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Jul

2008

The Theofascism of James Dobson
Wednesday, 09 July 2008 03:17
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.

James Dobson has a Ph.D. in child development. He advocates spanking. He was once known as “the Religious Right’s New Kingmaker.” The “king” he helped make was George W. Bush, who tops “the list when American voters pick the worst U.S. President in the last 61 years.” As a prominent character in the Bush-Rove nightmare, Dobson

set himself up as a religiously-based political dictator bent on getting us to support his personal view of legislated morality.

And what’s even worse, Dobson goes to great length to use Scripture to support his view, and yet according to Time magazine he doesn’t even have any formal theological training. In short, Dobson, using his position as a radio psychologist, has set himself up as our moral authority and asks us all to blindly follow. [italics added]

His Focus on the Family empire is considerable, although not as powerful as it once was. A mid-September 2007 article from The Denver Channel.com reported that “Focus on the Family is laying off 30 employees and reassigning 15 others, due in part to a drop in projected revenue …”

Dobson and his organization have slowly but surely been losing power. Perhaps that’s why the Chairman needed to make more outrageous statements to garner public attention and mobilize the sheeple “to blindly follow” and contribute to his cause.

Dobson used his June 24, 2008 radio broadcast to make preposterous claims and attack Barack Obama. The attack was the lead story on CNN.com:
A top U.S. evangelical leader is accusing Sen. Barack Obama of deliberately distorting the Bible and taking a “fruitcake interpretation” of the U.S. Constitution.

In comments to be aired on his radio show Tuesday, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson criticizes the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee for comments he made in a June 2006 speech to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal.

In the speech, Obama suggested that it would be impractical to govern based solely on the word of the Bible, noting that some passages suggest slavery is permissible and eating shellfish is disgraceful.

“Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy?” Obama asked in the speech. “Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with 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 Defense Department would survive its application.”

The first and most obvious question is “Why was this the lead story?” As Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out noted in his reaction to the story, “Dobson is not an ordained minister, nor is he a religious scholar.” Moreover, Dobson is notorious for twisting and misrepresenting legitimate research:

In the past two years, at least seven researchers have accused Dobson of manipulating or cherry picking their results to back his anti-gay teachings. Letters and videos documenting the concerns of these respected professors can be viewed at RespectMyResearch.org.

The first researcher to step forward was New York University educational psychologist Carol Gilligan, PhD. On Sept. 14, 2006 Gilligan wrote a letter to Dobson that stated: “I was mortified to learn that you had distorted my work this week in a guest column you wrote in Time Magazine...What you wrote was not truthful and I ask that you refrain from ever quoting me again and that you apologize for twisting my work.”

The most recent scientist to claim Double-Talk Dobson distorted his work was University of Minnesota’s Gary Remafedi, M.D., M.P.H. In a letter to Dobson, dated April 28, 2008, he wrote, “I want to draw your attention to a gross misrepresentation of our research at the website of 'Focus on the Family.’”

Other leading researchers who have taken issue with Dobson's use of their work include: Dr. Kyle Pruett, Professor of child psychiatry, the Yale University School of Medicine; Dr. Robert Spitzer, Professor of Psychiatry, Columbia University; Angela Phillips, Professor, Goldsmiths College in London; Dr. Elizabeth Saewyc, Associate Professor, school of nursing, University of British Columbia; and Dr. Judith Stacy, Professor of Sociology, New York University.

So the question remains: why would mainstream media give Dobson such front-page coverage without qualification? As Mr. Besen said in his follow-up article,

...the wonderful “liberal media” continues to treat this man as if he is a God-fearing grandfather. What disturbs me, is that the one time Dobson was truly exposed as a kook was when he suggested Sponge Bob Square Pants might be gay. This was worthy of laughs, but when some of the brightest minds in the world take Dobson to task for manipulating years of hard work, the media is largely MIA. Isn’t it time the media paint a full and accurate portrait of a man who has had the ear of many presidents? … We urge the media to report the facts and allow America to see the real James Dobson.

Dobson’s statements in his broadcast were nothing short of megalomaniacal: “it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture.” It seems Dobson thinks he alone knows THE “correct” interpretation of scripture and, therefore, he and he alone should decide what legislation is acceptable. Does this sound like the ranting of a theofascist dictator to you?

Dobson’s other statements and accusations are thoroughly addressed on a web site sponsored by “a coalition of pastors and other Christians, lead by Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell.” Appropriately, the site is titled JamesDobsonDoesNotSpeakForMe.com. Dobson’s statements are compared, point by point, with what Mr. Obama actually said in his 2006 speech which, by the way, warned against the dangers of America become a theocratic state.

Rev. Jim Wallis of Sojourners was both astute and eloquent in his reaction to Dobson’s radio broadcast. It was also based on first-hand knowledge. Rev. Wallis was present at the 2006 speech. Indeed, Sojourners sponsored the event:

The clear purpose of the show was to attack Barack Obama. On the show, Dobson says of himself, “I’m not a reverend. I’m not a minister. I’m not a theologian. I’m not an evangelist. I’m a psychologist. I have a Ph.D. in child development.” Child psychologists don’t insert themselves into partisan politics in the regular way that James Dobson does and has over many years as one of the premier leaders of the Religious Right. He has spoken about how often he talked to Republican leaders – Karl Rove, administration strategists, and even President Bush himself. This year he tried to influence the outcome of the Republican primary by saying he would never vote for John McCain or the Republicans if they nominated him, then reversed himself and said he would vote after all but didn’t say for whom. But why should America care about how a child psychologist votes?

James Dobson is insinuating himself into this presidential campaign, and his attacks against his fellow Christian, Barack Obama, should be seriously scrutinized. And because the basis for his attack on Obama is the speech the Illinois senator gave at our Sojourners/Call to Renewal event in 2006 (for the record, we also had Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republicans Rick Santorum and Sam Brownback speak that year), I have decided to respond to Dobson’s attacks. In most every case they are themselves clear distortions of what Obama said in that speech. I was there for the speech; Dobson was not.

In a missive dated “June 2008” and titled “Judicial Tyranny and California Lunacy,” Dobson demonstrated once again how he distorts facts, cherry-picks the Bible, relies of scare tactics, name-calling and irrationalities. For someone who claims to be a defender of and believer in the Bible, Dr. Dobson seems completely ignorant of Romans 13:1-2, NIV:

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves

The duly elected and/or appointed judges – the judicial arm of the “governing authorities” – who dared render a decision contrary to his wishes Dobson calls “imperious courts,” “judicial tyranny,” “powermongers [sic] in black robes,” “judicial tyrants.” It would seem Dobson deserves nothing but condemnation, according to the Bible that is.

Aside from name-calling, in “Judicial Tyranny and California Lunacy” Dobson railed against two rulings by California courts: “The first of these unfortunate decisions was issued by the Los Angeles-based Second District Court of Appeal, which declared it illegal for parents without teaching licenses to home school their own flesh and blood.”

Teachers are professionals and as such they have had extensive training not only in pedagogy but in the subject matter they teach. They’ve had to pass certification examinations and be licensed by professional boards. To be sure, America’s public education system has its problems, but how many home-schooling parents have pedagogical training plus academic training and expertise in ALL the various subjects they must teach? Dobson favors home-schooling not because it aids in a child’s social, emotional and intellectual development, but because it affords a means for some to indoctrinate children into the “biblical worldview,” which includes such “facts” as the earth is about 6000 years old, Adam and Eve were real people, and dinosaurs played with human children in Eden. This clip from Jesus Camp makes the point, as does this response to it.

Dobson’s use of “their own flesh and blood” is a pretentious emotional appeal that excludes adopted children. Apparently he has little time and little concern for them. But he did have time to snipe at the judges of the Second District Court of Appeal: “They might not even be parents, or if they are, who knows how effectively they did the job when their children were young.” Such a statement is not only inappropriate, it shows how very small Dobson really is.

Not surprisingly, aside from again ignoring the Biblical directive in Romans 13:1-2 and attacking the judicial arm of the “governing authorities,” Dobson’s second subject was one of his favorites: advocacy of legal discrimination and bigotry.

The second decision handed down from on high a few weeks ago was even more egregious. The California Supreme Court, by a vote of 4 to 3, overturned an electoral decision supported by 4,618,673 voters in the year 2000. It concerned Proposition 22, which defined marriage exclusively as being between one man and one woman. … The Court sniffed, “Not so fast, common people. We hold the trump card and you lose.”

True, Proposition 22 – like 1964’s Proposition 14 that allowed real estate agents and landlords in California to reject home buyers or tenants of their choice, even if their decision was based on racial discrimination – was passed by popular vote, but both were declared unconstitutional by due process of law. It’s doubtful a Proposition 14 would ever be proposed today. Times and attitudes have changed in relation to many social issues. Dobson, however, remains sequestered in the past.

Attitudes toward gay people and their right to civil equality have also changed significantly since 2000. More and more people – including a considerable number of evangelical Christians – have grown weary of Christiantist leaders’ vituperative attacks on gay and lesbian Americans and their obsessive ranting about gay marriage, while ignoring virtually all other social concerns.

Over ninety percent of Fortune 500 companies now have anti-discrimination policies that protect gays. More and more companies, colleges and universities, states and municipalities are offering same-sex domestic partner benefits, despite challenges and litigation from the Christianist Right’s legal minions.

The Los Angeles Times conducted a poll after the state’s Supreme Court’s decision. The question posed was “Did the California Supreme Court make the correct decision?” The results as of May 18, 2008 reflect the changing times and attitudes. Of the 35,257 respondents 75.8 percent said “yes,” while only 24.2 percent said “no.” Other poll results sound the same note:

63 percent say gay marriage is a choice
Jun. 3, 2008 04:46 PM
USA Today

Six in ten Americans say the government should not regulate whether gays and lesbians can wed the persons they choose, a new survey finds.

As same-sex couples start lining up to get marriage licenses in California on June 17, the USA TODAY/Gallup Poll found 63 percent of adults say same-sex marriage is “strictly a private decision” between two people.

Then there’s reality and basic common sense. Jonathan Rauch, senior writer with National Journal and a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, made the case in his June 21, 2008 Wall Street Journal article “Gay Marriage Is Good for America”:

Marriage, remember, is not just a contract between two people. It is a contract that two people make, as a couple, with their community – which is why there is always a witness. Two people can't go into a room by themselves and come out legally married. The partners agree to take care of each other so the community doesn't have to. In exchange, the community deems them a family, binding them to each other and to society with a host of legal and social ties.

This is a fantastically fruitful bargain. Marriage makes you, on average, healthier, happier and wealthier. If you are a couple raising kids, marrying is likely to make them healthier, happier and wealthier, too. Marriage is our first and best line of defense against financial, medical and emotional meltdown. It provides domesticity and a safe harbor for sex. It stabilizes communities by formalizing responsibilities and creating kin networks. And its absence can be calamitous, whether in inner cities or gay ghettos.

In 2008, denying gay Americans the opportunity to marry is not only inhumane, it is unsustainable. History has turned a corner: Gay couples – including gay parents – live openly and for the most part comfortably in mainstream life. This will not change, ever.

Because parents want happy children, communities want responsible neighbors, employers want productive workers, and governments want smaller welfare caseloads, society has a powerful interest in recognizing and supporting same-sex couples. It will either fold them into marriage or create alternatives to marriage, such as publicly recognized and subsidized cohabitation. Conservatives often say same-sex marriage should be prohibited because it does not exemplify the ideal form of family. They should consider how much less ideal an example gay couples will set by building families and raising children out of wedlock.

Mr. Rauch’s statements are echoed by every legitimate medical and sociological association in America and are well summarized in this fact sheet from the American Psychological Association.

Dobson made two other statements in his June 2008 diatribe that attest to his being out of focus not only in relation to American families, but in relation to reality itself:

Has it occurred to Californians to consider what amounts to another “recall election” for the four Justices who have disregarded the institution of marriage? …

Marriage is not simply a Judeo-Christian concept, although it finds its origins in the Garden of Eden. The Creator said to Adam and Eve, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24, NIV).

Anyone who doesn’t agree with Dobson is wrong, immoral and anti-American: sanctimonious megalomania at its darkest. To suggest judges who upheld constitution guarantees of equality for all citizens be “recalled” speaks to Dobson’s theofascist agenda.

Apparently Dr. Dobson is unaware of the fact that the civil institution of marriage is not a “Judeo-Christian concept” and existed long before Jehovah was created. But the truly scary part is that Dobson believes Adam and Eve were real people and lived in the Garden of Eden… no doubt along with Tyrannosaurs Rex.

Since he obviously takes the Bible as literal history and the final word on morality and living a truly “Christian” life, shouldn’t Dr. Dobson hear, honor and obey the words of Jesus before he claims to “stand up for Christ” again: “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Luke 18:22, NIV).

Dobson and the other leaders of the Christianist Right live large. One has to wonder how they justify that given Jesus’ explicit directive. Or maybe that’s one of those “outdated” Biblical edicts they feel so justified in ignoring when it suits their social-political purposes.

The Focus on the Family chairman ended his “passionate” June 2008 message with more irrationality:
let me remind you that California and the rest of the country would not be in the mess it is in if the U.S. Congress had not ignored and run from their duty to protect the institution of the family. All three presidential candidates voted against the Marriage Protection Amendment, and to my knowledge, not a one of them has uttered a word about the preservation of the traditional family. Honestly, we have to assume that they don’t give a hoot about marriage. [italics added]
“Protect the institution of the family”? If “the family” is in danger, it’s certainly not from same-sex couples who have fought so hard for the right to marry and have their families recognized. Perhaps Dobson has in mind of constitutional amendment making divorce illegal. Probably not though, since that would hurt his power-base as the 2004 Barna Group report titled “Born Again Christians Just As Likely to Divorce As Are Non-Christians” documented: “among married born again Christians, 35% have experienced a divorce. That figure is identical to the outcome among married adults who are not born again: 35%.” Barna also documented that “nearly one-quarter of the married ‘born agains’ (23%) get divorced two or more times.”

“Preservation of the traditional family.” Does Dobson really think that gay and lesbian Americans marrying will cause heterosexuals to stop marrying? Does Dobson really think that gay and lesbian Americans marrying will cause all existing “traditional families” to self-destruct? Can anyone really be that irrational, that delusional?

“We have to assume that they don’t give a hoot about marriage”: the ultimate non sequitur. How typical that a deceptive, deceiving charlatan prefaces such an absurdity with “honestly.”

Obviously Dobson wants to amend the U.S. Constitution so that it denies civil rights rather than protecting them. A new version of the Federal Marriage Amendment – now dubbed the “Marriage Protection Amendment” – has been introduced into the U.S. Senate. Two of the senators who “have named themselves as co-sponsors of S. J. RES. 43” are particularly noteworthy:

Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), who was arrested June 11, 2007 on charges of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport terminal, is co-sponsoring the amendment along with Sen. David Vitter (R-LA).

Craig, who entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, was detained and charged for attempting to engage in sexual activity with a male undercover police officer. His arrest and plea became public two months later. At that time, Craig attempted to withdraw his plea and enter a new plea of not guilty. To date, his efforts have been denied by the courts.

In July of 2007, Vitter was identified as a client of a prostitution firm owned by the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey, commonly known as The DC Madam.

Now that’s hypocrisy on a par with the antics of one of Dobson’s old buddies, Ted Haggard. It’s also akin to that of Rev. R. Albert Mohler, ninth president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a member of the board of Focus on the Family who, not surprisingly, supported Dobson’s criticism of Mr. Obama. You remember Rev. Mohler, the “sanctity of life” guy who had no problem with eugenics as long as those exterminated were gays.

On March 2, 2007, Mohler published an article titled “Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?” In it he implicitly acknowledged that sexual orientation has a genetic component and/or is hormonally determined prior to birth, but looked forward to the day when medical science could change that:

If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin…

Biblical literalists have always argued against any pre-natal meddling with a fetus, claiming that whatever the fetus was, was its God-given birthright. Funny how that thinking changes so radically when gay people are involved. Mohler’s pre-natal genetic cleansing proposal is nothing less than a twenty-first century theofascist program of eugenics.

The more they pontificate, the more the self-righteous leaders of the Christianist Right contradict themselves and expose their theofascist agenda. Yet a considerable number of Americans continue to support these bigots and hate-mongers who hide behind “religion.” Why? Could it be that they share the same Schadenfreude needs? Or has religion just made them too scared to thinking for themselves and see reality as it is?

In memory of the late George Carlin and his reality-based thoughts about religion
 
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Dwayne said:

0
Pray
If everyone would take a minute to stop and do nothing but pray for their "enemies", it would be much harder to hate one another.
 
July 09, 2008
Votes: +0

Bill said:

0
cherry-picking the Bible
while I agree with Dwayne that we must stop and pray for those that we disagree with, I cannot overlook the obvious discrepency between what the author says and does. While I do not agree with everything James Dobson says, I also think that Dr. Seesholtz does his own share of cherry-picking from the Bible. He quotes the passage in Romans 13:1-2, and uses it to justify every vile descision that comes down from the court system while ignoring a very long passage in the very same book which describes homosexual activity as perversion. Any faithful reading of Romans 1:18-32 would require the understanding that homosexuality is outside of God's will for humanity, but it seems that Dr. Seesholtz only picks the passages that fit his own agenda. I am tired of all the debate about who is right and who is wrong. What we really need to remember is that we are all sinners saved by grace thorugh faith in Jesus Christ. While we Christians should take part in our government process, it is not the answer to our problems--only Christ can fulfill what we need.
 
July 11, 2008
Votes: +0

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