james dobson critcizes barack obama

I found myself with some uncharitable thoughts about James Dobson while reading about his criticism of Barack Obama yesterday. I don’t care if Dobson thinks Obama would make a poor president- that’s his prerogative. What drives me nuts is when people like Dr Dobson distort sound bites for, what appears to be, purely political purposes. I expect this sort of thing from political pundits and party spokespeople, but not our Christian leaders.

Thankfully Scott McKnight, a much more articulate blogger than yours truly, has a very thoughtful and charitable response on his blog this morning.

Here’s my take: Dobson and his companion commentator routinely distorted what Obama was saying by rephrasing and capturing what he said in their own context and for their own agendas. For instance, Obama hypothesized (Dobson didn’t get this) what would happen if we moved all nonChristians out of our society. Even then, he was suggesting, we’d have diversity. Then, Obama asked, if we lived out the Bible which parts would we choose? Would it be Leviticus or Deuteronomy — and he brings up shell fish and stoning one’s son — or would it be the Sermon on the Mount, which Obama stated would be difficult for the Defense Dept to apply. Dobson and his guest got into how the OT laws aren’t for today.

I hope you’ll read Scott’s entire post. Anyone hear Dobson’s broadcast yesterday? Any thoughts?

Update: Brian asked for the transcript of the original speech that received Dobson’s criticism. Here it is:


21 thoughts on “james dobson critcizes barack obama

  1. I did not wish to hear the broadcast of James Dobson … I am already aware he is a bigot and an intolerant, despotic tyrant.

    On the other hand, my subconscious transmitts a subliminal message of hypoccisy when I see pictures of him. Does anyone else see the resemblance to foot tapping Larry Craig?

  2. Do you have a link to the full transcript of Obama’s comments? Thatwould be helpful in making decisions about what Dobson said. On the face of it, it does seem that Dobson is taking unseemly political potshots. Onthe other hand,in sound-bite form it is difficult to determine what Obama was actually trying to say. For instance – what was the upshot of his comments on The Sermon on the Mount and the inability of the Defense Department to apply it. Was this simply an observation, or was a a certain value judgment made about either the Sermon on the Mount or the Defense Department? Knowing this would be helpful in figuring out what to think about this latest bit of political sparring.

  3. I haven’t been a Dobson fan for a long time and these recent comments only confirmed my feelings. What on earth was he trying to accomplish by saying those things? I also hate that he said during the primaries that he would rather not vote at all than vote for McCain. That’s a great message, Jimmy, just great.

  4. I truly cannot imagine a more polarizing figure than James Dobson. It feels like in recent years he has done much to cause divisiveness both within Christianity and between Christians and secular Americans. I’m sad that he isn’t using his influence to further God’s kingdom instead of throwing around ill-founded political views. Ah, a reminder for us all about where we spend our energy.

  5. Well, I haven’t heard what Dobson did in any detail, so I cannot comment on that.

    But I did read the speech. And while I’m not 100% on board with it all, it seems much more even-handed than I could imagine ANY sensible Christian getting up in arms about. I mean, this is mild stuff… And it’s obviously trying to cater to a Christian audience. So where’s the harm?

    I mean, yeah, he’s a politician. And I don’t really trust the lot of them, be them blue state guys or red state guys (or girls, for that matter). So every speech must be taken with a grain of salt (or perhaps a couple shakers-worth). But the point is that Obama didn’t need to talk about religion at all. In fact, what he talks about, while sensible, is entirely controversial to many within his own party!

    Whatever Dobson said, if it was truly criticizing this speech specifically, (and that the end we’re hearing about wasn’t sensationalized as well, for political reasons, which is ALWAYS possible, on both sides,) is in error.

    This seems like a discussion of something important. Whether or not “Obama gets it right” is not of importance here. What is important is having open, nation-wide dialogue about religious ideas. Being able to talk about Christianity in an open forum that realizes that our country was founded on such ideals. And from what I see, that’s exactly what Obama is trying to do.

    Do I disagree with him on some major platform issues? Certainly. But do I agree fully with ANY candidate? Absolutely not.

    And personally (just speaking for myself here) I’d much rather put someone in office who is open to a real dialogue about how religion affects policy and how public office interacts with daily life of those who live their lives based upon spiritual doctrines.

    Also, as a side note, please note that I use religion=my faith. It’s simply easier than always writing: “I hate organized religion and anything that adds extraneous structures to what is defined simply and clearly in the Bible.” 🙂

  6. Thanks for the comments folks. I tend to agree with the general thrust of the last three. I’d love to see Dobson spend his energies on things other than politics. Whenever a religious figure begins spending a lot of time on politics I have to wonder if that person has become enamored with power.

    For an interesting response to this whole deal check out the following site…

  7. I am curious if you have similar uncharitable thoughts when Obama distorts his opponents words or provides inaccurate facts to support his ideas? Doesn’t it run both ways?
    Or what about the oganization that is running the ad that shows a mother and baby and asks if McCain plans to take her baby to support the war effort. Isn’t an organization like this also lower the level of discussion on an important issue.
    It leaves me feeling that a smaller government with fewer politicians will result in fewer of these organization that feed on the political system.
    Most private companies or charitable organizations seem to be above spreading negative information about their competitors. For some reason this seems to be reserved for the politicians.

  8. Two options out of this drama as I see it:

    1. FOF has serious regrets of the comments in fear that Dobson’s empire and influence has reached a tipping point for the worse.
    2. The absurdity that #1 does not happen.



  9. DAN…

    I have no right to do so, but allow me to speak for David and his blog. 🙂

    It’s not a political blog. I think it was more about Robertson because David often mentions topics of “religious significance”. And as Robertson is generally seen as a spokesperson for the Christian movement (whether he deserves to be or not is up to the individual to decide), and I think the greater issue at stake is not whether every person who ever gives a speech or comments on a speech is fair game, but instead, what does Robertson’s commentary say about Christ-followers to the general public who see him as such a public face…

    And therefore it’s relevant to the majority of (at least the commenters who are) readers of this blog.

    If it were simply, say a quote by Obama about McCain or vice-versa, I don’t think it would be as interesting to the readership. That’s strictly politics.

    Please understand I’m not trying to address the legitimacy of your comment. Surely all politicians seem to lie or at least stretch the truth to gain a constituency. Sadly this is the state of politics these days. And certainly, they all too often go to great lengths not to uphold their own systems, but to denigrate those of their opponent(s).

    I don’t think anyone would disagree that we’d all prefer a system where candidate “a” speaks truthfully about their position, as does candidate “b”. Then the populace votes based upon the issues and the platforms, rather than the theatrics of pollsters and approval ratings. But again, sadly this is the state of modern politics. The only way to move away from this state is not to cry foul, but instead to vote for those candidates who seem to abide by your (and my) sense of fair play, to show the rest of the candidates that this is what will work to win votes. Not mudslinging…

  10. Hmmmmm…(sigh)…

    Too much to comment on here so I will simply end this by saying, I love the way Dobson and Robertson have become synonymously interchangeable. That says a lot right there.

    Lastly (wink), I think not voting does possess a great deal of power, especially in this two party system that seems to use the percentage by which a person becomes elected as an measure of national support. Ok, at this point it is Dem. or Rep.. This year it is specifically Obama or McCain. This would actually be the perfect election year to stand up with a “no vote” count. Show those in a position(s) of power that we don’t support this system and “these times, they are a changing.”

  11. HA! I can’t believe I transposed the two names! (although actually, upon reflection, it’s really not that odd at all… They are entirely the same person to me. Nice point, Thom!)

    I’ll have to disagree with you though, Thom…

    Not voting really does nothing, I think. And no this isn’t just patriotism for it’s own sake…

    I just think that since the system is as it currently is, the only way to defeat that is through said system. I mean, sure, strategic anarchy worked for the original founders of the country, but surely you don’t expect anything of that scale now?

    The truth is that too many people believe in this system of government for it to go any other way. And if they don’t, then we should see new laws soon.

    Especially BECAUSE this group of politicians is simply following “public opinion”.

    And I hate to say it so bluntly, but I will ( 🙂 )

    The old ways will likely have to die out (literally) before new ones come in. More and more younger people are dissatisfied with the way the government does things. It was the same way in the 60s with the Civil Rights movement. I think you’re going to go on 10-20 years from now (hopefully sooner) and you’ll start to see “Privacy Rights Movements” or something similar. You’ll see people demanding more transparency from their government and the mechanics involved within it.

    I have about this much –][– attention span for politics, but I assure you that when the opportunity arises for my ability to make a change, it will happen, and I think the same could/would be said for many younger people than myself…

  12. Larry, I love people who disagree. Although I do not believe in this statement, “Not voting really does nothing, I think.” I would only agree with this if the action of “not voting” was not done because of complacency or lazy ignorance. I think it could communicate a great deal, especially if it is a conscientious objection.

    I think there is more potential harm in participating in a system that is not only broken but further increases the divide among classes, negligent positions of power in the production of knowledge, and the focus on individual gain. This could possibly be the only process by which a no vote would mean anything. Why? Because people make their bread and butter on the analysis of such stats and facts, which would make this difficult to dismiss – especially if voting turnout dropped 25%. Therefore, I disagree with you, I think it has the potential to speak volumes.

    Also, I would not consider this any form of anarchy – choosing not to vote is just another decision within this process. Truly, more damage is caused by those who simply vote one party over another because somewhere along the line they have identified themselves with a political group. That is not the intended design of the system, that is an abuse by complacent Americans.

  13. Thanks for the comments folks. Once again you’ve taken my half-baked post and turned it into an interesting conversation. Love it.

    Larry– thanks for the response to Dan. I think you responded better than I could have.

    Dan– I tend to lean towards smaller government most of the time as well. Though I’m not sure if I’d agree that companies are above spreading negative information. Certainly our political parties have perfected the tactic.

    Regarding Thom and Larry’s comments about the decision to vote… I go back and forth on this one. I understand that voting is a massive privilege in our world today- just consider the recent carnage in Zimbabwe. On the other hand, I tend to agree with Thom that consciously choosing to not vote may often be the best course of action for the Christian. An article by Mark Noll I read a few years back was influencial in this line of thinking and can be found here: Voting Not To Vote.

  14. Thom, I love this discourse, first off…

    And also, I think we’re both riffing on the same vibe here. Because I, too, am quite disillusioned by a process that has eliminated the possibility of becoming electable if you’re not Republican or Democrat (not because I’m hot and bothered about anyone independent right now, but I’d love to have that option)… And I grew up in this family that’s all “vote republican or you’ll melt the face of your grandmother” (shh… don’t tell my mom I said that. 🙂 ) But I’ve always felt that allegiance to a party is like chaining yourself to your favorite car. Sure, you’re with something you tend to identify with, but it can take you where you don’t want to go, also…

    But I still think that not voting only strengthens those who do vote. It makes their vote count that much more. So if the only people voting are those who believe in the current system, then you’re only empowering them by not voting. I understand the motive behind your proposal. I assure you I do and I back it.

    But say you could motivate that same 25% you’re talking about not voting, into instead voting for candidates that are NOT towing party lines and instead moving on actual issues, not pollster-checklist items! How powerful would that be? Certainly THAT would show at least as much of a message as a powerful showing(?) of non-voters? (I personally think it would have MUCH more of an impact.)

    Or we could just bring back the Whigs? 🙂

  15. Actually, I could likely get behind some Whig politics… So consider this an edit to remove the smiley face after the end of my last comment. 🙂

  16. I don’t typically make a lot of comments on blogs. . .and I certainly am not as thoughtful or eloquent as most of the others. But the concept of deciding not to vote really intrigues me. It is especially intriguing given that at the very least Obama understands how much he needs voters to turn out. See: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-turnoutjun25,0,3852013.story

    I also saw recently that Jesse Ventura would like to see a “None of the above” option on ballots.


    I’m thinking I would take advantage of that!

  17. Larry – that is the great thing about this system, both of our possibilities exist and, I suppose and even greater thing is that they can also both be exercised. While I do not agree with you fundamentally, because I think participating “as is” only perpetuates a broken and highly stratified system, I do agree with your commitment to seek out something greater than the way most Americans become complacent.

    “Or we could just bring back the Whigs?” – that statement has a hidden meaning, doesn’t it?

  18. Actually, the whigs comment was intended originally as a joke, but then I did a little research and found that I tend to agree with the main ideas of their platform… Again, not saying party allegiance or anything, but, in light of recent situations, the Whig Party was constructed as opposition to an overpowered Executive Branch, believed in more power to the congress, and generally favored higher value to the system of checks and balances. These are items I’m firmly in support of, so that’s why I took the joke out of the situation. 🙂

    I just find it interesting how like so many things, it is amazing how cyclical life can be. Humans seem to find a way to destroy good things, because no one agrees on what good seems to be. Some people want this higher-powered President, and less power to congress (although it’s counter-intuitive to the way our system is based, but whatever…). Like I said, the Whig Party (back in the day) had more emphasis on Congressional power, to ensure one person didn’t have supreme power. It’s simply good to see that in all of our technological, speedy progress, we’ve still got the same fundamental human being issues.

    We still don’t know how to handle power. We still don’t know how to best rule ourselves. We still don’t know how much we’re willing to give up for the betterment of others (and ourselves, for that mattter).

    And the most cool, is how awesome God is in taking over those roles that we don’t get right. But once again, back in the day (and now) we still destroy that bond as well…

    I say we go back to pre-kingdom Israel where God was simply in charge. But, ya know… people can’t hand over that kind of power to one being. 🙂

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