Dobson: Obama is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter”

Ken AshfordElection 2008, Godstuff2 Comments

I’m going to assume this is a craven attempt for publicity, because on logical and argumentative grounds, Dobson isn’t saying much.  From the AP:

As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement’s biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

The criticism, to be aired Tuesday on Dobson’s Focus on the Family radio program, comes shortly after an Obama aide suggested a meeting at the organization’s headquarters here, said Tom Minnery, senior vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family.

The conservative Christian group provided The Associated Press with an advance copy of the pre-taped radio segment, which runs 18 minutes and highlights excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal. Obama mentions Dobson in the speech.

"Even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?" Obama said. "Would we go with James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s?" referring to the civil rights leader.

Call to Renewal is also known as the Sojourners.  You can read the full text of Obama’s 2006 address here.

Dobson took aim at examples Obama cited in asking which Biblical passages should guide public policy — chapters like Leviticus, which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination, or 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.

Dobson and Minnery accused Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that no longer apply to Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament.

And that’s where the fundamentalists lose me.

"No longer apply"?!?

Wait, wait, wait.  I thought the Bible was the Word of God.  Now you’re telling me that the Word of God no longer applies, Mr. Dobson?

Oh, I see.  Only some parts of it no longer apply.  Well, okay.  Which parts?  Who decides that?  Hmmmmm?

"I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said.

"… He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

Sez you.

Obama’s point, and it was crystal clear, was that everyone has their own worldview — Dobson has one, Sharpton has another — and it would be wrong for the government — the law — to promote or endorse one worldview to the exclusion of others.

Why is this concept so difficult for Dobson to understand?  It’s at the core of American freedom.

But Dobson wasn’t done….

Dobson reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama’s argument that the religiously motivated must frame debates over issues like abortion not just in their own religion’s terms but in arguments accessible to all people.

He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the "lowest common denominator of morality," labeling it "a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

"Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?" Dobson said. "What he’s trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe."

No, he’s NOT saying that.  Here is what Obama actually said:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice.

In other words, Dobson, Obama believes that you DO have the right to fight for what you believe.  But your argument (particularly with abortion) has got to be more than "because God says so".  And that’s because people intuitively understand you as saying "because MY God says so".  And YOUR God doesn’t rule in a pluralistic society.

So fight on, Dr. Dobson.  You have the right to do so.  I believe that, so does Obama.  But you can’t WIN the fight by appeals to your interpretation of the scripture.