I've cut Focus on the Family's James Dobson slack in the past, even in my harshest critiques. Not any more. Dr. Dobson has long been involved in a project to return America to a "Christian era" which in truth it never enjoyed. His enemies are the usual suspects: "far left" Democrats, gays, liberals, commies, and apparently naive young evangelicals willing to vote for Barack Obama. But especially gays (and we'll get back to that issue later).
This all comes to light on Dobson's political website, Focus Action, where he has published his most nightmarish fantasy, "Letter from 2012 in Obama's America." This pseudo-prophetic work of fiction takes place in 2012, and the narrator is telling us all about how terrible the new Obamafied America is. In short, America has gone to hell under Obama's alleged wimpy / socialist / Muslim-friendly / terrorist friendly / gay-marriage friendly / just plain unAmerican leadership.
This may be the most harsh thing I've ever said on this blog. But with this letter Dr. Dobson has created one of the more overtly fascist things I've seen from the Christian Right (and that's saying something!). By "fascist" I don't mean swastika-wearing, Jew-gassing Nazis. I mean people who are interested in forcing their fellow citizens into their imagined perfect world, who use the very word "freedom" itself to attempt taking freedom away. Here's Webster's definition of the fascism I speak of: "a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control."
Fascism works using fear and hate. Usually, it works best by creating fear of someone (the "Other") which quickly is focused into a hatred of that "Other." This technique requires dehumanizing the other, treating her or him as a 3/5 person, so to speak. From there, it is an easy thing to legally marginalize that person and even commit legalized violence against that person. (The above is one reason, by the way, for me personally supporting gay Civil Unions -- and more on that later.)
Now that I'm in that far I might as well take it all the way. The Evangelical / Christian Right's treatment of women, also echoed by Focus on the Family, is fascist. This is where my personal pot of water comes to a boil. And it is easily documented. Read the elaborate (though faulty) theological edifices of the Southern Baptist Convention. The SBC's Southeastern Seminary has systematically stripped women from all real roles of leadership, even from the pulpit and from the mission field, and offers what amount to Home Economic degrees to women. To drive that point home, no men are allowed to take the course.
But I digress. The letter's admixture of fear and hate seems intended to bring a populace toward an autocratic leader by causing them to hate a wholly imaginary other:
[H]ere is a picture of the changes that are likely or at least very possible if Senator Obama is elected and the far-left segments of the Democratic Party gain control of the White House, the Congress, and perhaps then the Supreme Court. The entire letter is written as a “What if?” exercise, but that does not make it empty speculation because every future “event” described here is based on established legal and political trends that can already be abundantly documented and that only need a “tipping point” such as the election of Senator Obama and a Democratic House and Senate to begin to put them into place.
This isn't prophecy, it is only a "pretend" letter from 2012... except it isn't pretend. Its Halloween-like scenario is, according to the letter's preamble, "likely or at least very possible." So what we're dealing with is a "prophetic" letter here, and since it is allegedly prophetic, it therefore presumably carries with it the authority of God. James Dobson is thus made a virtual pope of Protestants, a voice we fail to heed at our own peril. (Remember those "young evangelicals" who voted for Obama? He's talking to YOU!) So, as our Christian authority on all things from family to White House, to whom we should listen without criticism, we shut off our brains and open our gosling mouths wide as he stuffs the worms of fear and rage down our throats: why we MUST NOT vote for Barack Obama!! Feel the wiggle?
Documented? Sure. Like there's a few footnotes. I and others have exposed numerous books on alleged "satanic ritual abuse," some of which were chock full of footnotes. I recall one book in particular which had multiple footnotes per sentence, yet with a bottom line that was patently bogus (it claimed that a massive intergenerational satanic "cult" of high-up politicians, money men, and religious figures was controlling world events). What I learned is to pay attention to the text and what it claims, not some sort of massive footnoting enterprise there to offer the appearance of actual scholarship. The text itself is what I find so incredibly, shockingly offensive. The footnotes rarely actually apply to the central fear and hate mongering "future" the letter claims to know about.
After the above mentioned introduction, the letter opens and immediately sets a tone for what will follow:
I can hardly sing “The Star Spangled Banner” any more. When I hear the words,
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
I get tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Now in October of 2012, after seeing what has happened in the last four years, I don’t think I can still answer, “Yes,” to that question. We are not “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a majority of Democrats in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more.
Get it? Being a Democrat equals being unAmerican. Despite the fact that more Americans this year are Democrats. Voting Democrat to James Dobson means loss of freedom. And what is his "freedom"? A return to 1950s America is no freedom at all, and no one wants that. Yet all Dobson's dark prognostications are "proven" by a fictional letter written by a fictional character in the fictional and very apocalyptic 2012 of the actual writer's fevered imagination.
So when I look up the hammer and sickle are flying over my head, right? Oh, wait. That's the movie "Red Dawn." Maybe "2012 Obama's America" could be a sequel. As far as "tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat," that's my reaction to dinner trying to make a comeback.
Who, according to Dr. Dobson, is guilty for electing this cartoonishly evil slimeball dude with the overly dark skin to the Presidency?!
The 2008 election was closer than anybody expected, but Barack Obama still won. Many Christians voted for Obama – younger evangelicals actually provided him with the needed margin to defeat John McCain – but they didn’t think he would really follow through on the far left policies that had marked his entire previous career. They were wrong.
Dang, all those kids don't know how to vote. Maybe Focus on the Family should send someone with them to the polls to help them out. They should have done what the Benevolent Patriarch(alist) told you to do, and vote for John McCain. Sure, I know a few months back James Dobson said he'd never vote for or support John McCain, but I guess... he lied? This Obama dude has to be stopped at any cost!! Or is it more that Mr. Dobson and Focus on the Family are losing their grip over the present generation, that young evangelicals no longer even understand the scarey lingo and reactionary images Dobson presents as "Christian"? Could this be a power thing, the real nightmare for James Dobson in that his power base is aging itself out of existence? What about the fact that an estimated sixty-six percent of Hispanic Evangelicals are likely Obama voters? That doesn't bode well for Jim Dobson, either. We have seen the future, and it is brown and Democrat.
Here's a shocker! it turns out that Barack Obama is going to destroy the Boy Scouts of America, and/or make every scout the potential victim of a pedophile.
Boy Scouts: “The land of the free”? The Boy Scouts no longer exist as an organization. They chose to disband rather than be forced to obey the Supreme Court decision that they would have to hire homosexual scoutmasters and allow them to sleep in tents with young boys.
Sleep in tents with young boys?! Yikes, sounds like an Anne Rice vampire novel. (I will come back to this lie later.)
Elementary schools: “The land of the free”? Elementary schools now include compulsory training in varieties of gender identity in Grade 1, including the goodness of homosexuality as one possible personal choice. Many parents tried to “opt out” their children from such sessions, but the courts have ruled that they cannot do this, noting that education experts in the government have decided that such training is essential to children’s psychological health.
Wow, that is scary... as in ridiculous. If you really think the above is what voting for Barack Obama will lead to, I'll sell you Lake Michigan. Send me $20 and I'll email the whole thing to you. The above is fear-mongering. It is also, as if I need to note it, more "focus" on homosexuality, which seems to really be an interest of Dr. Dobson's. I mean, REALLY an interest. :
Businesses with government contracts: “The land of the free”? All businesses that have government contracts at the national, state, or local level now have to provide documentation of equal benefits for same sex couples. This was needed to overcome “systemic discrimination” against them and followed on a national level the pattern of policies already in place in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
Two issues here, though arguing with a fantasy written by a right-wing hack is an exercise in stupidity of my own:
Issue One: If the government is funding (or helping fund) a business via using that business, shouldn't the government also get to call the tune as to fairness re hiring and firing in that business? That is, the government isn't forcing the business to do anything... unless that business wants contracts with the government.
Issue Two: as someone who thinks Civil Unions are a good alternative to Gay Marriage (in that they take care of both the gay couple's civil rights and the religious community's proper sense of ownership re what "marriage" means), I think Christians who fight the above sort of thing are being neither wise nor neighborly. By all means, let's attempt to stuff our own definition of moral reality down everyone else's throat, until and if they gain power instead. Then, with our having tutored them on how it is done (with cruelty, unreason, and depersonalizing uniformity) we can have our turn as victims. Not very smart, Mr. Dobson. But since you're the oracle of God and I'm just a poor mutt Christian trying to follow Jesus, I guess you win the authority war. I am the authority of nothing, and you may quote me.
Public broadcasting: “The land of the free”? The Bible can no longer be freely preached over radio or television stations when the subject matter includes such “offensive” doctrines as homosexual conduct or the claim that people will go to hell if they do not believe in Jesus Christ. The Supreme Court agreed that these could be kept off the air as prohibited “hate speech” that is likely to incite violence and discrimination. These policies followed earlier broadcasting and print restrictions that were already in place prior to 2008 in Canada and Sweden.
Oh, please. This reminds me of the crazy -- and false -- charge that atheists had sued the FCC to force removal of all religious programming from radio. Despite the fact that this was not true, the rumor refused to die and continued to resurface in various forms over the years. I guarantee you that we'll be hearing all the right-wing folks on the radio and TV for years and years to come, no matter who's in the White House.
I could go on. But as Jim Wallis of Sojourners and others have already done a fine job overall, I'd like to get a little more focused on one aspect of the letter that really bothered me.
This started off as me reading about Dobson's take on Barack Obama. But it ended with me angry over his treatment of gays. I am trying hard to live in a biblical space regarding homosexuality. I believe Scripture does place homosexual acts (as opposed to temptation / orientation) outside the pale of right Christian behavior. Yet at the same time, I am commanded to love my neighbor.
What I think Dobson has done, is doing with this letter, and apparently will continue to do is to abuse self-identified gay people. And he has done so using the exact approach once used against women militating for the vote and blacks working for their civil rights. He has identified the "other" as the enemy. This is curious, since I myself have suggested for years that homosexuality should not be confused with feminism or race-related issues but is rather an issue with unique characteristics, biblically speaking. Yet James Dobson's twisted fantasy story makes of homosexuality a sin of special nature, a sin that is sensationalized into something... how do I say it... pornographic. In short, I am left wondering if a parent would want the writer of this letter to sleep in a tent with the boys!
Perhaps worst in this shrill bit of rightist propaganda is the conflation of two totally different sexual issues: homosexuality vs. pederasty. Homosexuals are no more likely to molest children than are their heterosexual counterparts. The entirety of the "Boy Scout" bit in this "pretend prophecy" is vile, cruel, and unloving in the most strictly Scriptural sense. There is so much else to loath about that letter, but for this one point alone I personally have moved from upset with Dobson to an anti-Focus on the Family activist. We cannot allow these cruel individuals and ministries to continue representing us to a watching world, much less our non-believing neighbors... some of who are gay!
We are required to bear witness to biblical ideals regarding sexuality, whether addressing homosexuality or America's norms re heterosexuality. But doing so, with great care and meekness and humility while admitting we too struggle with sexuality, is far different than Dr. Dobson's shrill, illogical, and immoral (yes indeed!) attack on our neighbors. I personally repudiate Dr. Dobson or Focus on the Family as representing the Christian Faith I believe in.
And it makes me extremely sad, not glad, to say so.