Back to church with Warren

WarrenPreachingSigh. Same old, same old.

The Religion News Service offered another story on the Rev. Rick Warren's Sunday sermon after the Saddleback forum shindig. And, like the Los Angeles Times, the basic facts about the sermon didn't really make it into the story about the sermon, even in a report from the excellent wire service that focuses on religion.

So we read:

A day after hosting presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, megachurch pastor Rick Warren said Sunday (Aug. 17) that a politician's soul is as important as his solutions.

"Don't just look at issues, look at character," Warren sermonized here at his Saddleback Church. "Issues are important but you also have to look at character."

The megachurch pastor made only a passing reference to his "buddies named Barack and John," but he made clear what he looks for in a leader.

"Our leaders used to be known for the integrity ... 'Honest Abe' or George Washington," Warren said. "Does the private life of a leader matter? Absolutely it matters. Because what you do affects everybody else, even in your private life."

And that's it. The story heads off into a summary of the much reported background material on what was said during the presidential forum and what a few selected people thought of it. The emphasis is on standard political analysis.

Maybe we are fighting a rigid news template. Sermons get one paragraph, even if they are hooked to major news events. You find the most normal quote that sounds like it belongs in a newspaper political story and that's that. It doesn't seem to matter if the most newsworthy content in the sermon may have been in the deeper, truly religious material. I don't know if that is the case this time around, but it wouldn't surprise me if that was true.

Note that what made the forum interesting -- or outrageous, depending on your point of view -- was that it focused on questions about public life, yet with those questions coming from a pastor who was hosting the event in his own megachurch auditorium. Religion is part of this major, major political story.

Thus, I was glad that some journalists showed up for church on Sunday morning for the follow-up story. I remain sad that we still know -- in terms of media coverage -- that this very traditional, very evangelical and even very Baptist preacher said about the Bible and faith (and the issue of public character) on the day after that major event in the public square.

What did the dude in the tropical shirt say? Does anyone know? We know what he said at the forum. What did he say on Sunday morning?

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