FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Making Difficult Choices

with Rick and Kay Warren | December 8, 2006
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On the broadcast today, Rick and Kay Warren talk about the controversy that erupted last week when pro-choice Senator Barack Obama spoke at the Global AIDS Summit at Saddleback Church. They explain why they invited Sen. Obama in the first place and why they decided not to rescind their invitation as they were urged to do by national pro-life leaders.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • On the broadcast today, Rick and Kay Warren talk about the controversy that erupted last week when pro-choice Senator Barack Obama spoke at the Global AIDS Summit at Saddleback Church. They explain why they invited Sen. Obama in the first place and why they decided not to rescind their invitation as they were urged to do by national pro-life leaders.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Rick and Kay Warren talk about the controversy that erupted at the Global AIDS Summit at Saddleback Church.

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Making Difficult Choices

With Rick and Kay Warren
December 08, 2006
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Bob: What does it mean to be truly pro-life?  Pastor Rick Warren says it means more than just being opposed to abortion.

Rick: We have two genocides going on in our world.  Forty million have died from abortion, and 40 million are dying of AIDS.  One is not more important than the other.  They're people that Jesus Christ died for, shed His precious blood for, and we must care about.  So we have to care about both.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, December 8th.  Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.  Should you invite someone who doesn't oppose abortion to help you think through the issue of AIDS?  We'll talk about it today.

 And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Friday edition, again, a special edition of our program.  We are talking today with Rick and Kay Warren.  You didn't know when you signed up to speak at the Global AIDS Summit, which you spoke at last week out in Southern California, you didn't know that there would be more media onsite at Saddleback for this event than they've ever had for anything in the history of Saddleback.  "Nightline" was talking about this.  This was getting – you walked into the middle of a firestorm, didn't you?

Dennis: I was actually on press row seated next to an "NBC Nightly News" analyst and watched her take notes and was very friendly, and we had a good conversation there, but, it's my understanding over 168 press passes were passed out.  I wrote an e-mail back to our staff, because we were live on the Internet while I was sitting there, and I said, "I'm seated here in the midst of more cameras.  It reminds me of when President Bush spoke at National Religious Broadcasters, I believe, it was in Nashville.  But it was tremendous, and Rick and Kay Warren join us here on FamilyLife Today to talk about not only what occurred there but also the controversy that it created.  Rick, Kay?

Bob: You stirred things up at this conference, didn't you?

Rick: Well, I did, and part of – you know, I'm kind of used to stirring controversy.  Part of it is misunderstanding why you do what you do.  I did a message a week or so ago, actually, it's free on the Internet, too, called "Why we do what we do at Saddleback.  Explain the six biblical convictions behind why do we do certain things?"

 And at this conference, we invited 60 different international leaders from every spectrum of society.  We had government leaders, we had business leaders, we had health leaders, and because we were able to convene this large number of people, we had all the sides represented, and we actually brought people together who wouldn't even normally talk to each other.

Bob: Believers and unbelievers?

Rick: Believers and unbelievers, Muslims, Jewish people, on this one issue of AIDS and, really, Dennis, this comes from my conviction taught to me by Francis Schaffer and by William Wilberforce.  Schaffer and Wilberforce taught the difference between an ally and a co-belligerent.

 An ally is somebody that you agree with completely on everything.  A co-belligerent is – that's your enemy, and it's my enemy, so we're enemies together on that, but we don't agree on all of our agendas together.

 For instance, I'm a co-belligerent with feminists when they talk about being against pornography.  I'm against pornography.  I don't accept the feminist agenda at all, but I do accept I'm a co-belligerent with them against pornography.  I am a co-belligerent with gays when they say, "We want to get people who have AIDS the medications they need."  I don't accept the gay agenda at all, but I believe that that's an issue that Jesus would care about that.

 So when you do that, sometimes you put strange people on the same conference together.

Dennis: Well, let's talk about that for a second, because I turned to Bob as I was watching some of the controversy begin to brew and, in fact, I was even contacted by a Christian leader who suggested that I cancel speaking at the Global AIDS Summit and to on TV, "Hannity & Colmes," and "Larry King Live," and come out against you two on behalf of reasonable Christianity and say, "How can you have a Democrat who believes in abortion speak at a conference where you're also speaking about orphans?"

 Truthfully, Rick, I didn't give it a second thought, I really didn't.  I thought, you know, it doesn't matter to me that you've got somebody who is not of the same stripe all the way down the line as we are.

Bob: Okay, now you're going to get e-mail, too, you know that.

Dennis: I know I am.  That's okay.

Rick: This is what William Wilberforce did.  William Wilberforce, a great Christian, parliamentarian, who led the abolition of slavery in England, in the British Empire.  He would often make partnerships with people on other issues who were totally opposed to his views on slavery.  He made partnerships with people on trade, on tariffs, on – interestingly enough – cruelty to animals.

 I could give you a dozen different issues.  He partnered with people when he was against slavery, and they were for it in order to build coalitions that ultimately his goal was to eliminate that scourge.

 I didn't mean to interrupt you, but go ahead and finish with your story.

Dennis: No, what I just wanted you to comment on, though, Rick, was I know you're anchored biblically.

Rick: Oh.

Dennis: You're anchored biblically around this issue.

Rick: Anybody who doubts that we're staunchly pro-life needs to go re-read "The Purpose-Driven Life."  Chapter 2 and Chapter 22 specifically talks about why abortion is wrong because the Bible says in Psalm 139, "I formed you in your mother's womb, and I fore-ordained your days before you took your first breath." 

 And the reason why I am against abortion is it short-circuits God's purpose for your life.  God planned His purpose for your life before you were even born, and so abortion is a murdering of a life that God pre-planned and pre-thought-out their days before it even happened.

Bob: What – did it do a gut-check for you, then, before you sat down and sent this invitation to Senator Obama, knowing his views on abortion and that AIDS is a life issue?

Kay: Well, let me just even explain the situation, how it occurred.  We were in – late August, we were on a staff retreat, and we were in a hotel room, getting ready, had the TV on, and as I kind of walked by it, I saw Barack Obama taking an HIV test in Kenya, where his father was born.  And I stopped in my tracks, and I thought to myself, because I think everything in terms of HIV, and I thought, "I don't think I have seen a U.S. politician in the 25 years that the AIDS pandemic has been going on, I don't think I've seen a U.S. politician publicly take an HIV test."  That intrigued me.

 And so, from there, we contacted him to ask him to see if he would come and be a spokesperson for somebody who could take down the stigma of HIV and who could show how easy it was to get an HIV test. 

 And then Sam Brownback, we'd already been talking with him about having him come as well, and they were both totally agreeable to stand before the American public and say, "Look, to get an HIV test, it's not difficult, it's easy," and so we invited him on that basis. 

 Did I know much about his politics at that moment?  Honestly, I did not, and so we have really tried to, as Rick says, build a coalition of people who do not necessarily see eye-to-eye – in fact, you can't talk about HIV and have everybody on the same page.  It's impossible.  And so if we only could work with people who see everything about HIV through the same lens we do, we truly would be stymied.

 But as we talk and work with other people who see things a little bit differently, then we look for those intersections of where what they believe and what we believe can come together for a good goal.

Bob: So those who would say, "You guys were naïve here.  You gave a platform to a guy who is probably going to be running for president who can now talk about my friend, Rick Warren, and" …

Rick: Well, there are probably two guys going to be running for president.

Bob: Yeah, both Senator Brownback and Senator Obama.

Kay: Yeah, people thought it was a political – you know, people wondered, "Oh, are you endorsing anybody?"  And it just wasn't.

Rick: Tell them about the disclaimer up front.

Kay: We put a disclaimer in our notebook …

Rick: … last year and this year …

Kay: … that was handed to all the participants that said, "You will hear some speakers that you probably won't agree with" …

Rick: … "and we don't either."

Kay: "And we don't either.  They represent themselves, not us or Saddleback Church.  And, you know, we kept having to remind people that you're not going to agree with everything you hear.

Rick: Here is an interesting story behind the story that I did not tell ABC, NBC, CBS, or CNN, but I'm telling the Dennis Rainey FamilyLife program – this is a scoop – I would not have invited him if I hadn't already clarified my views on pro-life, and I talked to him not just personally but also publicly. 

 I was in Washington, D.C. a while back, and the Democratic caucus of the Senate was wanting to know what's in the mind of these evangelicals?  And they invited me to come speak to them through Barack Obama.  He invited me, and so I went and met with all of these Democratic leaders and just laid out why we believe what we believe as evangelicals to all of these Democratics, and it was Hillary Clinton, and it was Barbara Boxer and Chuck Schumer and Patrick Leahy and Harry Reid – all of the leaders in that party.

 And Barack Obama was there, and so we were explaining all of this, and Barack Obama says, "Okay, let's get the elephant in the room out on the table."  He said, "Why is it that when many of us do bills on poverty and disease and things like that, we never get any letters of support.  But when we do anything related to life, pro-life or abortion, we get all of these enormous letters."

Dennis: From the Christian community?

Rick: From the Christian community.  We never hear from them on anything that they also might agree on, but we only hear that they're against abortion.

 I said, "Well, guys, you need to understand this," and I tried to put it in terms that each of them would understand.  I said, "Hillary, when you were in the '60s, all that mattered to your was civil rights.  If you were in the South, and you knew that blacks were being thrown in jail and being mistreated and killed in the woods, you didn't care what a politician thought about any other issue except civil rights.  Isn't that true?  You didn't care what they thought about taxes or anything.  For you, you were a one-issue person," and she said, "Yes, that's right," because that's what you cared about – the civil rights of African-Americans in the South.

 And I looked at Chuck Schumer – I said, "Chuck, you understand, as a Jewish person, that if in World War II, I'm saying – I'm going to give you farm subsidies, and I'm going to give you healthcare, and I'm going to give you this, but I'm not trying to end the holocaust, you wouldn't care what else I was offering.  You would only care about ending the holocaust.  Would that be true?"  He said, "Yes."

 And I went around the room and found the issue that each of these people cared about, and showed them how this was so important.  I said, "For many of us who believe that God had a purpose for people's lives before they're even born, and that even in the womb that person is divinely ordained by God, we have been through a holocaust that there are 40 million Americans who aren't here now that should be here.  And to those of us who believe that, a lot of other things don't matter.

 And, all of a sudden, it was kind of like the light came on in the room.  I don't think I changed their minds, but I think they understood why we feel about this so deeply.

Bob: I'm just thinking, there are some folks who are listening going, "Oh, man, the scoop that you just gave us.  Rick Warren is coaching Democrats on how to sell themselves to evangelicals now."

Rick: No, I'm telling them exactly what we believe.  There is so much demonizing of opposition today that we've lost the civility in our civilization, and people aren't fearing why we believe what we believe.  And the truth is, we believe, Kay and I believe, that the ultimate pro-life position is not just to be against abortion, it's to be for orphans, and it's to be for people – we have two genocides going on in our world. 

 Forty million have died from abortion, and 40 million are dying of AIDS.  And you know what?  One is not more important than the other.  They're people that Jesus Christ died for, shed His precious blood for, and we must care about.  So we can't care about one genocide of 40 million babies and not care about 40 million people who have AIDS who are dying right now, too.  We have to care about both.

 And the truth is this – just to be honest with you as an evangelist – of the 40 million who have AIDS, most of those don't know Jesus Christ yet.  And so if I'm an evangelist trying to love, care for, and keep alive the people who have an incurable disease until I can share the good news with them and give them the chance to respond to God's love.

Dennis: And you would also, as an evangelist, want to turn this spigot off, off to the side, where helpless children in the womb are being murdered …

Rick: Absolutely.

Dennis: So they could become live human beings and live out God's purpose for them.

Rick: To fulfill their purpose.

Dennis: And meet Jesus Christ as their Lord and Master.  Rick, I turned to Bob at one point as I was coming out to speak at the Global AIDS Summit, and I turned to him, and I said, "You know, it really makes you want to be a leader."  You know, watching the attack on you and Kay around this issue, I just find it fascinating today – and you used the word "civility" – I think that's a good term.  Paul talked about love in 1 Corinthians 13. 

 I think the Christian community, when we do differ with one another, we really do need to practice the 1 Corinthians 13 love that doesn't just take the issue public and hammer somebody in the public marketplace and make it a public issue.  I mean, how wrong would it have been if I would have canceled and said no to speak, not come to you privately, as I am instructed to in the New Testament, and have said to you, "You know, I've got a problem with this.  I need to interact with you about this privately.  Let's reason together."

 But instead take it to the public marketplace, and I have to say, this is a soapbox of mine – I really have problems with the army of Jesus Christ who shoots one another in friendly fire.  It's not so friendly, first of all, and, Kay, you used a term with me privately – you said, "There seems to be a lust that people have to destroy."

Kay: It's been chilling to me.  I mean, it actually chilled my bones to read some of the words that have been used in the last few weeks to describe Rick or Saddleback or our church or what we're doing, and I don't have a problem with people criticizing after evaluating us.  That's just – you know, you can't live without evaluating what others are doing, and that's okay.  There's nothing wrong with that. 

 It's what happens when we disagree with each other or feel like someone is maybe off the track, as some sincerely felt that we were, but I also read the criticism from the left, who criticize what we're doing, and the criticism on the left is full sometimes of obscenity and some pretty vulgar words and descriptions.  But you take those vulgarities and things out of the Christian right e-mails and things that we've gotten – take that out – it's exactly the same.  You would have no knowledge that the people writing from the right or the left criticizing are any different other than those few vulgarities because the kind of vindictive, hateful – and the word I used – "lust" for destruction – some people have a lust for food, some people have a lust for sex – I have seen, I really believe, there is a gleeful joy at trying to take somebody else down, and that's wrong.

Bob: You know, it's interesting the way you describe that both sides are speaking with anger and hate.  One uses profanity, and the other doesn't.  So is that the difference between followers of Christ?  We hate just as much as you, we just don't use profanity.  I don't think that's the message that God …

Kay: … but that's what's there, but that's what you see, and that's wrong, and that's not godly, and that's not Christlike.

Dennis: Rick, there's one other thing I wanted you to just briefly comment on – when you asked Senator Obama to come and speak, recognizing that he is pro-abortion, did you ask him to make any comment about abortion or to not comment on it as he came to speak?

Rick: You know, it's interesting.  First, I told him, "This is a conference on AIDS.  We're not asking you here to comment on anything else.  I simply want you to comment on AIDS.  This is not a conference on foreign policy or anything, it's a conference on AIDS.  We're inviting you here because you were willing to take an AIDS test that say everybody could do that." 

 The second thing is he offered to pull out to me.  He said, "If it's going to create a problem and take the folks off AIDS, I'll pull out."  That said a lot about him. 

 Third thing, we received hundreds and hundreds of phone calls, vulgar and anger, from Christians and the front desk.  He wrote personal notes to all our receptionists.  He heard about that, and on his own, wrote personal notes.  You know, that's a kindness that, to me, I thought, you know what?  Even when people are mean to you, you just keep loving like Jesus. 

 That's what we're trying to do – trying to respond in love to people who criticize here or there or whatever, and, again, the Bible says human opposition can bring glory to God, and as a result of that conflict, what people didn't realize is, it brought in 168 press to cover an AIDS conference in a church.

 And ultimately in the glory of God, the word about AIDS and the difference between what we call our slow and stop approaches to AIDS got heard on multiple networks. 

 So in the providence of God, the critics actually – God used it to get a message out about orphans and about AIDS.

Bob: Let's talk about Syria.  Woops, we're out of time on today's program.


Dennis: Bob, you're playing dirty pool now.

Rick: I could talk about that.

Bob: No, I'm afraid we can't get to that today, Rick.

Dennis: Kay, Bob does that all the time, I'm sorry.

Kay: You didn't warn me.

Dennis: I didn't warn you.  He just has this mean streak in him to – I really do appreciate you guys sitting down and talking with us, though.  You know, the bottom line on this is Christians not only need to be civil, but we need to take on the issue of orphans and of those who are infected with HIV and AIDS and compassionately, in our churches, begin to reach out to these people, and that's what the conference was all about.

Bob: And we've been thrilled, because as we've been addressing the issue of the orphan and the waiting child on FamilyLife Today, we've had a number of listeners who have contacted us and said, "We want to help."  I'm hoping that more listeners will get in touch with us.  In fact, our team has put together a kit that is called "A Home for Every Child" kit.  It offers resources to help you start an orphan ministry in your church, to help you, as a family, know how you can respond to the needs of orphans all around the world. 

 There's a DVD in this kit that features a message, Dennis, that you and your wife, Barbara, gave on how a Christian ought to respond to the needs of the fatherless.  And we want to sent this out to as many folks as possible.  In fact, this week we are making this kit available to any of our listeners who would call to request it.  We're just asking that when you request it, you make a donation of any amount to help with the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and we'll get these resources out to you. 

 In fact, this is a particularly advantageous time for you to call for two reasons.  One is because we're approaching the end of the year, and that's a critical time for us as a ministry to receive donations, but the second reason is because we have a matching gift opportunity that has been made available to us this month by some friends of this ministry.  Every donation we receive during the month of December is being matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis up to a total of $500,000. 

 So when you call this week and mention that you would like the orphan's kit, we'll send that out to you, and your donation will be matched on a dollar-for-dollar basis, it will be essentially doubled as you make the donation.

 You can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation or you can go online at  If you do that, when you come to the keycode box, just type the word "hope" into that keycode box, and we'll know that you want the orphan kit sent out to you.  And let me say, again, thanks for your support of the ministry of FamilyLife Today.

Dennis: And, Bob, I just want to say thank you for you folks' support of FamilyLife Today as well, and when they do support us, I want to remind them what they get – this Orphan Care Ministry kit that we'll send them, for a gift of any amount, contains a DVD of a message Barbara and I gave recently at our church about how to start an orphan care ministry. 

 Secondly, there is a book called "Launching an Orphan's Ministry in your Church," and along with that is a very professional DVD that is 15 minutes long.  You can show a pastor or a group of people explaining how you can get started – some great material in there, along with two other pamphlets "Welcome Home, Eight Steps to Adoption and the "10 Ways Every Christian can Care for Orphans and Waiting Children."

 You know, when you give, you help us produce material like this to take on issues like the orphan, like divorce, like marriage preparation, like small group Bible studies, and what I want to challenge you to do is, here at year-end, we need to hear you.  We have a matching gift in place, and if you'd pick up a phone and call our 800 number, as Bob mentioned, or go online and simply say, "You know what?  I stand with you guys and I want you to keep going, in fact, I want you to expand your ministry in the future."

 You just need to hear my heart – right now would be a very important time for us to hear from you.  We need to hear from you.

Bob: And, again, you can go online at or you can call us at 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, and we do hope to hear from you.

 I also hope you have a great weekend and hope you and your family are able to worship together this weekend, and we hope you can be back with us on Monday when John Trent is going to join us, and we're going to talk about breaking a cycle.  If you came from a family where divorce was part of your family history, what can you do to break the cycle of divorce in your own marriage and family.  We'll talk about that on Monday, and I hope you can join us for that.

 I want to thank our engineer today, Wally, from here at Saddleback, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We'll see you Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.

 FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.


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