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Well-known evangelical Pastor Rick Warren is causing controversy on social media after he said the most practical way to love your neighbor is to wear a face mask.
During a March 2021 appearance on “ChurchPulse Weekly Live,” Warren was asked about pastors saying things such as ‘the government is trying to suppress the church by not allowing them to open’ and ‘we’re going to get shut down on social media because we’re Christians.’
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“I totally reject that idea,” said Warren, who announced his retirement from Saddleback Church in Orange County, California in June. “The very fact that people tried to politicize the pandemic is just dumb.”
The comments were shared this week on Twitter by an account known as Woke Preacher Clips.
Warren went on to say that “this is a safety issue, not a First Amendment issue.”
“Now, you might have a case if everything else opened up except the church, but we’re not being discriminated against,” said Warren. “We went an entire football season. Sporting events are shut down. There are no concerts going on. Theaters are shut down. Restaurants in southern California are shut down.”
If churches were the only places closed, then Warren said he would be the first one to raise my hand to say ‘we’re being discriminated against.’
“This is not a discrimination issue, this is a health care issue,” he added. “The Bible says ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ (and) the most practical way you can love your neighbor right now is to wear a mask. To not wear one basically says ‘I don’t care about you’ or ‘I don’t even care about your fears.’”
Warren went on to praise former CDC Director Robert Redfield, former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, and current National Institutes for Health Director Francis Collins.
“They’re all good, Christian people, and I worked with them for years on other pandemics around the world, particularly AIDS,” said Warren. “It’s not socialism in disguise. They’re just trying to be careful.”
Not everyone was pleased with Warren’s comments.
@HomeFireBlog wanted Warren to explain how “loving” mask-wearing is to my special needs toddler who is re-traumatized every time she sees people wearing masks.
“Does Rick not care about her and her fears?” It’s almost as if this topic isn’t black and white (B&W),” tweeted @HomeFireBlog.
“The Bible says that perfect love “drives out all fear,” so the job of a pastor is to get people to see that through Christ we can live fearlessly. Instead of driving fear out of his congregation he is ramming fear into them,” tweeted @askdrmatt.
Nationally-syndicated radio host Todd Starnes suggested that the only person being political was Pastor Warren.
“Pastor Warren says if you don’t wear a face mask you are telling your neighbors that you don’t care about them you don’t care about their fears,” Starnes said. “Or maybe — it’s sending another message —they care more about personal freedom and liberty than they do about the judgmental opinions of woke members of the clergy.”