Those of us who know Jesus know James Dobson is no Jesus. Jesus warned against the hypocrisy of faulty faith: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint … and neglect justice.” “Woe” was a word of censorship that Jesus placed here on religious leaders for downgrading authentic faith for their own agenda.
Jesus warned against the hypocrisy of faulty faith: “Woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint … and neglect justice.”
“Woe” was a word of censorship that Jesus placed here on religious leaders for downgrading authentic faith for their own agenda.
Dobson engages in similar Pharisaical practice when he prioritizes a few issues as the moral agenda, while neglecting many issues central to Jesus’ teachings and placing the moral mantel on the GOP, as God’s Only Party.
Dobson’s organization is sponsoring a summit in Washington on Sept. 22-24 that will mobilize the conservative evangelical Christian vote to defeat Democrats in the fall election. Yet his summit has speakers who represent everything that conservative Christians say they oppose—divorce, gambling, false witness and racism.
The event is pitched as Christian for Christians with the message: “Get Your Church Involved.” A press release says the meeting is “a pro-family conference” for “politically active Christians” designed “primarily for Christians.” Interested Christians should ask their church mission committee for underwriting to attend, says an article, because “We’re going to be talking about marriage—defending and protecting marriage.”
So, who is one of the headline speakers at a conference that supposedly defends marriage?
Twice-divorced and thrice-married Newt Gingrich heads the list. He hardly merits exaltation as a pro-family model.
Another moral model on the program is Bill Bennett. He’s the sanctimonious virtues guy, who hypocritically castigated the nation’s moral standards while he snuck off to gamble in Las Vegas, where he received preferential treatment due to the size of his bets and his history of betting.
Another is trash-mouthed Ann Coulter, who bears false witness against others as godless and slams their faith, although she has no authentic record of attending church.
A fourth, Sen. George Allen, flung a racial slur at an American of Indian descent, exposing the Virginian’s troubled past with race. He opposed a holiday honoring Baptist preacher Martin Luther King, while making nice with the Council of Conservative Citizens.
The presence of these headliners alone transgresses the moral values that many conservative evangelical pastors publicly condemn—promiscuity/divorce, gambling, false witness and racism.
They now face a knotty dilemma. Do they turn a blind eye to Dobson’s program and enable religious hypocrisy? If they do, how do they explain to their flock that much of what they preach against in their pulpits is morally acceptable if it advances a secular political agenda? How do they justify inviting speakers to a morality meeting who couldn’t hold leadership positions in their own churches?
Dobson’s political kingdom puts ministers in a moral jam. Trying to rally them to rescue Bush and reelect Republicans, he has a program that is far more partisan than moral. All the while, he baits conservative Christians with pro-family rhetoric.
Dobson may have finally gone too far in pushing a political agenda under the guise of morality. Sincere pastors may finally turn him off for transgressing the boundaries between conservative Christian values and political conservative leaders, if they take a good look at Dobson’s upcoming conference program.
Conservative evangelical pastors are straight arrows when it comes to who they present as role models in their pulpits. While there’s no problem with flawed speakers addressing Republican Party gatherings or appearing on Fox News, not everyone merits invitation at an explicitly Christian event.
Conservative Christians rightly preach that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And true, conservative pastors say they hate the sin and love the sinner. And equally true, Christianity is a faith of second chance. Forgiveness is a Christian virtue, not to be confused with forgetting. Memory, after all, is a moral tool for discernment.
Discerning Christian leaders know Jesus’ moral values differ sharply from James’ political agenda.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Nashville-based Baptist Center for Ethics.