Rick Warren Posts Red Army Propaganda on Social Media, then Deletes It

In Articles, Featured, World by JD Rucker5 Comments

Rick Warren Red Army

Pastors today often try to work humor into the communication they have with their congregations and many, including Saddleback’s Rick Warren, try to sneak it into their social media as well. As Warren learned this week, using a Red Army propaganda poster to describe his staff is not the best way to be funny.

On Facebook and Twitter, Warren posted a picture of a happy and eager female member of China’s Red Army around 5am Pacific on September 23rd. It was from a propaganda poster used during the Mao Zedong era, one that was used to portray a happy Red Guard member during the Great Leap Forward when over 45 million people were killed in a four-year-period. He eventually had the posts removed, but not before getting over 4000 Facebook likes. Here are some screen shots of the posts before getting deleted:

Rick Warren Twitter Post

Rick Warren Facebook Post

The initial response was a mixture of people complaining about the posts, supporters of Warren and Saddleback Church defending the post as a joke, and Warren himself defending the post with references to Jesus Christ using Hebrew jokes during sermons. This may be true, but it’s very doubtful that His jokes tried to compare his Disciples to a mass murdering faction that killed more people than Hitler.

Happy Hitler KidKathy Khang posted the image to the right on her blog with this note:

The image of the Red Army soldier is offensive. It isn’t funny. And it does have racial implications. I know you are a thoughtful leader, so why not choose an equally funny/not funny image of Hitler Youth who look just as cheerful, focused and determined (and perhaps, dare I say, more like your staff?)

Many lashed out at Warren but were met by an army of supporters before the posts were removed. Warren’s own comments in the thread far from gracious or understanding of the cultural insensitivity that he had posted:

People often miss irony on the Internet. It’s a joke people! If you take this seriously, you really shouldn’t be following me! Did you know that, using Hebrew ironic humor, Jesus inserted several laugh lines- jokes – in the Sermon on the Mount? The self-righteous missed them all while the disciples were undoubtedly giggling!

Sam Tsang wrote a scathing report on the matter. Warren responded in the comments:

Thanks so much for teaching us! It was removed instantly. May God bless you richly. Anytime you have guidance, you (or anyone else) can email me directly, PastorRick@saddleback.com.

May the grace of Jesus be your experience today. Thanks again! Your servant, Rick Warren.

P.S. In 1979, Kay and I felt called of God to serve in China but we were prevented by the government at that time. I had already been a part of planting a church near Nagasaki, Japan where I lived in 1974. When our plans were blocked, we ended up planting Saddleback in California.

As one reply to Warren’s comment noted, he did not actually issue an apology. It was more of an acknowledgement.


The Bigger Picture

This was a snafu. It was not intentional and Warren (or his staff) did not understand the cultural implications of the image. That is our hope. He made a mistake and he should be forgiven.

The problem here is three-fold. First, people with smaller followings are allowed to make snafus. Those with the reach and reputation of Rick Warren and Saddleback Church must be very careful with all of their actions and words. It was careless to post this and it would make one question how much care is taken in any of their endeavors from putting out the right messages through sermons to planning a church appropriately. Warren is planning an English-only Saddleback Church… in Hong Kong.

Over the years, he has demonstrated that his desire to be popular is greater than his desire to preach the true Gospel. In his famous TED talk, his message was much more about himself than anything that had to do with Jesus. The biggest example is, of course, his book, A Purpose Drive Life, which warps the Word of God to fit in with a popular method of coaxing people into sort of living with Bible-esque principles in order to do good things in this life. It’s so far from a Biblical message that it does more damage than good, but it’s veiled in things that make sense to 21st century people wanting to use Christianity to live well today. As a result, it’s one of the best selling books of all time.

The second issue with this is the response from his followers. It was discouraging to see that so many people follow him without a single ounce of reservation. These are people who would never make a joke out of the representation of millions of people robbed, raped, pillaged, and murdered, but their blind devotion to Warren gives him a complete pass. This is worrisome. Even the best Biblical pastors in the world make mistakes and their congregation should be willing to call them out on it when it happens. Warren is on the opposite spectrum of pastors, yet his followers are rabid to the point that they appear to worship him as much as the Messiah whose message he claims to teach.

The final and arguably worst part of this is that the mainstream media didn’t pick up on this at all. As a liberal religious figure, Warren represents the type of pastor that mainstream media wants, the type of pastor that keeps focus away from Biblical truths. He tries to unite Christians with Muslims and other religions. He promotes doing good rather than being repentant and accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Sure, he mentions Jesus, but only in circumstances when it won’t offend anyone. This is the right pastor for today’s mainstream media to embrace.

A story like this will never be allowed to see the light of day.

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  1. JD, Thanks for the grace-filled post, and thanks for reblogging my blog. I’m working on the forgiveness part. We all screw up, and i’ve done plenty myself.

    My problem is in order for full forgiveness to happen, we need the offender to apologize publicly to all those whom he offended instead of posting (ironically and insensitively) about HK Saddleback on his FB wall today. If you go there, you’ll see plenty of anger still from HK Christians whom he insulted.

    I suppose we can get OVER IT, whatever that IT may be, but Warren’s hardened attitude is discouraging.

    1. Author

      Thank you Dr Sam. I do hope Warren can change his ways soon. He’s demonstrating traits not in line with a man of faith.

  2. Mainstream American Christianity is too “White” for it’s own good. As a result, their views of minorities are often condescending. The sad part is, White Christian America–while maybe not intending to insult minorities–simply aren’t sensitive to the struggles of many minority groups and immigrants.

    As a result, it’s difficult for them to see the pain they cause and simply react in a defensive way.
    What’s sad is, instead of acknowledging the pain he caused based on the initial uproar by the Asian American Christian community, he doubled down and tried to justify his odd sense of humor by pulling the “What-Did-Jesus-Do” card.

    You would think Rick would have learned his lesson already…after all, he claims he’s still in mourning over his son but has yet to acknowledge his role in it. Most skeptics already know he contributed to the death of his allegedly gay son by trying to “cure” him.

    Way to give your son a REAL purpose Rick. How did that turn out?

  3. I am a member of Saddleback Church and I serve there, but I am not sure that that will continue. I have some major reservations already about the Easter service a few years ago where he encouraged his followers to be like the people who followed Mao Zedong, Hitler and Stalin. I am very leery of the whole Radicalis movement because of this. This is kind of the last straw. He should have known what this picture represented and what it means to the very people he is attempting to reach. And calling it a joke says Warren has a VERY poor and tasteless sense of humor. It is insensitive and callous to a people to whom that image represents horror, not a happy staff. I choose not to be a blind follower because this is NOT OKAY. I am ashamed to be involved with a ministry whose leader thinks this is a good idea of a joke.

    1. Author

      There is no reason to be ashamed, Lauren. Everyone, and I mean everyone, who takes on the life of following Jesus Christ will look in the wrong direction at some points in their lives. It isn’t wrong to go down the wrong path. It’s wrong to continue down that path once you see the truth. Some of the most passionate Christians in history have been led astray during their journey. As we all grow in our faith, it’s as important to be informative about the misguiding ways of lost Christian leaders as it is to be a beacon for those who have gone down the path of atheism or false religions.

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