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Christian Right Attacks Senator Barack Obama's Christian Faith

James Dobson of Focus on the Family attacks 2006 Obama speech

by, June 25, 2008

Some fundamentalist evangelical Christians are responding to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's outreach by disparaging his faith. Most recently, and notably, Dr. James Dobson, who heads Focus on the Family, said on his widely aired radio program that Obama "is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

Dobson's attack, delivered on June 24th on his Focus on the Family radio program, came after Obama's religious affairs staffer reached out to Focus on the Family and had a long conversation with the group's Vice President Tom Minnery, according to the Associated Press.

Minnery, who served as Dobson's interlocutor on the program yesterday said during the broadcast that Obama was "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the bible to fit his own world view, his own confused theology." Dobson and Minnery waged their attack by taking potshots at a speech Obama made in 2006 to a progressive Christian audience. (You can hear the 18-minute Focus on the Family broadcast here -- starting at the 11 minute mark.)

Earlier attacks
Dobson's program was the third major attack on Obama's religious faith by a prominent right-wing Christian this month. The earlier attacks were by columnist Cal Thomas and internet televangelist Bill Keller.

The attacks follow Obama's private meeting earlier this month with a group of Christian evangelical leaders, including some from the Christian right. (There are links to reports on that meeting here.) The meeting was reported as an effort by Obama to woo evangelical voters, who have voted Republican in past elections. The attacks appear geared to discourage evangelical Christians from voting for Obama. Dobson's radio audience is said to number in millions. Earlier this year, Dobson said he could not vote for McCain.

Where Dobson took potshots at an Obama speech, Thomas and Keller directly challenge Obama's claim to be a Christian. In a column posted on the Town Hall website, Thomas wrote:

Obama can call himself anything he likes, but there is a clear requirement for one to qualify as a Christian and Obama doesn't meet that requirement. One cannot deny central tenets of the Christian faith, including the deity and uniqueness of Christ as the sole mediator between God and Man and be a Christian. Such people do have a label applied to them in Scripture. They are called "false prophets."

Vile video
Even more extreme was a video diatribe by internet televangelist Bill Keller, who called Obama "an enemy of God." Keller's video can, in completely objective terms, be characterized as vile because, as part of the visual content running behind his rant, Keller uses what appear to be video clips of abortions in progress. Keller makes the same point as Thomas -- contending that Obama is not a Christian by Keller's narrow, literalist, absolutist standard.

Of Obama, Keller said:

He stated in a recent interview, "I believe that there are many paths to the same place." This is the damnable universalistic lie leading millions of souls to hell that there are many roads leading to God. He also said that "he doesn't know if he is going to Heaven, nor does he believe he or anyone will go to Hell." How can you claim to be a Christian, yet not believe in Heaven and Hell?

Keller also said:

The fact Senator Obama denies Jesus is the only way to be saved, that there is no Heaven or Hell, that the Bible is not the only Truth, calls into question whether he believes Jesus was immaculately conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin as the Bible claims, or that Jesus literally rose from the dead as we are told in Scripture. Faith in Christ is not a political game, but a life changing experience that determines where your soul will spend eternity. It is time for Senator Obama to be held accountable for what he says he believes to examine if he really is a Christian!

You can see Keller's video (that's a screenshot, on the right) here, or, if you prefer, there is a transcript here. Keller claims to have a huge audience for his call-in format programs.

We wrote about Keller last year, when, garbed in what he claimed was "magical Mormon underwear," he attacked Mormonism and then presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

It remains to be seen whether these attacks on Obama's Christianity will persist as durably as the false rumors that he is a Muslim -- and whether evangelical Christian voters will be swayed by them.

On June 27th, Bill Keller sent out a statement on Christian Newswire, again criticizing Obama and chiding Dr. Dobson and other Christian right leaders for not criticizing Obama earlier. Keller said, in part:

It is clear that Senator Obama is convinced he can use the news media to continue declaring he is a Christian without being held accountable for his non-Christian beliefs and actions, and that Christianity has been so watered down and Biblical Truth so compromised that he can ignore those followers of Jesus Christ who still believe the Bible represents Absolute Truth. Instead he has aggressively courted those who call themselves Christians but hold liberal beliefs in opposition to God's Word as he does. Just because you call yourself a giraffe doesn't make you a giraffe!"

Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family finally spoke out against Senator Obama's skewed theology and perverse use of Scripture, responding to a speech he gave two years ago after Dobson recently learned that Senator Obama criticized him in that speech. Sadly, Dobson's remarks were more aimed at defending his name than the Christian faith. His credibility was badly shaken last year when he refused to denounce and all but endorsed Mormon Mitt Romney, even though Mormon theology is inconsistent with Biblical Christianity and is viewed as a satanic cult leading the souls of men to hell.

...I understand that he is a psychologist and not a theologian, but Dobson only spoke out against Senator Obama's flawed theology after he learned of the attack on his name. Where was he months ago when people like myself were taking the heat in the national media for declaring that Senator Obama's beliefs and actions are clearly not those of a Christian? Even though he has once again failed to lead, it is nice to finally have his voice speaking out against Senator Obama's confused and tortured theology.

Obama dismisses Dobson criticism about Bible

By Sara Kugler, Associated Press, Boston Globe, June 25, 2008

LOS ANGELES—Barack Obama said Tuesday that evangelical leader James Dobson was "making stuff up" when he accused the presumed Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible.

Dobson used his Focus on the Family radio program to highlight excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal.

Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane before landing in Los Angeles, Obama said the speech made the argument that people of faith, like himself, "try to translate some of our concerns in a universal language so that we can have an open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us." Continue.

James Dobson accuses Obama of `distorting' Bible

By Eric Gorski, Associated Press, Boston Globe, June 24, 2008

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—As Barack Obama broadens his outreach to evangelical voters, one of the movement's biggest names, James Dobson, accuses the likely Democratic presidential nominee of distorting the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

The criticism, to be aired Tuesday on Dobson's Focus on the Family radio program, comes shortly after an Obama aide suggested a meeting at the organization's headquarters here, said Tom Minnery, senior vice president for government and public policy at Focus on the Family.

The conservative Christian group provided The Associated Press with an advance copy of the pre-taped radio segment, which runs 18 minutes and highlights excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the liberal Christian group Call to Renewal. Obama mentions Dobson in the speech. Continue.

Christian coalition puts up website "James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me"

Viewed on June 25, 2008

A coalition of pastors and other Christians who support Barack Obama for president and are "standing up for our Christian faith" have posted Obama's statements as rejoinders to each of the assertions that Focus on the Family head James Dobson made about Obama during his June 24th radio broadcast. The website also has a statement that visitors are invited to sign. Click here.

Family Advocates Stand Behind Dr. Dobson
Hundreds of supportive e-mails pour into anti-Dobson Web site.

by Jennifer Mesko, Focus on the Family, June 26, 2008

Nearly 900 family advocates — mostly CitizenLink readers — have sent e-mails to an anti-Dobson Web site, expressing their support for Dr. James Dobson, founder and chairman of Focus on the Family Action.

A "coalition of pastors and other Christians" launched the Web site after Dr. Dobson's Tuesday radio broadcast, in which he challenged Sen. Barack Obama's views on Scripture and the role of religion in the public square. Continue.

This appeal was at the top of Focus on the Family's daily email for June 27, 2008

Is Dobson's Obama Hit Backfiring?

By Amy Sullivan, Time Magazine, June 28, 2008

After years of attacking Democrats with relative impunity for their supposed moral failings, Evangelical leader James Dobson surely didn't expect to suffer much of a backlash when he trained his sights on Barack Obama. Over the years, the party had practically cowered in fear and gone into radio silence when the head of Focus on the Family targeted one of its standard-bearers. So in a campaign that has already proved to be anything but predictable, the counterattack on Dobson this week epitomized the new, fraught political climate that Christian Right leaders like himself face.

Earlier this week, Dobson used his popular Christian radio program to denounce a 2006 speech the Illinois Senator gave about the place of religion in public life. He took personal offense at the fact that Obama had referred to him by name in the same breath as Al Sharpton, using the two to illustrate the range of differences that exist within Christianity. But he also expressed outrage at Obama's assertion that individuals can be moral without being religious. "He oughta read the Bible," said Dobson. Obama, he charged, was "deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview."

But less than 24 hours after Dobson's radio broadcast, was up and running on the Web. The site displays both Dobson's charges against Obama and Obama's own quotes from the 2006 speech. It also features a statement condemning Dobson that reads in part: "James Dobson doesn't speak for me when he uses religion as a wedge to divide; he doesn't speak for me when he speaks as the final arbiter on the meaning of the Bible." Continue.

Dobson and Obama: Who is 'Deliberately Distorting'?

by Jim Wallis, GodsPolitics Blog, BeliefNet, June 25, 2008

James Dobson, of Focus on the Family Action, and his senior vice president of government and public policy, Tom Minnery, used their "Focus on the Family" radio show to criticize Barack Obama's understanding of Christian faith. In the show, they describe Obama as "deliberately distorting the Bible," "dragging biblical understanding through the gutter," "willfully trying to confuse people," and having a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."

The clear purpose of the show was to attack Barack Obama. On the show, Dobson says of himself, "I'm not a reverend. I'm not a minister. I'm not a theologian. I'm not an evangelist. I'm a psychologist. I have a Ph.D. in child development." Child psychologists don't insert themselves into partisan politics in the regular way that James Dobson does and has over many years as one of the premier leaders of the Religious Right. He has spoken about how often he talked to Republican leaders -- Karl Rove, administration strategists, and even President Bush himself. This year he tried to influence the outcome of the Republican primary by saying he would never vote for John McCain or the Republicans if they nominated him, then reversed himself and said he would vote after all but didn't say for whom. But why should America care about how a child psychologist votes? Continue.

Dobson falsely suggested Obama accused Dobson of "want[ing] to expel people who are not Christians" from the U.S.

Media Matters for America, June 24, 2008

Summary: On his radio show, James Dobson falsely suggested that Sen. Barack Obama claimed Dobson "wants to expel people who are not Christians" from the United States. Dobson was referring to a 2006 speech in which Obama actually asked: "And 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 it be James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's?" Continue.

Fox's Garrett uncritically aired Focus on the Family's Minnery saying that Obama, in '06 speech, was "diminishing the idea that people of Christian faith have anything to say"

Media Matters for America, June 25, 2008

Summary: Fox News' Major Garrett uncritically aired an audio clip of Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery asserting that in a June 2006 speech, Sen. Barack Obama was "diminishing the idea that people of Christian faith have anything to say." In fact, in that speech, Obama said: "[W]hat I am suggesting is this -- secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King -- the majority of the great reformers in American history -- were not only motivated by faith, but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause."

Focus On Fruitcake: Dr. Dobson’s Half-Baked Recipe For Theocracy

Rob Boston, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, June 24, 2008

Focus on the Family founder James C. Dobson is at it again. Dobson grabbed newspaper headlines this morning with an attack on U.S. Sen. Barack Obama. According to Dobson, Obama holds a “fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.”

Dobson’s salvo on Obama is based on a 2006 speech the Illinois senator gave to a group of moderate evangelicals. During the speech, Obama pointed out that in the United States, laws must have a secular basis. People can oppose abortion, he noted, but they should not expect the government to ban the procedure just because some people say the Bible calls for that.

Obama did not say religious people have no right to oppose abortion. He merely said that they need an argument that goes beyond the words in the Bible or a papal decree. To Dobson, this is a “fruitcake” interpretation of the Constitution. Continue.

Obama Campaign Scrambling in Wake of Evangelist Questioning if He is Really a Christian

News Release, WDC Media via Christian Newswire, June 13, 2008, contact:

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, June 13 /Christian Newswire/ -- Senator Barack Obama's campaign team is scrambling to do damage control in the wake of the national story two weeks ago when the world's leading Internet evangelist Bill Keller of Liveprayer, questioned in a widely distributed Op-ed article, YouTube video, and Daily Devotional to his 2.4 million subscribers whether Senator Obama was really a Christian. Continue.

The Distortions of James Dobson

Wayne Besen, Wayne, June 24, 2008

It is remarkable that Focus on the Family's James Dobson would accuse anyone of "distortions" considering his ignoble record. But, that is exactly what the right wing ideologue did this week when he said on his daily radio show that democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama distorted the Bible.

"I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said." "... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter." Continue.

Obama Seeks to Woo Evangelicals

Gary Cass interviewed by Jim Schneider on Crosstalk Radio, June 24, 2008

Dr. Gary Cass is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America who in 2004, became the Executive Director for The Center for Reclaiming America for Christ at the late D. James Kennedy's Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church. Dr. Cass is the author of the book, Gag Order, and co-author of The Bible and the Black Board. He is currently the Director of the Christian Anti-Defamation Commission.

There is a move by Barack Obama to woo evangelicals to his viewpoint. Dr. Cass calls this false Christianity campaign, "The Audacity of Deceit." He believes it's the culmination of a very concerted effort on the part of theological and political liberals to hijack and deconstruct the Christian faith. In this way liberals can say that they are the true Christians while at the same time seeking to destroy the foundations of the faith. Click here for a link to the audio file.

Evangelist questions Obama's Christianity

Chad Groening and Jody Brown, OneNewsNow, June 10, 2008

Televangelist Bill Keller, founder of an interactive Christian website, says while only God knows the hearts of men, he has his doubts about Barack Obama's claims of being a Christian.

Keller is the founder of Last year the evangelist challenged former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney's claim to be a Christian, due to the fact that he was a member of the Mormon Church, which holds beliefs in opposition to orthodox Christianity. Now Keller is questioning Obama's Christian credentials, based on some statements the Illinois senator has made.

"A lot of the things that he is saying really call into question whether he really is a Christian," says Keller, offering up as an example Obama's statement that there are many roads that lead to God. "He has consistently been on record that he's willing to give away part of the land that God himself gave to the children of Israel directly to their enemies," he adds. Continue.