The Audacity of Dope

07/05/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


On Tuesday, Dr. James Dobson, the Pied Piper of a deliberately distorted Christianity who art in Colorado Springs, used his radio program to attack Sen. Barack Obama for "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology."


The question must be asked: When was the last time the Focus on the Family head looked in a mirror? Dr. Dobson is a leading expert on the distortion of the Bible and the construction of confused theology -- a Jesusless religion that can accurately be called "ChristianityLite".

Sen. Obama had asked an enthusiastic audience at the 2006 Call to Renewal Conference, "Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? ... Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount ... ?"

Now, Dr. Dobson and Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery and Dr. Bill Maier accuse Sen. Obama of wrongly equating Old Testament texts and dietary codes that, in their words, "no longer apply" to Jesus' teachings in the New Testament.

Old Testament codes that no longer apply? That's very interesting. How do self-proclaimed biblical literalists determine which Old Testament codes no longer apply?

Why is it that we are to believe that a man lying with a man is still an abomination to God, but eating shellfish is now acceptable? In Leviticus God is said to have used exactly the same terms to condemn both male homosexuality (interestingly, there is no mention of female homosexuality, so what basis the self-identified literalists have for condemning lesbians is anyone's guess) and eating shellfish: "You [men] shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22) and "Everything in the waters that has not fins and scales is an abomination to you" (Leviticus 11:12) Daily Show host Jon Stewart once neatly satirized this bit of hypocrisy by showing a demonstrator holding a sign reading: GOD HATES FAGS AND SCALLOPS.

But now, in his all-too-fallible wisdom, Dobson tells us that he has reconsidered God's stance on shellfish and slavery, and decided that He was mistaken about them. Homosexuality, though, remains an Old Testament-style abomination.

And what of "Jesus' teachings in the New Testament"? As I discuss in my new book, Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America, according to the canonical Gospels, Jesus never said a word about Dr. Dobson's two favorite "Christian" issues: homosexuality and abortion. If, as Dobson and his fellow travelers believe, these are indeed the two greatest evils facing mankind, it seems odd that Jesus never mentioned either.

Sen. Obama might talk of just sticking with the Sermon on the Mount, but some of the Jesus Thieves will tell you that "the Sermon on the Mount is more like suggestions." The red lines in the New Testament are their unread lines. Their exegesis X-es out Jesus. They are Xians, not Christians.

Among the other laws of the Hebrew Bible that the Xians still apply to modern life is the well-known call for violent retribution in Leviticus 24, often used to justify the death penalty. They ignore the fact that Jesus reversed this rule: "You have heard that it was said, 'an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, 'Do not resist the evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.'" (Matthew 5:38-39)

Many "literalists" would tell us that the wine Jesus created at the wedding at Cana in Galilee was really grape juice. I know of a woman in Mississippi who insisted that Jesus didn't drink wine. Finally, when she was told, "Yes, Jesus drank wine; it's in the Bible," she sputtered, "Well ... well ... then Jesus was wrong!"

And that's precisely the attitude held by hijackers of Christianity like Dr. Dobson when it comes to the "Suggestions on the Mount." They say they accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but they totally reject him as their teacher.

Dr. Dobson objects to Sen. Obama's statement that in America, people of good will must respect each other's beliefs: "Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to [Sen. Obama's] bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies?"

But when it comes to the bloody notion of what is right with regard to war, Dr. Dobson and his fellow Jesus Thieves say, "Oh, shut up, Jesus!"

Dobson accused the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee of having a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

Love your enemies? Turn the other cheek? Help the poor? It is easier for the camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter heaven? From Dr. Dobson's perspective those are all fruitcake ideas.

These "literalists" whine about drinking wine, but the red, red, blood of war makes them feel so fine.

I'll take the Christianity of a Jesus Follower like Barack Obama over the Xianity of a Jesus Thief like James Dobson any day of the week and twice on Sunday. The End Times are near for Dr. Dobson and the rest of the Xians, as actual Jesus Followers reclaim our religion. The Rupture is approaching for these wolves in sheep's clothing.

"He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter," Dr. Dobson 's radio program said of Sen. Obama. For someone whose biblical understanding rarely rises from the gutter to make such a charge requires the audacity of a would-be pope -- or the audacity of (a) dope.

It is a shame that George Carlin did not live to see this latest example of the hypocrisy of the Un-Christian Wrong. My guess is that George and the God in whom he claimed not to believe are shaking their heads together at Dobson's comments and saying, "Oi vai iz mir!"

{Robert S. McElvaine is Elizabeth Chisholm Professor of Arts & Letters at Millsaps College. His latest book, from which this piece is adapted, is Grand Theft Jesus: The Hijacking of Religion in America (Crown).