Sunday, June 29, 2008

Whatsoever Things Are True II

My last post linked to the site I agree with my new friend Carolyn that some of the initial statements on the site might be less than helpful. But I find the refutation of claims on the site to be altogether fair, truthful, necessary, and no violation of Christian love. In the same spirit, I have added below more misguided claims from that Dobson radio program.

Most disturbing about the Dobson discussion (I listened to the whole thing) is that he and Tom Minnery CLEARLY distort Obama’s words and message from the Call to Renewal speech. The very words that Obama used to uphold the place of morality and religious belief in public discourse are turned to say just the opposite.

Whether their distortion is intentional, I don’t know. I'm afraid that our brothers Dobson and Minnery are so hardened in their views that they can’t see the truth. I suspect (but I don't know) that Dr. Dobson did not read, watch, or listen to the entire speech. If he did, then I am even more dismayed at this attack. In that case I do consider this a dishonest portrayal and response. But whether intentional or not, this performance is shameful distortion.

Here are more of the discrepancies:

Tom Minnery/Dobson Claim #6
He diminishes religion itself… he’s not even acknowledging the strong Judeo Christian tradition

What Obama actually said:
Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, Williams Jennings Bryant, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King - indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history - were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Tom Minnery/Dobson Claim #7
Tom Minnery to Dobson: “He begins to diminish you…He has compared you somehow as being on the right with what Al Sharpton is on the left. Al Sharpton achieved his notoriety in the 80s and 90s by engaging in racial bigotry, and many people have called him a black racist and he is somehow equating you with that.”

Dobson: “Why’d this man jump on me?! He also equates me with Al Sharpton who is a reverend. I am not a reverend. I’m not a minister. I’m not a theologian I’m not an evangelist. I’m a psychologist.”

What Obama actually said:
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?

Minnery/Dobson Claim #8
From there he proceeds to disparage serious understanding of the Bible….That kind of commentary drives me crazy. It’s almost willful to confuse the dietetic laws of the Old Testament that applied to the Israelites-- to suggest that the Levitical law governing stoning of a belligerent, drunkard son--- somehow applies to the church age, the New Testament.

What Obama actually said:
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.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Whatsoever Things Are True

My first politically-oriented post on this blog concerned the remarkable speech Barack Obama gave concerning faith and politics at the Call to Renewal event in 2006. You can hear the speech here.

For some reason, Dr. James Dobson has just discovered that speech and taken it upon himself to alert his listeners to its "dangers." Problem is he either deliberately or ignorantly (I won't speculate about intention) distorts Obama's words and message. The issue here is not politically- or even biblically-based opinions. We can disagree in some of those areas. The problem is the total distortion of a man's words to say the opposite (We've seen this before!) of what he was conveying. The result is not just misinterpretation, it is also misinformation. Whether or not the intention was malice, the carelessness and the ungracious characterizations are malicious and don't reflect Christian relationship.

I've been working on my thoughts, but some other good Christian brothers and sisters have given a great start to a response over at Below is an excerpt from that site. Later I intend to offer more of my thoughts.

“What [Obama is] trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe” (Focus on the Family Broadcast, 6/24).

"Indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. So to say that men and women should not inject their "personal morality" into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition" (A Call to Renewal).

“I think [Obama is] deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology” (Focus on the Family Broadcast).

"And in its historical struggles for freedom and the rights of man, I was able to see faith as more than just a comfort to the weary or a hedge against death, but rather as an active, palpable agent in the world. As a source of hope" (A Call to Renewal).

"But kneeling beneath that cross on the South Side, I felt that I heard God's spirit beckoning me. I submitted myself to His will, and dedicated myself to discovering His truth" (A Call to Renewal).

“And if I can’t get everyone to agree with me, it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. That is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution” (Focus on the Family Broadcast).

“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?" (Focus on the Family Broadcast).

“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. 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” (A Call to Renewal).

“We do not have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which is what [Obama] is suggesting” (Focus on the Family Broadcast).

"If we scrub language of all religious content, we forfeit the imagery and terminology through which millions of Americans understand both their personal morality and social justice. Imagine Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address without reference to "the judgments of the Lord." Or King's I Have a Dream speech without references to "all of God's children." Their summoning of a higher truth helped inspire what had seemed impossible, and move the nation to embrace a common destiny" (A Call to Renewal).

“I'd just like to ask your viewers if they've heard a single comment made by the three Presidential candidates on any occasion that even mentioned the well-being of this most basic, social institution (family)” (CNN).

“Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives, we are reminded today that family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation… But if we are honest with ourselves, we'll admit that what too many fathers also are is missing – missing from too many lives and too many homes. They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it” (Father’s Day Speech, Apostolic Church).

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Once Again, People: Barack Obama is a Christian!

I’m not sure who told Cal Thomas he was the arbiter of who is and isn’t a Christian. Thomas is right on one count: “One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith… and be a Christian.” But Christians, including Evangelicals and Catholics, do not all agree on what are the central tenets of the Christian faith.

For the record, Obama says in a Christianity Today interview: “I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life. But most importantly, I believe in the example that Jesus set by feeding the hungry and healing the sick and always prioritizing the least of these over the powerful… Accepting Jesus Christ in my life has been a powerful guide for my conduct and my values and my ideals."

Barack Obama, too, is right on at least one count: "There's the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven't embraced Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, they're going to hell."

Obama has proclaimed Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, but he is right to raise this issue, because nowhere is Scripture does it say that that we should embrace Jesus as our personal Savior to avoid hell.

Since we evangelicals are big on testing views against Scripture, there’s this from Paul’s letter to the Romans (10:9): “If you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (That means you won’t go to hell). Looks to me as if Obama meets this requirement.

But while we’re talking about hell and how to avoid it, here’s Jesus in Matthew 25:

"Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

"Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."

Barack Obama has devoted his adult life to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, looking after the sick and prisoners. He has done so directly as well as in fighting for public policy.

So Barack Obama testifies to his commitment to Jesus Christ and has lived a life to reflect that commitment, according to the Christian Scriptures. So if I’m going to guess whether he is truly a Christian I will assess according to Jesus and biblical criteria rather than Cal Thomas’s.