Sarah Price Brown of Religion News Service scored a nice scoop in a June 27 report that Rick Warren of The Purpose-Driven Life fame was headed to North Korea to speak in a 15,000-seat stadium. With one of the world's last remaining Communist regimes pulling all sorts of geopolitical stunts these days, one would think this type of news would be picked up by the mainstream press, but so far there has been nothing. Here's the RNS story posted at Beliefnet:
LAKE FOREST, Calif., June 27 -- Evangelical pastor Rick Warren has been invited to preach this summer to some 15,000 Christians in North Korea, a communist country infamous not only for its nuclear threats but also for its religious persecution.
Warren, author of the bestselling book, "The Purpose-Driven Life," said he would make the trip as part of a nearly 40-day journey to meet with the leaders of 13 foreign countries.
"I want to ask you to pray for me," Warren told about 5,000 worshippers at his Saddleback Church on Sunday (June 25). He said he would be embarking on a "grueling" tour, meeting with presidents, business leaders and pastors in countries such as Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Rwanda and South Korea, where he would preach at the world's largest church.
And then, he told the crowd, "I've received another invitation." Warren said North Korea would allow him to preach in a stadium seating 15,000, but that he could preach in a larger venue if he could fill the seats.
Quick question: there are 15,000 Christians in North Korea? I guess that number would be difficult to verify, considering that the country restricts the flow of information so tightly.
Associated Baptist Press and the Christian Post were quick to pick up on Billy Graham comparisons, ABP focusing on Graham's 1982 visit to Communist Russia and the Post focusing on Graham's trip to North Korea over 10 years ago, but the nature of this trip still seems a bit vague and the international reaction limited due to the lack of media coverage.
Warren attempted to deflect criticism that the trip will be highly staged, as past trips by religious leaders to North Korean have been:
"I know they're going to use me," Warren said, responding to a question about whether he was concerned that the invitation could be a set-up, a ruse to draw out Christians so that the government could punish them.
"So I'm going to use them."
Great. So Rick Warren now has Superman-like powers? Exactly how does he plan to use them?