Monday, October 10, 2005

Dr. Dobson, Please Quit Playing This Dangerous Game!

James Dobson is playing a dangerous game.

It's not the one that he, with melodrama and perhaps unintended self-aggrandizement is playing, though. He worries that the reassurances he's issuing to listeners to his daily radio program that Harriet Miers will be a "good justice" may result in his having the blood of dead babies on his hands. (See here.)

No, I think by playing the role to which he aspires in our nation's politics, he risks losing the eternal lives of millions who will be turned off by his subordination of Jesus Christ to his brand of politics and political activism. Unaware of what Jesus is really like, they may think that Dobson isn't subordinating Jesus to his politics. They may think that the pushy, obnoxious, coercive Jesus that James Dobson commends is the real deal.

Already, many surmise that Dobson, with his megaphone and political connections, speaks for Christ and the Christian faith and so think that one must be a conservative Republican in order to be accepted in the Kingdom of God. How many millions are repudiating the Gospel because of his cartoon caricature of Christianity can only be guessed. It deeply saddens me!

Now though, he's claiming to have inside information and implies that he's received back channel assurances that Harriet Miers will vote the way he and many of his supporters believe that she should if Roe v. Wade comes back before the Court.

If you want people to know and follow Jesus Christ, Dr. Dobson, please quit playing this game. Focus on introducing people to Christ and trust that the Holy Spirit will transform their hearts to make the horrors that sadden and repulse you...and me...unthinkable.

This approach, the approach of humbly, lovingly sharing Christ with others, is the way Jesus commends that our mission as His followers be done. It requires faith, humility, love, and patience. But in the end, it will win over more hearts and minds than taking the levers of political and judicial power and forcing our will down other people's throats ever could!

For more, see here and here.


"ME" Liz Strauss said...

I came to the conclusion many years ago that the minute I feel *righteous,* I am wrong. For at those time I raise my sword to slay the dragons that I see rather than following the path where love would lead me.

I agree. Mr. Dobson should put down his sword.


Brad Huston said...

How many millions are repudiating the Gospel because of his cartoon caricature of Christianity can only be guessed. It deeply saddens me!

Sadly, I must agree you with you, Mark.


Deborah White said...

Before he turned overtly political, I used to listen to James Dobson regularly, read many of his materials and refer to him for family-raising guidance.

A large part of my move between 2000 and 2004 from very moderate Republican to moderate Democrat was due to my realization of and disillusionment with his politization, self-importance and hard-hearted attitude of judgment (rather than compassion and forgiveness), and that of his wing of the party. To my eye, it all began to take on the feel of a power-grabbing political party....not Godliness.

My husband and I ask each what happened to James Dobson to cause him to change so? It seems sad. Focus on the Family has so much valuable to offer, but it's being drowned in his angry political urgency.

Mark Daniels said...

Great insight! Jesus didn't engage in games of political tit-for-tat. That's a game that despoils the Gospel and runs Christ through the dirt.

Thanks also for your affirming comment.

I'm far from perfect, a garden variety sinner like everyone else. But I'm a forgiven and grateful sinner and, as Brad puts it, I'm a "broken messenger." But my message is that Jesus loves and wants a relationship with all humanity, not that He wants to undertake a judicial coup to knock everybody in line.

Mark Daniels said...

I theorize that one big reason for Dr. Dobson's unfortunate transformation is frustration. He's especially frustrated that our culture seems to place so little value on life. I share that frustration.

But the answer is not a reliance on political power or on judicial activism of a different stripe. The answer is greater reliance on Christ and more proclamation of the goodness of God as demonstrated through Jesus Christ!

Of course, Christians are entitled to their political opinions. We may even believe that our own views are rooted in Christ and hopefully, as people seeking to please the God Who loves and accepts us by His grace, there will be some truth in that.

But even if Roe v. Wade gets reversed, it won't bring the transformation of lives that are needed in America today. Harriet Miers may be a very nice person and someone who can be, as Dr. Dobson puts it, a "good justice." But people need Jesus Christ, not a political program. We need new life, not new law.

When Christ is at the center of our lives, we will not be perfect, but we will strive to be as loving and gracious toward others as He is toward us. The love of Christ living inside of us will change our attitudes and behaviors and do more to demolish the narcissism in our culture than will pushing the Courts to obeisance to a particular political or religious regimen.

The Hopper said...

I don't really care if Ms. Meirs is a great evangelical, champion of the unborn, or whatever. Is she qualified for the job? No. Then why are we even bothering with the debate. No one should be endorsing her, no matter the "secret" information they may have.

Deborah White said...

I second that, Hopper. Qualifications to sit on the Supreme Court have little to do with personally-held views and politics.

Mark Daniels said...

I agree with both Hopper and Deborah. But unlike Hopper, I think that Miers is qualified to sit on the Court.

Unknown said...

Focus on introducing people to Christ and trust that the Holy Spirit will transform their hearts to make the horrors that sadden and repulse you...and me...unthinkable.

So... are you saying that Christians should not be involved in civil government, and instead focus all their efforts on converting people to Christianity?

You seem to be asserting the idea that if we simpley convert enough people to Christianity, the government will fix itself and everything will be fine. But a mere majority of Christians in our country doesn't help, unless they are actively involved in the government. 90% of Americans already believe that we should keep "under God" in the pledge. Yet we keep coming closer to it's removal.

Don't get me wrong though, you need both. As Richard Henry Lee once said, "... a popular government cannot flourish without virtue in the people". But if virtue is silent, it's clear that it won't be changing anything.

Deborah White said...

Unlike apparently most of the blogosphere, I am undecided about Miers' qualifications and nomination to the Supreme Court. I need to know much more before I can form an opinion.

On the one hand, I agree with Harry Reid that it would be refreshing to have on the Supreme Court a practicing attorney with decades of real-world experience under her professonal belt. (The Kelos vs. London decision may never have occurred had someone with a pragnatic outlook been among the justices.)

On the other hand, based on words spoken by George Bush and James dobson, I have great concerns about her independence and objectivity being impaired by her loyalty to these men and their constituents.

Mark Daniels said...

I wasn't in any way saying that Christians should not be politically active.

I was saying that it's terribly tempting as a Christian to play Judas. I know; I used to feel that temptation.

Judas, say many Biblical scholars, was frustrated that the Kingdom of God about which Jesus spoke wasn't coming in as quickly as he wished. He decided to force Jesus' hand and to force events. His motives were right, but his methods were terribly wring and faithless.

Even Peter dealt with this temptation. On the night of Jesus' arrest, he pulled out a sword and used it on one apprehending Jesus. Jesus told him to put away his sword; that wasn't the way to bring in the Kingdom.

Jesus also said that it was in His power at that moment to use massive coercion by calling in squadrons of angels. But the Kingdom doesn't come by force.

I am not advocating that virtue should be silent.

I am saying that it should not be coercive, but persuasive, backed not by the power intimidation, but by the gentle, persuading Holy Spirit of God.

I do believe that if people come to faith in Christ, it will begin to change the way we live (and vote), though none of us will ever reflect the will of God perfectly this side of heaven.

Be as politically active as you like. But don't dare to say that you're telling us to vote for Candidate A or to support Nominee B because those persons are God's choices. Unless James Dobson is a prophet, he can't claim to know that. (And remember, prophets always willingly lived with the fact that their word would only be proved with the passage of time.)

I haven't said whether I would vote for Harriet Miers for Associate Justice or not...and I won't say that.

But I think it's unfair to say that she isn't qualified to be on the Court. There is simply nothing in the Constitution to off-handedly dismiss her as unqualified. By all accounts, she is an able lawyer. That's even more than the Constitution requires, in fact.

Historically, the Senate has confirmed nominees to the Court, assuming that Presidents of course, nominate persons they know or whose views are broadly sympathetic with their own. Democrat or Republican, unless there is some ethical or credential problems, I prefer that approach to the hyper-politicization to which the confirmation process has been subjected for over thirty years now.

I do regret that because of this politicization, Presidents feel compelled to nominate judicial tabula rasas--stealth candidates. In the Senate Judiciary Committee, anything that prospective judges have said or done in their lives can and will be used against them.

I think that conservative presidents should feel free to nominate conservatives whose conservatism is well-known. I think the same thing of liberal presidents who nominate liberals to the bench. And I feel that so long as there is nothing ethically objectionable or some lapses in the nominees' records or credentials, that members of the opposite party should be able to vote for them without fear of reprisals from various interest groups. Elections ought to count for something. While members of the Senate may apply whatever criteria they choose in confirming or rejecting nominees, I feel that Senators ought to presume they'll vote Yes absent compelling reasons not to do so.

This is an interesting discussion.

God's best to all!


John Schroeder said...


I do not listen to Dobson's show so I cannot begin to know about the current discussion, but it has been my experience with other issues that he has been careful to delineate his political pronouncements as separate from his pronouncements of Christ.

Much as Paul would differentiate in the epistles when he was speaking from God or when he was speaking for himself.

Many people will not hear properly of that I have no doubt -- but the question is did Dobson cross the line in the way he made his declarations?

Again, and based solely on my previously hearings of Dobson, I think it would be wise to be specific in your charges, i.e. on date x, hour x on this show Dobson said "XXXX"

As you admit, he is allowed to be politically active, provided he makes the proper distinctions, so my interest is precise where he crosses the line.

Mark Daniels said...

Good point. I think he did cross the line on this "inside info" business, as well as when he threatened the Dem Senators earlier this year. I'm also generally put off by anyone--liberal or conservative--who claims some sort of Christian righteousness associated with their favorite political causes. Both Jim Wallis and Jim Dobson appear to do this to me.


Jeremy Pierce said...

I'm with you that Dobson seems to want to seek political solutions for spiritual problems.

I'm a little hesitatant at calling his Christianity a caricature, given that he seems genuinely to be in Christ, and such a statement seems to me to get a little too close to blaspheming by saying that Christ is not present in someone who is in Christ. I know you intended to be talking about his public stance and not his own Christian faith, but the way the post reads it's not going to be easy for every reader to make that distinction.

I really have to take issue with your last point, though. I can't see how it's bad in any way at all to take a stand for righteousness. Righteousness is righteousness, and we should seek to do what's righteous. If that means voting for candidates that we think will do righteous things, then so be it. If that means being politically active in particular causes, then so be it. Dobson's problem is not that he cares about pursuing righteousness with respect to the political realm. His problem is that he seems to think that's the solution to spiritual problems. He's got the order reversed.

Mark Daniels said...

I'm sorry that it's taken me so long to respond to your comments.

First of all, thanks for dropping by and for sharing your thoughts.

Secondly, I didn't mean to imply that James Dobson's faith is a cartoon caricature of Christianity. I can't know what's in someone's heart any more than others can truly know what's in mine. By all evidence I've seen before, James Dobson is a believer in Jesus Christ. I do believe though, that through his stridency and his insistence on exercising the levers of political power, he creates such a caricature in the minds of the general populace.

I'm admittedly a bit dense, Jeremy, but I'm not quite certain about what you're referencing when you mention my "last point." Could you clarify that for me so that I can be responsive to your comments?

Thanks and God bless you!

Mark Daniels