By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – In a stadium filled with 8,000 evangelical Christian women, one person near the stage stands out.
Sporting short salt-and-peppered hair, broad shoulders and a high-collared shirt, the man sits calmly as ballerinas flutter across the stage, women tell jokes about menopause and the event’s emcee announces that almost all the men’s rooms at the Verizon Center in downtown Washington have been converted to female restrooms for the night, provoking a round of applause.
For Kurt Warner, former quarterback for the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals and two-time National Football League MVP, this is about as far away from the testosterone-driven world of the gridiron as you can get.
Onstage is the reason Warner’s here: Brenda Warner, her angular face and close-cropped blonde hair radiating in professional lighting, telling the audience about God’s plan for her life.
For years, Brenda was known as Kurt’s uber-supportive wife – a woman whose unflinchingly defense and championing of her superstar husband sometimes made news in it its own right.
Today, two years into Kurt’s retirement, those roles are changing.
My Faith: What people talk about before they die
Brenda has become what some call "Christian famous" - a renowned evangelical speaker who tours the country with the likes of the 2012 Women of Faith tour, which will reach tens of thousands of Christian women with a message of hope and faith. As one of the tour’s headliners, Brenda will travel the country each weekend until November to tell her story – one of heartbreak, love and growth.
Through much of it, Kurt will be there with her, sitting in the audience as his wife does her thing before throngs of adoring fans.
“Brenda Warner is no longer Kurt Warner’s wife,” one awestruck woman says after listening to Brenda’s story at the Verizon Center. “Kurt Warner is now Brenda Warner’s husband.”
‘We need each other, we all have a story’
Brenda Warner’s story is a tear-jerker, whether or not you accept the God part.
When she was 18, she joined the Marine Corps, a job that took her from her hometown of Parkersburg, Iowa, to bases in Japan and in Virginia Beach, Virginia – where she would marry another Marine and give birth to a baby boy.
When Brenda begins to explain her life to the crowd in Washington, women applaud for the lines about joining the Marines and having baby Zachary.
Then the story takes a dark turn.
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While working one day in Virginia Beach, Brenda got a phone call that changed her life. Her husband had dropped Zachary on his head, an accident that would leave their toddler legally blind and developmentally disabled. Speaking in Washington, Brenda recounts the scene at the hospital.
“Zachary had a seizure – they worked around him trying to stop it,” she says. “I did all that I knew to do – I called out, ‘Jesus, Jesus, let this be the last seizure.’”
A hush has fallen over the stadium. Women wipe tears from their cheeks; one has pulled her pink T-shirt over her eyes.
She and her husband struggled to make things work with Zachary, Brenda continues. She got pregnant again, she tells the audience, but when she was a month from her due date her husband told her he had feelings for another woman. “I got out of bed, I called home and said mama come get me,” she says. “He doesn't love me, after all that we have been through.”
Brenda became a registered nurse, largely to learn how to better cope with Zachary’s condition. To make ends meet, she stood in line for food stamps and moved out of her parent’s basement and into low-income housing.
Then, another bombshell.
One night in 1996, Brenda’s sister called to report that their mother and father, who had retired to a cabin in Arkansas, had been killed in a tornado. Their house had been wiped off the map.
“They were always my soft place to fall,” Brenda tells the crowd.
At this point, the woman with her head in her T-shirt is a sobbing headless body. But as quickly as she has just dropped the mood, Brenda builds it up by telling the women that God brought her through it all.
“I married that football player,” she says, gesturing toward Kurt. “He adopted my two and we have five more.” Tears are giving way to applause.
Kurt and Brenda Warner first met when Kurt was playing college football at University of Northern Iowa.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
Near the end of the speech, Brenda brings Zachary out to say hello to the crowd.
“If you have ever felt like life has cheated you, stand up with me,” Brenda says. “If you have ever felt disappointed in life, stand with me. If you have ever received a call that changed your life forever, brought you to your knees and took your breath away, look around, we are all in this together, we need each other, we all have a story.”
Afterward, many women say they saw themselves in Brenda’s story.
“She is just a normal everyday mom raising a family just like everybody,” says Sena Hohman, her two daughters accompanying her to the event. “Hearing these stories, you find out she is just like me, with ups and downs in life, with peaks and valleys.
“To be able to see somebody has overcome” what she has, said Judy Gerlitz from Centerville, Virginia, “shows me that I can do it.”
Super Bowl champion, philanthropist
When she’s offstage, Brenda and Kurt often operate as a team in their faith-based work.
On the recent Friday morning before Brenda addresses the Women of Faith conference, the couple find themselves in a small, bland conference room in downtown Washington.
Kurt takes notes while Brenda’s eyes stay fixed on the architect who’s briefing them. The topic: plans for a multi-apartment home for developmentally disabled young adults that the Warners want to build in their hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona.
The project is inspired by Zachary, now a 23-year-old high school graduate.
“Zach has probably impacted more people than all of us combined because there is something unique and special and honest about these individuals that see it like it is and call it like they see it,” Kurt says.
Zachary lives in a group house in St. Louis. The Warners are modeling the group home they’re building in Arizona, called Treasure House, on the St. Louis Life concept for independent living for those with special needs.
At the meeting in Washington, Kurt is very much in control, with the architect and a consultant urge the Warners to use Kurt’s celebrity to help raise funds. “Leverage your history,” the consultant says, looking at Kurt and talking football.
Kurt’s story, like Brenda’s, includes some letdowns. After going unselected in the 1994 NFL draft as a quarterback out of University of Northern Iowa, Kurt became a Hy-Vee grocery store stock clerk to make money. While stocking shelves, he signed with the Iowa Barnstorms, an Arena Football League team in Des Moines, Iowa. With his big arm and accuracy, he became an AFL star.
After a short stint with NFL Europe, Kurt became the third -tring quarterback for the St. Louis Rams for the 1998 season. In 1999, after an injury to the Rams’ starting quarterback, he got his chance. Leading the Rams to a Super Bowl XXXIV victory, Kurt won both the league and Super Bowl MVP award that year.
Kurt Warner drops back to pass in Super Bowl XXXIV, a game his St. Louis Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans, 23-16.
Brenda was there through all of it, from AFL to NFL. She and Kurt met while Kurt was attending college in Cedar Falls, Iowa, at a country bar where she was taking line dancing classes. She worried he wouldn’t be able to handle the fact she was divorced with two kids.
When he showed up the morning after their first date and said he wanted to meet her kids, Brenda says, “I feel in love with him before he fell in love with me.”
When Kurt led the Rams to their 1999 Super Bowl victory, not only was Brenda there - she became part of the story.
Brenda was vocally defensive of her husband when he had a bad game, even calling into radio stations to criticize the Rams coaching staff. That zeal and her on-camera postgame kisses for the star quarterback had some fans calling her the Yoko Ono of football.
Throughout his 12-year NFL career, Kurt was known for both his skill and overt faith. “Well, first things first,” Warner told a reporter after his first Super Bowl victory. “I've got to thank my Lord and Savior up above — thank you, Jesus!”
The interview provided a name for Kurt’s foundation, First Things First, which is “dedicated to impacting lives by promoting Christian values, sharing experiences and providing opportunities.” The group raises money, taking advantage of Kurt’s NFL connections, and organizes events for ill and developmentally disabled children.
Today, Kurt spends much of his time on such work. It’s why he’s talking building schematics instead of defensive schemes.
“My retirement isn’t quite like what people think about with retirement,” Warner says. “I am very busy and have a lot of things that I am active in. It is not a complete 180 from being gone every day to being home every day.”
But talking about civil engineering in a drab hotel conference room is a long way from the National Football League. The common thread: Brenda and their religious faith.
Bonded by faith
Kurt says he had wanted Brenda to pursue her speaking career for years. But while he rose to superstardom, Brenda was a stay-at-home mom.
Now that Kurt is home more, he says, Brenda is free to pursue her dreams.
“What we have realized is there are seasons in all of our lives and dreams take sacrifices but they become family things,” Kurt says. “Dreams are family dreams.”
Brenda and Kurt now work closely together planning the couple's newest philanthropic venture – Treasure House.
Armed with her story and the star power that comes with her last name, Brenda has carved her own path on the Christian speaking circuit. Asked about the Warners at the Verizon Center’s Women of Faith event, only a few of the attendees know about her famous husband.
The tour is marketed to evangelical women to “celebrate what matters,” and also features appearances by female evangelical authors and media personalities. The tour is like a conference, with sessions on different challenges women face.
Kurt and Brenda see their changing professional seasons as part of God’s plan for them. “I don’t think that is the way that I would have written it, but I see that God has worked it out for good,” Brenda says. “I can see how he has been faithful. I can say now I am grateful.”
Telling her story has become second nature for Brenda. She has become expert in pitching God as the cure to heartache.
“He called me by name, he loves me and he won’t leave me,” Brenda repeats in her speech. “God was true to his word that he wouldn’t leave me.”
And neither, it seems, will Kurt.
A: all your earlier problems could have come from satan because you deserved it
B: all the wonderful things that happened because you're special and God wanted you to know it
or C: none of the above. It is just life and you are just like everyone else
Figure it out in private, please!
Christians basically can't when their whole existence relies on Jesus in nearly everything.
aawwww... what a sweet story about becoming a christian cult member. switch brains to off!
Rich zealots raping profit from low IQ people.
That may be the end result, but how we get there is pretty complicated human psychology.
Hey fellow atheists (hetero/glbt), remember to not stick it into crazy or let crazy stick it into you.
This is all about human psychology. In Maslow's hierarchy of human needs, freedom from fear and a sense of belonging are just behind food, water, and shelter in importance. So escaping the fear of our finite existence and the random cruelty of our world is a pretty basic human need. Belonging to a group for security, stability, and social needs is deeply rooted in us as well. Religion does a spectacular job of providing the illusion of meeting both of these needs. For some, the higher level needs of mastery, recognition, and respect come from their religious friends, peers, and family. You can see why religion is such a powerful (if entirely illogical) force in human existence. However, when people begin to self-actualize, things change. They gain self-reliance, and a belief in their own abilities. Then the chains of religion can be revealed and understood. When viewed this way, it makes sense why people will shell out well over $30 million dollars during these "Woman of Faith" events. They're buying fulfillment of their basic needs. It's as simple as that.
To me, the need to take dump has the highest priority. But then again Maslow didn't have irritable bowel disease.
Uh, oh...somebody hasn't fully understood the hierarchy of motivation before expounding on the comment section of CNN
John M, perhaps you'd like to enlighten us with your insight. My basic premise is sound. People have needs. Those needs include a need for belonging and a need for safety/security/freedom from fear. Religion helps to fulfill those needs. People who have met these needs are able to get beyond the irrationality of relying on religion to fill these same needs (my hypothesis).
Let this be a lesson to all of us non-believers. God will beat us into submission, if we don't submit willingly.
Interesting to see one pyramid scheme (Amway) supporting and promoting another scheme/scam (Christianity). Only a frothing at the mouth imbicile Talibangelical would fall for any of this.
Other businesses play the Xtian card as well. Chik Fil A for example. Lines of haters wrapped around a building, to intimidate, bully, a minority... with their version of "morality". Punishing couples and their children, was such a wonderful Xtian show of love and support.
According to the Bible, it was the religious believers of the time, ( in God and the ten commandments no less) that requested and got Christ crucified.
The thought of something having to be brutally tortured, to appease some god, is sooo repulsive. Hard to believe anyone would worship such a story.
"Christian famous" is to famous as "engineering school hot" is to hot.
If you were an engineer, you'd have a quiet smug smile, on your face reading that.
If you were in business school you would be moving your lips as you read this, so what?
innocent baby dropped on head and rendered a vegetable;
happy parents killed by a tornado..............
lucky thing that god and baby jesus are so loving, or things might have been really bad!
This is great and inspirational story. I almost hate to mention politics, but here goes. Obama says we are all in this together, mitt says everyone for themselves. Obama is accused as being the food stamp president, but where would her story have gone were it not for food stamps when she needed them.
I am a Republican. I support Food Stamps......I just do not support Food Stamps being a way of life for an individual. It is sad the way things get distorted when it comes to politics. I am not religious like Mr. & Mrs. Warner, but we are all different, and I accept that their spiritual life is important to them. I thought Democrats supported diversity in people. Evidently not.
Will she be voting against food stamps?
Probably. Twenty bucks says she's a republican now who happily votes for candidates that pledge to cut the very programs she used to survive.
The god delusion is hard to explain. Almost an entire species obsessed with an invented superior being.
The weird part is, from an evolutionary perspective, belief in god has been superior. Their systems dominate over atheist individuals.
September 9, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
@Bostontola, are you trying to pass that as some sort of rational logic? Atheism don't spread like religions because we don't have books, preachers, Cardinals, Bishops, Deacons, Popes, Imams, Clerics, and the like exhorting us to push our beliefs on everyone else. This is more about psychology than logic anyway.
Not logic, facts.
Actually it is easy to understand. We as humans work best as a collective, helping each other. But by nature we are selfish, I mean, why should I share with you and not keep it all for myself? Religion gives people a reason to help each other and share, it overrides our basic instinct. Which makes it so strange that the party who claims the most faith is the one who wants to cut everything that helps people, and the party who preaches that we are all in this together are called communists who don't believe in god.
Belief in WHICH God has been superior? And how do you define "superior"? If it's just pure numbers, that's an amusing approach. At one time, most people used to think the world was flat, disease was caused by demons, and human sacrifice seemed like a sensible thing to do.
1 "Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven.
Great quote – very true.
Ahh yes: I like your Christ, I do not like your Christian, they are so unlike your Christ..... Another great quote NOT from the bible.
Amanda, a quick quiz for you:
A few questions should help shed light on the relationship between religion and rational thought.
The completely absurd theory that all 7,000,000,000 human beings are simultaneously being supervised 24 hours a day, every day of their lives by an immortal, invisible being for the purposes of reward or punishment in the “afterlife” comes from the field of:
(a) Children’s fairytales;
(b) Medieval mythology;
(c) New age pseudo science; or
I honestly believe that, when I think silent thoughts like, “please god, help me pass my exam tomorrow,” some invisible being is reading my mind and will intervene and alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to help me. I am
(a) a delusional schizophrenic;
(b) a naïve child, too young to know that that is silly
(c) an ignorant farmer from Sudan who never had the benefit of even a fifth grade education; or
(d) your average Christian
Millions and millions of Catholics believe that bread and wine turns into the actual flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because:
(a) there are obvious visible changes in the condiments after the Catholic priest does his hocus pocus;
(b) tests have confirmed a divine presence in the bread and wine;
(c) now and then their god shows up and confirms this story; or
(d) their religious convictions tell them to blindly accept this completely fvcking absurd nonsense.
I believe that an all powerful being, capable of creating the entire cosmos watches me have $ex to make sure I don't do anything "naughty". I am
(a) A victim of child molestation
(b) A r.ape victim trying to recover
(c) A mental patient with paranoid delusions
(d) A Christian
You are about 70% likely to believe the entire Universe began less than 10,000 years ago with only one man, one woman and a talking snake if you are a:
(c) NASA astronomer; or
I have convinced myself that gay $ex is a choice and not genetic, but then have no explanation as to why only gay people have ho.mo$exual urges. I am
(a) A failed psychologist
(b) A fraudulent geneticist
(c) A sociologist who never went to college; or
(d) A Christian with the remarkable ability to ignore inconvenient facts.
The only discipline known to often cause people to kill others they have never met and/or to commit suicide in its furtherance is:
(c) Archeology; or
What is it that most differentiates science and all other intellectual disciplines from religion:
(a) Religion tells people not only what they should believe, but what they must believe under threat of divine retribution, whereas science, economics, medicine etc. has no “sacred cows” in terms of doctrine and go where the evidence leads them;
(b) Religion can make a statement, such as “there is one god comprised of God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit”, and be totally immune from experimentation and challenge, whereas science can only make factual assertions when supported by considerable evidence;
(c) Science and the scientific method is universal and consistent all over the World whereas religion is regional and a person’s religious conviction, no matter how deeply held, is clearly nothing more than an accident of birth; or
(d) All of the above.
If I am found wandering the streets flagellating myself, wading into a filth river, mutilating my child’s genitals or kneeling down in a church believing that a being is somehow reading my inner thoughts and prayers, I am likely driven by:
(a) a deep psychiatric issue;
(b) an irrational fear or phobia;
(c) a severe mental degeneration caused by years of drug abuse; or
(d) my religious belief.
Who am I? I don’t pay any taxes. I never have. Any money my organization earns is tax free and my own salary is also tax free, at the federal, state and local level. Despite contributing nothing to society, but still enjoying all its benefits, I feel I have the right to tell others what to do. I am
(a) A sleazy Wall Street banker
(b) A mafia boss
(c) A drug pusher; or
(d) A Catholic Priest, Protestant Minister or Jewish Rabbi.
What do the following authors all have in common – Jean Paul Sartre, Voltaire, Denis Diderot, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, René Descartes, Francis Bacon, John Milton, John Locke, and Blaise Pascal:
(a) They are among the most gifted writers the World has known;
(b) They concentrated on opposing dogma and opening the human mind and spirit to the wonders of free thought and intellectual freedom;
(c) They were intimidated by the Catholic Church and put on the Church’s list of prohibited authors; or
The AIDS epidemic will kill tens of millions in poor African and South American countries before we defeat it. Condoms are an effective way to curtail its spread. As the Pope still has significant influence over the less educated masses in these parts of the World, he has exercised this power by:
(a) Using some of the Vatican’s incomprehensible wealth to educate these vulnerable people on health family planning and condom use;
(b) Supporting government programs that distribute condoms to high risk groups;
(c) Using its myriad of churches in these regions to distribute condoms; or
(d) Scaring people into NOT using condoms, based upon his disdainful and aloof view that it is better that a person die than go against the Vatican’s position on contraceptive use.
Too long – nobody will bother reading it
Not to mention that long posts are the signs of an unaware narcissist that is seriously in need of a real human to converse with.
Sooo, ya read it, hey TC. I thought you said nobody would.
Not much of that is in the Creeds, so Colin hasn't really gotten at what Christians believe it means to be Christian. Their foibles are amusing, but what about the object of their faith? Don't neglect that.
TC....you need to take a christian anger management class. You certainly are a good example of how nasty and hypocritcal a christian can be...
Excellent! Of course, cognitive dissonance will prevent any Christian from changing their opinion.
Thanks you for a well written and well thought out posting. I note that most find it too long. They are of the ilk who would lazily just throw out a "god" instead of thinking.......
In response to your age of the universe, since I'm sure you are an educated person of science and reasoning, listen to this:
@nate: That's an hour long and I don't have time to waste. Provide the high points, please. What are the claims made.
hinduism, fabrication is the way of follower's of hindu Mithra sim, pagan savior ism, labeled as Christianity, Way of hindu Jew's, filthy secular s to justify their hinduism illegality by a reason, not truth absolute. Source of book of hindu Mithra sim, Chrisitianity To understand causes of hinduism, terrorism of hindu Jew's, criminal self centered and their hindu gentile, terrorist slaves Mithrac hindu's pagan savior ism labeled as Christians, please visit please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/ then click on word choice to open file.
Developed your own history and theology today have we? Ahhhh ithat's cute.
Developed your own history and theology today have we? Ahhhh ithat's cute. Next.
I am glad we have a military force of ready trained killers to foreign threats, but those who have trained, as a career choice, to mindlessly take orders and kill, kill, kill are not the ones I want to hear from about Christ or any other messenger of peace, tolerance and salvation.
I tip my hat to Brenda and Kurt for sharing their story. Life can be tough! I totally dig Brenda saying,"We are all in this together," and "We need each other." The second most important foundational command for those who excercize faith in Christ. And the second hardest command to obey. But when obeyed, the world becomes a much better place. Not giving up on God because life gets tough, is incredibly important, and strengthens our faith. Rain falls on all of us, whether we believe in God or not. But when this life is over, what awaits those who have chosen to at least try to be faithful in Christ, are going to experience a life that just can't be sucessfully put into human terms. To experience God's love face to face with our Creator will be nothing short of amazing!! For those who have no interest in Christ whatsoever, I challenge you to at least investigate God's Word (Jesus) fully and completely. After all, it is our very soul that is the prize for the spiritual battle that is taking place around us. What terrible cost is at stake for a non-believer to just give it a chance, and step out in faith?
shut up, troll
Humans do not rule our life, God does! Do you need to die to find out! Then it might be too late!!!! :(
You write about the "most important foundational command for those who excercize faith in Christ". Last time I checked, there were ten clearly delineated commandments...
1) Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
2) Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.
3) Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain
4) Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.
Let's see...four of the ten most highly held commandments are meant strictly to reinforce God and religion itself? This fact alone sent off warning bells when I was a child in Sunday School. Christianity requires little more than belief and a 2,000 year old book that you can buy at any store for a few dollars. Why is it necessary to build this $30 MILLION "Women of Faith" motivational speaking circuit. I'll give you a hint...It's not about God.
curious – there is no such thing as "gods word".
it is well established historically that the gospels were written nearly a hundred years after the death of the fabled jesus by people who had never met him.
Hey fellow atheists (hetero/glbt), don't stick it into crazy or let crazy stick it into you.
Wow, curious, do you really believe in that nonsense? When you die, that's it, that's the end. Enjoy your life in the present because there is no magical afterlife. How silly.
I keep hopping on here to post a nasty, hateful, typically christian comment and then I run really fast to another board so that I don't have to see what people say to me in response. Basically I'm a coward and I'm a bully. People forget that bullys are a toxic waste on society and I really need help for my problem!
Why do you hate America?
Like I wrote earlier Amanda – why would a non-believer come to a forum on an article that is religious becasue they are hateful.
I know, I am ashamed of myself for being such a weak, coward. My christian faith teaches me to make non-believers suffer and it's just something I'm used to doing. It builds me up and makes me feel superior.
Matthew 6:33 (in the picture background) refers to having god feed and clothe you, without you having to work for it, while you preach instead..
So naturally they accept AMWAY as a sponsor. . . .
what you got against Amway?
I noticed that, too.
Amway's always been way religious though:
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.