My Conversation with Rick Warren (Sort of)

I recently read a facinating article in the New Yorker about Rick Warren and the Saddleback Mega-Church. It was a great article, really delving into the success of this modern day Jesuit. But one thing hit me.

You know it is an instinct as a Rabbi to check references, especially when a reference is used to substantiate something that is not usual. So I did nome back checking on Psalm 72 that forms the backdrop of his new mission. Then I saw another article in Newsweek today:

I was reading the Bible one day and I came to Psalm 72, Solomon’s prayer for more influence. He asked God to make him famous; he said, bless me and give me power. It sounds like the most egotistical prayer until you read his reasons. It was so that as king he could defend the defenseless, speak up for the poor, the disabled, the marginalized. I realized the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence. That was a turning point. That’s when we came up with the PEACE plan.

After the first article I wrote to him:

Dear Paster Rick,
I work with college students in Orange County and Long Beach. It is something like a “Jewish Campus Ministry.â€?

I was inspired by your profile in the New Yorker, and wanted very much to meet you.

I also wanted to discuss with you the Psalm that you quoted in the interview, as I think you would be like the Jewish understanding of that Psalm, which was written by King David for his son Shlomo.

Wishing you peace and health,

G0d Bless

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

The reply was very courteous and warm:

Dear Rabbi,

Pastor Rick thanks you for your invitation to meet with him; he’s honored by your request.

It’s an exciting time for Saddleback Church and at the same time quite demanding. Here at Saddleback Church we have just launched The Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan after two years of preparation and pilot programs. Along with all the excitement there are a lot of demands on Pastor Rick’s time. As such, we are charged with the difficult task of limiting his commitments and carefully scheduling his time. I know Pastor Rick’s heart and he would love to meet with you personally however, he’s even saying “noâ€? to many of his longtime friends right now in order to focus his efforts on this next season of ministry.

Pastor Rick values your prayers during this unbelievably busy time and appreciates your grace in understanding his time limitations.

Thanks again for writing and for thinking of Pastor Rick.

God Bless,

David Chrzan
Chief of Staff

So I think I will write again to Pastor Rick that Psalm 72 was written BY David and FOR Shlomo. It is sort of an important point. Maybe not as consequential today as salving hunger and poverty and corruption that keeps food aid from getting to those who need it. But still its important.

Dec. 28, 2005

Dear David,

I hope you are enjoying a wonderful, healthy and joyous Holiday season.

I understand how busy the Pastor is, with his travels to Africa and around the world, and the importance of his Global PEACE plan. I appreciate and pray that he will have an effect on the situation of hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people.

I also know that as a Man of God, Pastor Rick may appreciate meeting with a Rabbi, especially regarding the teaching of the Hebrew Bible and Psalms. As they are originally written in Hebrew, much meaning is lost through poor translations and interpretations. The Hebrew scriptures are Holy of course, and their interpretation and use is a deeply religious matter.

Today, I came across an article in Newsweek with Pastor Rick referring to Psalm 72 as written by Solomon,

I was reading the Bible one day and I came to Psalm 72, Solomon’s prayer for more influence.

It would be an honor

to show him that it was written by King David for his son Solomon. I am sure that Pastor Rick would want to be as accurate as possible.

Although I, too, have a busy schedule, I am happy to make time for Pastor Rick on his return to Orange County. This is such an important matter, I am sure you can understand why I am troubling to write to you again.

Best wishes for blessings and peace,

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein

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