As far as being a Christian is concerned I'm probably under par for the course. I was baptized catholic as an infant in my fathers church, and raised as a pentecostal by my mother. As such I've seen both sides of two very different types of Christianity and I think the skew of my perception is to say the least unique.
This Obama - Dobson exchange has led to a fair amount of head scratching on my part, trying to figure out who's right and who's wrong. In order to better understand the issue I've listened to Dr. Dobson's statement on National Public Radio, and reviewed Mr. Obamas' speech in it's entirety. I'm not a political analyst but I know a thing or two about theology and interpretation.
What immediately struck me was the timing. Obama's 'Call To Renewal' speech took place almost two years ago. Why is Dobson responding to it now? Dobson claimed on NPR that he was unaware of the speech until recently. I suspect, that he's lashing out at Obama because he's unhappy with McCain being the Republican Nominee.
Dobson's comments strike me as harsh and defensive as if he's responding to a personal attack from Obama while he's only mentioned passingly in the speech and not in a negative fashion. Obama's comment on Dobson;
"Would we go with James Dobson's [interpretation] or Al Sharpton's?" (In reference to the Bible)
This isn't a slight or an insult to Dobson, but simply a reference to the fact that Christianity is a multi-faceted religion. I'd be willing to wager that their are more denominations of Christianity than any other religion in the world. Dobson responds with;
"Why is he picking on me...I am not a reverend, I am not a minister, I am not a theologian, I am not an evangelist, I am a psychologist... their is no equivalence to us."
Obama never said he was.You don't have to be a reverend, a minister, or a theologian to have an interpretation of the bible. Dobson's views on theology and biblical interpretation are easily extracted from the statements in his books, and his monthly publication 'Focus On The Family'.
Obama is comparing Dobson's interpretation of scripture to Al Sharpton's interpretation of scripture, he's not saying that either is wrong, or that one is superior just that they differ which is true. Dobson is so defensive that he clarifies a fact that was never in question.
The more I listened to Dobson's radio broadcast the more cutting and confusing his remarks became to me as if he were spit-balling his responses. One of the statements he tackled was Senator Obama's remark;
"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"
What I took from it was that religiously driven legislature isn't right for everyone in America because not everyone is religiously the same, in fact some people aren't religious at all. Say a Catholic politician tries to push a law that says it's illegal to eat meat on Good Friday and Ash Wednesday, that legislation isn't sound because everyone in America isn't Catholic.
Dobson went another direction entirely.
" What the senator is saying there in essence is that I can't seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial birth abortion 'cause there are people in the culture who don't see that as a moral issue and if I can't get everyone to agree with me it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the scripture."
Why would you want to pass legislation that you find offensive to the scripture? I think I know what Dobson was trying to say but his wording is incorrect. Obama isn't saying that you shouldn't oppose legislation based on your religious belief as Dobson tries to imply. The Senator is saying that religious morality needs to be altered to be palatable and fair to those who do not share it when it is the basis of a law.
Dobsons' closing statement proves his ignorance.
" To my knowledge, none of the political candidates, speaking also of Hillary Clinton, has said a word about the importance of preserving the family. Not a word. It has no significance at all, they talk about insignificant things so much of the time, and yet it's as though the family does not matter. I've used a phrase in the past and I will use it again. They don't give a hoot about the family. "
Dobson's knowledge is lacking.
"Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation… But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing – missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it"
This is an excerpt from a speech Barack Obama delivered on Father's Day.
If James Dobson is trying to lite a fire under the religious right, the least he could do is make sure his kindling is stacked straight.