally, but I don’t think that’s all the tax that’s come out of my paycheck over the years, because…it comes out of my paycheck, and I use EasyTax or something similar.

  • Looks like they get free apostrophes too, eh? ;)

    Apostrophe redistribution is the only acceptable form of redistribution in America!

  • Lunch Meat

    To live in a world where more than 47% of American’s get free stuff would be ridiculous.

    So when you drive on roads, you always make sure to send a check to your state department of transportation? If a police officer gives you directions or takes a burglary report, do you slip him some cash? Because if that doesn’t count as free stuff, neither does the social security check received by a retired person who paid into that account all her life.Also, when you were a baby, did you work in return for your parents providing you food and changing your diaper? That’s free stuff too, but if students shouldn’t get government grants or should have to pay income tax (on their $6/hour, 15 hr/wk job), then no one should get a hand-up when they’re starting out in life. Bootstraps! I say babies should get their own milk!

  • VCarlson

    I think part of it is the difference between the Republican Party and Republicans (and the Democratic Party and Democrats). That is, between the power elite in the party and the people who identify as members of the party, mainly because they or their family have for decades. The Republican Party, thanks in large part to Karl Rove and his ilk (who, IMHO, wasn’t smarter than everyone else, but was just quicker to go dirty and into previously forbidden forms of dirty politics), has been drifting farther and farther into right-wing loony-land. The sane and/or principled ones have been leaving (undortunately for the Democratic Party), leaving a smaller and more extreme pot of potential candidates. So you get RMoney/RAyn as a presidential ticket. Most Republicans, I’m guessing (hoping!), aren’t really paying attention to what these guys are actually proposing. There are some who are wholly behind them, and they’re the ones you see because they are so noticeable in their hatred.

  • VCarlson

    Continuing because Disqus:

    The Democratic Party, which should be acting as a reality check on the Republican Party, is, instead, acting as a pawl to their ratchet (imagery stolen from another commenter on another blog because it’s so good), preventing any shift back “leftward.”

    It’s terrifying to this USian, because hese are the people with real power.

  •  In addition to what Bordeaux said, payroll taxes are contributions to specific programs (primarily Medicare and Social Security). They are also highly regressive – a flat rate on wages up to a particular amount, and nothing on wages over that (and nothing on non-wage income).

    Income taxes are the primary tax that pays for general spending – the military, government salaries, etc. (At the Federal level, that is. State tax structures vary a great deal).

  •  So when you drive on roads, you always make sure to send a check to your
    state department of transportation? If a police officer gives you
    directions or takes a burglary report, do you slip him some cash?
    Because if that doesn’t count as free stuff, neither does the social
    security check received by a retired person who paid into that account
    all her life.

    Unfortunately for that argument, I’m pretty sure that it’s either too cerebral/removed to have an impact.  Of course, the flip side is that it’s entirely possible that people who do make the connection will then follow it with, “Hey, wait, now those freeloaders are driving on my roads?”

  • Thou shalt not bear false tweets against thy neighbor.

  • Kesh Meshi

    The federal income tax goes into the federal government’s general fund.  It’s also a progressive, marginal tax that increases as the taxpayer’s income increases (theoretically, although deductions and tax loopholes undercut that quite a bit).  The payroll tax is a flat tax up to a certain amount of income that’s paid by the employee and employer.  Once an individual’s income exceeds a certain amount (over $106,000, if I remember correctly), the individual pays a set amount, making the tax regressive for high earners.  Payroll taxes are supposed to fund Social Security, although the federal government has been using it as a slush fund for quite some time.

    While poor Americans rely on Social Security for basic survival in old age, poor Americans are more likely to die at a young age, meaning that many pay into the system all their lives and don’t get Social Security benefits in return.

  • I thought I read somewhere that they were all running around looking for Treafure, as they fpelled it then, inftead of planting ye foode. (I’m now laughing hysterically because that sounds like an H.P. Lovecraft character)

  • He’s been drifting deeper and deeper into conservative Christian land over the last few years, which worries me, but there’s not much I can do about it.  I didn’t realize that he’d gone over to the point of being suckered by asshole talking points.

    Unfortunately, that seems to be a common thing among a lot of Republicans.  As the party shifts rightward, they are left with two choices: either let go of the party, or get dragged rightward along with it, even past the point of reason. 

    Sadly, a lot of them find the later path the easier one to take.

  • Goodrep

     So no matter how many drone strikes are issued, how many more taxes are added,  no matter how many freedoms are taken away, including religious freedom, you are  pulling the lever for Obama.  You are a man of action.

  • Goodrep

    Chris,  I must disagree.  You will find more geezers have read Obama’s books than liberals.  Why? They want to know how he really feels.  His words, not those of a pundit.  Listen to Fox, they don’t tell you how to vote…listen to both sides, don’t let anyone tell you how to vote.  Most of all, read what Obama says.