Wednesday, May 27, 2009

James Dobson Pitches a Hissy Fit

Along the same lines as the previous post about Liberty University, here's an example of another loser's tantrum from the religious right. This one comes from Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family. 

Dobson used to actually focus on the family. For a long time he was a professor of pediatrics. He studied child development, became a family, marriage, and child counselor, and wrote a number of books on parenting. When I was a kid, my United Methodist church bulletin included monthly inserts written by James Dobson on family issues. It was pretty standard stuff, I think.

But in recent years, Dobson and Focus on the Family became increasingly involved in Republican politics and conservative causes that had little to do with family issues. With the millions who listen to his radio programs, Dobson became arguably the most prominent figure of the religious right, which has been one of the most important pillars of the Republican coalition of the last 30 years. In the past, Dobson spoke out on conservative causes but tried to maintain and aura of nonpartisanship. Lately, however, he's been a loud and loyal Republican soldier. He first endorsed a presidential candidate in 2004 when he worked hard to give President Bush a second term. In 2008, after initially opposing the Republican nomination of John McCain, Dobson fell in line when McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate, calling it "one of the most exciting days of my life, because everything that we had hoped for and been working for had come to pass."

Well, Barack Obama's landslide victory extinguished that excitement, and now it looks like Dobson is utterly depressed. On the radio he recently offered what US News and World Report called: 
I want to tell you up front that we're not going to ask you to do anything, to make a phone call or to write a letter or anything.

There is nothing you can do at this time about what is taking place because there is simply no limit to what the left can do at this time. Anything they want, they get and so we can't stop them.

We tried with [Health and Human Services Secretary] Kathleen Sebelius and sent thousands of phone calls and emails to the Senate and they didn't pay any attention to it because they don't have to. And so what you can do is pray, pray for this great nation... As I see it, there is no other answer. There's no other answer, short term.

How freaking silly. Yeah, things are so bleak right now that all a good Christian can do is "pray, pray for this great nation." Everything else is futile! Oh the darkness!

The Republican culture war machine was dealt a major blow in November 2008, and James Dobson is crying a self-righteous river. It must be really tough for him right now. He and other conservative Christian leaders have worked hard since the late '70s to bring evangelical Christians into the Republican coalition. In 2004, Karl Rove's election strategy depended on increasing evangelical Christian turnout in the election over what it had been in 2000. So, homosexuality and abortion filled the airwaves. The timing worked exceedingly well. The religious right had been organizing around these issues for decades, and gay marriage questions were on the ballot in many states around the country. Dobson got culture war in the headlines, and Rove got the turnout he needed. 

Republicanized Christianity had reached its high-water mark. Everything seemed to be going their way. They had a man in the White House who spoke their language, and their people staffed the administration. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress, a majority of governor's mansions, and a majority of state legislatures. In related activity, the United States occupied two Muslim countries, systematically tortured suspects in the "war on terror," and illegally spied on its own citizens. Corporation representatives staffed the government's regulatory agencies and the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans owned a larger portion of the country than at any time since 1928. 

On all those fronts we have begun to reverse course, so it is understandable why Dobson is so sad. But what is truly bizarre--and illustrative of the religious right--is the specific thing that originally set him off on this hissy fit. The House had just passed a new bill that would expand the definition of "hate crimes" to include attacks based on sexual orientation, gender identify or mental or physical disability, in addition to the criteria of race, color, religion or national origin, which were already covered under hate crimes legislation. Maybe there's some reason to oppose this law (though I can't think of a good one), but no reasonable person would take Dobson's view on it. He referred to it as "the utter evil that's coming out of the United States Congress." That's right, because Christian families need lighter penalties for assaulting people for being gay or handicapped.

Anyway, I'm getting dizzy on this tour through Crazyville.

I just hope James Dobson was happy for a little while to see the accomplishment of what he had worked for. And I literally thank God that his work began to crumble. His political retreat will be good for the country and good for evangelical Christianity.


Becky said...

Oh the darkness! The humanity!!!!

Ha ha! Great post. I too remember the Dr. Dobson childrearing advice that used to appear in the church bulletins. It was normal stuff, then I tuned him out for a couple of decades, and I was sort of slow to realize that he'd come down with a case of the crazy.

The thing is, I do get that there's an objection to hate crime legislation. Some people say, "It's policing thought. Let's make violent crimes as illegal as they can be and actually enforce those laws." But of course as you know, THAT AIN'T the objection of Dobson and that ilk. They are just hateful. I got a hysterically shrill and despairing email in the same vein from my right-wing neighbor--makes it sound like this legislation messed up their weekend plans! Ridiculous. Or, dare I say? Redonkulous.

Amy said...

Wow--this is a REALLY interesting post, Dave. Thanks! I have a couple random thoughts, just bear in mind that I am a political novice. :)

--I actually like Dr. Dobson and respect what he's done and built. (I'm talking here about his advice on family, marriage, etc.) I don't think he's necessarily hateful. I've read several of his books and found him to be wise and quite balanced. I will say that I haven't read as much of his political stuff, though.

--I don't agree with alot of his political stances, nor with the scare tactics--dude, I hate that stuff.

--I've heard people make the argument that he should stick to what he knows, and not voice his opinions on politics. I disagree with this, because if HE should focus only on what he's been trained for, then shouldn't we all? Why should any non-politico get to speak out on politics and give our opinion if he can't? Sure he's got a much bigger platform than most, and I do question a 501(c)3 org. endorsing a party, but Dobson has a right as much as anyone to have an opinion and to make it known.

You're not slamming Jim Wallis or Rick Warren for making political statements, because they tend to be more moderate. If they can be thoughtful activists, then why is Dobson a "Republican soldier"? See what I mean? Even though I agree with much of what you're saying, it seems like a bit of a double standard to me.

--The hate crimes bill...yeah I'm not so sure why that would be classed as "pure evil". Is there a concern that it could be used to prosecute pastors who don't want to perform same-sex marriages or something? No clue.

--The article you linked to quoted a Republican Congressman basically saying murder is murder, etc. and ought to be treated as such no matter the victim, is that it? Maybe you can shed some light on this for me. :)

delaine said...

Good post, Dave! I think that the thing that troubles me about Dobson and others with his views is the narrowness of their concerns. We have a bushel of problems in this country.We've got war veterans living on the streets ! We've got families and children living in cars ! How many uninsured people ?!We've got senior citizens living in homes without basic services ! I could go on, but you get the point.AND in spite of all this, Dobson and many of the Evangelical Repubs only focus on the big three :abortion, homosexuality, and gay marriage. 24/7. Where's the love ? Where's the care and concern ?

Elizabeth said...

Dobson and the Religious Right's disapproval of the Hate Crimes Legislation is exactly because of what Amy mentioned: they believe it will lead to anyone who says homosexuality is "morally wrong" being prosecuted. From CNS:

"But several religious liberties groups oppose the measure, saying it is unnecessary and would limit free speech and potentially leave religious figures that speak against homosexuality open to prosecution."

The key word there is POTENTIALLY. Interestingly enough, this same reasoning (the "slippery slope" if you will) kept many evangelicals from supporting (and ultimately lead to the defeat of) the Equal Rights Amendment, b/c their "reasoning" told them that an equal rights amendment would mean men and women in the same bathroom (horror!!!), no differentiation between the sexes etc etc etc.

I completely support questioning the laws and legislation that we pass on a rational basis, even thinking through the possible knock-on effects and allowing others to voice their opinion. It's when this fear of the unknown creeps in (or is blatantly used as a rallying tool) that we go wrong.

Kate said...

Dobson doesn't just state his political views, he flat out campaigns in the church and calls Christians to take up his causes for the sake of the cross. He has deliberately used his power in the church, especially the Baptist church, to campaign for Republicans, making him a "Republican soldier." I have has seen first hand how he has been a major player in creating this fear and anger toward the political left.

During the Bush/Kerry campaign Dobson was quoted from the pullpit constantly. I mean, allll the time. I'm sure David remembers us hearing a pastor quote Dobson in church one day when he referred to Kerry as "more liberal than Ted Kennedy and Hillary Clinton (a quote that he took directly from Fox news)." Dobson's pamplets, which use to be a source of God's truth, became political propaganda. I saw so many people who have followed Dobson and read his books just take up anything he said. It was very disturbing.

As a leader in the church, he has encouraged Christians to be angry. Satan has used this anger to turn our eyes to certain people (aka crazzzy liberals), when our fight is not against them. He has taken a more aggressive political approach than any other religous leader that I know of. It has been very sad for me to see his influence over my family and beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. I would love to whip his a** and everyone else for taking his opinions as truth. Better yet, I just want to whip Satan's a** for distracting us from what really matters.

Mason said...

Well said Kate!
BTW, if you didn't see this gem released just before the election, check it out
This is hard evidence of Dobson's/FOTF nuttiness and misguidance.

Camp Papa said...

Years ago I used to enjoy Dobson's commentary on child rearing. But, as he became increasingly politicized, I become more careful about anything he "writes". I would now have to examine everything for a hidden agenda.

I certainly don't think his right to speak on political issues should be abridged. What most annoys me is when he speaks "ex cathedra", claiming his is THE Christian position.

Sara said...

Really interesting post and comments.
For we have not been given a Spirit of fear, James Dobson. No offense to the man, I haven't walked in his shoes, that's for sure. I remember the bulletins with his good advice, too. I just wonder how things have spun so far out of whack. Not just with him but the whole (i guess) Christian community. Like Delaine said 'where's the love?' Why so much fear and anger?
I think maybe folks get too invested in the political stuff like it's their favorite sports team or something and lose perspective? I guess there are folks who work very hard to perpetuate these divisions though, eh?
We need more healing words instead of fighting words maybe.

Better Than Machines said...

Good stuff here. Thanks, everyone, for the comments. I'm gonna package my response into a follow-up post. So check back on the front page in a bit!