Calif. pastor takes in $2.4M after donations plea
LAKE FOREST, Calif. – Evangelical pastor Rick Warren's plea for donations to fill a $900,000 deficit at his Southern California megachurch brought in $2.4 million, Warren announced to cheers during a sermon at the church on Saturday.
Warren said the amount raised after the appeal was posted online Wednesday included only money parishioners brought in person to Saddleback Church by New Year's Eve. More was arriving by hand and by mail, he said.
"This is pretty amazing," said Warren, who made the announcement by bringing out 24 volunteers each holding a sign for $100,000. "I don't think any church has gotten a cash offering like that off a letter."
The pastor said he planned to talk about what he called his church's "radical generosity" in the rest of the weekend's sermons. He said the total came from members, and the donations were all under $100.
"We're starting the new decade with a surplus," he said. "It came from thousands of ordinary people. This was not one big fat cat."
The posting on Warren's Web site read: "With 10 percent of our church family out of work due to the recession, our expenses in caring for our community in 2009 rose dramatically while our income stagnated."
Warren said the church had largely managed to stay within its budget during the year, but "the bottom dropped out" when Christmas donations were down.
The letter cited the church's accomplishments in 2009 and detailed how the donations would be used, including the church's food pantry, homeless ministry, counseling and support groups.
Warren made similar pleas after Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Asian tsunami, raising $1.7 million and $1.6 million from Saddleback parishioners.
Warren is the author of numerous books, including the best-selling "The Purpose Driven Life." He was named the top newsmaker of the year for 2009 by the Religion Newswriters Association, gaining attention with his invocation at the inauguration of President Barack Obama and comments in the aftermath of California's Proposition 8, which overturned gay marriage.
He founded Saddleback Church in 1980 in Lake Forest, about 65 miles southeast of Los Angeles.
Think L. Run Hubbard was so crazy after all? After much thought and consideration, even as an act of irony, I believe that I should come up with my own church, promising the idiots, I mean converts, a higher place in the afterlife, dependent on how much money they give me, I mean my church. I am going to have a hard time competing against the science fiction of Christianity and Scientology. No, wait, I am channeling the archangel Gabriel now, and he just told me to inform you that Mohammad, Joe Smith, and Jesus were full of it, and that if you believe in my church you will get to do anything you want for however long you please, forever, and will become immortal and be able to reach a state of perfect enlightenment and turn invisible (after you die, of course, least I have to prove anything). And if you help out anyone (you know, like the poor people that Christ once fancied), you will get an even nicer palatial estate in the afterlife (for the altruistically-inclined). And it will all be tax-free, since it is a church, and its principles are as scientifically valid as the homicidal, homophobic cult that Pastor Warren is a part of (which only pretends to care about poor people when he can privately subsidize and brainwash them).
You know, I think I might be onto something here. If I knew that I had more readers, I would take up the challenge, asking folks to contribute ideas for this new 'religion,' guaranteeing our tax haven status, to which my first decree would be that everyone gets to go to heaven (that includes you, my first grade teacher, who paddled me for fighting after Travis Turner sucker punched me in the back of my head), except for bigoted pastors and priests, who will burn in the hellfires, alongside insurance executives and the Jonas Brothers. And oh, yes, I will need a million dollars, or else the goddess above (we need a major religion in this country with a goddess) will call me home. And unlike Mr. Warren, I would go so far as to dedicate 100% of all contributions to charity (that will actually help people and not try to force my church's tenets on them), first and foremost any defense fund for the future gay and lesbian victims who will be prosecuted and/or executed by the Ugandan government, whose new law targeting the gay community with criminal sanction the pastor obliquely supports (because this is what Jesus should have done had he actually lived his principles on that issue).