obama waffles

First, the back story…

The Family Research Council was founded in 1983 by Dr James Dobson and a few other conservative Christian folks.  In 1988 the FRC merged with Dobson’s Focus on the Family.  In 1992 FRC once again became an independent organization, though Dobson remains on its board of directors.  In 1992 FRC founded Family Research Council Action in order to “educate the general public and cultural leaders about traditional American values and to promote the philosophy of the Founding Fathers concerning the nature of ordered liberty.”

Last week FRCA hosted the 2008 Values Voters Summit with speakers like Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Sean Hannity among many others.  Focus on the Family was one of the event’s four sponsors and one of the many exhibitors at the Washington DC Hilton, site of the Summit.

And this is where it gets bizarre…

One of the Summit’s exhibits featured two guys, Mark Whitlock and Bob DeMoss, selling Obama Waffles.  Whitclock and DeMoss, authors who worked togetether at Focus of the Family and FamilyLife Publishing, apparently came up with idea for the waffle mix while eating pizza late one night.  According to the Associated Press,

While Obama Waffles takes aim at Obama’s politics by poking fun at his public remarks and positions on issues, it also plays off the old image of the pancake-mix icon Aunt Jemima, which has been widely criticized as a demeaning stereotype. Obama is portrayed with popping eyes and big, thick lips as he stares at a plate of waffles and smiles broadly.

Placing Obama in Arab-like headdress recalls the false rumor that he is a follower of Islam, though he is actually a Christian.

On the back of the box, Obama is depicted in stereotypical Mexican dress, including a sombrero, above a recipe for “Open Border Fiesta Waffles” that says it can serve “4 or more illegal aliens.” The recipe includes a tip: “While waiting for these zesty treats to invade your home, why not learn a foreign language?”

The American News Project has a video interview with DeMoss and Whitlock at their waffle booth that left my mouth agape.  To the question of whether this Aunt Jemimah-like box is racist, Mark answers, “Bob has mentioned that to him Aunt Jemimah means quality.”  Mark adds, “I prefer Aunt Jemimah.  So I’m not sure what the issue is.”

And herein lies the “issue”…

There are plenty of folks for whom, unlike DeMoss and Whitlock, Aunt Jemimah is not a sign of quality.  Princeton University’s Melissa Harris-Lacewell puts it well,

In the late 19th and early 20th century Aunt Jemima became indelibly engraved in the American psyche. Her role as a cultural icon and a marketing technique was to soothe the anguish of the slavery question and allow white Northerners and Southerners to reunite as Americans.  Her happy servitude quieted the notion that slavery was immoral and brutal. It allowed Americans to be both romantic and wistful about the lost days of Dixie when the world was properly ordered and Negroes knew their place.

According to the Values Voter Summit, they were unaware of the “offensive material” displayed on the boxes of waffle mix.  Eventually they pulled the plug on DeMoss and Whitlock, though business appears to be brisk on their website.

This story raises two questions for me…

Is it actually possible that DeMoss and Whitlock do not see the racist nature of their product? I want to believe that these guys, along with those who are buying the waffle mix, do not see the racist nature of Obama Waffles.  I prefer to believe that they simply have no clue how so many people see the images and language of their product.  Is such ignorance and ethnocentrism better than intentional racism?

Second, why do Christian organizations continue to closely align themselves with political ideologies? The reality is that many Christians in America would be flabbergasted and hurt by the words and actions of DeMoss and Whitlock.  In order to make a buck and a political point, these Christian men have alienated and demeaned many of their own Christian family.  And for what purpose?  As we’ve discussed before on this blog, it appears these folks believe God can only accomplish God’s purposes through certain political parties and platforms.

Your (charitable) thoughts and reactions to these two questions are very welcome.


27 thoughts on “obama waffles

  1. I have no charitable remarks to make….grrrrrr I had read about this with disbelief and had hoped it would go away from strong peer pressure. That doesn’t seem to have happened. Your earlier post this week about following Jesus seems strangely absent in this sorry episode.

    From the Message in 1 Timothy 6 “Run for your life from all this. Pursue a righteous life–a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith…. Guard the treasure you were give! Guard it with your life. Avoid the talk-show religion and the practiced confusion of the so-called experts. People caught up in a lot of talk can miss the whole point of faith. Overwhelming grace keep you!”

    This stirs up so many questions for me…. How do I respond to Mark and Bob while following Jesus and wanting to kick something? What can I do to help make events like this disappear from the planet? The words from 1 Timothy give me some hope, direction and offer life instead of death.

  2. i’m not at all surprised that these men did not find their caricatures offensive in the first place. that’s kind of par for the course for white people, especially white conservatives in middle america. and christians are not exempt from this. sad but true.

    what pangs me is that they didn’t reconsider their foolishness and turn back from their wicked ways.

  3. It’s hard to believe that this is the result of ignorance. As for Bob’s premise that Aunt Jemimah means quality, doesn’t that defy the message they are trying to portray about Obama? If the waffles were proBama, I could maybe give them slight leeway but given that the waffles are a lame attempt to counter Obama’s position, it doesn’t make sense that they would want him alligned with something seen as “quality.” Maybe they don’t understand the extent of their offensiveness, but they can hardly claim that the waffles are just good clean fun. The Arab headdress and Mexican attire cross the line. The Internet makes it easier than ever to do fact checking and anyone who tries to link Obama to Islam at this point is not only spreading ignorant lies but also making a mockery of the Christian faith. They should be ashamed of themselves, they should take the product off the market, and they should publicly apologize.

    It’s not that I think everyone will vote for Obama- I know that is one dream that will not be realized- but if you don’t agree with his policies, don’t resort to this level of mean-spiritedness. Stick to the facts as you know them. The truth will set us free, after all. This type of polarization and claiming God’s blessing (He apparently didn’t send me the same memo) does not one ounce of good.

  4. I think that, in a sense, they really were unable to see the racist conotations to their “joke.” Yet, I think that inability is partially due to some of the hardest aspects of racism to break – ignorance, inability to see from another’s perspective, seperation from the true horrors of racism, etc.

    So on one sense, I truly give them the benefit of the doubt…while at the same time, I don’t.

    Also, racist or not, when did it become Christ like to mock others? How can you say you are trying to spread Christian values and include “telling half truths” and “mocking those we disagree with” in the list? This is what baffles me more than anything.

    As to why Christians seem so intent on identifying with political movements – I wish I knew. But I’m reading “The Conservative Soul: How we lost How to get it back” by Andrew Sullivan. Its surprisingly good and I think he’s nailed it.

  5. It seems incredible juvenile and certainly out of place at a values summit.It is also ironic that it was a group of atheist who ptotested. I guess I am narrow minded to think atheist wouldn’t be at a values summit. I read a number of the comments on the Christianity Today link. Its interesting that many would condem them for being racist and almost in the same breath lump all GOP’s or conservatives into a single group of vile people. I guess sin begets sin.

  6. This disturbs me because there are much more harmless ways (read: not racist or ignorant) to poke fun at someone, and still not be mean-spirited.

    Disclaimer: The following doesn’t represent my views. Just, if I was hired to write some comedic/razzing stuff, this would be safe, fun, and topic-minded, not personally-attacking:

    If you want to go the “waffle” route: Eggo. Their slogan forever has been “Leggo my Eggo”. And if Obama is seen as the Eggo-taker, then it could be interpreted that he is taking money “from the people” and putting it into “welfare programs”. (Which I don’t get why that’s bad, but anyway…)

    Or perhaps, The Game of Choice (instead of Life): and everything is a negative result, because you choose at every turn to lower the value of an unborn child. (Again, a little dirt-slingy, but it’s based upon the planks, not the person), and the goal is to keep your SUV free of children, while accumulating money and power, by the end of the game.

    Or, what about the Obama Alt-Energy Science Project kit: A fun kit for the whole family that includes “ready-to-grow-bacteria-compost!”, “Solar Powered Beanies!”, “Wind Farm Underpants!”, and “nuclear waste danger zone stickers to put on your gross sister’s door!” (yeah, it’s a stretch, but again… policy, not people.)

    Or, you could go the least-“charged” topic and just give everyone a Nicotine patch, to attack his smoking habit. But then again, vices are non-partisan. 🙂

    Again, let me stress, I’m not picking on Obama, because, honestly, I’ll probably end up voting for him… I’m simply saying there are ways to say “ha-ha. I’m on the smart/winning/old/powerful side” without resorting to personal attacks, vague (or implicit) falsities and racial comments.

  7. I guess James Dobson and all his cohorts believe that God came to this earth to save their souls not their prejudices .

    The people who put the waffle ad together are not stupid. They know what message they wanted to convey. I think they are a disgrace to the name of Christ. Shame on them. In 52 years of walking with the Lord I have never seen such dastardly behaviour from so-called Christians.

    How can anyone preach Christ and family values and yet encourage, promote and advertise this garbage at the same time?

    How can you, purporting to be a Christian leader, endorse such unChristlike behaviour from your minions?

    Thank God I can and will turn off Focus on the Family whenever it is aired on my station!!!

    A Christian!

  8. I am very dissapointed and hurt that something like this was done at a supposedly christian values voters summit, whose values? defitnetly not our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ values. And defitnetly not any true christian’s values. These are the values of Racist,ungodly,wicked,vile servants of satan. to be a christian you must be christ like, not satan-like. Dr. James dobson should apoligize for being associated with this kind of vile, wicked and deameaning,racist hate. Family research counsel, and Focus on the family” SHAME ON YOU”!!, for being associated with this kind of unchristian vile hate,racism,and wickedness. You owe God and the people of God and the world a public apology for being sponsers of this type of wickedness and hate.

  9. It is really petulant how the parties are carrying on during the election. i am a canadian and from my perspective, i believe that everyone is entitled to there own opinion, but if it is offensive like the stereotypical waffle box, it is just spreading lies and gossip. So what if your a muslim, hindu, etc, coming from a christian society they should be ashamed and offer a public apology

  10. It’s not surprising to me. James is just another money bags hiding under the cloak of Christian. I wonder how he would explain this to the Lord Himself. He also thinks Ann Coulter is just a wonderful Christian lady who has lots of spunk. He says her wit just cracks him up. What can I say this is just a drop in the bucket for Mr. Dobson………….Pam

  11. Okay, its obvious these two forego a Christian-like attitude for the almighty buck. Sad, but true. It happens alot. In fact, every time it happens, it is exposed and brought to light because as Christians, we are under constant scrutiny and if secularists can point the finger and say AHA!, they most definitely will. You would think that people would learn from these past mistakes but this is not the case ON BOTH SIDES. There is a perfect example above from Jas Dye that sheds light on why people are still angry and have racist attitudes – blacks and whites. Just read his/her comment above and it is painfully obvious that he/she has a racist attitude towards whites by saying that this is “par for the course for white people, especially white conservatives in middle america…” Seems that Jas does not SEE his/her racist comment either. In a way, this could reasonably justify DeMoss & Whitlock’s contention that they did not view their product as racist. I myself have a hard time believing they were unaware but am also dismayed and bewildered at Jas’s comments too!

  12. By the way, Larry…WOW! Seems to me you quickly & easily pointed out Obama’s downfalls and then at the end say you are voting for him. What?! I’m confused! Are you a Christian? If so, it seems that your religious convictions alone should prevent you from voting for someone who so adamantly supports abortion, including partial birth abortion AND including babies that survive botched abortions (he’s on the record saying this). Which also brings me to another racist point – If the polls are saying that 90% of the black community is voting for Obama, isn’t this racism in too. After all, a majority of the black community professes to be christians as well yet they seem to be voting on “color” and not “platform”. As does Obama profess to be christian. Hmmmm, what kind of christain is he? Maybe one of those “waffling” christians Iv’e heard mentioned on this blog that does whatever suits his needs with no respect at all to his so-called christain beliefs? And here’s the funny part (literally)…doesn’t anyone recall the Obama quote where he was being pursued by a reporter and said to the reporter, “Can’t I just finish my waffle?” Hehehehe!

  13. Hey it’s me! Thanks for reading my comment. I always wonder if people do, or just the main story, and then write their own thing. 🙂 So first off, yeah… thanks.

    Secondly, I am still not certain on who I will vote for. But for now, yes, I tend to lean towards Obama. My reasoning (and please know, I’m not campaigning for the dude here… you vote your conscience and I’ll vote mine) is as follows:

    1) typically I’ve voted Republican, because yes, on the surface, many of the Republican planks tend to align with the ideas of Christianity. However, in practice, I’ve also seen this abused multiple times. Therefore, I am not in allegiance to any one party, but instead to people and to ideas.

    2) I voted for Bush. Twice. I believe he was a good president, with the exception of his foreign policy, and how he has handled the war. I think domestically, he has done at least an average job (something I know I could not do). But, speaking of the right to life, and the idea that we shouldn’t kill, I am starting to wonder if our continuing war that presents American ideals instead of true liberation (where another country can decide for themselves how they wish to govern themselves, before we take troops away, for example), that kills so many thousands of people, may be more of an important issue in this context.
    Perhaps it is more Christian to stop the killing (which seems to be accomplishing little in terms of lasting, overall change in Iraq at the moment), than to rail against the abortion situation as a main sticking point. (Mind you, I am also against abortion, as I feel that adoption is always an option, and in medical-emergency situations (i.e., the mother is dying BECAUSE of the pregnancy), then it is up to the doctor and the mother to decide what is moral and God-abiding, not me.

    3) In terms of spending government money on welfare programs and this resulting in taking more money away from me… I agree that a lot of oversight is needed to ensure that the funds are used appropriately and that things don’t spiral out of control. However, the alternative, that I keep all my money, and that the government has no right to attempt to help people and use their corporate strength to effect true change for disadvantaged people, at least with my money? That seems selfish and unchristian to me. If Obama can truly bring the change he offers, then I think that is something worth considering.

    4) Yes, I’d like to get past the 1st black president thing, once and for all, so in the future, it’s not about that.

    Overall, there are a couple things to consider, when thinking about me as a voter too, and what motivates me.

    – I don’t think that who we put there, unless they are dictators, despots or on the flipside, saints and humanitarians, will make that much difference, day to day. Clinton ran things his way, and things happened. Bush ran things his way, and things happened. Obama or McCain will run things their way, and things will once more, happen. Therefore, I am thinking more about the overall picture, rather than what one man will do.

    – If he’s rotten, then he’ll easily be out in four years. 🙂 Same goes for any candidate. Another reason to love America and our freedom!

    – There aren’t ANY viable candidates that I get behind 100%. No one offers what I believe is a true, Christian leadership. Therefore, I’m basing my decision on what I believe may fit best.

    – And I’m not perfect, so I may get it right, or I may get it wrong.

    – I trust God to lead above all. So my prayers (as well as yours) will mean much more in the upcoming 4 years than who we elect as president.

  14. Hi There,

    Fist of all you do not know me from Adam, but I came here via a link from Larry (we went to college together).

    Re: The Obama Waffles. I think the creators knew exactly what they were doing. They were exploiting the fears their audience have. They know their audience is one that is less prone to actually delve into the issues and instead take what ever is fed them. I responded to someone today re: those asinine Obama is a Muslim and the anti-Christ emails. I know this person and it scares me that the actually believe this non-sense. The creators of the waffles know this, and in order to pay homage to Mammon they will use that ignorance to earn a few bucks.

    On the other topic about being a Christian and voting for Obama. It is because I am a Christian I am voting for Obama. He is a devout Christian (read the interview with him by Cathleen Falsani from 2004 to get a real insight), and his policies best exemplify the commands found in the Sermon on the mount. His policies talk about clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, and caring for the poor. If the society at large is not doing it it is the role of the government to take the lead.

    Having worked on his 2004 Senate campaign I can tell you this is the same man I met then. Sincere. Honest. And deeply spiritual.

    Issues of life and war and economy are very important to me. I am pro-choice. This does not make me pro-abortion; however, it drives me to seek and work for ways to reduce and eliminate the need for abortions. They will happen whether they are legal or not, so in the mean time I want to keep them safe, regulated, and rare.

    War is the ultimate life issue. We need to care for and respect human life not just before birth but beyond. War is the most anti-life decision there is, and is to be avoided at all costs.

    By ensuring a good economy we are de-facto helping with the previous two items. When people work, they are less likely to do things that would cause trouble. When people work, they are able to help fund programs that help those in need.

    I know who I am voting for and why. I pray people research, learn, dig, and vote their consciences. That is all I can ask.

  15. Thanks for the comments folks. For what it’s worth, this post is the sixth most viewed in the history of this blog. I wonder what that means.

    There is too much to respond very specifically, but there are a few things that stand out.

    First, race matters in this election. While it would be nice to think that voting decisions will be made solely on policy, that probably won’t be the case for many of us. If you’ve not heard it, I highly recommend this short conversation about the role of race in the election from NPR.

    Second, it seems that many American Christians have a hard time believing that one could be a Christian and vote for a Democrat. Or for a Republican. Some of the comments reflect incredulity that someone could support Obama and be a Christian. Why is it so hard for us to admit that others in the Christian family may have a very different perspective on who to vote for? Do some believe that there is really only one way to vote? Do those same folks have confidence that they know the only way?

    Third, Catherine asks this and I think it’s worth considering. Also, racist or not, when did it become Christ like to mock others? How can you say you are trying to spread Christian values and include “telling half truths” and “mocking those we disagree with” in the list?

    Finally, in response to Bob’s question. Hell yes.

  16. Catherine’s questions are good one.

    To the second question I would suggest that on a personal level it is something we must work to avoid. On a political level we can only attempt to hold candidates and elected officials accountable when they betray the public trust. We have that power in the polling booth and as constituents that have the ability to make call and send letters.

    To her first question. Simply…it is not. Unfortunately in our broken world it is more often than not the case.

    Re: race in this race Mary Mitchell of the Sun-Times wrote a great column on the subject. http://blogs.suntimes.com/mitchell/2008/09/what_is_white_privilege.html

  17. I am a christian with a heavy heart tonight. I am so burdened that men who call themselves christian and political have allowed their poor attempts at what-making money? bringing attention to how much Obama waffles?-I don’t know but I am surprised how men possessing a good moral compass would begin to think this type of behavior is acceptabe or wanted. I am right winged, I am conservative, I am white and I think this is beyond the pale. I want to pray for this DeMoss and Whitlock and I hope they realize how they have tarnished Christians as being radical republicans who are racists. That is so wrong. James Dobson did not sponsor DeMoss or Whitlock in this behavior. Go to his website-Focus on the Family and call and talk to an advisor and get the total truth. Pray for these men and others who are feeling very angry over how this situation has wrongly escalated. This is a case for righteous anger.

  18. someone who I was voting for…I replied “Jesus”. The economy and wall street are falling apart…there are natural disasters of biblical proportion and women are leaving their kids in trunks of cars
    to die in the Florida sun…we have global pandemics such as aids..there is the war in Iraq and it looks to me like a repeat
    of Vietnam…( one woman’s opinion)our freedom and civil
    rights are vanishing into the sunset and the reality is we are a nation of
    pluralists not a theocracy. anytime you have a clause in the constitution that everyone has the unalienable right to believe or not believe in G-d and to worship as they choose or not, you invite Pluralism”. In fact, you are throwing your arms open to embrace it. On paper at least anyway. Everyone talks about “the principles on which this nation was built” Being a history buff as well as a follower of Jesus, I don’t see much principle in the genocide of the indigenous peoples of the North American Continent and building a nation on the backs of slaves. If people look very closely into our nations history, the concept of personal freedom is a very tribal one. Not a European one. Europe was a serfdom. Rich white male
    landowners who owned much chattle and goods. That included women. The contributions of the Iroquois Confederacy at the formation of our democracy is a little taught fact and an astounding one. Good source link http://www.iroquoisdemocracy.pdx.edu/ The same can been
    seen in the indigenous tribes in Europe such as the Celts. But not
    in the Feudalism that most our ancestors were trying to run away from. I also don’t see the core message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ either in these extreme right winged political groups. Jesus didn’t come to be a Civil leader. He shunned that role and took up a bloody cross instead, died between two thieves…
    I see a lot of Western arrogance and the same racial paradigms in thinking
    that Charles Darwin’s the Evolution of the Species seemed to validate and
    exacterbate. Not much has changed…sadly enough..
    There is an interesting book called “How the Irish became White”. When Kennedy was elected president someone said “now the Irish are almost white”. My dad had a lot of Irish blood and he was about as white as a sheet of paper. So apparently being white means a lot more than skin color. Racial bigotry and hatred runs deep and there is no band-aid big enough to fix it but my take on Obama Waffles is that it’s creators are out of their minds. This is absolutely the height of evangelical fundamental pomp and insanity. Did they think that people would not be outraged!
    What a slap it is in the face of my G-d who loves all men equally.
    What scares me the most about these times is the lack of critical
    thinking among Christians in the US. Everybody just jumps on
    the bandwagon without even considering this thing from all
    angles. I am neither liberal or conservative, I am neither black nor white on the issues, I am neither Red nor Blue, I don’t define my Being and my Life in Legalistic political or spiritual terms either for that matter.
    I never have believed that morality can be regulated. I’ve been denounced by my own family and blasted viscerally for my take on “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of G-d”
    what we have is an extreme case of the “log in your own eye”.
    I’m concerned that either way the pendulum swings we will wind up
    in a world of neo nazis or neo socialists. Whatever our personal
    beliefs about our Presidential candidates, racial stereotyping
    is not a representation of any true follower of Jesus.

  19. This is tasteless. This race is close because of race. Lets face it. Sad but true. Obama is the most inspiring politician since JFK and half of America isn’t going to vote for him simply because he is black…

  20. hey it’s me,

    you don’t know me. you didn’t bother to ask me any questions to try to clarify your perspective. apparently, you didn’t bother to click my profile link to check out who i am or even get my gender or race right. that’s prejudging. and you’re doing it against a fellow christian (from what i understand of you.)

    and then you go on to belittle the christianity of anyone who would dare vote for the other candidate.

    i would clarify for you, but you’ve already made your mind up and made me one hot angry —– —.

  21. Responding to your questions…

    1. I agree with you and I’m willing to believe [certainly hope and pray] these men were/are clueless…unfortunately that alone represents a level of self-absorption that smacks of racism. Ignorance is no excuse for crassness.

    2. I do not know – the question haunts and frustrates me.

    Somehow I missed the whole waffle deal. I find it incredibly sad and discouraging. Apparently some feel things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are not warranted in the political arena.

  22. ooops…

    apparently i don’t know my golf metaphors, and i was off in my statements above. the caricatures are too common, but it’s not like a majority of white americans (of which i’m one) are that ignorant on racial matters.

    i think what i was trying to say is that i’ve come across a lot of white americans (certainly christians) who are at least somewhat ignorant of racial matters – whether having to do with blacks, latinos, arabs, asians, or are aware of our own power of privilege. likewise, many blacks, latinos, arabs, asians, etc., are also woefully ignorant when it comes to people of other races / cultures.

    the reason, however, that the “burden” is so much on whites is that we have the power – whether or not it appears that way.

    sorry if i offended any.

  23. I think that what those two guys did is absolutely horrible and the fact that it was allowed at a Christian summit is disgusting.
    I take issue with Jas Dye and the statement about “this is par for the course with White people”. That is ridiculous.

    I have taught in schools where I was the minority and one thing I learned is that the majority of one culture is clueless about the other regardless of skin color. We ALL need to be a little more sensitive and quit putting the “burden” on white people. We ALL are significant and make this Country run so expect the same from everyone and quit making it out that the actions of few are the same for many……and that goes for ALL races.

    I also think it is ridiculous for anyone to say that half of American is not going to vote for Obama because he is Black. How do you know? I really don’t see that much racism going on and I work in areas that are not anywhere near my culture.

  24. andy,

    i must have esp. (Lord knows i can’t afford espn) i replied to your message before you wrote it. it’s the one above yours. i didn’t mean to imply that only whites are ignorant when it comes to prejudices.

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