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What Fidel Castro and Barack Obama have in common
by Graeme J. Davidson
27 Jan 2009

Why the leader of the Cuban Communist revolution would want a book telling us our purpose “is the continuation of Jesus' mission on earth” is a mystery.

... Several years ago, the Rev Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, got an unlikely request from Fidel Castro for an autographed copy of Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life. Why the leader of the Cuban Communist revolution would want a book telling us our purpose “is the continuation of Jesus' mission on earth” is a mystery.
... Maybe the ex Roman Catholic Castro is a closet Christian. Or his request and the publicity it attracted was a sign his attitude was softening towards his US and Christian nemeses? Then again, he might simply have been curious to learn why Warren and the book were so successful.
... Rick Warren, who has a status similar to Billy Graham, started Saddleback Church in 1980 with a congregation of 200 in a school hall.
... It now has its own building with over 80,000 members, and The Purpose Driven Life, published in 2002, has sold well over 30 million copies, one of the biggest selling non-fiction books ever. It’s a 40-day spiritual journey “to discover the answer to life's most important question: What on earth am I here for?” The answer: “life is about letting God use you for his purposes, not your using him for your own purposes”. Warren encourages readers to study the book together “in genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level, sharing”.
... He’s also written The Purpose Driven Church and there are now Purpose Driven study groups in 20,000 parishes around the world, including New Zealand. He encourages individuals and parishes to become directly involved in issues such as poverty, combating AIDS and promoting peace.
... But the greatest boost to book sales came in 2005 after a prisoner on a rape charge wrested a gun from his guard at an Atlanta courthouse. While escaping, he killed the judge, a reporter and two law enforcement officers before taking Ashley Smith hostage in her own home. During her seven-hour ordeal, Smith read aloud from the Bible and The Purpose Driven Life.
... Her captor asked her to reread the day 33 chapter: “We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige and position. If you can demand service from others, you’ve arrived. In our self-serving culture with its me-first mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept.” After listening to these words several times and discussing them with Smith, he let her go to pick up her five-year old daughter. That story made headlines around the world.
... But it took more than theology to subdue the escapee. Many Purpose Driven fans were upset when Smith later confessed she was a recovering drug addict and had given her captor ice (amphetamine crystals).
... Like Fidel Castro, Barack Obama is also a fan of Rick Warren. At a nationally televised forum at Saddleback Church, Warren interviewed presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama about faith and moral issues.
... After he won the election, Obama asked Warren to say the prayer at his presidential inauguration this Tuesday. That angered pro-choice abortion advocates, gays and Obama’s liberal supporters. As a conservative evangelical Baptist, Warren believes in creationism and is opposed to abortion and gay marriage: “For 5000 years every single culture and every single religion has defined marriage as between a man and a woman”.
... Even though Obama is strongly in favour of pro-choice abortion and equal legal rights for gays and lesbians, he is standing by his choice of Warren. “During the course of the entire inaugural festivities, there are going to be a wide range of viewpoints that are presented. And that's how it should be, because that's what America's about,” Obama explained. However, he has now invited openly gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson to deliver a prayer too.
... Warren says he’ll pray at the inauguration that leaders have integrity, humility and generosity. Because of the success of his books, Warren takes no salary and gives 90 percent of his income to his church. I wait with bated breath for our highly paid executives to follow his purpose driven example.



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