You might be surprised by what our nation’s most famous Evangelical Christian has to say about Muslims.

I first met Rick Warren at the Aspen Ideas Festival a few years ago, where he was doing a talk on leadership. Somebody in the audience asked him — with no lack of scorn — if he thought everyone was going to heaven. That’s when I realized how much of a risk Warren had taken by coming to Aspen — a town of people with a generally condescending attitude towards Warren’s brand of Evangelical megachurch Christianity.

I asked him about why he chose to come to a place where much of the audience was suspicious of him because of the title “Pastor.” He smiled and said that he liked all kinds of people, including folks with a bias against religion, but he was looking forward to getting on a plane and heading to Rwanda the next day, where he had taken on the massive project of helping a country recover from genocide. “It was faith that got them through, and it’s faith that keeps them going,” he told me.

I was equally struck by the pragmatic and profound way Warren answered the man’s question. He basically said that he didn’t come to Aspen to disagree with people about heaven, but to find common ground about working together on earth — and in his recent travels across the developing world, he had seen enough suffering to make anyone with an impulse to serve put aside their differences and develop practical partnerships that actually helped people.

I caught up with Pastor Rick at another bastion of folks suspicious of faith (I spend a lot of time in those places!) — the Clinton Global Initiative. This time, he was even more forceful about the need to focus our efforts on improving earth instead of arguing about heaven. When he was asked how “the church” could play a role in ending poverty, he responded by saying that the armies of compassion included people of all faiths.

I took him aside after his panel presentation and talked to him about the religious diversity he expressed respect for on stage.

As for how this Muslim views that Christian, here’s what I have to say: We might have different ideas of heaven, but I would happily play soldier to his general in an interfaith army of compassion solving the problems of earth.

Eboo Patel appeared on SOF as a guest in “Religious Passion, Pluralism, and the Young.” He’s also the founder and executive director of Interfaith Youth Core, a contributor to the Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog, and author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation.


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4Reflections

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This was incredibly encouraging! I am so happy to hear this! Now I am very much an admirer of Pastor Rick. That's the key, meet real people, sit down and talk with them, find out we all have common needs and aspirations. "I think God is pleased when we work together". Couldn't agree more!

I think that is becoming a new passion among people of faith. The needs out there are so great, and if anyone wants to work to relieve poverty and disease and hunger, we can work with them. Let's leave the discussions of our differences to those exhausted afterglow moments when we're resting from our good work, when it won't seem so important anyway.

Its so great to hear a real faith leader from a vibrant church and democracy, talk about how, without getting nationalistic of jingoistic, we as a nation, need to be more respectful and have more true and proven men of faith involved in settling all our international and inter-faith negotiations and affairs. If we are careful to see that faith representation is included in foreign relations, we will be seen as more trustworthy, and enable potential settlements to be believably negotiated... literally "in good faith". For far too long, the irresponsible, voices of radicals, militants and extremists claiming to be the sole representatives of other faiths and nations are the only voices we have heard via our 'commercial' media. We can effectively marginalize both radicals and extremists and talk to the masses of other faiths when we include men of faith at the foundations of our approach.

We have to learn to accept and to expect that other nations will consider themselves far more devout, pious, and trustworthy in their faiths than we are in ours. Only then can we talk meaningfully of solutions (alongside politicians) about matters which in this country are traditionally usually solely and exclusively the domain of men of politics.

Perhaps we can all... "Coexist"

Rick Warren is a fraud and impostor.