Dr. James Dobson, child psychologist, founder of Focus on the Family, and a leader of the so-called Religious Right, recently went on the attack against Obama. I haven’t heard or read the transcripts of his radio broadcasts in which he criticized Obama, but I am somewhat familiar with what he said. I want to make a few points on this.
(1) First, Dobson is within his rights to criticize Obama any way he wants. We still have freedom of speech and freedom of the press in this country. One can quibble about the nature of his criticism (which I’ll do in a minute) but not the fact that he has every right to criticize a candidate. Also remember, Dobson is not a clergyperson, doesn’t pastor a church, and is not speaking for the ministry of Focus on the Family, but as a private citizen.
(2) Second, I have a problem with the nature of some of the criticism (this is the quibble part). For example, Dobson found fault with Obama’s interpretation of the Bible in a number of instances. This assumes, of course, that Dobson has the only one, true, accurate and infallible interpretation. While I believe in interpreting Scripture according to the traditional understanding handed down since apostolic times and from the Patristic writers, as well as from a common sense reading of the text, there are various interpretations of the Bible based on denomination and other factors. While all interpretations can’t be right, we can’t be certain our interpretation is the absolute correct one.
(3) Third, another reason I believe Dobson was out of order in his critique of Obama’s theology (as well as his comments about McCain’s) is that we must focus on policy positions, not theology. Look at the voting record, and that gives you a pretty good indication of a person’s policy positions (regardless of what they might say). If you look at religion or theology, you may very well become misled. George Bush, an evangelical Christian, waged a pre-emptive war, probably misled the public, and has in general been a terrible president. John Kerry, a “good” Catholic according to what he told us in the last election, does not follow his own church’s teachings on abortion.
In conclusion, we aren’t electing the theologian-in-chief, we aren’t electing the pope, we aren’t electing a religious leader. We are electing the commander-in-chief, a secular job. A candidate’s positions on issues may be informed by his or her faith and we should understand that, but we should mainly focus on positions based primarily voting records, and not necessary what a candidate says (because they’ll say anything to get elected), and not even on a candidate’s religion, theology, or pastor.