James C. Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, an influential fundamentalist Christian organization, says he is “deeply disappointed in President Bush and Congressional Republicans” for “betraying social conservatives.” Dobson and others of his ilk want the current administration to come out more strongly against abortion, gay rights and immigration. They have strong opinions on what should be done to shape the culture of the United States. They base their opinions on the fact that they are Christians. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My parents raised me as a Christian. When I was a child I attended a southern Baptist church. Even though it was the tumultuous decade of the 1960s, the message from our pastor was one of love, not hatred. We were taught not to judge nor to oppress. Our pastor challenged the congregation to take responsibilty for their lives and to think deeply—not to react in thoughtless anger. He didn’t pretend to know all the mysteries of faith nor did he assume that the Church had all the answers and solutions to life’s existential challenges.
There are still Christians like my former pastor. Woe that they aren’t among the Church’s representatives that we see on the commercial evening “news” programs. Instead, in the commercial networks’ zeal for creating and maintaining sensationalistic controversy, the greater public is seduced into thinking that most Christians are of the school of Dr. Dobson who makes his judgements clear. For example, Dobson blames pornography—what he considers pornographic—for the ills of society. After all, he got Ted Bundy to “confess” that it was pornography that led the killer to commit multiple murders (another master manipulation by Bundy). This is a simple-minded argument that has been challenged by numerous scientific and social studies. But I digress. Dobson and his followers profess to understand the Christian bible in all of its complexities and they believe, no, demand, that everyone should adhere to their interpretations of the sacred text. In their zeal, they are attempting to influence and force public policy to reflect their belief system. They assume that they are the “true” Christians and that all others are heretics. They exhibit little sign of inner-reflection and humility. Theirs is a theology of condemnation. Homosexuals are vile. Women should know “their place.” The beliefs of third-world countries are heathen. Nowhere does one hear a message of hope and love, a message that Jesus Christ Himself was known to exhort.
Jesus was one complex guy. He had a fiery temper and threw the money changers out of the temple. But he also liked a good party and loved wine. Instead of trashing the sinners, he hung out with them. You know, prostitutes and thieves. He reached out to the poor. He preached forgiveness (something that’s very out of fashion these days) and hated hypocrisy. All the while, the pharisees pointed fingers at him. All the while, the pharisees touted their rulebook and their laws. But Jesus didn’t preach law, he was outside of it. And when it came to the sins of others, well to paraphrase, “he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”
Dobson, Falwell, Robertston, these are the pharisees of the day. Amazing that they don’t see that. But they stand on their “Christianity.” They say ours’ is a “Christian country.” No doubt, their brand of Christianity. But it is in fact a myth that this is a Christian country. Let’s take a look at the record:
1. 300 years or more of the transatlantic slave trade. Missionaries swarmed the Congo to indoctrinate the “savages,” to justify kidnapping and their enslavement. Our Founding Fathers had no problem with this. George Washington had his fair share of slaves. Thomas Jefferson had Sally Hemmings. And anyone who thinks Abraham Lincoln was on the side of blacks because he believed in the evils of slavery hasn’t read the history books. (The Vatican eventually apologized for its role in the slave trade about three hundred years after the fact.)
2. The oppression of women. It’s not just the “Christians” who are guilty of this. Take a look at Islam’s track record. And Orthodox Jews sure know how to keep them in the kitchen and on the delivery table.
3. The failure to intervene in the Holocaust. The United States knew Jews and other dissidents of Hitler’s regime were being gassed in the Nazi death camps. Once we were attacked at Pearl Harbor, we decided to get involved.
4. The justification of bigotry. The White Citizen’s Council, made up of numerous God-fearing Montgomery, Alabama politicians, didn’t cotton to the likes of Rosa Parks and those participating in the bus boycott of the Civil Rights Movement. So they started fire bombing Martin Luther King Jr.’s and Ralph Abernathy’s homes. Like good Christian soldiers. Let’s also not forget the Ku Klux Klan cloaked in their hoods and burning their crosses as they lynched the blacks who worked in the local fields (wasn’t David Duke once a Klansman?). Christian America claims to be a “melting pot” while taking advantage of people of color who don’t have the education or means necessary to make it in a world of white (mostly male) power. And think of all the private country clubs who have the shining history of not only excluding blacks from their membership, but those of Jewish descent. Not to mention women. Of course, they’re usually last.
5. Dobson and the like say they are tolerant of other faiths. But then Robertson or Falwell let slip that “the Jews” are really going to hell. Translation: We’re better than them. Jesus didn’t go around saying he was better than anybody. And he reserved his pronoucements of the afterlife for those who came to hear him speak; he didn’t try to shove his beliefs down the throats of those who didn’t care to listen.
These are just a few examples. But I don’t dispute the right for people to believe whatever they wish. If Dobson and company think that theirs is the only path to righteousness, so be it. But don’t pretend that this country is steeped in good Christian tradition. And don’t pretend that your aim is anything but power, in your name, not in the name of Jesus. And don’t say that you are not a hypocrite—all of us are in one way or another. Espouse your prophecies all you want to your congregants but how dare you try to make it public policy. Beat your chests that you will withdraw your support from the Republican Party unless they start towing your line, but don’t use Jesus to justify your wrath. Jesus wasn’t a politician. He was a watchful and loving shepherd. But James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson are politicians wearing the disguise of so-called Christianty. Sort of like the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Their fire and brimstone theology may have a place among their flocks, but it has no place in the hearts and minds of true followers of a loving Christ. Their theology may continue the tradition of its wretched history in a “Christian” America. But to call it anything other than what it is is blasphemy.