Friday, March 30, 2007

Allow the Religious Right to define our Faith?

Have you been following the recent dust-up among evangelicals over global warming.  It's been rather interesting.  James Dobson, for example, has been attacking members of the National Association of Evangelicals (see his letter here) who are interested in global warming as an issue.  He says, in part:
More importantly, we have observed that [Richard] Cizik [NAE Vice-President of Governmental Affairs] and others are using the global warming controversy to shift the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.
Why does the evangelical/religious right seem to think that if we can keep gays from marrying and having children, that all of Christ's work here on earth is done?
Take just the issue of the recent controversy on the right over Mary Cheney (VP Cheney's daughter and openly gay) having a baby.
"I think it's tragic that a child has been conceived with the express purpose of denying it a father," Robert Knight, director of the Culture and Media Institute of the Media Research Center said. He speaks as if they hope and intend to damage family life in America, rather than simply create a family for themselves.
[I]t is sad when men or women model immoral homosexual behavior before innocent children in a home setting. Peter LaBarbera, Americans for Truth.  He derided the intentions of Mary Cheney and her partner by saying the child was 'fatherless by design'- echoing the statement above.
Paul Cameron of the Family Research Institute writes, as an example of Christian un-charity, "By this selfish action, Cheney is not merely disrupting society, she is being cruel to her child...  Her pregnancy is further evidence that participation in homosexual activity distorts value systems, inducing practitioners to harm the commonweal. Our society already has too many children born without the benefits of marriage; Cheney's action is not only a bad example, but poor treatment of an innocent child ."
Dobson and others get to define the 'great moral issues of our time', and then attack not only those who violate their sense of those moral issues, like Mary Cheney, but also those who have a broader vision of Jesus' message to us, like Richard Cizik.
First, think of how Jesus responded to the 'sinners' he dealt with in the Gospel.  Did he call them 'cruel,' and 'tragic' thus pushing them away from his presence?  Or, did he seek to engage them, even siding with them over their accusers (think of the 'fallen woman' about to be stoned)?  The statements quoted above are political statements, not statements of people of faith hoping to make a better world.  They are divisive, and not helpful to anyone.  Above all else, looking at Jesus' ministry, he sought to help people.
Furthermore, Dobson and his cohorts are more like the Pharisees of the Gospels that like Jesus and his disciples- whom they would claim to follow and worship.  Demand that people follow their strict moral code, then ignore the plight of the less fortunate, and ignore how the consequences of global warming may affect the 'least of these' more than those of us higher on the economic ladder. 
They are like the Pharisees not only in their focus on what they in their pride determine to be God's law.  They are also like the Pharisees in the lust of power and prestige.  They know that they are able to attract voters to the Republican Party w/ their focus on gays and abortion.  Any broadening of the message would dilute their influence and fund raising.  It is clearly more important to them to keep a Republican in the White House than to bring the broadest possible realization of Christ's message to our nation, and to seek to come as close as possible to bringing God's Kingdom to earth.  It is also clear important to them the access to the political leadership that their electoral impact provides.  With whom do they seek to associate- the ruling class (to whom Jesus was sacrificed in the Gospels) or the suffering class (with whom Jesus dined)?
Who am I to question Dobson on such mattes?  Well, he invites the question.  Recently he questioned whether would-be Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson is a Christian.
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson appeared to throw cold water on a possible presidential bid by former Sen. Fred Thompson while praising former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is also weighing a presidential run, in a phone interview Tuesday.

"Everyone knows he's conservative and has come out strongly for the things that the pro-family movement stands for," Dobson said of Thompson. "[But] I don't think he's a Christian; at least that's my impression," Dobson added, saying that such an impression would make it difficult for Thompson to connect with the Republican Party's conservative Christian base and win the GOP nomination.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Thompson, took issue with Dobson's characterization of the former Tennessee senator. "Thompson is indeed a Christian," he said. "He was baptized into the Church of Christ."

In a follow-up phone conversation, Focus on the Family spokesman Gary Schneeberger stood by Dobson's claim. He said that, while Dobson didn't believe Thompson to be a member of a non-Christian faith, Dobson nevertheless "has never known Thompson to be a committed Christian—someone who talks openly about his faith."

I do not question Mr. Dobson's membership in the Christian community.  I do, however question him, and others such as those quoted in this post, as to their definition of what a Christian should say and do.  I also question which is greater- his commitment to the path of Christ, or his commitment to the electoral prospects of the Republican party.


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