Dobson’s rhetoric is damaging to democracy

Christian Piatt – The Pueblo Chieftain

James Dobson has done it again.

It’s no real surprise that Barack Obama, the presumed democratic nominee for president, is in Dobson’s sights. There are so many things about Obama, his past and his policies that fly in the face of what Dobson and his cohorts espouse. In a recent CNN website article, however, he took a moment to pick out some issues in particular.

The head of Colorado Springs’ Focus on the Family claimed Obama was guilty of distorting the Bible when he suggested that the rule of law cannot practically be based solely upon the Bible. To make his point with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor, he pointed out that a nation governed by the literal rules of scripture would justify slavery, and would make eating shellfish an abomination.

Dobson resented Obama’s position suggesting that he was making a relative mockery of the Bible’s authority by picking out what he called “antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament.”
 
So if I understand this correctly, James Dobson, who claims the inerrancy of the entirety of scripture, is saying that there actually are parts of the Old Testament that are no longer relevant? Pray tell, then, which ones we should deem irrelevant, and which ones we should still embrace? And who exactly is the arbiter of this weeding-out process? Who has the authority? Further, who doesn’t interpret scripture with some of their own agenda, simply by reading it?

If you recall, Jesus said he did not come to get rid of the old law, but rather to “fulfill it.” Though there are many takes on what exactly this means, along with every other phrase in scripture, many scholars agree that Jesus’ fulfillment of the old law meant that he was taking authority to another level, so to speak. Obama does not suggest ignoring parts of the Old Testament, but rather than perhaps the Sermon on the Mount is more relevant to modern-day governance. It is Dobson who claims certain texts are “irrelevant.”

As if his condemnation of Obama’s take on the Bible was not enough, he topped it off with some old-fashioned name-calling, suggesting that Obama leads by the “lowest common denominator of morality,” that he deliberately is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter,” and finally that his understanding of the Constitution is nothing more than “fruitcake interpretation.”

It’s not as if Dobson simply is trying to tear down the democratic candidate for the benefit of republicans, either. He already has claimed he will not vote for McCain, so in essence, if he can’t find a team who will take him on his terms, Dobson is resolving to take his toys and go home. 

Though I’m using a trite metaphor, it’s actually a disturbingly serious situation. The situation is more like a village under siege that opts to burn their own spoils to a cinder, rather than watch the enemy have any chance at them. The risk, then, is that a generation of evangelicals who have been otherwise politically active will determine it’s better to do nothing than it is to stay engaged and work within the system for what they believe. More than a blow to either major party, it’s an Achilles’ heel for democracy itself.

The name-calling is one thing, but effectively urging your followers not to participate in exercising their constitutional right to vote is entirely another. If you don’t like McCain or Obama, fine. Write someone in on the ballot, but for goodness sake, don’t sit at home and do nothing.

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