(CNN) -- Rick Warren, founder and pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, is one of America's most influential authors and religious leaders. In August, he moderated a discussion on key issues between presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain.
Rick Warren says no matter what problem you have, there's a purpose behind it.
His latest book is "The Purpose of Christmas." He was interviewed by Kiran Chetry on "American Morning" on Friday. Here is an edited version of the exchange:
Chetry: We always say we don't want Christmas to be commercialized. It seems that at the end of the year, we end up in the same position, worried about buying presents, worried about spending money, worried about holiday cards, and how do you get back to the real meaning?
Rick Warren: A lot of people are really hurting because of the economy and because of the fears about what's going to happen, and really those same problems are the problems that Mary and Joseph went through. Housing, no room at the inn, travel, economic unrest, things like that.
So I wrote this book really to focus us on what is the true meaning of Christmas. It's a book of hope, and the big idea behind it is that no matter what problem you're going through, there's a purpose behind it. God has a purpose, and that purpose can help you make it through even the stressful times when we decide to write a note to everybody, buy a gift for everybody, redecorate our house, have five or six meals and go to eight or nine parties. Rick Warren: Shop more or pray more? »
Chetry: Exactly, because that's usually what ends up happening, and sometimes the spirit of giving and fellowship is lost in that. You also write in the book, remember that God loves you, but for somebody who is facing foreclosure -- let's say you lost a loved one or your job or dealing with an illness -- it can sound pat in a way. What do you say to people who say, pastor, I don't feel that God loves me or I wouldn't be going through this
Warren: Actually, sometimes what we think is a problem is actually a protection. For instance, last month my daughter-in-law, who is 25 years old, went through a brain tumor. She had her first child premature, about six weeks early, and when she had that baby early, it was breech. The cord was wrapped around its neck and it stopped breathing and they actually had to do an emergency C-section and resuscitate the child and save the baby's life and save her life.
We looked at that and we thought, boy, that's a pretty tough problem, but we now know that she had a three-inch brain tumor at the base of her brainstem, and if she had pushed, it would have killed her. And so actually, seven weeks later, when she should have been delivering the baby, we discovered the brain tumor, and she would have been trying to have brain surgery, three surgeries, one was 20 hours long, at the same time as having a baby.
So what we thought was a problem was actually a protection saving her life.
And sometimes, we look at a tapestry, and from the top down, you can see the picture. From the bottom up, it's all of these different colors of threads. It makes no sense. It's all jumbled. When God looks down, he sees what he's doing. When we look up, we just see the jumble.
Chetry: And she's OK?
Warren: She's OK.
Chetry: Thank goodness. I want to turn to politics now and ask you about the summit you hosted for both of the candidates. Great provocative questions and interesting answers we weren't hearing on the campaign trail. Now that the campaign is over, what is your reaction to the outcome and to President-elect Barack Obama?
Warren: Well, there's no doubt about it, we need to be praying for our president. I don't think any president has come into a crisis so quickly as President-elect Obama has, and no president has come in with probably as high expectations as President-elect Obama. So we need to pray for him. We need to support him where we can, and we need -- we want the best for America.
Chetry: Religion factored heavily into some of the back-and-forth in the campaign season. Many people believed [incorrectly] that Barack Obama wasn't really Christian, that he was Muslim, and, of course, the Jeremiah Wright thing. Religion ended up, unfortunately, being a divisive issue at times as opposed to one that was a uniting issue. How do you change that?
Warren: Part of it is we have to end the caricaturization of the candidates. I know all of the candidates on both sides, and none of them were exactly as they were portrayed. We tend to overportray them whether it's Sarah Palin or Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama or John McCain. They're not anything like the caricaturization that we often hear. We tend to push to extremes.
They are a lot more practical and pragmatic, I think, than we want to give them credit for, and every president, when he becomes president, has to let go of some ideology and become more of a pragmatist because there's so many issues that you don't probably understand until you actually hold the office.
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