Dobson vs. Obama
By Peter Wehner
Saturday, June 28, 2008; 12:00 AM
Earlier this week, Focus on the Family's James Dobson criticized Sen. Barack Obama, accusing him of "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit ... his own confused theology," of having a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution" and of appealing to the "lowest common denominator of morality."
Dobson's judgment was based on Obama's keynote address at a "Call to Renewal" conference on June 28, 2006. In fact, this speech was impressive in many respects. As an evangelical and conservative who has deep concerns about Obama's policies and political philosophy, I nonetheless welcome such a statement by a leading Democrat.
For one thing, Obama took on liberals "who dismiss religion in the public square as inherently irrational or intolerant" and "caricature religious Americans ... as fanatical." He went on to say: "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square.... 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 our morality, much of which is grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."
So Obama was doing what people like Dobson have long urged: making the public square more hospitable for people of faith and calling for a halt to their demonization. Obama made his case in ways I found to be respectful and authentic.
Dobson took particular umbrage, for at least one obvious reason, with this passage from Obama's speech: "And 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? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is okay 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 own Defense Department would survive its application? So before we get carried away, let's read our Bibles now. Folks haven't been reading their Bibles."
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