Rick Warren, moderate

He’s better than lots of his competitors. But he’s worse than Jeremiah Wright. A sick, twisted human being. Too bad no one gets to say that on TV.

Warren thinks stem cell research is so evil that “purpose-driven” people have to oppose politicians who support it. Torture, not so much.

Warren thinks that my fellow atheists and I are automatically unfit to hold public office, because we’re “arrogant” (unlike, of course, people who think they have a direct pipeline to God and therefore can tell the rest of us what God wants us to do).

Warren thinks mainstream Protestantism is “Marxism in Christian clothing.”

Warren’s work on AIDS in Africa consists largely of promoting AIDS in Africa by opposing effective prevention programs.

Warren’s favorite African preacher is terrified of witches and hates gay people so much he wants them thrown in prison and published the names of thousands of them so his followers could persecute them..

Now, I’m not saying that Warren isn’t genuinely moderate, compared to his rival “evangelical” Bible-thumpers. Probably he is. Pretending not to hate gays isn’t as good as actually not hating them, but it’s better than openly hating them. And no doubt the tens of millions of Americans who can’t tell poetic myth from biology are citizens, too, and deserve to have a public voice. Barack Obama may have done a smart thing by inviting Warren to give the invocation, if doing so helps de-mobilize the right.

But Rick Warren is still a sick, twisted human being, and the smiling front-man for intolerably cruel and stupid policies. Intellectually and morally, he’s several cuts below Jeremiah Wright (of whom I am by no means an admirer). Yet Warren, like his predecessor the Rev. Dr. Billy Graham, is treated with respect in the mass media, his many flaws airbrushed out of the picture. That’s a problem.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com