It may not be the most Christian thought, but I hate what James Dobson has done to Christianity. In that light it’s unsurprising that I found his recent accusation that Barak Obama is “deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology” to be offensive. (And it’s not like Barak Obama is a professor of constitutional law or something. Oh, wait….)
The reverse is of course the case, and while Dobson may or may not understand that, he and his ilk have nevertheless given Christianity the poor reputation it currently holds among the first world intelligentsia. Who, after all, would look at the fundamentalist nonsense that Dobson spouts and conclude that Christianity is anything other than an insane religion?
Yet the fundamentalists have co-opted Christian language and thought in the United States. This week’s bulletin from our local Catholic Church purported to answer the latest fundamentalist interrogative: “Are Catholics ‘Bible Christians’?” Because, you know, founding the Church, writing the Bible itself, and believing in the divinity of Jesus isn’t enough.
Interestingly the author, the local parish priest, would not even engage the premise–namely, either you’re a “Bible Christian” or you’re not a real Christian–but redefined the question so that he could answer “yes” without offending the sensibilities of any fundamentalist Christian who might be reading.
I would not be so circumspect: Fundamentalists are idiots. They’re chosen to turn away from the rational thought that God gave them in favor of mindless idolatry to a book. While that’s surely more comforting than having the doubts that faith requires, it also forgoes the heavy lifting that spiritual advancement necessitates.
That said, I will reiterate may long-standing core belief that people, even numbskulls like Dobson, have a right to think whatever ridiculous nonsense that they and their followers choose. What they shouldn’t be allowed to do is to redefine Christianity for everyone else or to forward their own religious arguments in the secular political arena.
Obama gets it right when he says,
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal rather than religion-specific values. It requires their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason.
Dobson’s response is as tellingly wrong-headed as it is disingenuous:
Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies? What he’s trying to say here is, unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.
What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that ‘I can’t seek to pass legislation, for example, that bans partial-birth abortion, because 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, than it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture.’ Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.
Of course Obama is not saying what Dobson claims. What he’s saying is that religion arguments don’t fly in the secular political arena, that there is a wall between church and state that religious argumentation doesn’t get to surmount. A politician may have religion reasons for advancing a cause but he or she should never expect others to accept those grounds for making law.
The problem for Dobson of course is that as theo-con horror show of the Bush administration draws to a close, his political power disappears with it and his nutty ranting will be unmarked by those running the country. It couldn’t come a moment too soon.