A giant among evangelicals, the Rev. Rick Warren has been dubbed ''America's Pastor'' by some.
He wrote the wildly popular Purpose Driven Life and leads the 22,000-member Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif. Along with his wife, Warren, 54, is a reverse tither, giving 90 percent of his income to the church and living off the rest.
But he's no Billy Graham. When word leaked out last week that Warren had been tapped to give the invocation at President-elect Obama's inauguration, fierce criticism from social progressives broke out.
Unlike Obama, Warren supported Proposition 8, the California measure that outlaws same-sex marriage. He is also prolife, a stance that puts him at odds with the president-elect and women's rights groups.
But Warren calls Obama his friend. To the chagrin of some conservatives, the pastor opened his pulpit to Obama on World AIDS Day in 2006. Warren also hosted a values forum featuring Obama and Sen. John McCain in August. Although he did not endorse either candidate, Warren later said he disagreed with Obama's answer to his question about when life begins. The senator side-stepped the query, saying it was above his pay grade.
Warren's prominent inclusion in the inauguration shines a new a light on the pastor, whom Obama lauded in his second book, The Audacity of Hope. Warren will share the stage with at least one other minister, the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery. The civil rights icon is scheduled to give the benediction.
Following are some of Warren's views, in his own words:
Support for Proposition 8, e-mail to Saddleback members, October 2008:
"For 5,000 years, every culture and every religion — not just Christianity — has defined marriage as a contract between men and women. There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2 percent of our population."
''Handling Harassment For Your Faith'' sermon:
“So what? So you get persecuted. So you get put down. Somebody laughs behind your back and calls you a Holy Joe, or a fanatic or a Jesus freak? God's up there, checking it off, making records. It's only temporary. . . . The goal of the Christian life is not persecution but to be like Jesus. If you're like Jesus, it is inevitable that somebody is not going to like it."
On the state of the economy, CNN interview with Campbell Brown, December 2008:
"A lot of the things that made America great, we're not doing any more economically. The historic Judeo-Christian values of thrift, savings, not spending more than you make. . . . We're living way beyond our means, and as a result, the chickens are coming home to roost. Now that's not just in the corporations. It's in families."
"The Kind of Leader America Needs" sermon, August 2008:
"I was interviewed yesterday by somebody and they said, 'Is there any kind of president you wouldn't vote for?' And I said, 'Yes, an atheist.' I could not vote for an atheist. Why? Because an atheist says, 'I don't need God.' They're saying, 'I'm totally self-sufficient in myself.' Nobody is self-sufficient to be a president by themselves. It's too big a job."