Tuesday, June 24, 2008

James Dobson Continues Into Irrelevance

Now I know that many people still look to him for political input, but there can be no doubt that his power has seen it's height. And it's in no small part because of displays like this about Barrack Obama. I really love this quote from Dobson,

"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said.
Wow, Obama must have said something shocking, right? Well, maybe not.
In his program, Dobson focused on examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy. For instance, Obama said Leviticus suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination. Obama also cited Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, "a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application."

"Folks haven't been reading their Bibles," Obama said in the speech.
Hmmm...I'm not seeing where Obama is "distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible." I think what Dobson really meant to say was something like, "I don't agree with the points Barrack Obama is making, but beings that he is clearly using scripture, I can't accuse him of lying. So I'll have to argue that he is just twisting the text." For a "Biblical scholar" (Yes, I almost typed that without laughing) Dobson clearly seems to have a terribly small view of interpretation.

And the end result? More of this:
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, a Methodist pastor from Texas and longtime supporter of President Bush who has endorsed Obama, said Tuesday he belongs to a group of religious leaders who, working independently of Obama's campaign, launched a Web site to counter Dobson at http://www.jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com. The site highlights statements from Obama and Dobson and asks visitors to compare them.
What Dobson seems unable to comprehend at this point is that there is a growing body of religious moderates who look at Obama and McCain and see little reason to vote with the Right this cycle. Is Obama a flaming liberal? Yes, most certainly. And I would have a hard time supporting him because of the extreme views he has on some issues and his lack of experience. But as a Christian, it's not hard to imagine Obama being a much better option than McCain. If Dobson and company don't realize that this shift has happened by now, then they are surely only digging their own graves with their shortsightedness.


Nomad said...

Ward, With all due respect, I think you are being uncharitable to Dobson. The comments that Obama made were specifically designed to tweak evangelicals and his specific argument was that the Bible should not be taken a authoritative in forming political opinions. Obama was setting up a straw man argument to draw out evangelicals like Dobson, and now is acting surprised and outraged that they rose to the bait. It now allows Obama to say to moderates "See, I'm not the extremist in this space, they are. I am the moderate."

This was a carefully-calculated and planned move for Obama. Go ahead and disagree with Dobson - and I agree his influence is waning - but don't imply that he is somehow the aggressor here. You don't blame a shark for attacking if you have been chumming the waters.

This is said by someone who is NOT a supporter of McCain.

"Nick" said...

I agree and disagree. I think Dobson's point overall may be correct, but he horribly mangled it when he tried to make the point.

Obama seems to be saying what Nomad said, that the Bible has some extreme things in it and we shouldn't follow what it says unless it agrees with the principles held by other religions or non-religions (which I think I heard him say in the speech Dobson was commenting on).

Dobson's point is well taken... don't tell me I can't hold to and argue for a morality that is higher than that of the "common denominator". Implied (I hope, and with Dobson I don't know...) is that you and I can hold views that disagree, but we shouldn't exclude views just because of conviction. It's what Os Guinness has been arguing for in his book "The Case for Civility".

Obama does have a typical liberal (in the theological sense of the word) view of the Bible from what I've read. I can see someone calling him on that.

But I agree that Dobson mangled his point, said a bunch of things that were off base and irrelevant, and I think missed the point of, as you say, Obama's appeal to Christians.

And again, I am NOT a McCain supporter, and find myself in the same position you do (and I think the majority of Mod-Blog posters do). I like Obama and think he is a good thing for Christianity right now, but I don't like his policies.

Sean said...

Nomad I think you're reading into Obama's comments. The speech was given in June of 2006 - a full 8 months before he officially declared his run for president. Personally I think that he was speaking to both his views and the views of the group he was speaking to. I think his point was more that in setting public policy there are portions of the bible that are not applicable - hence the shellfish comment - and there are portions of the bible that we're not living up to and should - hence the comment on the sermon on the mount.

dobson has given the typical right wing knee jerk response to anyone saying that a) there are parts of the bible that are not applicable and b) that we're not living up to its standards. evangelicals want to believe that they're living up to par (or close to it) when it comes to the bible and there's this odd belief that if you say that part of the bible is irrelevant then you're not a true believer or worse a heretic. dobson's response is his typical M.O.- strong emotion reaction that slanders those who he disagrees with. his point was not that obama is a liberal as much as that obama isn't 'one of us' and thus not worth voting for. it's evangelical isolationism which is exactly why we're in the position we are right now. yes, obama's comments were strong and they do evoke reaction, but a) i don't think he was intending (in June of 2006) to offend evangelicals to cause a reaction and b) show himself to be a moderate in a general election for president.

And finally, the bible has always been a guide (as opposed to the rule) for public policy. When gentiles were allowed into the church, some requirements given in the Law were stripped away because they were no longer necessary (circumcision being primary). Should we, in a pluralist government/society, expect any less?

CRCHAIR said...

One of my main problems with Dobson even addressing this is that he does not have an alternative to vote for. He has said he will not vote for McCain. So now he is saying "Don't vote for Obama, but don't vote for McCain either."

Dobson should have ignored the comments (Even if they did mention him by name.) and just move on with his life. It would be different if Obama had mentioned him in a debate, but a speech, as Sean said, is to a specific audience and should be judged as such.

Ward said...


Sean said a lot of what I thought when reading your comment. So I'll let that stand with a "Me too." But I want to also point out that I think you're portraying Obama in far too shallow a manner. Frankly, what he said is 100% right as far as I'm concerned.

People like Dobson have made their arguments suggesting that their interpretation of the Bible is the only way that it can be accepted in public policy. But what Obama said is factually correct. The Hebrew Testament does give license to slavery, it limits food which is common-place in American life, and our American foreign policy would absolutely not make it past the Sermon on the Mount by any stretch. If they were as closely to the Bible as Dobson and his followers claim that they do, they would be very different people.

Nomad said...

Interesting perspective from the Left: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/dr-dobson-has-just-handed_b_108989.html

Nomad said...


I haven't listened to the speech, so I could be misreading the situation on the original intent. But still, you can't tell me Obama did not intend to provoke a reaction when he mentioned Rev. Sharpton and Dr. Dobson in the same sentence. He didn't care if it was Sharpton who attacked him or Dobson who attacked him, but either one allows him to portray himself as the moderate. And that is EXACTLY what he has to do to win.

Don't underestimate Senator Obama's political acumen. Maybe I shortchanged the depth of his philosophy, but be careful you don't shortchange the depth of his strategy. You don't beat the Clintons by playing a shallow game.

As to the rest, I'll leave it to others to argue if Obama was "distorting" scripture, "interpreting" scripture, or merely "referencing" scripture. There are lots of theories for how your religious views should inform your political actions, even here on this very blog among people with very similar backgrounds and bedrock philosophies. So it should not surprise us that a man who was born overseas and raised in circumstances radically different from our own sees it differently from us.

Nomad said...

Duh, he couldn't be running for president if he were "born overseas". Sorry, you all know what I meant.

BowHunter said...

I disagree with the premise of Nomad's argument... I do not believe that Obama in 2006 was looking for a fight with the christian right or the christian left. He was making populist statements and was trying to show how "refreshing" it could be if a politician was level headed in his thinking about religion. He has since taken more party line stances and become less inclusive, but he was trying to get people to join him, not piss them off.

Look at his statement today after the supreme court decided to make another over reaching ruling.

BowHunter said...

“I disagree with the decision; I have said repeatedly that I think the death penalty should be applied in very narrow circumstance for the most egregious of crimes.” Obama told forty or so reporters. “I think that the rape of a small child, six or eight years old, is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision under narrow limited well defined circumstance the death penalty is at least potentially applicable - Obama

BowHunter said...

That is a position that is something that I would have wanted "my guy" to say on the subject... and it is not a very popular position among democrats. I would say that this is a throwback to the populist Obama who is tying to be reasonable and all inclusive. Nomad, you have to remember that I subscribed to Obama's podcasts in early 06. I listened to that speech at the time it was made... and I believe that it was not meant to draw an attack. It was meant to show how reasonable and what a breath of fresh air Obama could be.

shadwomom1 said...

The problem with the death penalty for crimes that do not involve murder is that the criminal has no reason to NOT kill the victim. The penalty is potentially the same. The theory is that if the death penalty is not available short of killing, the perpetrator is more likely to allow the victim to live. This makes sense to me, at least in the cases where the criminal still has some rational thought.

"Nick" said...

If the guy had rational thought that wasn't overpowered by baser instincts he wouldn't be raping a young girl...

I don't know what I think on the ruling, not having read it. But I do think the court overreached it's power (again).

Nomad said...

You know, it is kind of fun being told you are wrong by almost every person I know. ;)

You know the old saying, "I thought I was wrong once. But I was mistaken."

CRCHAIR said...

I agree with Shadowmom1. THe reason we don't allow the death penalty except in case of murder is to discourage people from killing their victim.