While we are on the subject of the new American President, it was interesting that Barack Obama was willing to court controversy by giving the high-profile job of praying for him at his inauguration to Rick Warren. This choice caused no end of controversy ahead of what proved an uncontroversial prayer, Warren’s pro-life and anti-gay-marriage beliefs causing some of Obama’s supporters to fear that their man was cosying up to the conservative Christian right.
We think a more interesting take on Warren is to view him as one of the leading religious philanthrocapitalists. Matthew, who has written an op-ed about this in the Washington Times, met Warren at a White House Summit on Malaria in December 2006, where he described the role his mega-church was playing in helping to eradicate malaria in Rwanda. (Warren’s best-selling book, “The Purpose Driven Life”, is apparently a favourite of Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame.)
Sharing a platform with Melinda Gates, NewsCorp, the National Basketball Association (“slam dunk malaria”), the World Bank and various other billionaire philanthropists, Warren spoke of the need for faith organisations such as his to partner with government and the private sector to destroy the “five global goliaths” of misery – calling the church the “third leg of the stool”. Strikingly, he used “church” in the broadest terms, to include the temples, mosques and synagogues of other faiths – in sharp contrast to the fundamentalist old guard.
A month later, Warren was a huge hit at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the annual summit of philanthrocapitalism. He seems extremely skilled at getting his message across in a constructive language that the global business, philanthropic and political elite understand and warm to.
One reason for this may be the fact that, as we write in the book, as he designed and grew his church, Warren was mentored by the late Peter Drucker. We call Drucker the “High Priest of Philanthrocapitalism” because of his pioneering work, especially in his later years, on the non-profit sector and the need for business and society to have ethical, purpose-driven leaders. In this time of crisis, Drucker’s writing about purpose and organisations is well worth a read. As for Obama, here’s hoping that in choosing Warren, he is getting cosy not with the Christian right but with philanthrocapitalism.