After having launched an effort to reach out to religious conservatives, Barack Obama is being criticized for deliberately misinterpreting the Bible by Dr. James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family.
The critique of Obama’s use of Scripture is part of a series that Dobson and Tom Minnery, senior vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family, are conducting on the two presidential candidates as the national elections approach.
Interestingly, Tom Minnery told CNA that “we’re open to have Obama or McCain visit” the headquarters of Focus on the Family. Minnery also told the Associated Press that one of Obama’s aides recently suggested a meeting at the organization's headquarters.
Focus on the Family sent an advance copy of the radio show to CNA, in which the two radio hosts analyze a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group, Call to Renewal Covenant for a New America. The speech came to Dobson’s attention, in part, because he is cited by Obama in the address.
As Dobson kicked off the radio segment, he explained that it was being paid for by Focus on the Family’s Action, an affiliate whose donations are taxed, so it is able to address political issues.
After discussing the number of Christians that make up the America’s population, Obama 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?" Obama said. “Would we go with James Dobson's or Al Sharpton's?" referring to the controversial civil rights advocate.
Another passage of the discourse that Dobson took issue with involved Obama’s questioning of how Christianity and the Bible should guide public policy.
“Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus,” which Obama said suggests slavery is OK and eating shellfish is an abomination. “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 start reading our Bibles now. Folks haven't been reading their Bibles," Obama said.
Both radio show hosts were upset that Obama seemed to be intentionally fusing the teachings of the Old Testament with Jesus' teachings in the New Testament, contrary to the Christian belief that many of the Old Testament laws and practices were rendered obsolete by Jesus’ teachings.
“I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said.
“He is vastly confused about the details of biblical exposition; that he’s painting himself in this highly religious aura,” Minnery added.
“And then says go read the Bible, as if he’s some kind of biblical authority,” Dobson interjected.
Dobson also pointed to another comment Obama made, which Dobson says means the presidential contender believes, “it is anti-democratic to believe or fight for moral principals from the Bible that are not supported by people of all faiths.”
In the audio clip, Sen. Obama says, “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concern into universal, rather than religion-specific values. What do I mean by this? It requires that their proposals be subject to argument and amenable to reason. …”
According to Dobson, this means that “I can’t seek to pass legislation that bans partial-birth abortion because there are people in the culture who don’t see that as a moral issue. 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. Now that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution. … We don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which is what he’s suggesting.”
"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?" Dobson said. “What he's trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe."
Joshua DuBois, director of religious affairs for Obama's campaign, reacted to the criticism by saying that a full reading of Obama's speech shows he is committed to reaching out to people of faith and standing up for families. "Obama is proud to have the support of millions of Americans of faith and looks forward to working across religious lines to bring our country together," DuBois said.
Dr. Dobson is in a unique position since he previously stated that he could not in good conscience vote for McCain. His main concern about the Republican contender is that he is not a true conservative. Dobson has said he will vote in November but has suggested he might not vote for president.
Obama has been mobilizing religious leaders lately, including conservative evangelicals. His campaign has plans for thousands of "American Values House Parties," where participants discuss Obama and religion, as well as a presence on Christian radio and blogs.
The radio show can be accessed here: http://www.citizenlink.org/