Monday, November 12, 2012

Blinded by Might 6

I have three items for my write-up today on Blinded by Might: Why the Religious Right Can't Save America, by Cal Thomas and Ed Dobson.  By and large, in this post, I will be quoting from Ed Dobson's contribution to the book.

1.  On page 166, Dobson says:

"Is there ever a time when the church should get involved in the political process?  [H.M.] Kuitert argues yes.  He states that 'in a situation in which the gaining of power through political position is forbidden or political parties do not exist,' the church should become the voice of the ignored and oppressed.  Kuitert cites the church in South Africa as an example.  The church became a voice for the blacks who had no voice in the political system.  The same would hold true for the black church in America; it became the voice for a people who were, and to some degree still are, an ignored people.  The same can be said of the church in Germany during the Nazi regime.  The church had a moral obligation to speak up for and defend the Jewish people who were deprived of choice and freedom."

My impression is that Thomas and Dobson do not particularly want for the church to be involved in politics or political issues, but rather to focus on such things as the preaching the Gospel and service.  Yet, they are all for Christians (Christians, as distinguished from the church as an institution) being civic minded and voting, and Thomas expresses support for a constitutional anti-abortion amendment.  The passage above appears to be an exception clause that says when the church as an institution would be within its bounds to become involved in the political process.

It's a tough issue.  Couldn't someone come along and say that the church should be involved in fighting abortion politically, since the unborn----like the victims in Apartheid South Africa, Nazi Germany, and the Jim Crow South----are vulnerable and limited in their ability to counter those who oppress (or, in this case, murder) them?  I suppose so, but then we're back at the limits of legislation, which Thomas and Dobson highlight: an anti-abortion law by itself will not stop all abortions, which is why there needs to be a focus on changing hearts and minds and helping those who are pregnant and vulnerable.  In the United States, there is hope of fighting abortion politically, but also people can spread the Gospel and help pregnant women who need help, and so our situation is not the same as what existed in (say) Nazi Germany, where people could not openly help the vulnerable or fight Nazi policies.

2.  On page 165, Dobson states:

"...The Bible clearly teaches that life begins at conception; human life is a gift from God and must be protected.  But on many other issues there is not a clear, unequivocal Christian position.  Good Christians disagree on such issues as the environment, nuclear weapons, gun control, capital punishment, and support of the State of Israel."

Dobson's point is that it's wrong to claim that there is a "Christian" position on certain political issues, for that contaminates the definition of "Christian", plus there is diversity within Christianity.

Personally, I don't think that the Bible "clearly teaches that life begins at conception."  That is quite debatable.  Exodus 21:22-23 can be interpreted to mean that a man who kills a pregnant woman while fighting with another man will be executed, whereas he will merely pay a fine if he caused her a miscarriage.  Actually, the Bible has a clearer stance on capital punishment (it's often for it) than it does on when life begins.  But, even if the Bible "clearly teaches" something, does that mean that we should follow it?  God law for Old Testament Israel was for it to execute people who engage in homosexual conduct (Leviticus 20:13).  I seriously doubt that Cal Thomas, Ed Dobson, or even many on the religious right would support that sort of policy for the U.S.  That brings me to my third item.

3.  It was interesting to read what this book says about homosexuality.  This book was written in 1999, which was a little different from 2012, when criticism of homosexuality is becoming more marginalized (though there are clear exceptions to that, as when crowds of people bought Chick-Fil-A sandwiches to defend its owner, who spoke out against gay marriage).

Dobson's contribution is a mixture of reasonable insights and, well, stuff that would be controversial in 2012.  Dobson talks about how his church refused to campaign against a local gay rights ordinance, and he received a lot of hostile criticism from conservative Christians for that.  Dobson states on page 164: "Seeing the way other Christians treated me, I can only imagine how they would treat gay people."  On the ordinance itself, Dobson acknowledged that there was discrimination against gays in the city where he lived, but he thought that the gay rights ordinance was unnecessary because there were already laws that could deal with that problem.  I'm sure that there are many homosexuals who would disagree with him on this, but I do appreciate that Dobson is willing to be sympathetic to the plight of homosexuals.

On pages 167-168, however, Dobson says that gays can be healed through the power of the Gospel.  He tells a story about a gay man who "left the gay lifestyle and eventually married and had children."  I'm not sure if Dobson believes that the Gospel will necessarily make gay people straight, for he says that "Gays can be delivered from practicing homosexuality", which, in my opinion, is different from saying that all gays can change their sexual orientation.  Dobson's stance in 1999 would probably be more controversial today, when there are critiques of (and even legal measures against) reparative therapy, even Exodus International has backed away from it, and a number of psychologists say that it's dangerous for gays to repress who they are.

On page 203, in an interview by Cal Thomas of former U.S. Senator Bill Armstrong, Armstrong says, "Does [God] care whether or not people are forced to have their children associate with homosexuals?  I think he does care."  I thought that statement was sad, especially because Armstrong had good insights in this interview about history and the relationship between politics and religion.  And it would be more controversial today, when the Southern Policy Law Center calls such groups as the Family Research Council a hate group for suggesting that children should be protected from homosexuals.  (UPDATE: Armstrong may have meant that there are parents who don't want their children to have homosexual role models.  I find his statement to be sad, in any case.)

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