Rick Warren Biographer, George Mair, Passes Away at 83 – The Rest of the Story

By Deborah Dombrowski
Editor at Lighthouse Trails

I read the headlines this week of a Dana Point Times article titled “Former Dana Point Resident, Author George Mair Passes Away.” My heart dropped when I saw that George was gone.  The article described some of George’s accomplishments:

Mair was the author of nearly 53 books, mainly biographies of famous people,  many of which were unauthorized, including books on Oprah Winfrey, Liza  Minnelli . . . .

During his career he served as chief staff writer for the Speaker of the House  Jim Wright in Washington D.C. He also wrote award-winning editorials and  documentaries for KNX News and worked at HBO in New York.

The article named another biography that George wrote: “[Mair’s] 2005 book, A Life with Purpose, about Minister Rick Warren, the  founder of Saddleback Church, created quite a stir among Warren’s staff and  followers.”

It is that book that brought Lighthouse Trails into the life of this celebrity biographer.  This is the story of what happened to a man who tried to praise Rick Warren but got caught in the crossfire instead. We write this testament as a memorial to George and also as a plea to Christians to try to understand what lies beneath The Purpose Driven Movement.

In early 2005, Lighthouse Trails was deeply involved in researching Rick Warren and The Purpose Driven Movement. One day, we heard about a biography written about Rick Warren by an author unknown to us at the time, George Mair. We purchased a copy of the book, which we could see clearly just by the title and subtitle was a book of praise to Rick Warren: A Life With Purpose, Reverend Rick Warren, the most inspiring pastor of our time. I read the book with fascination. If I had known nothing about Rick Warren, I would have come away from reading that book with a glowing opinion of Rick Warren. George ended his book, which was really a biographical sketch of Warren’s ministry years, like this:

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Rick Warren and his Saddleback ministry have influenced millions of people around the world. . . . What’s remarkable is that in spite of all his accomplishments, Rick has never become complacent. He continues to work tirelessly to expand and develop this dynamic ministry, pushing the envelope of Christian evangelism. . . .  Perhaps most remarkable is the way that Rick has managed to spread his message while avoiding the corrupting influences of fame and fortune. (p. 210)

After I finished reading the book, I thought our author Ray Yungen may wish to read it too so I passed it on to him. A few days later, Ray called and said, “Do you realize what is in that book?” Ray, an avid researcher for over twenty five years,  read me the following words from page 193 of George Mair’s book to me:

Rick taps the best and the most famous to help train church leaders to be like Jesus. He has hired Ken Blanchard, author of the best-selling The One Minute Manager, to come to Saddleback to help train people how to be effective leaders at home, in business, in school, and in church. It is a dramatic and impressive move, one that is typical of Rick Warren.

Ray explained that he had been researching Ken Blanchard for many years. Blanchard, he said, has been a consistent advocate for eastern-style meditation and has written the forewords and endorsements for many New Age meditation books. There was no question in Ray’s mind that Blanchard would have a profound negative influence on Rick Warren’s followers as far as his stance on mystical meditation was concerned.

We decided to do our own research to validate what George Mair said in his book. We wanted to know for sure that Rick Warren had told his congregation that he was going to use Ken Blanchard to train leaders. In our research over the next week or so, we came across the sermon where Rick introduced Ken Blanchard to his congregation. It just so happens that one of the people in the congregation that day was George Mair. Here is what Rick Warren said:

Ken [Blanchard] has signed on to help with the Peace Plan, and he’s going to be helping train us in leadership and in how to train others to be leaders all around the world. In fact, he was here this week and I’ve asked him to just give a little video greeting.

If you would like to hear it yourself, click here and go to the 35 minute mark.

On April 19, 2005, when we completed our research, we wrote a press release titled, “Rick Warren Teams Up With New-Age Guru Ken Blanchard!” Little did we know at the time that this report would get back to Rick Warren, and his reaction would be remarkable. What occurred left such an impression on former New Age follower Warren B. Smith, that he wrote two entire chapters on the episode in his book, A “Wonderful” Deception. In his book, Warren Smith wrote the following:

“From all appearances, Ken Blanchard would be playing an important role in helping to fulfill the “equip leaders” part of Rick Warren’s Global P.E.A.C.E. Plan. This was confirmed two weeks later when Warren appeared with Blanchard at the Lead Like Jesus Celebration in Birmingham. When Warren spoke at the conference, he stated that he and Blanchard were “working together” on the P.E.A.C.E. Plan:

Rick Warren: “[T]here is a dramatic shortage of servant leadership in the world. I’ve traveled all around the world, and people are following the wrong model of leadership. . . .

Rick Warren: “So, we’ve come up with a little plan called the Peace Plan. You and I [addressing Blanchard] are working together on this. The Peace Plan, P E A C E, Jesus, the master servant leader, was the Prince of Peace. . . . P stands for plant churches, E stands for equip leaders, and that’s what we’re here for today. . . . It is my goal and vision and your goal and vision to be used of God to raise up millions and millions of local churches and businesses and everybody else to Plant churches, Equip leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick, and Educate the next generation. That can only be done when we get the right model of leadership.”

“On April 19, 2005, Lighthouse Trails issued a press release, quoting George Mair’s book that Warren had “hired” Blanchard to work with him on the P.E.A.C.E. Plan. Lighthouse Trails warned of the serious New Age implications of allowing someone as undiscerning as Blanchard to teach Christians around the world how to “lead like Jesus.” The press release documented many of Blanchard’s New Age endorsements including Deepak Chopra’s book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and a book titled What Would Buddha Do at Work? for which Blanchard wrote the foreword. . . .

“On the day Rick Warren introduced his P.E.A.C.E. Plan at Saddleback Church and announced that Ken Blanchard had “signed on” to help with the P.E.A.C.E. Plan, George Mair was sitting in the congregation. At the time, Mair probably had no idea that Blanchard had endorsed New Age books and had personal ties to Norman Vincent Peale. He had assumed that when someone “signed on” they had been “hired”—an understandable assumption. But Warren and Saddleback apologist Richard Abanes were quick to take Mair to task for saying Blanchard had been “hired” by Warren. They said Blanchard had not been “hired.” He had volunteered. This issue would become a major point of contention for [Rick] Warren and his Saddleback defense team. In using it, attention would be deflected away from the real problem of Blanchard’s New Age sympathies and Warren’s wanting to utilize him to train leaders worldwide for the P.E.A.C.E. Plan.

“Suddenly George Mair was a target for stating that Rick Warren had “hired” Ken Blanchard to train people around the world to “lead like Jesus.” It was not George Mair, but the Lighthouse Trails press release that brought Blanchard’s New Age propensities to light. Yet despite Saddleback’s effort to discredit George Mair and his book, the question many people were asking was—”why would a self-professing Evangelical Christian like Rick Warren choose a New Age sympathizer like Ken Blanchard to train people to “lead like Jesus?”; And just what “Jesus” was Blanchard pointing people to—the Jesus of the Bible or the ‘Jesus” of the New Age? Did Blanchard even know the difference? Obviously, the “Jesus” of the New Age/New Spirituality books that Blanchard has often endorsed is “another Jesus.””  (from chapter 5 of A “Wonderful” Deception)

The excerpt above was written by Warren B. Smith nearly four years after our April 2005 press release. Backing up, about one month after our press release came out, on May 31, I received an e-mail from Rick Warren early that morning. It turns out he sent it fifteen minutes after midnight on the 31st, and thus we came to nick name it “the midnight email.”

The e-mail was rather long, and I could tell at first reading that the majority of it was inaccurate statements. I first wanted to verify that it really was from Rick Warren, so I called Saddleback and was connected to his office assistant who confirmed that he had indeed sent the e-mail to me. As we weren’t sure just how to respond, we waited through that first day telling only two trusted colleagues that we had received an e-mail from Rick Warren. However, by late afternoon, I was receiving phone calls from around the country from people who knew about the e-mail. We found out that Rick Warren had his then chief apologist, Richard Abanes, post his e-mail on a very popular forum, and thus, by the afternoon of the same day I received it, the e-mail had been widely circulated. That would have been OK, but unfortunately most of the e-mail was erroneous.

It was in this e-mail that Rick Warren began his campaign to discredit George Mair where he called Mair “an unbeliever, evidently want[ing] to make a quick buck turning out a book on me.” What Rick Warren did not know at the time was that George Mair had been attending Saddleback for two years while he was writing the book and, as I was later to learn, had given over $800 in offerings to the church. How Rick Warren surmised that Mair was not a believer or “not even born again” as Warren’s e-mail to me stated, is a mystery I still don’t know. The two had never talked.

It wasn’t too long after Rick Warren’s e-mail was posted on Abanes’ forum that statements started circulating on the Internet that George was a “fraud” and a “liar.” Some of those statements are still circulating today. We didn’t know George at the time, but we knew this that his book had hit a nerve with Rick Warren, and as Warren Smith points out in A “Wonderful” Deception, it probably wasn’t just Ken Blanchard, but it was the fact that Mair talked about the connection between Rick Warren, Robert Schuller, and Norman Vincent Peale. Either way, there was an all-out effort to discredit George Mair. Ironically, our April press release didn’t even need to mention George Mair because we had gathered our own documentation to prove that what Mair said was accurate.

Rick Warren’s e-mail to me said that Mair’s book  had “literally hundreds of errors and made-up conclusions.” This was an absolute lie. We later went carefully over every page of Mair’s book, and with the exception of possibly a few insignificant inaccuracies (such as when he and Kay actually became sweethearts), the book was, on the contrary to what Rick Warren said, a revealing account of the church growth, seeker friendly, purpose driven, run away freight train.

For instance, Mair stated in his book:

Norman Vincent Peale is, to many, the most prophetic and moving New Age preacher of the twentieth century. He is also the father of the self-help movement that formed the groundwork for the Church Growth Movement. Peale formed perhaps the most dramatic and meaningful link between religion and psychology of any religious leader in history. It is this same approachable, therapeutic brand of religion that many mega churches, including Saddleback, put forward today. It is this kind of religion that is so appealing to the masses of unchurched men and women that Rick Warren hopes to reach . . .

“Norman Vincent Peale is undoubtedly one of the most controversial figures in modern American Christianity.” But no matter what people think about his theories, they have to acknowledge Peale’s remarkable unification of psychology and theology. Without that unification, mega churches wouldn’t exist today. . . . In that sense, Saddleback distinctly bears the stamp of Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. (from chapter 4, A “Wonderful” Deception)

Knowing of the occultic background of Norman Vincent Peale, its no wonder Rick Warren did not like George Mair’s book. It connected Rick Warren with Peale! Poor George, though, had only intended on writing a glowing report about Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven Movement. Little did he know that Ray Yungen and Warren Smith, two men who understood spiritual deception and some of its primary leaders (such as Peale and Blanchard) would be using his book to uncover the roots of The Purpose Driven Movement.

After I saw the vitriolic attempts to hurt George Mair, when I knew what he had written was for the most part accurate (and very enlightening), I decided to try to find him, which I did. As we talked on the phone that first time, I told George what had been going on. He had already learned from a friend what was being said about him. He was very wounded by Rick Warren’s behavior. In a written letter, he told us:

I am stunned by the viciousness of the attacks on me although I know that sort of thing happens (never has in my 20 or so previous works). . . . Even more curious to me is what happened to the concept of Christian charity.

You see George had admired Rick Warren greatly. Now, he was very concerned about the things being said. He confided in me one day, that he was actually afraid for his life. He lived right in the hub of the Southern California mega church kingdom, living fairly close to Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral, Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Benn Hinn’s home, and Saddleback Church. He told me he was afraid that some crazy person would try to kill him in order to defend Rick Warren.

Richard Abanes had a lot to do with the slander being spread about Mair. George told me he had never run into this kind of thing with such vehemence ever in his life. One day he called me and told me that a friend of his who worked for the California Attorney General’s Office had advised him to file a Hate Crime against Rick Warren because of what was going on and George’s fear for his safety. George called to get my opinion. That was a difficult phone call for me because I believed that George was genuinely concerned about bodily harm coming to him. But I told him that I did not trust the Hate Crime laws, that I believed one day they would be used to imprison innocent citizens, and I could not recommend that he do that. In the end, George decided not to file. He told me once it was because of what I told him.

George’s book, A Life With Purpose, had been published by Penguin publishers, one of the largest secular publishers. The book did very well, George told me, but when it was time to go to reprint, his publisher told him the book was too controversial, and they would not reprint. George said to me that he believed the publisher had been threatened with a lawsuit. It would be the last book George would ever publish.

Within a few years after the release of A Life With Purpose, George became sick with the illness that took his life a couple weeks ago.  George and I talked several times on the phone, and over the course of the years, I sent him most of the books we published, which he said he read every one of them and loved them all. I asked George once if he was a Christian, (after all – Rick Warren said he was an “unbeliever” and “not even born again”), and he told me he was. I don’t know if George ever heard the Gospel at Saddleback, but I know he was able to hear it through our books.

George and I eventually lost contact with each other, but in January of this year, I received a call from him. He said he was fighting the illness still but he had hopes of a full recovery. I sent him more books, ones he hadn’t read yet (including Let There Be Light by Roger Oakland) and some of our Shepherd’s Tea. George called me a few more times after that and told me he wanted to write a new book. We brainstormed together for a few minutes, and he came up with an idea of writing a book about how Christianity had been bought out by big corporation dollars and was missing the point of true Christianity. I told him I thought that sounded like a great idea for a book. “Let’s talk about it soon, George,” I said to him. He agreed, and we hung up. It was the last time I talked to George Mair. When I learned this week that he had passed away, I knew it would be important to share the story of how Lighthouse Trails and a celebrity biographer crossed paths.


Afterthought:

From A “Wonderful” Deception:

In his e-mail to Lighthouse Trails, the pastor with a reputation for being “seeker-friendly” was anything but “seeker-friendly” with George Mair. Although Rick Warren has stated on numerous occasions that there are 2.3 billion Christians in the world, he made it clear in his e-mail [to Lighthouse Trails] he did not consider Mair to be one of them.. . . Many people felt empathy for George Mair. All he did was write a positive, upbeat account of Rick Warren and his Purpose Driven movement. It was a given that Mair was a popular writer who knew he had a good story in Warren. But the fact of the matter is that he wrote a very flattering account of Warren’s life and ministry. . . . On paper—book or no book—George Mair would seem to be the kind of person Rick Warren would want to reach out to and try to encourage in the faith. Yet Warren expressed nothing but disdain for this man who had only good things to say about him. Mair had obviously hit a very sensitive nerve with Warren. (From A “Wonderful” Deception – to read the full account of Rick Warren’s connection with Robert Schuller and Norman Vincent Peale, please read this book.)

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