Let's just say that I am not terribly happy regarding Barack Obama's recent choice for inauguration pastor--none other than Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, one of the largest megachurches in the US.
There are many reasons why I'm particularly displeased at this choice, but suffice it to say that--despite the media spin of Warren and his "Purpose Driven Life" spiel being the "kinder, gentler face of the Religious Right"--once one scratches beneath the touchy-feely surface, one finds...well, to quote The Who, "Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss..."
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the real Rick Warren
For starters, Warren--in the typical nature of dominionists having a "public face" and a "private face"--has said some things to his "friendlies" audience that definitely put the private face in the "old school dominionist" vein, and in fact including some statements that would seem more at home at a "Watchmen At The Walls" event or a Fred Phelps rally than the "welcoming evangelical" he portrays himself as in public.
A recent article in BeliefNet reveals some of the "private face" of Warren. Among other things:
Most Likely to Infuriate Liberals:
* Gay marriage is morally equivalent to allowing brothers and sisters to marry.
* He opposes torture but didn't try to convince President Bush to change course because "I never had the opportunity."
* A possibly veiled slap at Islam: "He could have made us all puppets. ... He could have put us on strings and we'd pray five times a day and we'd have no choice."
* "Abortion reduction" efforts are mostly a "charade."
* His historical argument that "social gospel" Protestantism was "just Marxism in Christian clothing" and that "the mainline [Protestants] died."
Yes, you're reading this right. Warren not only has called most of mainstream Protestant Christianity flat out Marxist (which in dominionist-speak, is actually a closet method of calling them practicing devil worshippers; Communism and Marxism are directly equated to Satan worship in these circles and have been since at least the late 1920s) but literally equated same-sex marriage to incest.
Not only this, but Warren has also promoted a common bogosity that is promoted in dominionist circles in efforts to prevent expansion of hate crimes protection to LGBT people--namely, the (completely and utterly false) claim that adding sexual orientation or gender identification to hate crimes statues would essentially criminalise Christianity as a whole:
Oh , I do. For 5,000 years, marriage has been defined by every single culture and every single religion – this is not a Christian issue. Buddhist, Muslims, Jews – historically, marriage is a man and a woman. And the reason I supported Proposition 8, is really a free speech issue. Because first the court overrode the will of the people, but second there were all kinds of threats that if that did not pass then any pastor could be considered doing hate speech if he shared his views that he didn't think homosexuality was the most natural way for relationships, and that would be hate speech. We should have freedom of speech, ok? And you should be able to have freedom of speech to make your position and I should be able to have freedom of speech to make my position, and can't we do this in a civil way.
This, of course, is aside from other fun things in the interview--like (and I wish I were making this up) a claiming the economy is in the tank because people aren't being evangelicals (as if thrift and saving money were purely a Christian trait, much less a dominionist one!).
This is, I will note, far from the first time Warren's fuzzy mask has slipped.
In a television interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Warren literally advocated--rather than the Christlike example of turning the other cheek--outright Biblically ordained assassination of world leaders in language that paralleled Pat Robertson's infamous calls for the assassination of Hugo Chavez:
HANNITY: Can you talk to rogue dictators? Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, wants to wipe Israel off the map, is seeking nuclear weapons.
HANNITY: I think we need to take him out.
HANNITY: Am I advocating something dark, evil, or something righteous?
WARREN: Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped. And I believe...
HANNITY: By force?
WARREN: Well, if necessary. In fact, that is the legitimate role of government. The Bible says that God puts government on earth to punish evildoers. Not good-doers. Evildoers.
HANNITY: I'm just gotten, thanks to my wife, who you know, you know, been reading the Old Testament. Because as a good Catholic growing up, I studied more the New Testament.
WARREN: Just ignored that part.
HANNITY: I ignored the Old Testament. But what about King David? What about the -- all the battles, all the conflict, you know, going back--you know, Abraham -- Adam and Eve and their children, going forward?
WARREN: The point is, there are some things worth dying for. There's no doubt about that. And I would die for my family. I would die for my freedom. I would die for this country.
HANNITY: If somebody broke into your house, you would be justified to kill them?
WARREN: I would be justified to protect my family. Absolutely.
HANNITY: And if it took killing them?
HANNITY: But it's not murder at that point?
WARREN: No. Murder is not self-defense.
There are also indications that Warren's tactics may in and of themselves be potentially coercive. Not only does Warren heavily rely on "stealth evangelism"--essentially "bait and switch for Jesus"--but explicitly implements a multilevel method of recruitment and indoctrination that makes it impossible to know what you are getting into fully:
One is the baseball diamond, used to explain the flow of church ministry in a person's life. Vast crowds attend church, but they reach first base, Membership, only by completing Class 101 and signing a covenant of commitment to Christ and the church. Second base is Maturity, reached through another class (201) featuring a covenant of commitment to a daily quiet time, tithing, and a small group. Third base is Ministry, in which members commit to serving actively in the church. They are interviewed and placed in one of dozens of thriving church ministries. Home base is Mission, in which Christians commit to the cause of evangelism. At the center of the diamond is Magnification, which stands for worship. How can one reach maturity before committing to mission or ministry? Chalk it up to the Baptist penchant for alliteration. Purpose-Driven churches make worship the starting point--it's where unchurched people experience the church and decide to commit. It's also the end, since everything centers on glorifying God.
In addition to refusing to be up-front (itself considered a danger sign), apaprently membership in cell groups and tithing are mandatory once one is considered a "full" church member; this is also a setup known in most coercive religious groups that use a "cell" structure. One particularly infamous non-"Bible-based" coercive religious group that uses this model is none other than the Church of Scientology--the various "operating thetan" levels (including the (in)famous OT VII "all your problems are the result of Evil Galactic Overlord Xenu chucking a mess of aliens into Kilahuea and Las Palmas 73 million years ago--after making them watch bad movies and drugging them up then placing them on space jets with strong resemblances to DC-9s) are in exactly this same regimented setup.
This is disturbing enough...but we're really just scratching the surface, unfortunately.
Rick Warren's links to Joel's Army promoters
Warren, unfortunately, has even more nefarious linkage--he has been associated not once, but twice with known promoters of Joel's Army theology, and in particular an individual strongly linked to the spread of Joel's Army/New Apostolic Reformation theology throughout the Assemblies of God (and in particular what is now known as the "Third Wave").
The first definitive linkage found with Warren and Joel's Army promoters is with early promotional linkages between Saddleback Church's media director and Left Behind Games--a company which produced what amounted to a Joel's Army strategy RPG based on the "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye et al. (The "Left Behind" books, themselves, are in fact a fictionalisation of Joel's Army/NAR endtime theology--specifically regarding what have been referred to as the "Tribulation Saints", post-Rapture convertees to NAR theology who are joined at the end of time by the rest of "Joel's Army" to destroy everyone else on the planet.)
Astonishingly--until a Talk to Action series exposed the game and its content for the world to see--the initial plan, as suggested by Saddleback Church's international director, was to promote the game in churches to children as young as six:
Time magazine has described Mr. Warren as one of the nation's most influential Evangelical Christian leaders. He describes himself as a "stealth evangelist" and describes his training programs as "a stealth movement, that's flying beneath the radar, that's changing literally hundreds, even thousands of churches around the world." He claims that he has sold tens of millions of copies of The Purpose Driven Life by developing a worldwide network of pastors.
The international director of Mr. Warren's Purpose Driven Church, Mark Carver, is a former investment banker who serves on the Advisory Board of the corporation created in October 2001 to develop and market this game. The creators plan to market their game using the same network marketing techniques that Mr. Warren used to turn The Purpose Driven Life into a commercial success. For example, they plan to distribute their merchandise through pastoral networks, especially mega-churches.
Fortunately, wind was caught of this, and the plot publicised--and (in part as a method of damage control) Carver ultimately resigned both positions.
This same article also notes that Warren has in fact adapted some of the concepts in the so-called "Seven Mountains" strategy (which ongoing research by the New Apostolic Reformation Research Team has found may ultimately originate from Campus Crusade for Christ and/or Youth With A Mission--both coercive parachurch groups known to promote Joel's Army theology and with very close connections, in the case of YWAM literally as a frontgroup, to Joel's Army interests in the Assemblies):
His dominionist theology is apparent in this ministry. A key aspect of dominionist thought is a conviction that the Scripture gives the church a mandate to take dominion over this world socially and culturally before the return of Jesus Christ. Mr. Warren's global plan is a strategy to realize a dominionist vision of churches, states, and corporations forming partnerships to bring about a new world order to make way for Christ's return by establishing a literal, physical kingdom of God on earth. In order to build this earthly kingdom, Mr. Warren plans marketplace ministries - business ventures with a veneer of missionary compassion that slip into a country in order to transform it systematically through the governmental, corporate, and social sectors. And that is why Mr. Warren calls himself a "stealth evangelist" - because he wishes to cloak his dominionist agenda, which is the establishment of an earthly kingdom that reflects his skewed vision of Christianity.
According to Mr. Warren, the establishment of this earthly kingdom requires "foot soldiers." As part of his plan, Mr. Warren said he would encourage laypeople to "adopt" needy villages overseas in order to plant churches, expand business opportunities, educate children, influence governments, and overthrow corrupt political leaders, whom he described as "little Saddams." Mr. Warren said his purpose is to enlist "one billion foot soldiers for the Kingdom of God" in the developing world. And the stadium crowd roared its approval.
As disturbing as this is, even more worrisome--in my personal opinion--is Warren's extremely close relationship with Paul Yonggi Cho (nee David Yonggi Cho)--who can legitimately be said to be the person who brought not only Joel's Army theology into the Assemblies, but led to its official embracement throughout the 1990s (Assemblies "disavowals" of the Joel's Army branding of "New Apostolic Reformation" and "Third Wave" theology notwithstanding).
There is a very intensely personal reason why I find Warren's association with Cho highly disturbing. I myself am a walkaway from what would appear to be one of the first churches in the US, if not one of the first churches outside of South Korea, where Cho tried to foment a Joel's Army revival; this was all the way back in the sixties, at that. (The church I am a walkaway from is now considered one of the ten most influential "Joel's Army" churches in the US.)
Suffice it to say, I am all too familiar with "old time religion" a la Cho (and have the therapist's bills to prove it).
Cho, for those who aren't familiar (and most of you won't be unless you are a walkaway from some of the most spiritually abusive segments of the dominionist movement), is the head of Yoido Full Gospel Church--an extremely large Assemblies of God church in Seoul, South Korea (and with multiple "satellite" congregations throughout South Korea) that qualifies as the world's largest megachurch and (if its satellite congregations are counted) quite possibly the largest single congregation of any church; the church has claimed quite literally three-fourths of a million people in South Korea as members, and effectively is the Assemblies of God in that country for all intents and purposes. His megachurch empire started a scant ten years after the Assemblies entered Korea, so he is a prime study on how the Assemblies actively exports dominionism worldwide.
The reason that Cho has two names is a story in and of itself (and is where we begin jumping deep into the rabbit hole and seeing how far down it goes). Cho has claimed that that he died and later came back from the dead:
Paul Yonggi Cho
Some of the biggest names in the charismatic movement claim to have been to the other side and back. Among them is Paul Yonggi [David] Cho -- controversial pastor of the largest church in the world (with more than 500,000 members) in Seoul, Korea. He said he met a blue-skinned, deceased missionary to Korea there who commissioned him to reach his country-folk for Christ.
Cho has also stated that one of his assistant pastors at the Yoido Full Gospel Church died and came back to life after three days. During that time period, according to an interview Cho gave
to Mary Stewart Relfe, he was reunited with his wife in heaven where he saw God and was able to meet various biblical figures -- including Abraham, Stephen, and David..
(Sources: Cho, Leap Of Faith) (Bridge Publishing, 1984);  "Interview with Dr. Paul Cho," Mary S. Relfe, League of Prayer (P.O. Box 4038, Montgomery, AL, 36104).)
During this bit of a trip to the Other Side that Cho claims to have experienced (a surprisingly common claim by Assemblies-linked "name it and claim it" promoters; Jesse Duplantis, another "name it and claim it" promoter popular on the Assemblies traveling-pastor circuit, also claims to have died and come back, as have many others) Cho claims to have been told to change his name and also claims to have seen Jesus as a member of the local fire brigade:
Cho claims to have received his call to preach from Jesus Christ Himself, who supposedly appeared to him dressed like a fireman. (Dwight J. Wilson, "Cho, Paul Yonggi," Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, 161)
. . .
As Cho tells the story of his name change, God showed him that Paul Cho had to die and David Cho was to be resurrected in his place. According to Cho, God Himself came up with his new name. (Paul Yonggi Cho interviewed by C. Peter Wagner, "Yonggi Cho Changes His Name," Charisma & Christian Life, November 1992, 80)
Cho is the inventor of possibly one of the most spiritually abusive tactics ever devised--the "cell church" or "shepherding group", which has been the primary method in which his church has grown exponentially. (Of note, it was originally invented as a way to keep control over the huge congregation; it is now being used to "seed" dominionist movements in churches to take over from within, "cuckoo style".) Cho is also, very much, a promoter of dominion theology and particularly "name it and claim it"; Cho has had links with the Assemblies frontgroup Full Gospel Businessmen's Fellowship International which has historically been a major force in promotion of dominionism both here and abroad, and a profile at Rick Ross Institute notes that he has bastardised concepts from traditional Korean shamanism in almost identical fashion to that of the Moonies. He has also, by his own admission, used tactics based on those used by Soka Gakkai--a "Buddhist-based" highly abusive coercive religious group that is almost universally considered cultic and possibly violated law in obtaining confidential NCIC records for purposes of "dead-agenting" critics and which uses prayers as a form of cursing mainstream Buddhist leaders in Japan, has in general engaged in extremely unethical behaviour and whose members have even literally attempted to torch the temples of mainstream Buddhist churches.
It is, in fact, probably not a major exaggeration to state that Cho has been responsible for the increasing rate that the Assemblies of God has gone hard-dominionist worldwide; in fact, in 1992, he was elected head of the World Assemblies of God Council (the group overseeing all Assemblies of God churches worldwide)--the exact period when "Third Wave" pentecostalism (such as promoted in Brownsville Assemblies of God during the "Pensacola Revival") and its associated spiritual-warfare movements were embraced officially as a "move of the spirit" by the American Assemblies of God headquarters.
It should be noted that this is not the first time Cho has tried to breed the "Pensacola Madness"--in addition to the church I am a walkaway from and Brownsville A/G itself, one of the earliest churches he tried to foment a "Brownsville Revival" at was Juan Carlos Ortiz--pastor of Body of Christ (a large Argentinian Assemblies of God megachurch) who was one of the major parties who ultimately popularised Cho's "cell church" concept.
Another article (which notes that the church I am a walkaway from was the first in North America targeted by Cho) also notes that between the time the church I left was targeted and Brownsville was targeted that he claimed the next "outpouring" would be in Canada--at the Toronto Airport Fellowship, a Vineyard church often credited for "Third Wave" pentecostalism and its associated "spiritual warfare" movements. (Toronto Airport Fellowship has also been listed as an early Joel's Army church, though there were many Joel's Army churches before the "Toronto Outpouring" and this is now fairly well documented.)
Sadly, the rampant spiritual abuse I have reported as a survivor of "Third Wave Madness" is all too typical in the "Third Wave" churches--in fact, the whole "Third Wave" is increasingly regarded as spiritually abusive per se, and some of its core doctrines are frighteningly similar to those in Scientology.
Not only did Cho devise "Third Wave" pentecostalism, he in fact invented many of the tactics that are used by "spiritual warfare" groups--including "prayer gangs", "territorial marking" with Wesson oil, etc. and can in fact be credited with much of the dominionist "spiritual warfare" movement's invention and popularising.
Of interesting note, Cho has attempted to promote dominionist movements in South Korea itself and has multiple links to dominionist groups here in the States including Robert Weiner; the latter was founder of Maranatha, one of the earlier Joel's Army groups in the US and one of the first neopente dominionist groups widely regarded as a "Bible-based" coercive religious group (due to the extremely coercive manner of their "shepherding"; in fact, Maranatha was so abusive they were actually banned from several collegiate campuses before they "shut down" and rebranded as (initially) Morning Star International and (most recently) Every Nation).
In addition to the FGBMFI and other links, he's also linked to quite possibly one of the most spiritually abusive of the Assemblies frontgroups, "Youth With A Mission" (which is almost universally considered by exit counselors as cultic, and which is not only a confirmedly Joel's Army group but which is increasingly being found by NARRT researchers as being a major conduit of spread of much of the "spiritual warfare" theology within Joel's Army groups).
And this is still not the extent of Joel's Army involvement by Cho--among other things, Cho has a very close relationship with Mr. Joel's Army himself--C. Peter Wagner, who runs a massive network of Joel's Army churches and "apostles" and who can be considered to have coined the phrase "Joel's Army" (as well as its recent replacement in Joel's Army circles, "Elijah's Army").
Quite obvious why I consider anyone and anything to do with Cho as being Bad News.
Warren was a key speaker at Yonggi Cho's church growth conference in 1997. Cho is known to mix occult concepts with Christian teaching. He is especially known for his word faith & visualization techniques. Warren was also a key speaker at Schuller's Institute for Successful Church Leadership.
David Cho's connection to Robert Schuller is evident. Robert Schuller writes in the foreword to Yonggi Cho's book, The Fourth Dimension: "I discovered the reality of that dynamic dimension in prayer that comes through visualizing.... Don't try to understand it. Just start to enjoy it! It's true. It works. I tried it."
To say Cho is promoting mysticism would be an understatement. He says if Buddhists and Yoga practitioners can accomplish their objectives through fourth dimensional powers, then Christians should be able to accomplish much more by using the same means. (Paul Yonggi Cho, The Fourth Dimension, vol. 1, 1979, pp.37, 41) "You create the presence of Jesus with your mouth... He is bound by your lips and by your words... Remember that Christ is depending upon you and your spoken word to release His presence." (Ibid., 83)
In Warren's interview with Cho we can see his respect for him.
Warren: Do you think American churches should be more open to the prayer for miracles?
Cho: I feel that the most American churches really don't believe in the miracles of God. The church is getting very institutionalized. But I tell you that by a new anointing the American church would start to believe the miracle of the nation of God's hand."
Warren: Can you please pray a prayer of blessing to the pastors that are reading this? (Rick Warren And David Yonggi Cho Talk About Using The Internet by Tim Bednar July 25, 2003) (originally from e-church.com
More damningly, a dominionist publication has http://www.pastors.com/articles/ChoInterview.asp">interviewed Cho wherein the latter admits links with Rick Warren; this same publication has http://www.pastors.com/article.asp?ArtID=9230">an article by Rick Warren where he quotes Cho directly in admitting both have possibly plaigarised sections of sermons from Billy Graham and a pastor of a Dallas, TX church:
There has been much talk in recent years on blogs and Web sites about how much of other people's sermons is appropriate to incorporate into your own messages. When does it get to the point of "plagiarism"? A friend of mine in Cincinnati was recently dismissed by his church's board of trustees because of this. As I predicted to that board of trustees, the size of that thriving church has been cut in half, the momentum they had been experiencing has gone away, and they are in big financial trouble. What a needless waste of God's momentum that had been resting upon them.
At a seminar, Dr. Cho, pastor of the world's largest church in Korea, was asked during a question and answer time, "How do you put your weekly messages together? They are so powerful!" He said, "Honestly, I have never given an original message in all my years of ministry here at Yoido Church. Each week, I preach word-for-word messages from either Billy Graham or W.A. Criswell from Dallas First Baptist Church. I can't afford to not have a home run each weekend when we gather. I don't trust my own ability to give completely original messages." Wow!
Warren was also a speaker at the Azusa Street Centennial (held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Azusa Street Revival, generally held as the "birth" of pentecostalism including the Assemblies of God) and reportedly shared the stage with Cho.
Warren and Cho also have joined forces in promoting megachurches via the Internet including setting up "cell churches" online (and networking fellow dominionists):
Churches need to stop building bigger buildings and start relying more on the Internet, say two leading pastors in the church growth movement. David Yonggi Cho, pastor of the 750,000-member Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, and Rick Warren, pastor of the 15,000-member Saddleback Valley Community Church, say the Internet is a "next generation strategy" that will connect decentralized home groups to the larger church body.
The two met recently in California to discuss church growth strategies for the 21st century, and their conclusion was -- stop building buildings and use that money for world missions. The interview appears in the July 25 issue of Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox, a free, e-mail newsletter available from the Web site www.pastors.com.
With 20,000 new converts a year, Cho says there is no way his church can match buildings to membership and so he's encouraging younger converts to stay at home and worship through the Internet.
"We are so jammed that we have no way to keep growing except by going to cyberspace," says Cho. He says he tells young people, "Don't come to church, just stay home and get your teaching through the Internet." These long-distance members give regular feedback on the sermons and services, and they can give their tithe through the Internet, and they stay physically connected to the larger body through small study groups.
Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Church," adds, "Even if we had all the buildings we needed, one question is whether or not the next generation wants to worship in huge buildings." He says Saddleback is experimenting with live Internet services on the weekends and has already set up a GroupNet to help small groups stay connected to each other.
Cho's church offers live services over the Internet, including Sunday and Wednesday. "But also, when I want to give special instructions or teaching to the cell groups," says Cho, "then I will teach it through the Internet to the cells and apartments."
"It is silly to build larger and larger church buildings," says Cho. "It is silly to spend more money on branch church buildings! You'll never have enough. I really believe this, and I have already announced to my people and ministers that the next step is to go into total cyberspace ministry because it is a real waste of money to build larger buildings." Warren adds, "No matter how much land you have, it eventually fills up.
Besides, just think of that money and how it could be used for missions. Our goal is to decentralize -- to send our church members out for ministry into their neighborhoods." Regarding the traditional need for buildings, Warren cites Saddleback's legacy: "We wanted to prove to the world that you don't have to have a building to grow a church. We were running over 10,000 in attendance before we built our first building. So we know how to grow and minister without buildings. What we're trying to learn now is how to do it through the Internet -- into the homes."
(It is worth noting--on a rather frightening note, at that--that many estimates have South Korea as the world's most "wired" nation, especially in regards to broadband access.)
Especially damning, Cho admits on his own website the links between him and Warren and cross-promotion of each other:
Prayer is the only way to survive!
Rev. Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in the USA came to see Dr. Cho who was visiting Los Angeles for the Spiritual Renewal Conference 2001 at Sarang Community Church in Los Angeles (Rev. Jung Hyun Oh). While Dr. Cho was talking to him, he urged the churches in the USA to pray. Dr. Cho emphasized prayer for the survival of the churches in the USA. He further said that leaders should listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit and find out the methods of drawing young people into the Church, such as using the Internet.
It is frightening that Rick Warren is very, very close with the person who may in fact be one of the most responsible for the fact that the Assemblies of God is, denomination-wide, dominionist and embracing of spiritual abuse in the name of "spiritual warfare"--and in the process creating thousands of instances of "collatteral damage".
And the sad thing is--we are still not done with Rick Warren's extensive connections to Joel's Army groups.
In fact, Warren has close connections with some of the same folks Cho hangs around with--including not only having relationships with C. Peter Wagner but explicitly promoting him as an example to follow:
4. Dr. C.Peter Wagner. This man has also been cited as a successful leader by Rick Warren. You have noticed his name above. Who is Wagner and what does he believe? He is the professor of Fuller Theological Seminary, School of World Mission, Pasadena California. He believes in Dominion Theology, Kingdom Now, which is the premise that the Kingdom of God is already here! Wagner's spiritual warfare book, "Territorial Spirits," is a compilation of the writing of such people as Paul (David) Yonggi Cho, Larry Lea, Jack Hayford and others who accept the neo-dominionist doctrines. This book is an anti-biblical book which teaches that Christians can dispossess Satan's angels from their seats of authority over geographical areas. Biblically, these spiritual entities will not be put down until Jesus Christ returns, at the end of the Tribulation period, when Satan himself is bound for a thousand years. Revelation 19-20. Wagner says the Kingdom has come NOW. P.14: "The kingdom has come."
A book could be written re Wagner--several books have been written in apologetics circles and NARRT is working on a number themselves. Suffice it to say that pretty much C. Peter Wagner is considered the founding father of Joel's Army--association with him is damning indeed.
In fact, it'd appear that Wagner, Cho, and Warren are working together in what amounts to a council of large Joel's Army megachurches.
...and now you know why I am quite unhappy with this choice.