James Dobson and Focus on the Family should stay out of the political spin game
Political Spin Games: Why the Focus on the Family Should be a Real “No Spin Zone”
I generally have a great deal of respect for James Dobson and his efforts at Focus on the Family. From most all accounts he and his organization seem to be committed to Christian principles even if I don’t always agree with particular policies they endorse or pursue.
However, when James Dobson and those like him become so emeshed in the political dogfight and the actual spinning of political rhetoric–his mission has perhaps gone awry. The Associated Press points out:
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.”
I worry that such mud flinging and name calling is hardly constructive or Christian. Moreover, in doing so he ceases to be an independently minded Christian and becomes a virtual mouthpiece of Fox News broadcasts. Instead of being the voice of God in the world, he becomes a more of a political huckster and much more Rovian in nature.
Erasing and Ignoring Minorities = Not Factual, Not Statistical, and Anti-Christian
The broadcast went further, suggesting that we were only a Christian nation, even by its own statistics it pointed out that were 2% other. The implication seemed to be one in which any all Christian morality could be imperialistically installed into law, without reference to the first amendment guarantee of the separation of church and state. Second, these stats seem radically misapplied–on face I doubt their scientific and statisical validity–even in the most conservative places on the planet like Nashville, TN. (perhaps they polled in Utah or rural Colorado) Also, I fail to see how this is constructive to say we shouldn’t respect and take into account this supposed other 2%–which I would argue is far closer to 20-40% (they claimed self-proclaiming Christians made up about 70% of the American populous) . It also begs the whole “self-identify” as Christian vs. “live” as Christian distinction–which is a distinction I’m quite sure Mr. Dobson applies in the opposite ways consistently on other broadcasts. The story of the Samaritan–is anything if not the story of respecting minorities, be they white, black, brown, yellow, or purple. Tactics aimed to power charge the will of the majority at the price of legitimate minority rights (ie freedom of religion, excluding harm to another) has warped the Sermon on the Mount along with the rest of the mission of Jesus.
Dobson Should Speak, Just Not Spin and Encourage Theocratic Control:
I’m not saying that Christian leaders can’t have political views or can’t voice them–but when the unsaid premises they rely on suggest (and even encourage) unChristian values and their actions contradict Christian values when they lower themselves into the political quicksand of spin politics, something has gone dramatically, dramatically wrong. Coerced faith on the part of non-believers isn’t faith at all. Conversation and bridge building seems to be the solution to these types of disagreements in most cases. In these cases arguments can compellingly be made in the name of rights, responsibilities, and communities which create a civic language that respects others and nurtures a civic community that is the basis of any hope of constructive change at home and abroad.
If Christian values represent truth, and I firmly believe they do, there is positively no need to resort to manipulation and name calling and political spin, rather than logical and compelling discourse.
I think as commentator Tad Delay aptly concludes:
I think the Church is coming to see what happens when you hop in bed with political parties and fail to acknowledge that each have good and bad, and that neither are a more Christian party. Let us repent of our allegiances that we have prostituted out in exchange for political power. Let us always seek a third way.
Endnote: I can’t find a transcript of Dobson’s speech, I’m my humble opinion he should have released in an easy to access location on his website. Without it, it makes it hard to fully develop the above insights.
My summary of the The Associated Press exchange:
“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.
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.”
As a sidenote, I don’t think Obama probably should have instigated when happened, don’t get me wrong. His larger point about Leviticus and gays (may) be correct–its certainly open to interpretation. In such a gray and muddy water, its misguided to name call with such impunity.