Saturday, October 28, 2006

Dobson + Coulter: Focus on the Fundamentalists

In September of 2003, the then president of Mercer University, Kirby Godsey, delivered a paper at a preaching consultation in St. Simon’s Island, Ga. At the beginning of this paper he had this to say about fundamentalism:

I believe that over the next few decades, fundamentalism will be unmasked and exposed as a fraudulent form of faith. Fundamentalism in all of its expressions worldwide is barbaric and uncivilized, replacing creativity with control and manipulation. It churns out passions that breed religious hatred and bigotry and the twisted wreckage of misplaced devotion. The ascendance of fundamentalist passion and the rhetoric of holy destruction (an oxymoron if I ever heard one) is contributing to the demise of humankind, diminishing our higher calling to love mercy and to do justice and places the progress of human creation in peril. There is not a dime’s worth of difference in Christian, Baptist, Jewish, or Islamic fundamentalism. They are all dangerous, evil forms of religious commitment. People who maim and kill and destroy and put other people down in the name of God are children of evil and the appeal to God’s name does not bring sanctity to their work. Holy meanness is still meanness!
If anyone has any doubts of the wisdom of Godsey's observations, they need only look at this article from EthicsDaily.com. I will be quoting liberally from this article for the rest of this post. Please look at the original article for links that back up much of what the author is writing.

At issue is the recent guest appearance of the ultra-conservative political pundit Ann Coulter on Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program last week. For those of you unfamiliar with Coulter, here are a few quotes I found while surfing the net:

(Concerning Muslim Countries)We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.
(Concerning the environment) "The ethic of conservation is the explicit abnegation of man's dominion over the Earth. The lower species are here for our use. God said so: Go forth, be fruitful, multiply, and rape the planet--it's yours. That's our job: drilling, mining and stripping. Sweaters are the anti-Biblical view. Big gas-guzzling cars with phones and CD players and wet bars -- that's the Biblical view."
(This quote is from her latest book Godless: The Church of Liberalism and concerns the widows of 9/11)These broads are millionaires, lionized on TV and in articles about them, reveling in their status as celebrities and stalked by grief-arazzis. These self-obsessed women seemed genuinely unaware that 9/11 was an attack on our nation and acted as if the terrorist attacks happened only to them. ... I've never seen people enjoying their husbands' deaths so much ... the Democrat ratpack gals endorsed John Kerry for president ... cutting campaign commercials... how do we know their husbands weren't planning to divorce these harpies? Now that their shelf life is dwindling, they'd better hurry up and appear in Playboy."
Does that sound like a Christian to you? Is this the kind of message you would like to teach your children? Obviously, James Dobson thinks so. What follows is the summary of the interviews as it appeared in the EthicsDaily.com article. I will highlight in red the statements I find to be particularly offensive:

When Dobson asked her about the title of the book and its attack on liberals, Coulter responded, "They are the opposition party to God." However, Coulter does not appear to be a member or regular attender of any church.


Coulter also reportedly swears, drinks and smokes. Additionally, Coulter's over-the-top rhetoric and ad hominem attacks—such as those on women who lost their husbands in the tragic attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—bear little resemblance to the biblical model of being loving or careful in what one says.


Despite these problems, Dobson not only gave Coulter two days of his show but also lavished her with praise throughout the interview. He encouraged her to come on the show again and expressed his "hope" that she would be a guest on the show many times "through the years."


"It is obvious why you drive the liberals absolutely crazy, and it's fun watching you do it," he told her. "You are a good lady. … And I appreciate what you're trying to do."


During the interview, Coulter and Dobson mocked Senator John Kerry's faith and military service. Dobson complained that during the 2004 election, Kerry's five votes against a partial-birth abortion ban were not very widely reported.


Coulter responded with the sarcastic response, "No, what we heard was that he was an altar boy." As she laughed, Dobson added with a chuckle, "Yeah, repeatedly." Coulter would later again state sarcastically, "He was an altar boy" as Dobson chuckled at her response.


Yet, how can they know his sincerity since they cannot know his heart? After all, "James Dobson is no Jesus."


In the midst of this segment making light of Kerry's religious dedication, Dobson also mocked Kerry's military service in Vietnam. He injected with a light-hearted tone, "And by the way, did you know he fought in Vietnam?"


Both Dobson and Coulter laughed at the remark. Yet, even if one accepts the Swift Boat version that Kerry's record was not as heroic as he claimed, he should be praised for actually going and serving his nation in harm's way.


During the interview, the two attacked Hollywood, the media, the courts, affirmative action, stem-cell research, public schools, concerns about torture, environmentalism, feminists and evolution.

Most of the attacks centered on "liberals," their influence on society and their supposed attempts to suppress Christianity and the family.


Dobson repeated and affirmed Coulter's claim in her book that "Liberals are anti-science." Coulter also attacked claims that liberals care about the poor and argued that they instead try to keep people poor and kill the poor.


"Liberals don't care about the poor," she retorted. "That is part of the point of the book to wake people up who are decent people who call themselves 'liberals.' I don't think there are that many of them left, though."


At one point, Dobson asked which institution Coulter would most want to take control of because of its importance.


"The public schools," Coulter responded. "What is being taught in the public schools, I think would make most parents to go out and boil the teachers unions' officials in oil."


Dobson, who has attacked public schools before, chimed in by claiming, "There is no redeeming social value, I think, in the National Education Association." Coulter expressed her agreement with this statement.


Near the end of the interview, Coulter dismissed concerns about how prisoners are treated at Guantanamo Bay. She argued that the idea that one should "shower [your enemies] with kindness" is merely "a liberal idea that will not die." So much for turning the other cheek or praying for your enemies.


Following the interview, Dobson exclaimed on the air, "I really enjoyed this interview." Yet, after the two episodes, one question arises: is this picture of conservative Christianity and family values?
Are these statements consistent with the New Testament you have read? Is Coulter a good example of a Christian following Jesus' instruction to "love your neighbor?"

It is my observation that, historically, moderate Christians have not been willing to speak out against fundamentalists, because we don't want to set the wrong example for what Christians should be. However, I would propose that Coulter and, because he did not correct her, Dr. Dobson are false prophets. Their teachings are not based on scripture, rather they are contrary to them. Paul writes in II Timothy: "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." So, as Christians, it is time for us to speak up and gently use scripture to teach, rebuke, and correct Dobson and other fundamentalists like him.

As a country, we are facing serious issues that will require serious contemplation and discussion from both sides of the aisle. By the way, it has always been my belief that there are and need to be Christians in both parties. If you believe that one party has all the right answers, then you are fooling yourself. These kinds of remarks serve no useful purpose, and are, in fact, counterproductive. Since I identify myself as a Democrat, I will look to a democrat for a better option:
"We believe in a politics...dominated by evidence and argument. There is a big difference between a philosophy and an ideology on the right or the left. If you have a philosophy, it generally pushes you in a certain direction or another. But like all philosophers, you want to engage in discussion and argument. You are open to evidence, to new learning. And you are certainly open to debate the practical applications of your philosophy."

"The problem with ideology is if you got an ideology, you already got your mind made up, you know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time, so you tend to govern by assertion and attack. The problem with that is that discourages thinking and gives you bad results."

"I long for the day when Republicans and Democrats will sit around and have these raucous, exciting arguments and actually love learning from one another, and when we create the common good out of a dynamic center."

— Bill Clinton, October 18, 2006 (excerpts speech given at Georgetown University)

We should also encourage Dr. Dobson to change the name of his radio program to "Focus on Fundamentalism" because he has lost his emphasis on the health of the Christian family and seems to be much more obsessed with protecting and increasing his political power.

9 comments:

Eric said...

I was very disappointed in James Dobson when he recorded a political campaign ad supporting a particular candidate for the September primary here in Florida. He made sure to qualify his participation as "a private citizen," but such hair-splitting doesn't do anything to lessen his loss of respect in my book.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that anyone who has listened to Ann Coulter for more than about fifteen minutes can honestly believe that she is a disciple of Jesus Christ. I think this speaks to the heart of what is really wrong in this country: the difference between professing to be a Christian and actually being a Christian.

Fundamentalism, liberalism, evangelicalism, protestantism... none of it really matters. What matters is being a disciple of Christ instead of just walking around with your WWJD bracelet and a fish on your car.

If all of the people who claim to be Christians in this country would actually become disciples of Christ, we wouldn't have any more poverty, racial inequality, or any other social issues, and we could start working on curing the social ills in the rest of the world.

That way, the world can hate us for what we really are, instead of for what we say we are and so woefully misrepresent.

Gil Gulick said...

I agree with you for the most part, except for one thing. I believe that being a fundamentalist makes it impossible to become a disciple of Christ. Please note, I am not talking about being a conservative here, I am talking about fundamentalism. If you want me to go into a more in depth discussion of that, then I will be happy to.

Roger said...

Gil,
Do you listen to Dobson regularly or are on his mailing list so that you can know what's on his heart? Calling him a 'false prophet' is a fearfully strong accusation. Dobson is your brother in Christ - and your goal should be to see him do God's will and not to label him or shoot him down. Remember, the enemy accuses us in hopes of tearing us down. God tests us to build us up. Pray about this and see how God would lead you to handle the issue in the future.

Gil Gulick said...

False prophet may be (although I am not convinced of this) too strong a term.

"- and your goal should be to see him do God's will and not to label him or shoot him down."

Would your response be the same to Dr. Dobson? His repeated characterizations and name calling of liberals regularly "shoot down" Christians who do not agree with him. I do not believe that in supporting Ann Coulter he is doing God's will, so what would the appropriate response be, in your opinion?

roger said...

I don't believe that Dobson resorts to 'name calling'. He often disagrees with 'liberals ' on principles that are revealed in scripture. Do you listen to his program or know much about him?

>I do not believe that in supporting Ann Coulter he is doing God's will, so what would the appropriate response be, in your opinion?

You should contact his organization and let them know of your concerns. Biblical church discipline is redemptive in nature - and not done from afar via a third person.

>False prophet may be (although I am not convinced of this) too strong a term.

I'd think about that some more. If Dobson is not a false prophet, you are guilty of calling your brother in Christ a false prophet in public for all to hear. I don't say that to judge you but to bring up the serious nature (and ramifications) of this kind of accusation. Would that cause others to stumble?

Gil Gulick said...

I have listened to Dr. Dobson's program, but I do not listen on a regular basis. But, your assertion that he does not name call is incorrect. Here are some quotes I found in about 5 minutes of searching on the internet:

DOBSON: I heard a minister the other day talking about the great injustice and evil of the men in white robes, the Ku Klux Klan, that roamed the country in the South, and they did great wrong to civil rights and to morality. And now we have black-robed men, and that's what you're talking about.

Dobson: "Patrick Leahy is a 'God's people' hater. I don't know if he hates God, but he hates God's people,"

Those are just a couple of examples. And I also think that you must admit that in many of the contexts that Dr. Dobson uses the word liberal, he is using it the same way I could use the word "Fundie." Although I do not use that word. Finally, in the transcripts I posted, and in other interviews I have heard, he has no issue allowing others to come on his show and "name call." In not correcting them, or even laughing along with them, isn't he equally as guilty?

>>You should contact his organization and let them know of your concerns. Biblical church discipline is redemptive in nature - and not done from afar via a third person.<<

So, you have a problem with me doing it on my blog, but no problem with Dr. Dobson doing it on his nationally heard radio program or on his website?

Roger said...

Before we go any further, we need to address the root of the problem:

What is it that you want Dobson to say or do? What should he be? Why is there so much anger directed toward this man?

Jim said...

I'm no fan at all of Coulter. I like Dobson, but I don't think he should've had Coulter on his show.

Having said that, I don't know if I would support Godsey's statement that fundamentalist Christianity is the same as fundamentalist Islam. I'd much rather have someone make fun of me than saw my head off.

Gil Gulick said...

Studying for Greek exam. Responses will be posted after that exam on Friday.