Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rupert's Religious Ark: Will The Pope, Rick Warren And Pat Robertson Jump Ship?

Hell, Can They Even Swim?

As the Murdoch Empire takes a pounding in the UK's Parliament, the media and the court of public opinion, another interesting tidbit makes for drooling speculation: Murdoch's long arm of publishing includes a bizarre dichotomy  - pornography and Christian books.

But wait, it may not be so dichotomous! It might, in fact, be just a matter of quid pro quo: Murdoch's religious affiliations have been just as quiet about the latest hacking scandal as they've been about his porn industry. Perhaps they don't want to draw too much attention to the financial dealings and donations with the media mogul.

Catholic? Southern Baptist? Born Again?

Murdoch's personal religious leaning are murky to say the least: he has never formally pronounced his allegiance for any one Christian denomination or sect. While wed to his second wife, a Roman Catholic, he received an award:

 Catholic Herald 
In 1998 Rupert Murdoch was made a Knight Commander of St Gregory. He had apparently been recommended for the honour by Cardinal Roger Mahony, after giving money to a Church education fund. A year later he donated $10 million to help build Los Angeles Catholic cathedral.
Rupert's son, James, also created a firestorm when it was discovered that before meeting the pontiff in London during his visit, Murdoch had donated 100,000 pounds ($156,000) to the promotion of the visit. It became known as the "pope-for-hire" situation.  

Murdoch's hailing of Benedict's election was a bit brazen (and off he mark), but helped to dispel the rumors that Cardinal Ratzinger was still harboring Hitler-like tendencies. (see The Sun's Headline). 

The 700 Club Connection

Billionaire televangelist Pat Robertson has certainly profited from Murdoch's business ventures:
From donations provided by viewers, Robertson bought the Family Channel, sold part of its stock at a personal profit of $90 million, and then sold the rest to right-wing media mogul and FOX owner Rupert Murdoch for $1.82 billion.

Even die-hard Robertson fans considered the purchase to be an outrageous sellout: Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily wrote: "...Robertson was ready, willing and able to climb into bed with Rupert Murdoch ..."

Murdoch also owns two of the largest online religious sites, Beliefnet and Inspirio, but perhaps the biggest strangle hold he has is on religious publishing.

The Rick Warren Connection

"Do the religious authors making their fortunes off Murdoch wear gloves when they cash their royalty checks? Do they ever dare look in the mirror?"
                    - Frank Schaeffer, son of influential theologian Francis Schaeffer 

Murdoch's pornography empire is not too far down the publishing road from the likes of Zondervan and Harper Collins - two of the largest religious book publishers in America, if not the world. Under Zondervan, in fact, another empire flourished: The Purpose Driven Life, for after the sale of 20 million copies worldwide, it remains one of history's biggest bestsellers (appropriately, after The Bible). And with Zondervan's sales, the fortunes of Pastor Rick Warren have soared as well.* In addition, Murdoch has openly donated $2 million to Warren's P.E.A.C.E. plan, enabling a greater evangelical voice in foreign nations (primarily in Africa). 

Pastor Rick has repeatedly stated that he is Murdoch's pastor although Murdoch does not live in Orange County where the 120-acre Saddleback Church compound is located. He has also deflected charges of hypocrisy in dealing with Murdoch, reportedly the "king" of pornography:
‘I don’t have to agree with 100 percent of what another person does in order to work with them on the 20 percent that we do agree on.’


Pornography aside, the hacking scandal has Catholics, evangelicals and other religious leaders calling on the religious community to sever all ties with Murdoch and to reassess their relations with his publishing venues and, yes, even FOX News Channel.**

But will the likes of Rick Warren and Pope Benedict follow suit? Will Zondervan and Harper Collins authors defect to other publishers? 

The problem here is that today's religious leaders, like Murdoch, go where the money goes and follow Rick Warren's chief motto: 

"Whatever It Takes."

*Enabling Warren to give back 25 years of his past salary to his beloved Saddleback Church. Warren says that he now "reverse tithes" giving 90% of his income to the church. This has been disputed, however, since concrete tax returns and financial statements have not been made open to the public. 

** Over one year ago, the Jewish community called upon Murdoch to sanction Glenn Beck for his references to the Holocaust, signing an open letter to Murdoch in Murdoch's own Wall Street Journal. It was posted on Holocaust Remembrance Day.