Doctor Dobson Turns Peevish
by Michael Patrick Leahy
Dr. James Dobson
Doctor James Dobson, the highly respected Evangelical Christian leader and founder of Focus on the Family inexplicably turned peevish last month when he launched a mean spirited attack on former Tennessee Senator and Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson. The unexpected pleasantness emanating from Colorado Springs left many Evangelical Christians in Tennesee, myself included, wondering why Doctor Dobson chose to tear into a man that all Tennesseans hold in high regard.
The attacks on Thompson began earlier this year when Dobson questioned publicly whether Thompson really was a Christian. Apparently, Doctor Dobson has the ability to look into Mr. Thompson's heart and discern that his baptism as a young man into the Church of Christ in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee was not genuine. Then last month, a Dobson supporter leaked an email of Dobson's assessment of Thompson to the Dallas Morning News. The email, as reported, quoted Doctor Dobson as saying:
"Isn't Thompson the candidate that is opposed to a constitutional amendment to protect marriage, believes there should be 50 different definitions of marriage in the U.S., favors McCain-Feingold, won't talk at all about what he believes, can't speak his way out of a paper bag on the campaign trail? He has no passion, no zeal, no apparent 'want to', yet he is apparently the great hope that burns in the breasts of many conservative Christians? Well, not for me, my brothers, not for me."
This critique was followed by a New York Times op-ed piece in which Dobson disavowed Thompson, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney.
What's going on here ?
What happened to the friendly, avuncular Doctor Dobson whose wise advice on child rearing and family life is such a welcome respite to the avalanche of bad influences in the popular culture ?
Articulating a different point of view from a candidate is understandable. In fact, I would be inclined to agree with Doctor Dobson, for instance, that support of McCain Feingold was ill advised. A disagreement among friends is one thing. But a complete skewering of an appealling candidate who represents 90 percent of your views is quite another.
Honing in on Senator Thompson's preference to allow each state to define marriage, rather than embrace a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage throughout the nation, seems less a matter of different theological perspectives on the issue than differing views of Federalism. And that, friends, is not a standard a reasonable person would use to disqualify an otherwise very well qualified candidate who shares conservative and Evangelical Christian values.
On this matter, it's Doctor Dobson who needs to get over himself. On that, almost every Evangelical Christian in Tennessee agrees.
Michael Patrick Leahy is the Managing Editor of Christian Faith and Reason, and the author of Letter to an Atheist.
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