Dobson accuses Obama of 'distorting' Bible:
Conservative is critical of Dem's stance on how the Bible should guide policy
Here is a link to Obama's speech that reportedly caused Dobson's blood pressure to rise:
And 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? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is ok and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount - a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our bibles. Folks haven't been reading their bibles.
Obama then goes on to situate this tension within the abortion debate:
I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.
Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing. And if you doubt that, let me give you an example.
We all know the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham is ordered by God to offer up his only son, and without argument, he takes Isaac to the mountaintop, binds him to an altar, and raises his knife, prepared to act as God has commanded.
Of course, in the end God sends down an angel to intercede at the very last minute, and Abraham passes God's test of devotion.
But it's fair to say that if any of us leaving this church saw Abraham on a roof of a building raising his knife, we would, at the very least, call the police and expect the Department of Children and Family Services to take Isaac away from Abraham. We would do so because we do not hear what Abraham hears, do not see what Abraham sees, true as those experiences may be. So the best we can do is act in accordance with those things that we all see, and that we all hear, be it common laws or basic reason. (italics added)
Back to the MSNBC article with Dobson's response: "... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."
Dobson reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama's argument that the religiously motivated must frame debates over issues like abortion not just in their own religion's terms but in arguments accessible to all people.
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'm not sure what Dobson is referring to here, by talking about a "fruitcake interpretation," but Dobson is clearly upset about Obama's speech. This from The Post
Dobson said he had just recently learned of Obama's speech and that reading it caused his blood pressure to rise.
"Why did this man jump on me? I haven't said anything near that?" said Dobson, whose comments were first reported by the Associated Press today, which received an early copy of Dobson's remarks.
In response to Obama's contention that religious voters had an obligation to "translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values", Dobson asked: "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?"
The thing is, I'm not sure why Dobson is so upset. Obama seems to me to be simply making the point that an American leader can't legislate for everyone based on the fact that he hears voices from god (whether in the Bible or in his head, etc.). I don't know that Obama is denying Dobson his right to express his beliefs, just that as a government official, Obama can't say, "You know, God told me to do this." I think that's a fair position.
Also, it seems as though Obama's hermeneutic is a bit more sound that Dobson's. As we have discussed on this blog, the New Testament writers (Paul in particular) do not seem to divide up the Old Testament law into "laws that only applied to the Israelites that do not apply anymore" and "laws that applied to the Israelites and still apply to us today." Instead, the Christian is no longer under law (Galatians 5:18). The new life is one of Spirit living in freedom. To go back and pick and choose some Old Testament laws that sound like they might work good for us Americans in the 21st century might have its place, but it seems a bit arbitrary, and I'm not sure this is such a good idea in our pluralized culture. In other words, I think I agree with Obama more than Dobson on this one.
The interesting political ramifications.....Dobson is considering not voting b/c McCain isn't conservative enough for him. What's McCain supposed to do? He can't publicly reach out to Dobson or he will be labeled as right-wing religious. Obama, on the other hand, can be cool and let it play out. He can reach out to the Dobson's and other evangelicals of the world and express a desire to "work together for the common good." In this way, he can pick up a good deal of votes from disenfranchised evangelicals, or evangelicals who are not content with the state of the Republican party.