The Jonas Brothers (Ahhhh!) on Easter

Even if your kids are big fans of the Jonas Brothers — their music, their TV show, their fun-but-wholesome celebrityness — you may not know that the Bros are serious Christians.

When Rick Warren held an Easter service at Angel Stadium Sunday that drew 30,000 people, the Jonas Brothers were there unannounced. There must have been a lot of screaming little girls in pink dresses.

The service was held to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Warren’s Saddleback Church. The Jonases (is that plural for Jonas?) sang three songs, including one written by a Saddleback member called Gotta Find You.

It sounded like one of those songs that could be about a person, but is probably, considering the context, about God.

You’re the voice I heard inside my head, the reason that I’m singing…

You’re the missing piece I need, the song inside of me…

Here it is:

<object width=”640″ height=”385″><param name=”movie” value=”″></param><param name=”allowFullScreen” value=”true”></param><param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param><embed src=”″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” allowfullscreen=”true” width=”640″ height=”385″></embed></object>

According to the Orange County Register, Nick Jonas (honestly, I’m not sure which one he is) gave a personal testimony:


“About four and a half years ago I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes,” he said. “It happened quickly, but on my way to the hospital that night, I made a commitment to myself that I wouldn’t let it slow me down. And I asked myself the question, ‘Why me?’ But I do believe there was a turning point when I realized, “Why not me?

“Now I’ve been able to share my story and encourage other young people who are dealing with some of the same things. And I know we’re all going through some hard things in our lives but it’s how we persevere, how we get through those hard moments in our lives. I encourage you when those moments come to make that commitment I made and don’t let it slow you down.”

Obama in Cairo tops news list

What was the biggest religion story of 2009?

obama-speech-cp-w6814811According to the members of the Religion Newswriters Association, it was President Obama’s speech in Cairo about relations with the Muslim world.

Number two: The role of Catholic bishops and other faith groups in shaping the health-care reform debate.

Number three: Questions surrounding how Nidal Hasan’s Muslim faith affected the Fort Hood massacre.

My top choice came in 5th: The Proposition 8 gay-marriage vote in California and the debates over subsequent gay-marriage measures in other states. Seems to me that the ongoing, intensifying national debate over gay marriage is one of the most immediate and pressing issues in many religious communities.

I voted for another Obama speech — his super-controversial “abortion” speech at Notre Dame — for number 2. It actually came in 6th place in the voting.

My third choice was the murder of abortion doctor George Tiller, which led to intense reflection over many aspects of the abortion question. This story came in 4th.

See the full top 10 HERE.

RW_Nov_2007_Web2The 2009 Religion Newsmaker of the Year? The voters chose Rick Warren, the megachurch pastor who gave the invocation on Inauguration Day, spoke out on Proposition 8 and continues to fight global poverty. He recently spoke out against a bill in Uganda that would make homosexuality punishable with death or life in prison.

Warren was my second choice.

I voted for the many “faceless” people in religious communities whose lives have been affected by the recession.

(Obama photo by Gerald Herbert/Associated Press)

Rick Warren, with plenty to say

“Purpose Driven” pastor Rick Warren has been quiet lately.

He’s declined interviews since President Obama chose him to give the benediction at the inauguration.

But he talked yesterday with Christianity Today’s Sarah Pulliam and covered a lot of ground: California’s Prop. 8; political involvement; Obama’s views; his new magazine; interfaith relations; and — get this — his recent baptism of 800 people in one day.

About the mega-baptism, he said: “I was in the water for over five hours. I had webbed feet. It had to be a record. You know, it says in Acts that at the day of Pentecost, 3,000 were baptized and added to the church that day. We had 2,400 added to the church that day. The world belongs to Saddleback. When we started Saddleback, it was a white suburban church. We speak 65 different languages. It’s the United Nations. I baptized an Egyptian General; I baptized probably 50 or 60 nationalities.”

Imagine, 2,400 people added to the church in one day. Around here, a lot of mainline churches would throw a party if they could add 24 new members in one year.

About the president, he said: “Barack Obama knows we disagree on a number of issues. I talked to him about it before he decided to run for President, and I told him that I think his views on abortion are wrong. You can like somebody without agreeing with all of their policies. Most people know that I was a friend of President Bush. I didn’t agree with everything President Bush did.”

About those who opposed his role in the inaugeration because he opposes same-sex marriage, Warren said: “The truth is, Proposition 8 was a two-year campaign in the state, and during those two years, I never said a word about it until the eight days before the election, and then I did make a video for my own people when they asked, “How should we vote on this?” It was a pastor talking to his own people. I’ve never said anything about it since. I don’t know how you take one video newsletter to your own church and turn that into, all of a sudden I’m the poster boy for anti-gay marriage.”

Photo: Associated Press

Guideposts may stay put

Guideposts — the publishing company founded by Norman Vincent Peale — has been headquartered here in Carmel since 1953.

So many considered it a blow to the community when Guideposts sold its 50-acre property last year to a development group. Among other things, Guideposts needs an updated headquarters.

It’s potentially good news, then, that the owner of the property would like to keep Guideposts there and has proposed building a 50,000-square-foot glass and steel headquarters, as my colleague Barbara Livingston Nackman reports.

Guideposts magazine, which has been featuring inspirational stories for more than half a century, has a worldwide circulation of something like 8 million copies.

And, if you missed it, my colleague Julie Moran Alterio had a real good piece recently about Chappaqua-based Reader’s Digest publishing Rick Warren’s new magazine, Purpose Driven Connection.

Her story included this:


Alyce Alston, president of Reader’s Digest’s Health & Wellness and Home & Garden segments, said there are 90 million evangelical Christians in the United States who are the core group of likely subscribers.

“When you talk about getting 1 percent of that 90 million, you’re talking huge potential,” Alston said.

About 100,000 copies of the magazine were sent to pastors in Warren’s network. Church groups that order in bulk for their congregations will get $10 off each subscription fee.

The magazine will also likely be of interest to readers of “The Purpose Driven Life,” which has sold more than 25 million copies.

The magazine is an update on traditional Christian magazine titles with a glossier look and lavish photographic layouts, Alston said.

“This is more contemporary. It has a buzz factor. It’s oversized. Today people really want wonderful packaging. The photography, the writing and quality far surpass the competition,” she said.

‘…and God bless America…’

God, as expected, played a big role in the inauguration.

President Obama, early in his speech, said this: “We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.”

Later, he said: “For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.”

Non-believers. Has a president ever cited the role, even the existence, of non-believers in a major address?

He also spoke directly to the Muslim world:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

And talking about the great challenges facing our nation, and the price and promise of citizenship, he said: “This is the source of our confidence – the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.”

And he closed his inaugural address with this: “Let it be said by our children’s children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God’s grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.”

No, Rick Warren did not mention gay marriage in his invocation.

He did close his prayer by stating that Jesus is his savior — and by saying the Lord’s Prayer. Some didn’t want to hear an explicitly Christian prayer, but most didn’t mind, I would guess.

Warren also prayed: “Help us, oh God, to remember that we are Americans, united not by race or religion or blood, but by our commitment to freedom and justice for all.”

He also said: “One day, all nations and all people will stand accountable before you.”

And: “We know today that Dr. King and a great crowd of witnesses are shouting in heaven.”

I don’t know how many people kept their TVs on to hear the Rev. Joseph Lowery pray after Obama’s address. The 87-year-old civil rights leader from Atlanta offered a very universal vision: “Because we know that you have got the whole world in your hands, we pray not only for our nation but for the community of nations.”

And he said: “Help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate, on the side of inclusion, not exclusion, tolerance, not intolerance.”

At the end, he said “Say amen” several times. And the great crowd did.

It promises to be a blessed inauguration

So, all those gay-marriage advocates who fumed at Obama’s choice of Rick Warren to give the inaugural invocation have to be mighty relieved by his choice of cleric to pray Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial.

Bishop V. Gene Robinson.

Yes, the openly gay Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire whose consecration upset much of the Anglican world.

Now the other side of the Great Gay Debate must be really smarting. has a smart look at the four main preachers who have been called in for the inauguration: Robinson, Warren, the Rev. Joseph Lowery and the Rev. Sharon Watkins.

I like the headline: “God Bless, and Bless, and Bless, and Bless America.”

With the inauguration coming, is Rick Warren downplaying his ‘answers’?

Okay, so there’s been all this controversy over Obama’s decision to have Rick Warren — “moderate” evangelical pastor who opposes gay marriage — give the invocation at the inauguration.

Interestingly, the Website of Warren’s Saddleback Church appears to have removed a Q&A from its “What We Believe” page that offered some provocative church positions. Among them:

Because membership in a church is an outgrowth of accepting the Lordship and leadership of Jesus in one’s life, someone unwilling to repent of their homosexual lifestyle would not be accepted at a member at Saddleback Church. That does not mean they cannot attend church we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.

In equal desire to follow Jesus, we also would not accept a couple into membership at Saddleback who were not willing to repent of the sexual sin of living together before marriage. That does not mean this couple cannot attend church – we hope they do! God’s Word has the power to change our lives.

But then there was this:

The Bible tells in Genesis 1 that God made the world in seven days, and that he made all of the animals on the fifth day and the sixth day. All of the animals were created at the same time, so they all walked the earth at the same time. I know that the pictures we all grew up with in the movies were that dinosaurs roamed a lifeless, volcanic planet. Remember these are just pictures drawn by someone today! The Bible’s picture is that dinosaurs and man lived together on the earth, an earth that was filled with vegetation and beauty.

What happened to the dinosaurs? The scientific record lets us know that they obviously became extinct through some kind of cataclysmic event on the earth. Many scientists theorize that this may have been an asteroid striking the earth, while many Christians wonder if this event could have been the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. No one can know for certain what this event was.

And this:

Those who choose to be with Christ here on this earth will be with him throughout eternity. Those who choose to be apart from Christ on this earth will be apart from him throughout eternity. That is what hell is, a place where we are totally apart from God – his goodness, his grace, his power and his love. The truth is that God doesn’t send anyone to hell. He sent his only son to earth to die for us so that none of us would have to go there. The only way that we can go to hell now is by rejecting God’s saving solution in his son Jesus Christ.

These are not uncommon Christian positions. But it’s odd that Saddleback has removed them from its Website. It still says “Bible Questions & Answers” at the bottom of the page — but the questions and answers are no longer there.

You can see the “cached” version here.

Civil rights vet to balance out Rick Warren at the inaug?

So Pastor Rick Warren will give the invocation at the presidential inauguration.

The benediction, though, will be given by the Rev. Joseph Lowery, 87, a retired United Methodist minister and a veteran of the civil rights movement. In 1957, he co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph David Abernathy and Fred Shuttlesworth.

Obama’s more liberal supporters should be more comfortable with this choice. At the funeral for Coretta Scott King in 2006, Lowery hammered away at the war in Iraq even though President Bush was sitting right near him.

Warren, by the way, has released a statement commending Obama for choosing him despite opposition from his “base.” Here it is:

I commend President-elect Obama for his courage to willingly take enormous heat from his base by inviting someone like me, with whom he doesn’t agree on every issue, to offer the Invocation at his historic Inaugural ceremony.

Hopefully individuals passionately expressing opinions from the left and the right will recognize that both of us have shown a commitment to model civility in America.

The Bible admonishes us to pray for our leaders. I am honored by this opportunity to pray God’s blessing on the office of the President and its current and future inhabitant, asking the Lord to provide wisdom to America’s leaders during this critical time in our nation’s history.

Obama yesterday also defended his choice of Warren, who recently told Beliefnet that gay marriage to like allowing siblings to marry:

“We’re not going to agree on every single issue, but what we have to do is be able to create an atmosphere … where we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans,” Obama said.