Thursday, March 15, 2007

Is Dobson the One Doing God's Will?

I've just started reading Jesus Machine by Dan Gilgoff - it's a book that traces the history of James Dobson and how his Focus on the Family empire was built and how he's come to hold such political power.

I'm only into the early chapters, but I read a story about Dobson this morning that got me to thinking and wondering. Apparently, Dobson's father prophesied that Dobson Jr. would be wildly successful in his mission to carry God's word into the world. Dobson's dad, before dying of a heart attack in his 60s, said he had talked with God and God had told him that he would continue his great work through his son.

I had a little flash of insecurity upon reading that passage. I thought, well, what if God IS on the side of Dobson and IS blessing his efforts and spreading HIS word through people like Dobson?

It seems like ventures like Whosoever or other more "liberal Christian" organizations struggle to get their message out or struggle to be heard or struggle to get money or struggle to articulate their message clearly -- on and on it goes, struggle after struggle. While doors swing open wide for Dobson and those like him. Money, support, political cache, TV and radio programs - the list of success go on an on and on.

Now, as a good Southern Baptist, I was always taught that when you're doing God's will things work out for you - all these things are added unto you when you're seeking God's righteousness. Struggles cease and God smooths the way so God's will can be accomplished.

So, it got me to wondering - is it truly a sign of God's blessings on your ministry to be wildly successful in the world? To have those barriers drop like the walls of Jericho? Dobson seems to move in the world with such ease - successful at everything he attempts - making money all the way. Dobson is certainly effective at business and spreading a message, but it is truly God's message? Would Dobson be just as successful if he had a passion for selling ice cream or insurance as he is for selling God? Is Dobson really a man of God or is he just a shrewd businessman who would succeed no matter what the product? Did God really speak to Dobson's father or was this wishful thinking from a dying man who regretted not doing as much as he might have been able to do?

But, then I'm reminded of Jesus who eschewed popularity, money, fame, political cache and all that Dobson has garnered in his lifetime. Jesus struggled constantly - no money, little support - but his message seemed to stick - even into our modern times.

If Jesus had all the same technology and advantages we do, which kind of organization would be he running, Focus on the Family or Soulforce? The Christian Coalition or Whosoever? If he had the chance that we have in this modern world to have a high, powerful, profitable platform from which to proclaim his message - would he use it?

Is this truly how God works in the world - through the powerful, the rich, the well-connected, the wise entrepreneur? Or does God still work through the lowly, the disenfranchised, the outcast, the poor and politically disempowered?

Or, am I limiting God? Is this a both/and situation instead of an either/or? Does God find ways to work through both situations? But, geez, why does "our side" have to struggle so much to get what we believe God has shared with us out into the world? Why is it so easy for a message of exclusion to be get out into the world and a message of inclusion to struggle so badly to be heard?

But, perhaps that's always been the way as human beings split off into tribe after tribe after tribe, warring against one another. Perhaps messages of exclusion have always had the power to resonate deeper than messages of inclusion. Messages of exclusion have a greater appeal to our sense of being special - that we have something that someone else doesn't and that sets us apart from "them." Messages if exclusion feed our need to feel superior - like we have some special knowledge or blessing that "they" don't have. Messages of exclusion appeal to our baser needs - that need for our own individual ego to survive any assault.

Inclusion feels like assimilation - like no one is special because we recognize that we are all special. There's no opportunity to stand out in the crowd or have our cake and eat it too. There's no way to get ahead, be the grand poobah or rally any kind of special recognition if we are all included in God's grace. If we are all destined for glory, then who do we attack to get ahead? Who can we shove out of line if we're all headed for God's realm?

Indeed, it's easy to see why messages of exclusion garner so much of the world's adoration, the world's support and the world's money. It makes us feel special. It makes us feel superior. It makes us feel "right" while consigning others to the hell of being "wrong."

My original question in all of this: Is Dobson's worldly success and ease of getting that success proof that he is indeed doing God's will in the world?

I'm still pondering.

I'd love your thoughts!


healtheland said...

Well, to answer this question, one has to look at the whole Bible, and not just pick and choose the parts that they like. Liberal Christians often accuse conservative Christians of ignoring what the Bible says about helping the poor. Conservative Christians respond that they are all for private charity, but it is government - mandated income redistribution that they oppose. You would have to admit that nothing in the Bible can be construed as to demand of either Jews or Christians that they create or support government social welfare or wealth redistribution programs, especially when the government in question is SECULAR. So, that leaves the question of whether liberal Christians are paying attention to what the Bible says regarding personal morality. In recent decades regarding issues such as no - fault divorce, homosexuality, and abortion, the answer is clearly no. The Bible unambiguously calls all of those things wrong in both the Old and New Testaments, and if anything the New Testament is harder on no - fault divorce in particular than is the Old Testament. So when you ask whether Jesus Christ would be running Soulforce, the answer is clearly found in Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Romans, Jude, and all throughout the Old and New Testament, which is no. Now to claim that Jesus Christ would have opposed things that disciples of his who spent three years hearing him preach later wrote in the New Testament is not only completely unsupported, but would render the entire religion and the very basis for it useless. Further, it is contradicted by Jesus' own words: I come not to destroy the law but to fulfill it. Well, check Leviticus and elsewhere: homosexuality was against Jewish law. People often use the example of Jesus preventing the woman caught in the act of adultery as an example of how He also would have supported homosexuals ... they leave out the context that in order to stone a woman a person had to be following the law himself, and they were caught in the act of breaking the same law that they were going to stone the woman for in trying to exploit the situation to accuse Jesus. Jesus never said "the law against adultery is wrong." He merely said "those who are guilty of 'thou shalt not falsely accuse or bear false witness' are unworthy to punish those who break 'thou shalt not committ adultery'". Therefore, such people are quick to ignore that Jesus told the woman "Go and sin no more." Which is a statement that as being God in the flesh, Jesus had the power to forgive her sin and did so (as he did with the bedridden man brought before him), but as God he was also telling her that her sinful lifestyle was unacceptable and that she was to cease practicing it. So, the fact that anyone would even ask "if Jesus was here today, would he support Soulforce" and with John Edwards and Howard Dean going around saying that Jesus would have defended gay people and approved of abortions only demonstrates either how totally illiterate "the Christian left" is concerning even the very basics of the Bible, or have simply chosen to reject the parts that they do not like. Now while there are a great many people on the Christian left who love to proclaim how their love for Jesus is DEMONSTRATED by the fact that they never read their Bible and never go to church, the truth is that there are a great many Christian liberals who are theologians, clergy, etc., Bible SCHOLARS if you will, who have made the conscious choice not only to reject everything that the Bible says that they oppose for whatever reason, but to demonize people who actually take the Bible seriously. I mean, if you want to deny and reject what the Bible says and still call yourself a Christian, that is your decision. But do not be like Chris Hedges of the New York Times, who claims that people who believe what the Bible says "aren't really Christians." Hedges and his ilk claim that "real Christians" would have compassion for gay people and women who want to terminate their pregnancies. Well, was Jesus Christ lacking in compassion when he told the adulterous woman to "go and sin no more"? Rather than being compassionate towards whatever emotions this woman might have had invested in her adulterous relationship, whatever affection she might have had for her partner in this relationship, whatever pleasure she was getting out of it, whatever circumstances that contributed to her making the decision to commit adultery, and whatever need that it was filling in her life (all of which are legitimate issues), Jesus chose to have compassion for the woman by commanding her not to sin, because whatever benefits she might gain from her sin, it is not worth the penalty of unrepentant sin, which is death. So, from the point of view of a person who believes in the Bible, the best way to show compassion towards a woman who wants an abortion or a man who wants to be bisexual is to try to dissuade them from making a conscious decision to hate God (if you love me you will keep my commandments, Jesus said, and remember being God and part of the Trinity, the commandments of God the Father and God the Son are one and the same), the only result of which would be death in the lake of fire. Indeed, not warning a person of the result of their sin is the furthest thing from compassion to a person who believes the Bible.

At the very least, liberal Christians who exercise the prerogative to treat the Bible as a buffet and pick and choose as it pleases them should not deny conservative Christians the same privilege. If liberal Christians are going to reject what the Bible says about sexual morality, for instance, then they ought not to grumble when conservative Christians reject what the Bible says about loving peace, helping the poor, and rejecting worldly riches. If liberal Christians are going go be contextual postmodern deconstructionists about Romans 1:26 - 27 and similar while being Bible thumping literalists and fundamentalists (and in a very selective fasion I might add) about what the Bible says regarding peace, social justice, forgiveness, etc., then that makes them even bigger hypocrites than they claim the fundamentalist Christians of being. A liberal Christian will admit that hypocrisy is a sin if they will concede nothing else, but in this regard, they are the ones who have the logs in their eyes while complaining about the specks in the eyes of the conservative fundamentalists. The bottom line, really, is that either you believe in the Bible, or you don't. Which means that either there is a God or there isn't, and there will be a final judgment where God will compare man against the instructions left in the Bible or he won't. Most liberal Christians betray the fact that they do not REALLY believe in the Bible or a God that will judge by it by claiming that unless you are keeping the 619 laws that God gave to Israel, then you have no right to harass people over sexual morality or anything else. And that just increases their hypocrisy: why do they then turn around and try to selectively impose morality on people based on a book, a religion, and a God that they do not believe in? James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and similar have their problems, but at least they believe (or pretend to) that they are carrying out what the Bible tells them to. People who defy and reject the Bible by design - the Christian left - do not believe that any of the Bible is binding on anyone, so they should stop trying to use the portions that they like to pressure, exploit, and fool people. They are able to get away with it because the majority of Americans do not go to church, and even the majority of those who do attend liberal churches that are proud of how little attention they actually pay the Bible. Do you honestly think that their acting in such a manner is God's Will?

Candace Chellew-Hodge said...

Wow, healtheland, talk about not addressing the question that was asked, but thanks for your diatribe.

It's clear we disagree on the authority of the Bible, homosexuality and probably whether the world is round or flat, but thanks for stopping by and offering your opinion on the matter.

cleveland said...

I agree with your comments about Dobson. he is power hungry, the very thing Jesus eschewed.

Suzer said...

Sorry to say I couldn't get through Healtheland's response, but after the first few sentences, I'm fairly sure it's all stuff I've heard before.

I'm no theologian, but I don't think that success would be defined by lack of struggle, or wealth, power and fame. I think success is Love. And Love can be a struggle, but once found, once our eyes are opened to it, it (through Jesus and His teachings) is what saves us.

I think Jesus' example is the most important, and His teachings were not about raising money or power seeking. His teachings were not about further marginalizing the already marginalized. He did not seek fame for himself, nor did he (I don't believe) even intend to start a new religion.

I think Dobson is an extremely misguided man, and that's terribly sad. Sometimes the struggle is part of the journey. All those hardships, all the broken places, are what leave room for God to show His/Her presence in our lives. I don't see much of God's Love, Grace or Mercy in Dobson or those like him. And despite my frustration with their teachings of Untruth, I pray for them to be healed and their eyes to be opened.

Cara said...

I think that worldly success doesn't prove anything. I mean, Hitler had worldly success too, that sure as heck didn't make him right.

However, is Dobson doing what he should be doing? Absolutely. Even Judas had a job. Whether it is good or bad it seems like God uses us anyways for something or another.

Even Satanism has a place and Satanists are also used by God all the time. (I'm a Christian goth so I'm speaking from friends who are Satanists who have taught me things about my own God and my own world.)

You put right and wrong in quotes in your blog. It reminded me of a verse in the Gospel of Philip. "Light and Darkness, life and death, right and left, are brothers of one another. They are inseparable. Because of this neither are the good good, nor evil evil, nor is life life, nor death death. For this reason each one will dissolve into its earliest origin. But those who are exalted above the world are indissoluble, eternal."

I like to think that no matter where I find truth, it's still truth and that God will teach me something through it.

So in conclusion, I don't think Dobson is necessarily on God's favorite list, but that doesn't mean that he doesn't use him to teach his children something.

God Bless you!

I'm very blessed that I found whosoever,


Candace Chellew-Hodge said...


Thank you so much for your comments. Just the kind of insight I was seeking. I love the Gospel of Philip quote. I'll have to explore the further.

I'm glad you found us!


Cara said...

It's a gnostic gospel. They aren't necessarily authentic but they're interesting to read and it still has good stuff in them.
Here's the link for future reference.