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.
Follow the CNN Belief Blog on Twitter
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.
So many liberals profess to be a tolerant people. They seem to feel that they have the upper-hand in the acceptance of other cultures, creeds, races, and religions. How sad when this hypocrisy shows its venom by spewing insults at Evangelical Christians. The Warners are doing a good thing. Read the tabloids. Money does not always direct one in a direction of good will. I applaud what the Warners are doing. Find some tolerance for those who choose to do good, even though you disagree with their beliefs.
so, religious people are all conservative, anti-science, gun-toting anti-human rights, anti-poor, anit-democratic, intolerant members of the Republican party? Aren't any liberals religious? What would JEsus do, vote for Romney?
They probably got into some financial trouble and needed a tax dodge to stay afloat.
You've done so many twists and turns with my words, you've done your own little dance around logic.
You're the one who based your argument with a political diatribe against liberals
Hate Liberals, huh? LIfe is way more complex (and richer) than those who have barricaded themselves in their narrrow belief systems can fathom.
"Read the Tabloids." Burghlady – advice I will remember and cherish.
Another blond bimbette for the evangelical right. I thought the bibile said to be barefoot, pregnant, in the kitchen and subservient? When it comes to GOP women, I hearilty agree with the bible.
Spoken like a true mean spirited New Yawker. Get a life. The bible also says to caste out demons-you!
who loves her husband cares about her family and is giving back,,,,gee what an awful person- how sad for you you miss the point
And how many government funded programs did they avail themselves of?
Wow, for a nut evangelist, I would totally do her. Is that wrong?
No one is judging you. Who among us can resist someone who is with the holy spirit. (and is totally hot).
Just like the story of Job except instead of ending up with a lot of livestock she ended up marrying a quarterback with a multi-million dollar quarterback. Lesson: you will get rich if you are devout. Unfortunately, in real life, it's only the religious leader who gets rich.
It's a pyramid scheme.
Religion and the belief in any god(s) is a filthy perverted disease of the mind
So, why don't you and your people continue building space ships and go live on another planet where you can all be happy?
We are waiting for the rapture so we can have this planet back.
@ saggyroy thinggy....want your planet back? Lol!? Repent now while you have time- this isn't about a rapture....its about your soul. Thse comments you make will be repeated in you mind for all eternity is you don't turn around today. Don't regret being who you are....
Every religion has to have a hook. For christianity it's fear and the promise of an afterlife..... kinda like those late night infomercials.
@RatherTakeChance2BSaved I like you. You make me laugh. I picture you on a street corner in a hairshirt screaming that the end is near.
Tooth Fairy, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Jesus – same same.
Gods come and gods go.
@ Saggroy or whaterever....Yeah Gods come and gods go...but the only true Most High will come again and you will regret it. Repent now and seek eternal life in Yeshua
All the defunct gods were also the true gods.
So I wonder what god will come after Yeshua the god of war.
Just another God possibility according to Erik VonDaniken.
How many games did Kurt play without a helmet?
A pretty woman with some religious delusions, made that way by millions of years of evolution. I wonder if she goes around denying that EVOLUTION IS FACT, is the foundation of ALL modern biology, as many of these "Evangelicals" (of Talibangelicals is they support the GOP) do. I seriously wonder how she could ever become a registered nurse if she is one of those nuts. Either way, I wouldn't care for her caring for me, and bringing children into "faith" is basically child abuse, and the reason why our test scores are so low compared with other nations.
Is evolution fact? Colin Tudge, in The Time Before History, suggests evolution is best understood as a myth, with Ho.mo as hero. The advantage of telling human history in the manner of myth is that the human brain "is supremely adapted to grasp narratives. We love stories with a beginning, a middle, and an end. .... There is only one danger, and it really is dangerous, but it is easily avoided once we know what it is. The danger is to imagine that the well-told tale, the myth, which should at best be seen as a working model, is in fact the truth itself. Many scientists, in other contexts, have made this mistake: they have erected hypotheses just to get their investigations on the road, and then mistaken the hypotheses for the truth they were trying to discover. In short, I see no harm in presenting human evolution as myth, and human beings as heroes, because this is a colorful and memorable way to convey ideas; buy ... the myth is not intended as the final truth. It merely provides a mental framework on which, in time and with luck, the truth may be hung."
Colin Tudge can suggest whatever drivel he wants. That doesn't make it true. The empirical evidence for evolution is overwhelming...two MILLION academic papers in the English language alone in the last decade alone. Who knows how many more in other languages or in the 150 years of study in the field before. It isn't scientists looking for their biases to be true. It is just what the empirical evidence clearly and repeatedly shows.
2 biggest reasons why people will not accept God and His grace through His only Son Jesus, who died for every sin of every human being on this earth.
1) They love sin too much and don't want to give it up
2) They have been taught a wrong definition of love during their life time, so they're constantly rejecting love or its true definition of unconditional love through what God did by sending Jesus to die for us.
1 John 4 : 19 – No fear exists where his love is. Rather, perfect love gets rid of fear, because fear involves punishment. The person who lives in fear doesn't have perfect love.
Come as you are to Jesus and allow Him to do the work of change in your life. He loves you so much!!! No conditions at all...Just like this verse says, maybe you haven't experienced perfect love, so your scared to accept it when its being given to you. Maybe someone or something has driven that love from you and replaced it with fear and that's what your driven by fear now in this life. Stop – get off that train and go to Jesus now...
No thanks. I am happy and healthy without threat of eternal damnation for the pack of gum I stole is the 5th grade.
Your are not a friend to Zeus
Or they lack a beliefe in your baby jeeeesus and think he's nothing but a fraud or never existed. Those groups who do not believe in this god of yours are Jews, Atheists, Muslims and many more. All of them love sin too much to not believe in your god? Put down the kool-aide for a moment and grow a brain.
Hahah. How about we reject fanciful tales about cosmic zombies. A son sent from a bearded man in the sky to be tortured for the sins of a man who created a woman from his rib and she ate an apple. Come on dude. Its a ridiculous as roman myth, at least that is interesting and isnt drenched in self hating guilt. Reason shall set you free you brain washed sheep.
no – actually it is simply because they've not allowed religion to stunt their ability to reason. it's really quite simple to see through it. and you can see through it – back long before the characters of the old testament. people that are the subject of this article are perfect examples of the kinds of charlatans that have existed throughout history and were able to hoodwink the masses. religions, from their very beginnings in spoken fable actually have these two traits:
-lack of foundation (no credibility)
It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and let's them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religion, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago; and that other things, like god, we really don't know a damn thing about.
Atheists have strong minds, and don't run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, disserving society).
So instead of praying to make-believe people, get a good cup of tea and go on and sit down and collect your damn thoughts. My goodness.
I'm a christian and never heard of this woman. What the heck is "christian famous"? Well, whatever. I guess people can go spend their money on hearing emotional stories if it helps them. But I think I should point out that she is not like every other mom trying to raise a family. Instead of finding her own way in life, she married a filthy rich pro athlete who totally takes care of her and her way-too-many kids. She's a barbie.
Well I'm glad she has directed her energy to God. She has a volatile personality and dressed like an ex punk rocker for years.
She demands attention and if she doesn't get it. Watch out! She was very verbal when in St. Louis and everyone told her to butt out of her husband's career. She had many issues in her life and without Kurt she'd probably be dirt. Hope she can hold it together.
If you spent your life talking about the tooth fairy people would be thinking you as a nut bag. But you walk around talking about god and what? I see kids coming out of churches and just think wow... How is brainwashing kids not child abuse or at least discouraged in some way..
I'm an idiot, too. No girlfriend. One bedroom apartment. Nothing better to do on Sunday morning.
Might as well make a fool out of myself on the internet.
Yup. That's me.
Not sure how any of those things make you an idiot... If you're unhappy with your situation, do something about it.
Brian, atleast you are hoenst about yourself.you deserve credit for the honesty atleast. That's exactly what you haters do- use the perfect vice and outlet that CNN provides – these reesponse forums- so tat you don't blow your brains out from your torchered souls in denial of the existence of the Most High , since you worship the Most Low. Build your self esteem bdoing something proactively for someone else, and accept reality.
"..denial of the existence of the Most High , since you worship the Most Low." LOLOLHAHA .. tear .. HAHALOL .. stop it your cracking me up .. harharhalol
"since you worship the Most Low" not sure what that is... can you be a bit more specific? Also, can you tell me what a soul is and how do you justify merge 'reality' (the natural world) with the supernatural world that you advocate, and still call it reality?
Your handle also seems to imply that you're still of the Pascal's Wager mindset... so, tell me, how does it feel to be stuck in 17th century reasoning?
I hate watcing the talking heads or JJEESSUUSS freaks on sunday morning before football starts, so being an idiot on the net fills the time. If you decide to go out, one thing I have learned about religion, find a church with a school attatched it is so easy to pick up some weed there.
You didn't build that. The public sector union shadow bosses told me to say it.
Do you hate Labor Day? Did you take off on Labor Day? Do you hate the 5-day work week and holidays off? If you do, you may very well be in business for yourself or in SOME retail or finance or something. That's your choice. Many of the rest of us appreciate these and OTHER worker benefits that come on the backs of many a bloodied labor movement. Mostly a bunch of dummies have been brainwashed by union-hate because that's what the oligarchs and plutocrats have orchestrated. Oh, you think it’s that’s the way it should be. It makes them more money. Have you noticed the stagnant wages while they make a ton of money? If not, you're not paying attention and probably watching Fox for information. Are you one of those very rich folks or just one of the dummies? Which is it?
Just in case you missed this p. 1:
Based on the following, you might want to reconsider:
Putting the kibosh/”google” on religion :
• There was probably no Abraham i.e. the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are non-existent.
• There was probably no Moses i.e the pillars of Judaism, Christianity and Islam have no strength of purpose.
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.
• There was no Gabriel i.e. Islam fails as a religion. Christianity partially fails.
• There was no Easter i.e. Christianity completely fails as a religion.
• There was no Moroni i.e. Mormonism is nothing more than a business cult.
• Sacred/revered cows, monkey gods, castes, reincarnations and therefore Hinduism fails as a religion.
• Fat Buddhas here, skinny Buddhas there, reincarnated Buddhas everywhere makes for a no on Buddhism.
Added details available upon written request.
And in case you haven't notice, I am a complete idiot.
That's why I waste my time posting hatred on CNN Sunday morning.
Just in case you missed this p. 5:
You asked for added details:
origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times review and important enough to reiterate.
New Torah For Modern Minds
“Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.
Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.
The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."
Adverb: Almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell.
Prayer doesn't do anything. I've just been kidding this whole time.
Then we're both idiots.
Welcome to the club.
I'd like to see them do it.
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.