Pastor Rick Warren is one of the speakers at a major international and interreligious colloquium taking place at the Vatican Nov. 17-19 on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage.” The evangelical founder of Saddleback Church in California, Warren is best known as the bestselling author of The Purpose Driven Life, which has sold 30 million copies worldwide and is the second most-translated book in the world, after the Bible.
The Register’s Rome correspondent, Edward Pentin, spoke briefly with Pastor Warren Nov. 17 at the colloquium, which is taking place in the synod hall and being hosted by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and other Vatican dicasteries. Before the interview began, the evangelical preacher said he was hoping to see Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. “His books really influenced me, particularly his series on the life of Christ,” he said. “He’s got a brilliant mind.”
What are your expectations for this colloquium?
Well, first of all, I’m honored and humbled to be invited to be a part of this. I think the idea is a great idea, showing that the concept and definition of marriage is pretty universal. It’s not just a Christian concept — Catholics, evangelical Christians and others — but around the world, there’s only a very small minority that wants to change the definition. Billions and billions and billions of people say: “It’s one man and one woman.”
What will you be addressing at the conference?
What I’m going to talk about is that it’s important not simply to defend the concept of marriage, but it’s important to celebrate it. One of the problems we have today in Western culture is that all of the negative things about marriage dominate the media. It’s almost rare that you see a husband and wife in love with each other in a TV show or even in a movie. Almost all sex is between singles or adulterous sex. You don’t see families that love each other and work through hard problems and things like that. It’s a very rare thing, and I think part of that is because people who make movies oftentimes don’t have that in their own backgrounds.
Would you say this event is giving a voice to the silent majority?
It really is. This is something that, as I said, literally billions of people agree on. It’s not a minor issue. It’s only made a big issue because in Western culture the media makes it a big issue; and you would think, if you watched television or you read magazines, that the majority of even Americans are against marriage. Of course they’re not. Even the first speakers this morning talked about it, saying there’s not just a theological position: There’s a sociological position; there’s a psychological position, biological position; there’s a natural position. So even if you don’t believe the Bible, you simply look at human bodies: Men and women are different, parts match, they are made for each other, and they’re made for a purpose. And the purpose is to create life, and we’re all here because of that. It’s really illogical to say there are no differences. Of course, there’re differences. Look at how everybody got here.
Pope Francis, in his opening address to the colloquium, talked about being slow to recognize the crisis in marriage. Do you agree with this?
I do. The Bible says overcome evil with good, and one of the things I’m going to talk about is practical things we can do at the parish level and give a list. I’m going to talk about the six biblical purposes for marriage, and I’m going to give the Scriptures. Most people don’t know these. A generation ago, you could say: “What’s the purpose of marriage?” And they’d get maybe four or five of the six things. I’m going to share that and then make some comments on those purposes and then talk about some practical things we can do.
One of the things we can do is have more testimonies of good marriages in our parishes. For example, last month, my wife and I sat on stage as part of a worship service and for 30 minutes talked about our 40 years of marriage. We need to give people models, so people say: “I’d like my marriage to be like that.” Right now, in our society, there aren’t many models that say: “I’d like to be like that.” So sharing the testimonies and, of course, celebrating those testimonies.
The title of your most famous book is The Purpose-Driven Life. How would this connect with that?
Well, if I’m going to talk about these six purposes, I suppose you could call it: “The Purpose-Driven Marriage.”