Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Save us Rick Warren

So, what is up with Obama choosing Rick Warren to give the invocation at the inauguration?

Despite my three years of junior-high protestant education, complete with training in creationism, I had to look it up. Invocation—sort of like a prayer. I guess every secular country needs its own charismatic megapreacher!

Gay rights groups are livid, understandably—Warren came out strongly for Proposition 8, the ban on gay mairrage in California.

But Warren’s also known for turning evangelism away from its obsession with issues like abortion and turning attention more to problems like global warming and HIV/AIDS.

I saw the guy at a forum on malaria a couple years ago, which I blogged about. He talks about mobilizing christian churches around the world to combat poverty and AIDS—and it’s a good talk. Despite myself I was practically swaying and beating my chest. Just think of churches distributing drugs and bed nets! Pastors trained in basic logistics of drug delivery! It could change the world! When he talks about program his church initiated to involve churches throughout the world in such efforts, it’s truly inspirational. But does it work?

Time magazine took a close look. They examine international programs initiated by his church and conclude that the outcome is not nearly so rosy. Apparently most aid workers interviewed by Time could not point to tangible projects by his organization. Either Warren and his acolytes need to put in more effort, more time, or more praying!

Maybe Warren is serious about his efforts to get churches more involved in public health, in a systematic, global kind of way. Let’s hope he’ll use his temporarily expanded flock to make it work.

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