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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Rick Warren
Aired March 26, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, evangelical superstar, Rick Warren in his first live prime time interview since that at heroic hostage, Ashley Smith read his best-seller, "The Purpose Driven Life" to the Atlanta courthouse killing suspect, Brian Nichols. Hours later, Nichols let her go and surrendered to police. What is "The Purpose Driven Life?" Pastor Rick Warren for the hour with your phone calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
He's just back from Africa, a return visit with Rick Warren, who has rapidly reappeared as one of the most famous names in America. He was on -- you see "Time" magazine with evangelics and America's 25 most influential. And look at the rebirth, how Jesus became Christ. Hail Mary on the front cover of "Time." And of course, people from hostage to hero, the story of Ashley Smith, which becomes partially the story of Rick Warren.
You were in Africa when all this happened. How did you hear about it?
RICK WARREN, "THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE": Well, that's right, Larry. I actually heard about it from you. I had been out in the bush all day. We'd been working with orphans that had been orphaned through the genocide in Rwanda, and also orphaned by AIDS. And after a pretty grueling day, we got back to the hotel, and I flipped on the TV and there you were talking about how a "Purpose Driven Life" had been used by Ashley to convince Brian to turn himself in. And so, I actually heard about it through you.
KING: What was your first reaction?
WARREN: Well, I was, of course, humbled by that. I was thrilled at it. I had mixed emotions in the fact that first I felt sorry for those who had already lost their lives and loved ones that were left behind. And I prayed for them and expressed my condolences for them, because I just wish the message had got there sooner, that maybe Brian wouldn't have taken four lives before he got the good news. But I was thrilled that Ashley was able to have the presence of mind to talk to him. And when he got the concept, it changed his life.
KING: You're coming to us from the Saddleback Church in Cali -- in Lake Forest, right? That's your -- that's your home church, right?
WARREN: Right. That's right. I'm here in my office in Southern California getting ready to do 12 Easter services right in a row for about 40,000 people. So, we're going to a busy week this week.
KING: Have you spoken to Ashley? WARREN: Oh, yes. I'm talking to her on a daily basis and basicly just giving her pastoral encouragement, that's what -- praying with her, reading a scripture, helping to sort out what's happened to her. And -- these kind of things, I've helped a lot of people before, that they have a crisis and then, of course, after the crisis comes, the media deluge. And it can be pretty unsettling to everybody. And so, I'm just helping her behind the scenes.
KING: Did you call her from Africa?
WARREN: No, I wasn't able to contact her because I was out of contact both by Internet and by phone most of the time I was there. I did send an E-mail to her and then we set up a meeting to talk. She was anxious to talk as soon as I got back into town and then we've been doing that.
KING: Did you know her before this?
WARREN: No. No, I had never met her. I know one of her pastors who was in the church she attends, and it's a purpose driven church. That's -- they had being through, actually, the 40 days of Purpose Driven Program when this happened. And so, she had been watching me on videotape once a week in her small group, not just reading the book. I think she was going through it for the third time, so she was pretty well familiar with the material.
KING: When she went public for the first time, Rick, she explained to reporters what led her to read from your book. Lets take a look at what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY SMITH, FORMER HOSTAGE: I asked him if I could read. He said, what do wouldn't to read? I said, well, I have a book in my room. So, I went and got it. I got my Bible. Then I got a book called "The Purpose Driven Life." I turned it to a chapter that I was on that day, which was chapter 33. And I started to read the first paragraph of it. After I read it, he said, stop, will you read it again? So, I read it again to him.
He mentioned something about what you thought your purpose in life was, what were you -- what talents were you given? What gifts were you given to use? I asked him what he thought? And he said, I think that it's to talk to people and tell them, you know, about you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Would you minister to Brian Nichols, if asked?
WARREN: I haven't had a chance to talk to Brian yet, but it is my desire to get in touch with him and kind of see where he is spiritually and you know, how we could help him too. You know, that chapter that she chose, Larry, as you know, the book is divided into 40 days. And she happened to just be on day 33, which is about being a servant. And she read that passage. And the bottom line is, when people understand that their life is not an accident, that they were made to last forever, that God put them here for a purpose. That there are accidental parents, but I don't believe there are any accidental children. There are illegitimate parents, but I don't believe there are any illegitimate children. If you're alive, there's a purpose for your life. As she began to talk about this and read the passage on serving, it just clicked with Brian. And actually, then she modeled it. She served him, by serving him breakfast and then actually receipted by serving her by fixing some kind of...
WARREN: Curtains -- exactly, that she needed fixed. And something keyed in there. I think part of it was that Ashley understands grace. You know, she has been real honest about her past. And she had some problems, she had some difficulties -- had some mistakes in her life. And you know, when you've experienced grace and you feel like you've been forgiven, you're a lot more forgiving of other people. You're a lot more gracious to others. And she just showed this guy kindness, and he responded to it.
KING: How -- how is she doing? Is her mood uplifting? She's not doing any media, so you'll be a link for us. How is she doing? We're all so interested in her.
WARREN: Well, she'll doing really good right now. And I think, there just some people around who are protecting her, making sure she's not just overwhelmed. Obviously, this is the story of the week, and actually, the story of the month. And she wanted to keep her sanity. She's got -- she's a single mother. She's got a young child, Paige is 5-years-old. And I think she's doing really good. As, I said, I talked to her today, again, and asked her, I said, how are you doing? And she said, well, I feel like God used me. And I, of course, believed that.
You know, this guy was acting in -- when he started killing people, when Brian Nichols started killing people -- when people lack hope, they do hopeless things. And I think this guy actually felt hopeless. And so, he was lashing out, not in a good way. Obviously, he took four lives and we're sorry for that.
But what people are looking for is a reason for hope. And when Ashley explained to him, you know what, this is not what you're meant to do, this is not what you're meant to live for, he immediately resonated from it and actually called her -- said you're an angel sent from God. And the change was instant.
KING: Can he still have, in his situation, a purpose driven life?
WARREN: Absolutely. Now, there's no doubt that the Bible teaches when someone commits a crime, that the government has the authority to punish people for it. And he may losses his life, he may get the death penalty. But before -- as long as he's alive here on earth, there will be a purpose for his life. And of course, that purpose now becomes greater -- and in fact, I think that's really what the message this week of Easter is, is that God can bring good out of bad.
That he turns crucifixions into resurrections. That he takes the mess of our life, and when we give him all the pieces, he can -- God can put it together in a new way. And the message, I think there's two messages out of this story. One of them is, that God can use anybody. Ashley will tell you, she's just an ordinary person. She wasn't some saint. She wasn't some preacher or some theologian. God uses normal ordinary people in daily life. And if God only used perfect people, nothing would get done. Because none of us are perfect. We've all got our faults, mistakes in our backgrounds.
And I think, that's the story that God uses us in spite of ourselves, in spite of ourselves, and in spite of weaknesses and faults. And I think the other thing is, that opportunities are all around us, but a lot of times we're just unaware of it. Everybody wants to serve God in a great way. But in that chapter, I talk about, why don't you just serve God in a little way and watch what he wants to do.
And she, obviously, she just went out for a pack of cigarettes. And as she went out, I'm sure she didn't have any plan of being some kind of savior or super person. But she just went out for some cigarettes, and when she came back, the opportunity presented itself and she responded in love to this guy and he melted.
KING: More with Rick Warren. He's on for the full hour. We'll be including your phone calls, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: He said he thought that I was an angel sent from God. And that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ. And that he was lost and God led him right to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Our guest is Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," his first live prime-time appearance since the incredible Ashley Smith story. Is her fame an opportunity, or can there be dangers in that?
WARREN: Well, that's a good question, Larry. I believe that the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence. And fame is not for our own benefit, or notoriety is not for our own benefit, it's for leverage to do good. And I think Ashley is definitely doing good with her life, I think she is an inspiration for a lot of people.
You know, this was simply a young woman who was going about her daily life, and she showed courage. I'm sure she was scared to death when Brian took her captive and made her a hostage. But courage is doing the right thing in spite of your fear. And she, instead of seeing this guy as a monster, just thought, well, how can I -- how can I see him as a person? And as she began to meet his needs, he began to become more of a human being. And I think that's an example for all of us, that even the most monstrous person that -- I've discovered that hurt people hurt people. That when you're hurting inside, you tend to hurt other people. And clearly, he was doing that. He was lashing out against the world in a very dangerous way.
KING: It's got to make you feel very good and very proud, aren't you?
WARREN: Well, I'm humbled by the whole thing. I'm not surprised by it, actually, because I've received thousands and thousands of letters literally from all around the world of people's lives who have been changed when they discovered, hey, I'm here for a reason, I am here for a purpose. It has the power to change people's lives.
It's not as dramatic as this one with Ashley and Brian. But I have heard these stories. And even when I was in Rwanda, I saw this taking place there, where an entire nation is kind of coming up out of the ashes. You know, they went through that genocide in '94, and the world turned its back on an entire nation, and yet I saw a nation learning to forgive, expressing reconciliation, rebuilding.
And I asked them, what's the reason here? And they said it's God, it's Jesus Christ. These things have -- we've been learning that we have to forgive, because if we hold on to our hurt, it only make us miserable.
KING: You can, though, Rick, have a purpose-driven life and be an agnostic or an atheist, can't you? Still do good, still help others, still have purpose?
WARREN: Absolutely, you can help other people. I believe that we were made for a purpose, and that purpose is really to know God and to serve God and to love God, and to serve other people by -- serve God by serving others. You know, you can't really serve God directly, Larry, not here on Earth. The only way you can serve God is by serving other people.
KING: Since you believe in God, if an agnostic or an atheist is doing good, God appreciates it, according to you, right?
WARREN: God wants us all to be loving to each other, there is no doubt about that. In fact, Jesus wouldn't have made any distinction between someone who was of a different background. The issue was, do they love him and do they have a purpose? Are they following his purpose? See, I believe that we were made by God and that we were made for God. And that until we understand that, life isn't going to make sense. Now, really when it comes to...
KING: So even -- go ahead, I'm sorry.
WARREN: OK, that's OK. There really -- when it comes to purpose, you only got three alternatives. One of them is, you can just make up a purpose and say, this is going to be the purpose of my life. But really, all along, you kind of know, well, is that really what I'm here for?
Another way is to just speculate about it, and one of the popular ways today is to say, look within. And if you look within, then you'll discover your purpose.
Well, there's only one problem with that. It doesn't work. I've talked to a lot of people. I looked within. I didn't find my purpose. Since I didn't create me, I can't tell me what my purpose is. I have got to look to my creator. And of course, the premise behind "The Purpose-Driven Life" is that you're not an accident. That you were formed by God for a unique reason here on Earth, and that gives life meaning and significance.
We've talked about this before. A lot of people have success, but they don't have significance. And significance comes from knowing you're not an accident, knowing you matter to God and knowing how much he loves you, and then fulfilling that purpose.
KING: Interesting note, Amber Frey gave Scott Peterson your book in February of 2003. She wanted him to read it and exchange written observations about it. A copy of your book, "The Purpose-Driven Life," was in Scott Peterson's car the day he was arrested. Guess he didn't read it?
WARREN: That's -- yeah, I guess he didn't read it. When the book has sold as many copies as this book has, you're going to find it in all kinds of places. And every time I turn around, I am hearing another story about it showing up in a place like Scott Peterson's back seat.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more. At the bottom of the hour, your calls for Rick Warren. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEY SMITH: After I started to read to him, and he saw -- I guess he saw my faith and what I really believed in. I told him I was a child of God and that I wanted to do God's will. I guess he began to want to. That's what I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're with Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life."
Before we get to your phone calls at the bottom of the hour, a couple other things.
What do you make of this whole Terri Schiavo matter? The courts have still kept the feeding tube in. The polls indicate the public supports the husband. Where do you stand in all this incredible matter?
WARREN: Yes, you know, Larry, the first place -- any poll, you can make a poll say anything you want by the way you frame the question, you know that. I think if people know the real story about Terri -- they think that she's on life support. She's not. They think she's brain dead, she's not.
This is a woman who is not dying, at least she wasn't, until they started starving her. She's in a vegetative state. That is not brain dead, and doctors will tell you person can live in a vegetative state 15, 20, 30 years. It's unlikely that she would come out of it, but a lot of people do, and it does happen.
If I were in a vegetative state, I would hope the people that love me would keep feeding me with the possibility I might come back out of that state. She's not on life support. This is not a matter -- this is not a right to die issue, in my opinion. It is the fact that they were just feeding a person who is, right now, mentally handicapped, and I, personally, I fear the day, that if we start saying, well, you don't have a right to live if you are mentally handicapped or you're physically handicapped or emotionally handicapped, and you -- we'll just, you know, stop feeding you. This is starvation. It's not pulling artificial life support, it's saying, we're just not going to feed you anymore. To me, that is an atrocity worthy of Nazism.
KING: How about the law? Aren't we a nation of laws and don't we -- aren't we supposed to follow the courts?
WARREN: Of course, we're a nation of laws, but the good thing about America, is that laws reside in the people and people can change the laws. And that's the value of democracy. That's why I love this country, because if a law is wrong, it can be changed, it can be changed by our representatives.
I think, unfortunately, Larry, this thing has become a political or ideological football and they're not thinking about the person. Terri is a real person, who smiles, who gives affection, who laughs and things like that. In fact, I was talking earlier today with the lead attorney, David Gibbs, for Terri's parents. He was telling me that, you know, she was responding today with laughing. Well, a person who's on life support doesn't laugh. She smiles. A person who is, you know, has lost brain wave activity doesn't smile.
Barbara Weller just sent this and it said, "just before I left the room, I leaned over Terri and I spoke right into her ear. I told her I was very sorry that I had not been able to stop the feeding tube from being taken out and I was sorry I had to leave her alone. But I reminded her Jesus would stay right by her side even when no one else was there with her. When I mentioned Jesus name, Terri laughed out loud, she became very a agitated and began loudly trying to speak to me again. And as Terri continued to laugh and try to speak, I quietly prayed in her ear and then I left the room. Terri is alone now, and as I write this, last visit narrative, it's 5:00 in the morning of March 19th. Terri has been without food and water for nearly 17 hours, and I'm sure she's beginning to at least feel thirsty, if not hungry, and I'm left to wonder how many other people care."
That's not the story of somebody who's lost all brain wave activity and clearly is just, you know, an organism there. There's still a person there and they're starving her.
KING: By the way, Pat Boone -- you were on our show once with Pat, his grandson, Ryan, as you know, had that terrible trauma. How is Ryan doing?
WARREN: Well, that's good. Thanks for asking.
There's a good parallel to the Terri Schiavo case, and that is, Ryan, because of the brain damage, you would have thought that this guy was just going to be in a vegetative state the rest of his life. But I talked to Mike and to Lindy actually earlier today, and a couple of developments have happened just in the last two weeks. One of them is, Ryan has started speaking in entire sentences. Now, that's first, and he has not done that since his accident several years ago. And the second thing is, Lindy walked into the room the other day and he opened his arms wide to reach out to her. Now, that is a first, too, because of his left arm has been pretty much paralyzed and uncontrollable.
And, so, those two things give everybody here in our church and in their family hope. But, again, it's a slow process. What if somebody had said, well, you know what, he's not going to recover from this, let's not feed him, and he wouldn't be making the progress he's making today.
KING: Rick, why do bad things happen to good people?
WARREN: Well, Larry, it's because we live in a broken world. This is not perfect world. This is not heaven and that's why we're depraved. "Thy will be done on earth as it is heaven." Why? Because in heaven, everything's done perfectly. Things are not done perfectly on this earth.
God gave us a freedom to choose. As a result of choices, we make mistakes, we blow it -- and when ever I make mistakes, when ever I sin, it always causes damage and causes hurt.
The Bible teaches that since sin entered the world, way back with the very first human beings, we have lived in an imperfect, broken planet, and that causes hurricanes and tornadoes, and all kinds of things. This is not a perfect planet. So, we should not be surprised that it's not paradise. And also, life is not fair. In fact, the Bible says life is not fair. It's just not fair.
KING: How do you like being, by the way -- before we take a break and take calls -- I understand that you're on greeting cards now, quotes from "The Purpose-Driven Life" is in the select group of greetings cared that bookstores are putting it in the front. Are you now a commodity?
WARREN: Well, I hope not. I tell you this. Marketing is when you create a message in order to push a product, but what I'm doing is the exact opposite. I'm just looking for products to share a message, because I believe that the message is life-changing -- and by the way, I didn't come up with that distinction, that was said about me in the New York Times, that I'm creating ways to simply share the message, that God loves you, he has a plan and purpose for your life, Jesus Christ died for you, there is a reason for the things that happen in your life. And even the bad things, God can bring good out of bad.
That's what Easter's all about, and -- the message isn't really anything new, Larry. It's been taught for 2,000 years in churches. If somebody wants to hear it, they don't have to read my book, just go to church on Easter and hear it.
KING: We'll take a break and come back.
Maybe not as eloquently as you state it, though. Rick Warren, the book is "The Purpose-Driven Life." It's been in all the headlines, and you'll get a chance to talk to Rick Warren, right after these words. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCHIAVO, HUSBAND OF TERRI SCHIAVO: There's no happy ending. When Terri's wishes are carried out, it will be her wish, she'll be at peace. She'll be with the Lord.
MARY SCHINDLER, MOTHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO: My daughter is in the building behind me starving to death. We laugh together, we cry together, we smile together, we talk together. She is my life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: Throughout my time with Mr. Nichols, I continued to rely on my faith in God. God has helped me through tough times before, and he'll help me now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" By the way, this Sunday, at Easter service, Rick Warren will be celebrating 25 years at the Saddleback Church. He first conducted his first service there 25 years ago Easter Sunday. Congratulations.
WARREN: Thank you, Larry. And actually, I'm going to be doing the message on "The Purpose-Driven Life." I just thought that would be a good message, since the church was built on that. We're going to repeat that message on Easter Sunday.
KING: Good idea. Let's go to calls.
Victorville, California, for Rick Warren, hello.
CALLER: Hello, how are you?
CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: My question is for Mr. Warren. I love your book, No. 1. And also that, when you do get a chance to see Mr. Nichols, what will you say to him and what questions will you ask him?
WARREN: Well, the first thing I am going to ask him is, have you made your peace with God? Have you developed a relationship with Jesus Christ? Have you asked him for forgiveness for the things that you've done? And have you decided to try to make restitution in any way to those who you hurt, the lives that you took? That is the first and foremost thing, is to make sure, first, you're right with God, and then second, that you're right with other people as best that you can. Now, he obviously can't completely recompense those who lost their loved ones, but he needs to do what he can to do that.
KING: You will not condemn him?
WARREN: Well, Jesus came and said, I didn't come to condemn the world, I came to save it. And I want to be like Jesus. And so if I'm going to condemn anybody, I am going to condemn myself, because I'm just as guilty of doing wrong things and hurting other people -- maybe not murder, but Jesus said, you know, if you've hated people in your heart, that's bad, too.
KING: To San Jose, California, for Rick Warren. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Larry, hey, thanks for having me on the program. I appreciate it.
KING: Sure, go ahead.
CALLER: Hey, Rick, congratulations on your book. But I have to take exception to your point of view about somehow that book changed Brian Nichols' life. Now, come on, I mean, the man executed four people. Any purpose that he might have had was lost when he decided to kill four people in cold blood.
KING: The book did -- before he answers, the book did help get him to at least calm down and let her go out. It had an effect on him. Go ahead, Rick, I'm sorry.
WARREN: That's OK. First place, I don't think that my book has the power to change anybody. The book does happen to have over 1,500 Bible verses in it that I quote, and I think that that has the power to change lives, and I think that's why the book is being used to change a lot of lives. Because I've just quoted the Bible. And honestly, there's nothing in the book that hasn't been said in historic Christian faith for 2,000 years. I just happened to interpret it in a simple way for the 21st century.
But I do believe in the God of the second chance, and the third, and the fourth, and the fifth, because I am living proof of it. God has given me chances over and over and over. And if God only gives us one chance in life, we're all doomed. KING: So what do you think, at that moment when she read that, and we're not a psychiatrist here, triggered in him?
WARREN: Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, everybody's heard the word "repent" and they don't really understand what the word means. For a lot of people, when they think of the word repentance, they think of a guy with a sandwich sign that says, "turn or burn," or, "you're going to die and fry."
But actually, repent is the Greek word, metanoia (ph), which means literally "to change your mind." And it means that when I repent, I change my mind. First, I change my mind about God, I change my mind about myself, I change my mind about others, I change my mind about life. And a lot of people look at repentance as a negative thing, like I'm going to have to give up this, this, and this, and this, and like it's something terrible.
You know, when I repented, Larry, years ago, I basically turned from hopelessness to hope, from darkness to light, from guilt to forgiveness, from loneliness to a family of God, from purposelessness to purpose, from having no meaning in my life to having meaning. It was the most positive change in my life.
And I think that when Ashley shared this idea, that you know what, even though you've gone through what you've done, and you've done these bad things, that no one is beyond the point of redemption. And I do truly believe that, that even the people who are listening to this program right now, some of them say, man, I've done it, I've done too many bad things, God's fed up with me, God wouldn't be interested in me. God wouldn't pay me any attention because, you know, I missed that boat a long time ago. And I would say to those people, you're dead wrong. You're just dead wrong. There is no pit too deep that God's love is not deeper still. And I would say that's true for Brian Nichols, it's true for me, and it's true for everybody in the whole world. And that is what is the good news, is that it's never too late. Never too late. That's it.
KING: Ladysmith, British Columbia, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry. I'm an agnostic and an RN, and I was wondering what Rick think is the purpose of Terri Schiavo's life. And if there is a purpose, could the church -- I think she's Catholic -- get in and get her safe into the sanctity of the church, where they can take care of her, because she isn't brain dead.
WARREN: That's a good point. First, I would say that I know that if it were allowed, that Terri Schiavo's feeding for the rest of her life would be taken care of by millions and millions of people, who would be happy to pay for her feeding for the rest of her life if she happened to even remain in that state. And so that's not the issue.
The second thing I would say is, I don't know Terri's purpose, but I do know this: If your heart is still beating and your brain is still thinking, then God has a purpose for you on this planet.
Now, Terri's purpose may be to inspire other people. It may be for others' benefit, not even her own. And I could say this about many, many people who have had children, who were seriously retarded or in a serious handicapped state, that they could not respond the way most people are able to respond. And yet people would say, that person brought more meaning into my life than people who had clear intelligence or had capable brain wave activity.
I do know that when Terri dies, she's going to a better place, there is no doubt about that. I just don't believe in playing God and predetermining when she should go. God will take her home when he's ready to take her home, and it's not our right to just starve her to death.
KING: Do you think people of their own volition have the right to die? The concept of whose life is it anyway?
WARREN: No, no, I really don't believe that, Larry, because I believe that my life is not my own. It's God's. See, if I say it's my life, I can do whatever I want to, that is the ultimate sin. The ultimate -- if you take the word "sin," the middle letter is I. It's I am going to be my own God. And when I think that I run my own life -- what is the worst sin? It's not adultery, it's not homosexuality, it's not drug addictions, it's not all these things that people tend to get upset and worry about. Those are not the worst sins. The worst sin is when I decide to live my life and be my own God, and I basically thumb my nose at God and say, God, I'm boss and you're not.
KING: But if you are in interminable pain and you are -- it's your pain, and you can't stand it, you're saying that you don't have the right to your own desire not to have that pain?
WARREN: I do believe that you have the right to painkillers. In fact, the Bible even says so. In fact, in the Book of Proverbs, before there were even medication, it said "give strong drink to a man in pain and to a dying man." It actually recommended that you give alcohol as a painkiller in scripture before we had all these pain medications. I do not believe that God says, you have to walk around in pain. I don't believe that for a second.
But I do believe that I don't have the right to take my own life, because it's not my life.
Lawton, Oklahoma, Hello.
CALLER: This is in regards to Terri Schiavo.
CALLER: I am so tired of people who are so sure they're speaking for god. And how can you say that Terri Schiavo is not on life support when she can't even feed herself. And on top of that, everyone that I have seen die was not brain dead at the moment they died.
WARREN: Well, you're bringing up two different issues. First, life support does not mean feeding somebody. Life support means your artificially kept alive. She's not artificially kept alive. She's kept alive by the same way you're kept alive. And if you stopped eating, you'd die and if you stopped drinking, you'd die faster. So, that's not life support, that's just called living. In the second place, in brain activity, she clearly has brain activity, because she's smiling. She's responding. She's laughing. And I just don't have the right to take somebody else's life. That's not my right.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with more calls from Rick Warren, author of the number one "New York Times" best seller, "The Purpose Driven Live: What on Earth am I Here for." Don't go away.
KING: We're back.
Hemet, California for Rick Warren. Hello.
CALLER: Yes, Mr. Warren. I have a question for you regarding your book. It's been a best-seller, long before this took place. "The Da Vinci Code" is a best-seller, and the movie "The Passion of Christ" was a best-seller.
Can you explain the sudden thirst or craving that people seem to have for religion?
Do you think it's a trend? Do you think that it's something we're just searching for answers?
How do you explain this?
KING: Good question.
WARREN: That's a great question. You know, for the last 50 years we're living in a very narcissistic culture that is me first. And everything in culture has been about me, me, me, me. In fact, all the advertisements are, we do it all for you. Have it your way. You've got to think about what's best for you.
And I think people have realized, that's a dead end street. That self-centeredness leads to loneliness. And we're a very lonely culture. We're very isolated from each other. There isn't a sense of community. I recently spoke at the Harvard University, at the Kennedy School of Government, and also in the law school.
And meet with Robert Putnam, who has written this book called, "Better Together," about the need for community. And I think the need for community and the need for God go hand-in-hand. And there are really two stories going on in our culture right now. There is the story of things are getting more worse in some ways. Were seeing the increase in violence. We're seeing terrorism. We've seen these recent shootings. We're seeing the coarsening of our society, that has disgusted a lot of people. And there is people -- some people are more materialistic than ever.
But at the same time, there's another story going on in America, that I think is a spiritual awakening that is brewing. And that is a desire and hunger to know God. I don't always think it's always a desire and hunger for church. But there is a desire and hunger to know God.
You know, the three biggest surprises of 2004 were first, as you mentioned, "The Passion of the Christ," which was roundly panned by every media, and yet went on to become the third best grossing movie in history. That was the first bit surprise. The second was my book, where for the second year in row, 2003 and 2004, it was the best selling book in the world. And what in the world is a book by a pastor doing at the top of the best-seller's list for two years. And then the third was the so called values voter that we heard about during the elections, were people reacting to the coarsening of culture.
And I believe the church is ready for what I call, a second reaffirmation. The Bible calls the church, the body of Christ. And for too long the church has had two hands and arms amputated, and it's just been a big mouth. And too often the church has been known for what it's against, rather than what it's for. And I hope to make a change in that along with a lot of another people. That we need to reattach the hands and arms, that's why I was in Africa.
Because I think the church is called to not just talk, but to share, to love, to help tackle these issues like poverty, and illiteracy and disease. And this is grabbing a lot of people's lives. I see it all the time, that people, there's a new interest in God, in community and in spirituality.
Apex, North Carolina, hello.
CALLER: Hi, thank you very much for taking my calls.
CALLER: Mr. Warner, I'm just thrilled to death to have you on Larry's show, and I just want to say, I'm thoroughly amazed at how God is working to get the message of Christ out there, it's really amazing. I want to ask you how you keep it all in perspective. I mean, with the question Larry asked about looking at you as a commodity. It's so easy. Obviously, being a Christian, humility is one of the tenants of us as Christians. I think the pull of the world and then the materialism, and the money and the attention, can obviously have some personal stress on you.
WARREN: It is a stress.
CALLER: In terms of trying too -- Yes.
KING: So, the question is, how do you keep your balance?
WARREN: Well, you know what, when the book, Larry, and this caller, when it began to become a big success world-wide, I actually began to got to scripture to pray about what I called the stewardship of have affluence and the stewardship of influence. And that was, God, what do I do with me money, and what do I do with the notoriety. Because, I don't think God gives either money or fame for your own ego, certainly not a pastor.
And I didn't want it. And in fact, that's the whole reason why I never put our church services on television. Twenty Five-years-ago I made the decision to never be on television as a church service, because I didn't want to be a televangelist. I didn't like the lifestyle. And I didn't like a lot of the -- I think always being in the spotlight blinds you.
And Kay (ph) and I made two very important decisions, based on two passages of scripture. First Corinthians 9 and Psalms 72. First with the money, we made five decisions. First was, we weren't going to change our lifestyle one bit, no matter how much money came in. So, we still live in the same house. We didn't buy a bigger house. We don't own a guest house. We don't own a yacht. I still drive a 4- year-old Ford. And we're just are not going to let money change your lives, and I'm not going to use it to impress people.
The second decision we made was, I stopped taking the salary from my church about three years ago.
The third decision is, I added up all that the church had paid me in the past 25 years and I gave it all back. And I did that because I don't want anybody to ever think that I was doing this for money, because I don't. I would have done it for free from the start if I could have. And now the book made it possible for me to give all that money back.
And right after I did that, I was interviewed by a major news magazine. And the first question was, what's your salary? And I was able to say, well, actually, I've now serve my church for free for 25 years. Then we set up, No. 4, we set up three foundations, one of them called Acts of Mercy, which is used to help those who are infected and affected by AIDS globally. And then the fifth is, we actually became reverse tithers, which means that when Kay and I got married, we began to tithe 10 percent of our income to charity, and each year in the last 30 years we've raised it a percentage, and we're not actually reverse tithers, so we give away 90 percent and live on 10 percent. Now, that was the easy part.
KING: Go ahead. Quickly, go ahead.
WARREN: Go ahead, Larry.
KING: Let me get a break...
KING: ... take a break and come back and finish up. And we should have you on every week. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: We have about four minutes left, Rick. Go ahead. You were saying?
WARREN: Well, as the caller said, how are you dealing with the notoriety? And I really began to ask God, what am I supposed to do with this? And as I read scripture, Psalm 72 is Solomon's prayer for more influence. And it sounds pretty selfish. He says, God, I want you to make me more influential, I want you to bless me, I want you to give me more power. And that sounds pretty selfish, until you read the rest of the Psalm, where he says, "so that the king may support the widow and orphan, care for the poor, help those who are oppressed and in prison, defend the defenseless and the foreigner." And basically he is talking about all of the marginalized of society. And out of that passage of scripture, I believe that the message was that the purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.
And I committed to use the rest of my life, my time and my money to help those who are the unfortunate. And as I traveled around the world, Larry, I began to say, what are the global giants, the big problems that are so big no nation can even solve them, not even the U.N.? And I came to the conclusion that there were five what I call global giants. Spiritual emptiness, self-centered leadership, poverty, disease and ignorance or illiteracy. You know, half the world lives on less than $2 a day and half the world cannot read.
And so we came up with the plan called the PEACE plan, p-e-a-c-e. Plant churches, equip the leaders, assist the poor, care for the sick, and educate the next generation.
And we're right now doing a test pilot of the PEACE plan in 67 countries. We're about a year and a half into it. It's a two-year test plan. We plan to go public with it -- well, now, it's going public on LARRY KING -- but we plan to go public with it in 2006, which is to mobilize hundreds of thousands of small groups that have done the 40 days of purpose in churches and communities and civic groups and corporations -- churches that have done 40 days of purpose in groups to do these five things around the world. And that's really why I was in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, to test that.
KING: One more quick call. San Bernadino, hello.
KING: Yeah, go ahead.
CALLER: Hi, my name's Bill. Hi, Rick, and thank for taking my call. I'm calling because basically two and a half years ago, my son passed away of a genetic disorder. And I keep asking Christian people basically, what's the reason for my son being here? And looked for scripture, and it's hard for me to comprehend. I'm kind of like a picture person.
KING: I'm sad to hear that. We only have a minute, Rick. What can you say in a minute? WARREN: Well, I will say this: I don't know. And I wish I did know. Some of the things -- the questions we ask we're not going to find the answer to until we get to heaven. We don't understand all of what goes on. We do know, as I said, it's not a perfect world, but some of those answers aren't going to come until we get to heaven.
KING: And you believe his son is there?
WARREN: Oh, absolutely. The Bible says in Proverbs, "the Lord preserves the simple." That means those who aren't competent enough to understand what it means to make a commitment of your life to Christ or to open their life up to his love, they are safe in the arms of God.
KING: Thanks, Rick. Thanks for being with us.
WARREN: Thank you, Larry.
KING: Look forward to your next visit.
WARREN: Good to be with you.
KING: Nice suspenders, too.
WARREN: Thank you.
KING: Rick Warren, author of the number one "New York Times" best-seller "The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?" His first prime-time appearance since the Ashley Smith story.
I'll be right back to tell you about tomorrow night.
KING: Thanks for joining us on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay tuned now for more news around the clock on your most trusted name in news, CNN. See you tomorrow night. Good night.
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