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Kris and I listened last night to James Dobson’s criticisms of Barack Obama’s 2006 speech. I found it on the “Listen to Daily Broadcast”. I don’t know if it is archived, but I did my best to listen carefully and fairly. What to say?
The scuffle was made public yesterday on the internet, and I first read it on CNN. Essentially, Obama spoke about how to be religious and live out one’s faith in a pluralistic society and do so in a way that respects the views of others. Dobson essentially accused Obama of distorting the Bible and the Christian faith and how Christians ought to live in our society.
I hope you can listen to Dobson’s talk; listen to how he represents what Obama was saying. Listen carefully. Judge for yourself. Weigh in here.
Here’s my take: Dobson and his companion commentator routinely distorted what Obama was saying by rephrasing and capturing what he said in their own context and for their own agendas. For instance, Obama hypothesized (Dobson didn’t get this) what would happen if we moved all nonChristians out of our society. Even then, he was suggesting, we’d have diversity. Then, Obama asked, if we lived out the Bible which parts would we choose? Would it be Leviticus or Deuteronomy — and he brings up shell fish and stoning one’s son — or would it be the Sermon on the Mount, which Obama stated would be difficult for the Defense Dept to apply. Dobson and his guest got into how the OT laws aren’t for today.
What they miss here is that Obama is talking about how to live in a pluralistic society.
Here are the words of Obama: “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?”
Dobson’s response here was to use the word “equate” — as if Obama equated the two. Dobson’s show suggested that inasmuch as Sharpton was a racial bigot that he (Dobson) was being accused of that, which is filling in the lines with things Obama did not say. This was an unfair and uncharitable representation of what Obama was saying. Obama was giving two examples, two completely at odds versions of the Christian faith in our world. Obama doesn’t equate the two; he connects the two as two kinds, two ends of a spectrum perhaps. Diversity will still obtain is his point.
My big point is that Dobson is doing Christians, evangelical Christians, and the country a disservice in misrepresenting the intent of Obama’s comments.
Look, this is not about my defense of Obama for President; I still don’t know who I will vote for. This is about public civility and discourse, and we’ll never get anywhere if we don’t represent the other person accurately.
Any comments? But please be civil and reasonable.

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