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.
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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.
Funny how people that think they have all the answers really know nothing at all...This story is about all of us as humans beings in this world we all try to survive on. Saying that God is their crutch or coping mechanism is a great observation. Just as she and her husband said when they called out to Jesus during those really hard times for help. Its a sad day for those who would like to tear down these folks. Why are you running from your issues that we all face in life? Your not facing up to the things that are within your core that only you know about... These guys have and yes they fully with 100% believe and trust in Jesus to save them from life's hard times as well as when they die and go on to eternal life.
I hope and pray for a change of heart for you all :)
We all have hard times and we all cope in different ways. They are "coping" in the public spotlight, not a problem except they are telling us that their "coping mechansim" is the correct and onlly one. Religion is one of many psycholigical coping mechanisms & if it works for some that's great, just don't impose it on the rest of us through our government.
God did not help them they helped themselves – and get a nice tax break.
Anybody want to find fault with any of the following?
ONE: 'You shall have no other gods before Me.'
TWO: 'You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.'
THREE: 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.'
FOUR: 'Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.'
FIVE: 'Honor your father and your mother.'
SIX: 'You shall not murder.'
SEVEN: 'You shall not commit adultery.'
EIGHT: 'You shall not steal.'
NINE: 'You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.'
TEN: 'You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.'
Where is the problem with not stealing,coveting, swearing. etc. ? Is it really such a bad plan?
Actually, Elliot, most of the founding fathers were Atheists (or at very least agnostics). That's why they wanted to keep religion out of government. It wasn't until the McCarthy witch hunts in the 1950's that religion was added to such things as the pledge of allegiance and money. Prior to that there wasn't any "under god" or "in god we trust"...Look it up.
McCarthy "witchhunts?" You should read more.
It doesn't matter , believe in what you want . Don't hurt others in the process.
I'm so sick of that bull. they were not atheists. You're just looking for any names that sound respectable to support your weird cause of converting the entire world to your illogical philosophy. c u l t weird.
You've just demonstrated yourself to be delusional.
The scariest thing is that your delusions are clearly intentional. You've intentionally programmed yourself to believe obvious lies, and, at the same time, to reject the clear, simple, and obvious truth.
This makes you a danger to yourself and others.
They went out of their way to mention the "Creator" in the first and second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. Read it yourself.
Stop hating God. It only makes your life, and you, worse.
msadr .. you can't "convert" someone to something they were born with. We're all born Atheists until someone indoctrinates you into their current local belief system. We're not converting anyone, we're just attempting to bring them back to reality.
@msadr, it's not that you're sick of it, it's that you're afraid of it being true.
Go, tell it on the mountains, over the hills and everywhere, go tell it on the mountain, that Jesus Christ is God
Spread the cheer around, spread the good news of the risen savior, redeemer of all mankind! :) :) :)
Jesus was just a nice Jewish boy with Liberal ideas. See where the help the poor and heal the sick got him? Kind of like now...
Ha? Jesus is God? is he one of three? How many God's do you have. There is only ONE God. hello?
@Rami Ha? Jesus is God? is he one of three? How many God's do you have.
=>Actually there are three in one. Three persons, one in some way we don't really understand.
May the Lord Jesus continue to bless your ministry as you seek to lift Him up through ministering to others. Trusting God in difficult times is something we all struggle with, but it is these things that He will use to strengthen our faith as we grow in our relationship with Him. I thank you both for you dedication and willingness to share your lives and your story with others across the world. People need hope and that hope is found in Christ. May God continue to bless you both abundantly as you continue to share Him with the rest of the world.
"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea and Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth." Acts 1:8
More crazies believing in unrpoven, mob-generated histories and rules. As a person of science, I believe the world is boiing over and will incinerate itself if I don't reuse bags at the grocer or if my car gets 28MPH instead of 32MPH. I also believe the human-shaped blob with the beating heart and reflexes in a woman's womb is not like any of the other humans we spend billions protecting. We should kill it if we want to. I also believe the planet is way overpopulated even though I see nothing but open space from the airplanes I fly in.
Christians are dumb.
No, Christians are stupid.
Hey, take the Bible out of the story and you are left with a story about living a good and generous life. How do you find fault with that or are you just hung up on God?
Learn to spell.
Sorry to take away from the story, but what's up with evangelical women and their heavy application of eyeliner? Looks so ungodly in my opinion. Looks plastic and fake.
Yep. Back when I was young (a long time ago LOL), evangelical women wore long dresses, long hair and NO makeup. They didn't play cards, go to movies or even watch TV. Funny how religions change to make themselves more popular. It seems to me that if it used to be wrong, it should ALWAYS be wrong...
God wears a lot of makeup.. But just when he goes to the bars.
The whole think is Fake. LOL
Christians are cunnies. You brainwashed turds.
Quite right, the vicar of christ on earth wears Prada and Benny Hinn, well you know.
Is anyone else alarmed by CNN's increasing coverage of all things religious? Whenever I hear of breaking news, I click on CNN.com to get the truth, but lately it's not there. It seems to be the last site to get breaking news these days, and the front page is muddy with stories about faith. There are actual news stories out there, so why are they promoting profiles of evangelicals? Did CNN simply give up? I'm really confused. I'm guessing they started to do a few stories here and there and got so many page reads that they decided to throw journalistic integrity out the window and cater to the believers. Well, I hope it's working for them, but I'm out. I go to CNN in search of news, not myth.
I think it's CNN's subtle way of giving Atheists an opportunity to have a voice without the stigma of having an actual DIS-belief blog.
For a better understanding of your concerns we invite you to read the articles 'CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times' and 'Influence of the Media' on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
And usually on Sunday.
Leave then. We won't miss you.
Laura, I will be respectful, but are you serious??? I think that what makes the news is based on the political preference per station, and the politicians all tell half truths. Then CNN repeats its news every 20 minutes. I usually tune into the english speaking news network in China, and the BBC to get a balanced news perspective. That is where I learned during the Clinton administration, that wasn't broadcast but very briefly here about Rawanda... instead we were . incessantly shown OJ's glove. Clinton did finally apologize to those who managed to survive in Rawanda for not even addressing it. Personally, I am tired of murderers and thieves being granted the headlines for their mindless and senseless brutality. Yes, I am a Christian, however, this is about challenges being met and overcome, as well as these wonderful living units that are being built and created by human commitment and love for mentally challenged adults. I applaud the news station for putting out an incredible story of human achievement and endurance, instead of one about yet another murderer, mindless politician jargon, or low life destroying someone's life.... Just my viewpoint Laura, as this is my journey to actually read true, uplifting news that actually shows what can be done in life to make a difference~~~just something to ponder~~~~thanks
I have never seen such a religious fluff piece on CNN. We all have a right to worship how we see fit, but this is a frightening warning sign if CNN needs to run this as a major story/headline. I really fear CNN is trending toward a pre-emptive strike, by covering their asses in case Romney wins. I have depended on CNN for as truthful of a reporting of the news as the media can get, with both the right & the left given their equal time. During the convention & beyond it's almost as if they are constantly pushing the job issue & "are you as well off" right-wing mantra on Obama, as though he's completely at fault for a broken political system. Media is supported by Fortune 500 $$$s, so they have to veer to the right to hedge their bets, as most top execs are probably quite conservative. But if there's no Middle Class left to buy their products, the ad $$$s will dry up eventually, and we'll all have lost, if CNN veers away from real news. I think it's sad & transparent of a move, but they have to survive. It just feels like at the reporting level they're being pushed more & more by the top execs to push Anti-Obama rhetoric & questions over & over. And if Obama wins, well they've just captured a few more right-wing, Christian converts to CNN.
Great article. This is not about religion or group psychosis, its about a personal belief, a personal faith, shared by many, in a God who knows me, loves me, wants the best for me and calls me by name.
You should try changing your phone number...
".. a personal belief, a personal faith, shared by many." That IS group psychosis.
I think it would be helpful if you indicated which of the many gods you are refering too in your posts when you mention god. Is it Ra, Zeus, Pang Gu, Brahma, Coatlique, Tu-Chai-Pai, Odin, Bumba, etc., please be specific as to which of them knows you and calls you by name. (Actually hard to belive any of them care enough)
Are so-called evangelicals and all those that call themselves ‘Christians’ followers of the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God, or do they follow after an image of a false god and a false Christ (Matthew 24:24: 2 Cor. 11:13-15: Gal. 4:8)?
For a better understanding of the history of religion and Christianity and its spread throughout the world, we invite you to read the articles ‘Can Christianity or Any Other Religion Save You?’, ‘The Mystery Babylon’, ‘False Apostles and False Christs’ and ‘CNN Belief Blog – Sign of the Times’ listed on our website http://www.aworlddeceived.ca
All of the other pages and articles listed on our website explain how and by whom this whole world has been deceived as confirmed in Revelation 12:9.
Revelation? Every one knows whoever wrote that mess was high as a kite. They must have crashed their camel into a field of burning poppies or worse to come up with that trash. My goodness.
But the natural man (like yourself) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither
can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:14,15).
For this reason our message remains the same: Ye must repent. We have provided the article ‘Repent’ our website for your perusal.
But the natural man (like yourself) receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man (1 Cor. 2:14,15).
For this reason our message remains the same: Ye must repent in order to be able to understand the Word of God, including the Book of Revelation. We have provided the article ‘Repent’ our website for your perusal.
mama ... it's always the same. These followers need to quote the bible and use circular logic because they have no reason or opinion on their own.
WOW, !!!! Boy does a news article about human accomplishment and overcoming severe adversities become a breeding ground for atheists!!!! Yes I know the subjects are Christians, as am I, but that truly is not the point of the news blog story. I have a wonderful story for you, a dear sweet friend of mine from High School, yes many decades ago...lol!!! is an atheist now. Do I or any of our Christian, Jewish, etc... classmates hate him or ridicule him for his belief system no, we embrace him respect him and love him... we may privately pray for him as that is our journey. Wouldn't life be boring if we were all alike. No one may ever agree with another's belief system... there is one thing that I just cannot understand, why in order to have the belief of an atheist must you belittle and ridicule your fellow neighbors who do not view their belief system as you do. Even in school growing up we were taught to respect one another, and to treat others as you want to be treated. This was taught in Kindergarten~~~~why are all this disrespect, even if you do not like this article, as there are many that I do not like, cannot we enjoy knowing that our neighbors are getting something out of this~~~it is not all about me or you, but us~~~
See what you said in your post? You love and respect your friend but privately you pray for him? I hope that my friends do not speak ill of me when my back is turned
This is not about the rich and famous using religion to make money. It's about the millions of idiots who are suckered into these religious scams by donating, buying their crap (including books, paying to attend conferences, etc.). I bet at least half of Brenda's following are dedicated followers o fthe crazy Duggar family that sells their religious crap including books, DVDs, paid appearnces, etc. The followers of the religious scams probably follow Honey Boo Boo as well. George Carlin got it right – stupid is forever.
Psychosis is a mental ability to justify everything to suit self ego and pride.. it is nothing but deep insecurity rooted in self hatred for god.. not wonder these people so much into promoting their own ideologies that can't be proven but sound very intellictual in nature but very dump in practical life... How sad these stupid, but sobering minds take down our country...!! Sad,, indeed pathetic..
Touring until November? Why stop then? What's so significant about November? Is she working until the election or Thanksgiving? I'm willing to bet money on the former. I hope she knows the "Christian ticket" is headlined by a man that would abolish those food stamps and that low-income housing she so heavily relied on. Heck, he doesn't even think her time served in the Marines is important. All I gathered from this story was that her life was in the crapper until she bagged an athlete. "I'm filthy rich, but that isn't enough so I'm going to tour the country telling poor women (until November) that all they need to do is pray (and put something in the offering basket for me) and God will send them a rich man too. Ugh.
Just one way of relieving the guilt of "having" while others do not. This is especially true of those who once had nothing, and this way they don't have to sacrifice much and get credit for it.
She's touring until November because she and Kurt probably made a deal...now that the NFL is underway and he works for one of the sport networks, he'll do daddy duty during the first half of the season and she do Mommy duty while Kurt is covering the NFL through the Super Bowl.
It is always interesting to me how atheists gravitate towards these kind of stories. They must be still looking for something.
And we've found it ... this is our best place to try and talk sense into those who need a little of it. Besides, this is as close as it comes to a DIS-belief blog.
It's because they are worth a laugh...
I gravitate to the faith blog on Sunday morning to see if I can find ONE article or comment from a believer that makes any sense what-so ever.Besides quoting scripture or using tired,old circular logic,the argument for god remains very weak indeed.I do this to re-enforce my belief, and incredulity,in the fact that religion IS a mass delusion.
There should be no Christian "celebrities".It should all be about the life,death and resserection of Jesus Christ.The only Church founded by the Apostles provides that.
Pride cometh before the fall
Wonderful story. Now, if the evangelicals would stop hating those that don't buy into their dogma, we'd ALL start to heal...
Religion is just an excuse to hate people who aren't as deluded as they are...
Very well put, exactly my position as well.
** meant as response to "the analyst" below **
Makin' zee money.
Too bad we Christians fall into the trap of supporting 'christian celebrities'. We've gone from Spurgeon to this stuff.
Most of the people in my profession that I know consider belief in religious fables and unseen actors as a form of shared psychosis. We're not going to tell you that because indoctrination from an early age usually means that these belief systems are part of the core constructs of the being, and most of the time, it can be considered a "good" psychosis because it is a coping mechanism for life's many disappointments and the eventual ego dissolution and death of the individual. But regardless of your belief system you should be on the lookout for predators that manipulate people with these illnesses for personal fortune.
Religion is a "good" psychosis? Coping mechanism??
Millions of dead people disagree.
Thanks for enlightening our minds. we now know many of our founding fathers were psychotic.
Very realistic point of view, well said!
These hate filled, self filled serving posts are wearing. I will not pretend I am brighter than others by using the nifty name "the analyst", after 5 years of college with a 3.9 average, I learned more as a mom, a friend and just plain life experience than college. I pray that people start acting as human beings than as self serving, self serving creatures of habit. Treat others with respect and it will be returned to you, treat others as you want to be treated and it has a chance of coming back to you. Your belief system may sadden me, but I do not want to ridicule you, as you are doing to others who do not share your belief system.... realistically this story is not about Christian faith to me, but about overcoming severe adversity and giving back to humanity... so that no matter what our belief system, and we should never publicly post such unkindness without concern for someone else's welfare before our own. What I take from this story is don't give up, but strive to make a difference in this world... by the way these housing units do not discriminate based on color of skin or belief system as it is just plain love... go figure~~~ peace~~~
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.