I was wrong.
The Political Animal, a blog on The Washington Monthly, has a Dec 4 post about Warren:
WARREN ENDORSES HANNITY'S WARMONGERING.... Pastor Rick Warren has a reputation for being far more stable and grounded than religious right leaders and TV preachers like Pat Robertson, but it's worth remembering that he's not exactly a moderate.
Last night, on Fox News, Sean Hannity insisted that United States needs to "take out" Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Warren said he agreed. Hannity asked, "Am I advocating something dark, evil or something righteous?" Warren responded, "Well, actually, the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with. It has to just be stopped.... 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."
Matt Duss explained why Warren's comments are problematic on a variety of levels.
Does Warren really consider it part of his ministry to sanctify the inch-deep theologizing-cum-warmongering of thugs like Sean Hannity? If so, who else does Warren think Jesus would bomb?
I contacted Pastor Warren's office for clarification, specifically to find out where, exactly, the Bible says that "God puts government on earth to punish evildoers" like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. They said they'd get back to me. I'll update if and when they do. I suspect Warren was referring to Romans 13, in which the Apostle Paul admonished Christians to submit to governing authorities (Hear that Hannity? Submit!), and also addressed the power of civil government to punish criminals. This has nothing to do, as far as I know, with invading foreign countries and killing their leaders, which is the context in which Warren is speaking.
In any case, if this were a conversation between an Iranian TV host and an ayatollah in which they discussed scriptural justifications for "taking out" high ranking members of the U.S. government, you'd probably see Sean Hannity running the clip on his show -- while slowly shaking his head in pious disapproval -- as evidence of what crazy extremists those Iranians are. As it is, they'll probably be running this on Iranian TV as evidence of what crazy extremists those Americans are.
Later, Warren's office called Duss back to say the pastor was, in fact, referring to Romans 13. When Duss noted the chapter and verse make no reference to killing foreign leaders, Warren's representative said she'd have to look into it.
Something to keep in mind the next time Warren presents himself as the leader of a new breed of reasonable evangelical leaders.
Matt Duss, author of the blog Wonk Room linked above, gave us a transcript of Warren's conversation with Hannity, a noted right-wing ideologue:
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. [Editor: likely a reference to Romans 13, see below]
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.
Duss called Warren's office and confirmed that Warren was referring to Romans 13, which says
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgement. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority* does not bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, busy with this very thing. Pay to all what is due to them—taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honour to whom honour is due.
Warren's ill-considered advice is not based on Romans 13 at all, then, because it is an exhortation to individual Christians living in the Roman empire. At the time, Roman persecution of Christians was rife. Paul asks that Christians submit to the authorities, presumably where their conduct is lawful.
Paul does not ask Christians to disobey or remove authorities they disagree with. Paul does not say that countries should remove illegitimate authorities by military force. Now, Mahmoud Ahmenijad is certainly an evildoer. It may be legitimate to remove him. But there is no basis in scripture to suggest that the United States is somehow qualified to unilaterally decide to remove him.
Warren's contention that "the Bible says that evil cannot be negotiated with" also seems suspect to me. I'm not sure what passage he refers to here. However, everyone can be negotiated with on some level. Jesus said to love our enemies, and whatever any other passage says, that has to take primacy. For Jesus' sake, then, we should assume that our enemies, even those we consider evil, can be negotiated with. Acting in self-defense is legitimate, but a preemptive military strike to destroy them would be against international law, and probably against God's law as well.
Rick, you disappoint me.
PS, Rick "Warmonger" Warren also invoked scripture to ask his followers to vote for California's Proposition 8, which reversed the Supreme Court's decision affirming the right of same sex couples to marry.