James Dobson on Obama

A few disclaimers before I begin. First, my candidate didn’t make it past the primaries. As for which of the two viable candidates (yes, two. I may have some libertarian ideals, but they have no chance at this presidential election) I’m leaning towards, I think it makes little difference to this discussion.

CNN has an article regarding some things Dobson has said about Obama. Personally, it sounds to me like Dobson is raving. His arguments and jabs are half-baked at best. That works for Ice Cream, but not so much for logical discussion. I try to keep politics off of my blog. But I really can’t stand aside at this point.

First, Dobson criticizes Obama for saying that we can’t use the Bible as the sole document regarding how we govern. As evidence for this Obama puts forth Leviticus and Deuteronomy. To be sure these are some tired arguments. Obviously, a proper understanding of those two books makes them far less offensive than they might appear at first glance. But that is neither here nor there. Obama is right we can’t govern based solely on the Bible. Our world is not the Ancient Near East. It’s not even the modern middle east. Obama is also right when he says, “So before we get carried away, let’s read our Bible now. Folks haven’t been reading their Bible.”

Dobson’s response to this? According to CNN, “Dobson said Obama should not be referencing antiquated dietary codes and passages from the Old Testament that are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament.” Now, this isn’t a direct quote. So one must be careful. But I really, really hope that Dobson didn’t say anything remotely close to “[certain Old Testament books] are no longer relevant to the teachings of the New Testament.” If that’s the case then I don’t think it is Obama who has no clue about how to read and interpret the Bible. CNN also reports that Dobson said the following (direct quote): “‘I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology,’ Dobson said, later adding that Obama is “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter.'” Again, I don’t think Dobson has any clue here, nor does he have any business being the arbiter of what is or isn’t “biblical understanding” or “confused theology.”

CNN reports that Obama also asked a, in my view, legitimate question concerning what brand of Christianity one might govern by. In this case the Senator from Illinois actually mentions Dobson, “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? Would we go with James Dobson’s, or Al Sharpton’s?” I think that is exactly the issue. Now, of course, Focus on the Family came back with some argument that Obama was calling Dobson a racist. I don’t think that’s what Obama was doing at all. I think he was legitimately pointing out that we have Dobson on one extreme and Sharpton on another, and they will probably never agree on which brand of Christianity should be taught in schools, or which brand should be used to determine policy. He wasn’t comparing the two of them, he was contrasting the two of them. It’s a common practice, in rhetoric.

The solution? Christianity should stay out of politics and instead focus on helping the poor, blind and lame. After all, what could be more pleasing to God than taking care of widows and orphans? I hardly agree with everything Obama has ever said about faith, but I certainly find myself agreeing more with him than the self-appointed arbiter of Evangelicalism.

Celebration and thanksgiving

This evening Mandy and I participated in a Maundy Thursday service at our church. It has been wonderful this year to more fully participate in both Lent and Easter. By participating in Lent we’ve been forced to reflect on Easter, Jesus suffering and sacrifice and, of course, his resurrection. It has been a very great time. I’m looking forward to the festivities this Sunday more than I have ever looked forward to Easter before. Throughout all of this, as had already been taking place before it, I have come to see the Eucharist as a much more central element of my faith.

So, as we remember today Jesus’ institution of Holy Communion, his time in Gethsemane and his betrayal by Judas, I am forced to bow in humble thanksgiving to so great a God. This year, for me, all of this has really come home with meaning. In addition to all of this, I am also thankful that my parents will be able to make the trek up to MA to be with Mandy and I on Easter. We were both a bit disappointed, this was going to be the first year that we did not celebrate Easter with either my family, or Mandy’s family. But, through an odd circumstance, my parents are going to be arriving at our place tomorrow evening. It will be nice to be able to celebrate with them.

Posts worth reading, Vol 1

Over the past week or so I’ve read a number of excellent posts on other blogs that I’ve wanted to comment about. However, some of them I don’t really have enough to say to warrant an entire post. Most of them I simply don’t have the time to give a full post to. So, I’m going to lump them all into a single post, with links, a few observations from yours truly, and an overall encouragement that you read them.

The Thoughts of a Medialist – Kevin Wilson has a good read with a nice little anecdote about his own time at Johns Hopkins. What is perhaps most interesting in this entire debate is that almost everyone wants to say they are in the middle. William Dever does not consider himself a maximalist. Of course, Kevin doesn’t consider himself one either–though perhaps he considers Dever one, I don’t know. He also has some good thoughts on what amounts to demonizing people in order to “win” the debate. Which reminds me of a recent post by Art.

demonizing: the leading tactic in christian debate – Art is absolutely right. It’s unfortunate, but I’ve seen this all too often. Even recently, I’ve seen this take place. Honest questions are easily dismissed when the questioner can be made out to be something less than a person, or at least the type of person that one normally associates with.

Pensive Thoughts on Faith and Calling – Earl has some open and honest thoughts about calling. He and I have had many a discussion over coffee on this very topic. It’s always fascinating to watch as a person’s thinking on a topic develops, and Earl’s has developed greatly. As my comment on his blog indicates, I think the two of us are in a very similar boat. Regardless of all that, it’s a post worth reading and you should really check it out. It brings up some excellent topics, not least of which is the separation between the laity and academia in Christendom.

Not really a radical… – On a somewhat related topic, Wezlo waxes eloquent about how he’s not really a radical. I say he just needs to keep telling himself that. But in all seriousness, Wezlo brings up some good topics. The idea of seeing the way forward through the past isn’t new, but it’s always good to think about. Furthermore, Wezlo tries to differentiate between an activist and an idealist, a discussion that is worth having.

Sadistic Approaches to Teaching Biblical Languages – This is simply a brilliant post by John Hobbins. You should read it, twice. I have a few professors here at GCTS I’d like to force to read it. I’ve long been of the opinion that languages are best learned inductively. Memorizing endless paradigms, although helpful at points, is an extremely boring way to learn a language. The textbook I used for Hebrew I and II introduced each lesson with a sentence from the Hebrew Bible. Each time we learned something, we were learning it in context. It was a great way to learn. I’m taking Aramaic this semester, and although the language isn’t that different from Hebrew, the professor I have is much different from my Hebrew prof in undergrad. I was never made to learn paradigms, beyond the basic ones, in my undergrad Hebrew courses. Regardless of how one might feel on the necessity of learning paradigms, I managed an A+ in Intermediate Hebrew Grammar last semester. That means I did better than most of the people who had memorized all the paradigms. Yet, in our first Aramaic session of the semester, the class was assured that if one did not memorize a plethora of paradigms, one would not be able to achieve above a C in Hebrew, and likewise in Aramaic. All of this to simply say that there is no excuse for making a language boring and cold to your students.

At this point I’ll stop. Some great posts there, and I recommend you take a few moments to check them out.

Emasculating Men

Over the past couple years I’ve heard more about how the church is emasculating men than on any other church topic. It comes primarily from the blogosphere, or various conversations. Partially I think Mark Driscoll is to blame for the constant talk about it, though that stupid Wild at Heart book also deserves some of my ire. I’ve even heard it in some youth ministry circles. How as youth ministers we need to defend teenage guys from their mothers. We need to teach them, I assume, to belch, laugh at others’ pain, and defend themselves through physical violence. I find such things to border on genuine insanity.

However, my friend Art has recently posted an excellent critique of an article that basically rehashes the same things I’ve been hearing for two years, only the article throws in some horrid exegesis about Jacob and Esau.

I really can’t say things better than Art has, so I will let things rest by reiterating something I’ve said many times before. I have more hair on my body than any “manly man” you’re likely to find, yet I take the Scriptures’ exhortations to love, kindness, gentleness and self-control very seriously. These “feminine” qualities seem to be deeply a part of who Jesus was, and I’ll stick with those, you can keep the trucks and cheap bear.

Article published

I’m very excited to announce that an article of mine has been published at Youthworker.com. It’s not the print magazine, but it’s a step in the right direction. Apart from the excitement of having an article see the light of day on something other than my blog, I’m excited because I think the topic that the article focuses on is worthwhile, and needs to be discussed in youth ministry circles. Now, I don’t have any delusions of grandeur. I don’t think a single article is going to start a revolution in youth ministry circles. But hopefully it will cause some of us to begin thinking.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you all may have on the article.

Thoughts on the Golden Compass

Last night Mandy and I went out with two students from our youth ministry to see The Golden Compass, based on the book by the same name, but more properly termed The Northern Lights. As anyone who walks in the twisted corridors of modern Evangelicalismâ„¢will know, this book has generated no small amount of controversy among conservative Christians. This controversy has been aided by some comments by Phillip Pullman himself. My thoughts before seeing the movie can be found here.

Having now seen the movie I can say that my thoughts really haven’t changed, aside from to say that there is absolutely nothing controversial in this movie. The movie was, in my opinion, something to be compared to the movie adaptation of Eragon. It was short, moved rapidly through what could have been an interesting plot had it been given an extra 45 minutes, and ultimately, for me, lacked satisfaction in the ending. As much as New Line might want this movie to be another Lord of the Rings, that is simply not happening. I am amazed as to why producers apparently refuse to make movies longer the 1.5 – 2 hours. The first Harry Potter movie was quite long, and did extremely well. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, when put together, add up to over nine hours, and that is only the theatrical versions. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is well over two hours, and provides excellent entertainment. Yet movies that could have been good, such as Eragon and, I assume, The Golden Compass, are neutered at slightly over 1.5 hours. You simply cannot have the development that a fantasy film requires in that time frame. Alas, I’ve wandered horribly off topic in this. Let me try to refocus.

Having said all of that, I wouldn’t be concerned at all about anyone seeing the Golden Compass in its movie form. After the movie we had some great conversation with the students who went with us over ice cream. We talked about God, the Church, church services, and a number of other issues ranging from the mundane to the profound. These conversation topics are a direct result, not of the movie, but of the controversy surrounding the movie. In all honesty, aside from some interesting thoughts on thinking for yourself and challenging what you’ve always been taught, the movie lacked any kind of philosophical or idealogical thrust. After we finished chatting over ice cream we stopped by a Borders and I bought the entire trilogy, which I am now reading. So far, I can say that the movie also corresponds to Eragon in that not a single scene has been pulled directly from the book. It’s not as bad as it was in Eragon, but it is close. I’m only six chapters into the book, but thus far I’ve found nothing horribly objectionable. I have been informed, by sources of varying repute, that it is not until the final book that the narrative becomes a diatribe against all things religious. I shall endeavor to report my findings via this medium once I have finished the trilogy.