Bastard Child

I read some Thomas Oden the other day and he totally read my mail. He was trying to describe a group of Evangelical Christians and I thought his insight was worth sharing. All of this is a very loose paraphrase, so don’t hold Oden responsible for my bull-crap! For the most part I’m joking in my descriptions so don’t get mad at me. I actually identify with one group, which one will be obvious. But I have great love for the other two groups as well. I just like to poke them both with a stick…it’s how I show my love.

GROUP ONE- THE FUNDIES

HERETOFORE AFTER TO BE CALLED HOMOPHOBES

These are the guys who are hooked on substituinary atonement and who make Christianity a quest to get everyone to heaven and stop sinning so much. They are conservative and hold to biblical innerency. And in my opinion are a general pain in the a*%. This is a huge group that includes everything from the southern baptists, to the pentecostals, not excluding the tim lahay freaks, the beth moore-moms, prayer of jabez day-planner buyers, james dobson zombies, and everyone who has a subscription to CCM magazine. And just when you want to hate them, you realize they are the main ones actually doing what the other groups say they want to do.

GROUP TWO – THE LIBERALS

HERETOFORE AFTER TO BE CALLED TREE HUGGERS

OK, a quick digression, I saw this hilarious bumper sticker the other day… it read “Somewhere in Texas there is a village missing an idiot.” Whatever your politics…that’s just plain funny. These are the guys who are convinced that the mission of the church is about setting straight injustice. They have a generally low view of scripture and mess with central doctrines like the resurrection. They have really decided that to be Christian means to try to live life to diminish the suffering of others…when you put it that way, it’s a wonder why we’re not all liberals.

GROUP THREE – THE MIDDLERS

HERETOFORE AFTER TO BE CALLED SPINELESS

this is the one I thought was interesting because it’s totally me. This is the group of us who grew up in fundamental homes and churches. Then we went into the public school system and were taught by liberals. We loved our parents and sunday school teachers and we loved our teachers and professors. Our adult religious experience so far has been an attempt to reconcile the two influences. Oden says we can operate in either system without messing things up and that we hold great affection for the spirituality of our childhood but find a difficult time reconciling it after we stop taking our pastor’s word for it and actually read books. The primary goal is to find communities of faith in which to work out all of the confusion of the past.

That’s when it hit me…spiritually speaking, I’m the bastard child of Billy Graham and Albert Schweitzer (does that make me Catholic?)

-TS

Ps. just in case you were wondering the “Left Behind” series has topped 55 million in sales – congrats you’ve officially soaked group 1.

About Tim Suttle

Tim Suttle is a pastor, writer, and musician. He is the author of several books: Shrink: Faithful Ministry in a Church Growth Culture (Zondervan 2014), Public Jesus (The House Studio, 2012), and An Evangelical Social Gospel? (Cascade Books, 2011). Tim's work has been featured at The Huffington Post, The Washington Post, Sojourners, and other magazines and journals. Tim is also the founder and front-man of the popular Christian band Satellite Soul, with whom he toured for nearly a decade. He has planted three successful churches over the past 13 years and is the Senior Pastor of Redemption Church in Olathe, Kan. Tim's blog, Paperback Theology, is hosted at Patheos.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16424482362948017390 markr

    Hey Tim, I think the reason no one is posting is because you have to sign up with Blogger and then it asks you to set up your own blog and stuff (which I didn’t do – I just backed out). I guess it accepted my account w/o the blog info though because I’m posting right now.

    About your posting – there definitely is something to learning lessons in church and learning lessons in the world. You’ve got to measure everything out and decide for yourself in a way, you know, reconcile the two.

    I’ll keep reading as long as you keep posting.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11821890685933261116 66211

    My favorite bumper sticker is:
    “Annoy a liberal. . . work hard and be happy”

    Second favorite:
    “Where are we going? And why am I in this handbasket?”

    Third favorite:
    “I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to become a vegetarian!”

    That is my attempt to poke group #2 with a stick.

    In seriousness, regarding group #3: does Oden mean that it’s hard to reconcile/believe one’s childhood faith after reading liberal books? Or does he mean that the Bible is inaccurate/irrelevant? Or does he mean that the faith of childhood is comforting but not true (kind of like Santa)? Group #1 and Group #2 may both have some practical applications worth emulating, but at the core, these groups have completely different belief systems. I don’t think it’s possible to hold the core beliefs of both.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02447906429727908091 Clarke

    Tim:

    My personal struggle with group one – probably pride-based – is the bandwagon-esque lemming-like quality that the Fundies exhibit as they thoughtlessly follow the Christian celebrity du jour down a particular path. I remember when Reagan was president and all of the Christians were ecstatic, partly because he had thrashed Jimmy Carter (a liberal) so completely and partly because Reagan was undeniably cool. When it was revealed that Nancy Reagan had consulted an astrologer while they were in office nobody said a word, they just kept on marching.

    Don’t get me wrong, Ronald Reagan was a great man and probably a man of sincere faith – as is Jimmy Carter. I don’t want to have to choose between the two of them because I like the tension between the two. I’m probably kidding myself but I like to think that it’s up to God to sort out which position is correct and it’s up to us to try to honor and emulate the biblical examples that we see on both sides of the spectrum – stand up for the truth of the Gospel, love our neighbors and do justice.

    What may make me weird is that I grew up in a non-Christian household, went to public schools and a non-denominational seminary…I think all of that makes me a member of the Green party.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    66211: I love the bumper stickers…especially “work hard and be happy”

    Not sure how he would define it, but you describe more clearly what I think I’m wrestling with. I’m feeling the tension between group one and two. You said you don’t think it’s possible to believe both things at once – I’m wondering if we simply must.

    The Enlightenment way of thinking is to decide one or the other must be true, based on the soundness of their propositions. I’m wondering if it’s closer to reality to be able to hold the two in tension and not make up your mind either way. That’s why I named group three, which I fully admit to being, spineless. I feels spineless. But maybe it’s really not. What else is Christianity about if not working for the poor and freeing the oppressed people, and working for justice? Don’t we have to be able to hold the ideas in tension?

    To Clarke’s point, the tension seems like the only place to be to avoid being caught up in the Reagan example. It’s unbelievable how homgeneous the Christian right is. Do you know anybody in your church who voted for Clinton? I seriously don’t.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Saw this bumper sticker on the way to work from breakfast this morning…

    “Even on drugs, Rush is right!”

    my other favorite is the one you see all over Colorado Springs.

    “Focus on your own Damn Family”

    It makes a good point. That is the view that most Americans outside the E-Right have of evangelicals. I heard Dennis Miller say once in a rant on abortion that Christians actually think life begins when you agree with them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08040527410433185496 Anthony

    Hi Tim,

    I have come to believe that the worst group of people to emulate if you want to live like Christ is the modern, institutional church. Some might find this attitude to be a bit harsh, but I believe it to be largely true. The last church that I was a member of bore more resemblance to a prosperous Fortune 500 company than it did the early churches of the New Testament. And as to the Left Behind series, Jabez key chains, the CCM industry, and most of the other so-called “Christian” enterprises, well, what more needs to be said?

    I do believe that the modern church (and these other Christian “industries”) have many faithful, sincere people involved with them. And as a result of the workings of God through these people, some of these organizations do accomplish some great things for the Kingdom. Perhaps Jesus was giving us an example of this mixing of the bad with the good, by allowing Judas Iscariot to be one of his own disciples? I suppose that the biggest challenge for me is to continue to seek out the good in all of these things (recognizing that there will always be some bad apples in the bunch) and to know that since God knows the hearts of those who are truly His, He will ultimately be the one to straighten out this crazy little thing we call Christianity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11821890685933261116 66211

    I’ve never heard of CCM until now. Looked up Satellite Soul –they gave a very good review.

    Re: Focus on you own damn family. I’ve been to Colo. Springs many times (and every part of the city)–never have seen this bumper sticker. The venom exuded in that bumper sticker isn’t a “poke with a stick”. It’s almost vicious. I’m curious to know what exactly Focus on the Family has ever done to deserve the hate some apparently have toward it. From a strictly Christian perspective, maybe that means that Focus is doing something correct. Maybe being true to their calling as a ministry will invariably be stinging salt to those with hard hearts. And don’t tell me that they are a judgemental, hate-filled organization. That is simply not true. Engaged in the culture/social issues –yes. Hateful –no. They won’t be accused by God of being “lukewarm”. So many times, in our effort to be “attractive” and engage the culture, we end up as lukewarm.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02447906429727908091 Clarke

    Your question about Focus on the Family is interesting. I don’t know what they’ve done to deserve the hate they receive. Most (but not all) of what they teach is solidly biblical. I do get concerned when Focus (or any other organization) becomes a substitution for people doing the hard work of seeking God’s wisdom and direction on their own. Their are lots of sincere Christians who end up being more of an Evangelist for their favorite para-church organization or Christian celebrity than for the message of the Gospel which is inherently messy and calls us outside of ourselves to love people who are unloveable.

    By their nature groups like Focus tend to take broad, controversial stands against things homosexuality and premarital sex – both stands are clearly biblical and I agree with Focus on their position. BUT both of the young couples that life next store to us are “living in sin” and I work very closely every day with several gay men. Do I take a stand against them and shut them out because I believe that their lifestyle is less than what God intended for them? Or, do I engage them appropriately and try to be salt and light in the hope that their hearts might be changed by God’s grace? I don’t think the biblical stand that Focus takes is the problem, I think the problem is the way it gets used (or abused) by the people who follow the positions of Dr. Dobson without understanding the call of Christ to love the unloveable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Thanks for the post anthony, you got me thinking! I get a lot of crap for how I feel about “Focus on the Family” – and I couldn’t disagree more. I think it is poking with a stick, it’s just when the organization is that big and powerful, you gotta bring a big stick. It’s not hate though, I am working over the evangelicals as an evangelical – I’m part of the family and there is no hate in my heart. I’m surprised you never saw that bumper sticker. I played there a handful of times and never failed to see at least one around town.

    More details on Focus…I think that Dobson has become sort of the poster boy for the modern evangelical movement in many ways. In my opinion he represents much that is wrong with it.

    Jesus reserved his most harsh words for the Pharisees. His worst enemies were the powerful religious elite who took it upon themselves to tell everyone else what is right and what is wrong. These elite were up to their eyeballs in Politics while they were making money hand over fist off the normal everyday person. Sounds like James Dobson to me.

    It took that sort of religious power wedded with politics to put Jesus to death. I think in small ways that is what happens everyday w/Focus. Not to say they don’t do good things, but in large part, they are just creating and sustaining a sub-culture that they are in control of and it has little to do with the kingdom of God, and much to do about the kingdom of men. They are harboring and wielding power over millions of evangelicals who don’t think for themselves, they just pick up one of the over a hundred publications they have in circulation. God forbid you go watch “Magnolia” and decided for yourself if it’s a good movie, just go the Focus Website, they’ll tell you what to think.

    I’d much prefer to focus on World Vision or Compassion International – or better still Veronica’s Closet or an outward focused group in your area.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Hey Clarke,

    you lived in Denver for awhile. Ever know anyone who was far from God there who just couldn’t stand Focus? I’ve got friends around KC who have a huge problem with them and see Focus as one of the major controlling forces of the Political Christian Right.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    If you are a Jimmy D. lover, try reading this:

    http://www.peacemakers.net/peace/doorgam97.htm

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08040527410433185496 Anthony

    I think that Focus on the Family now occupies the position in American society that Jerry Falwell and the Moral Majority once did (especially during the 1980′s). Having been in a Baptist high school and church that at the time were closely aligned with Falwell, I saw firsthand some of the good work that they did, but I also saw how Dr. Falwell became too cozy with the conservative political establishment. Falwell will now readily admit that he often puts too much of his own emphasis on political matters, rather than on sharing the gospel. As a result of this experience and some others, I am now a bit leery of any Christian group or church that tends to be too nationalistic. Don’t get me wrong, I served proudly in the military and I do appreciate living in the United States, but those patriotic feelings take a back seat when compared to my loyalty to our eternal kingdom (or at least I know that they should!). Whenever we mix too much politics, nationalism, or enterprise with church, I believe that we can expect trouble to soon follow.

    I don’t know that much about Focus on the Family specifically to have strong feelings either way. I did go through Dobson’s program called “Bringing Up Boys,” or something like that, and I thought that it was pretty good. If Focus spends a lot of time organizing political rallies and boycotts, which I’ve heard to be the case, then I would probably not personally get involved with that sort of thing, even if I supported their overall aim. I’ve not seen much evidence that Christians using political clout and confrontational activism do much to further the spread of the gospel in our culture–if anything, they probably turn non-believers off. I would prefer to take the approach of the early anabaptists, and focus on living my own life in such a simple and godly way that it serves as a positive example to those around me. I’m not suggesting that we compromise when it comes to proclaiming truth and standing up against sin. But there is a way to do this which is Christ-like, and it usually involves being more subtle than the big Christian organizations tend to be. I like Tim’s example of how Jesus was most harsh when speaking to the Pharisees about their abuse of what was entrusted to them by God. When Christ dealt with a lowly sinner, like the woman caught in adultery, He showed more grace. He did tell her to sin no more, but He did it in a way which would likely encourage her to want to truly change her ways. Do confrontational, organized political campaigns by groups like Focus really have a positive impact on the non-believing culture, or do they just serve to rally the “troops” to continue supporting the organization?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Great Comments. I think that Dobon is exactly like Falwell in many ways. Falwell was just in KC where I live at Jerry Johnston’s church. Johnston is one of the most manipulative pastors I’ve ever heard of and is no friend to those trying to build the kingdom of God. He was on the cover of Pitch Magazine this year with the headline “Preachers hate fags, too.”

    Falwell stirred up a bunch of controversy in KC when he claimed that pastors who don’t stand up against gay marriage and who aren’t politically active (on the right of course)aren’t worthy to be in ministry or some crap like that. What a joke. He’s fringe now and most people who can think for themselves don’t regard him as a serious figure. Same goes for Jerry Johnston.

    It’s not the same for Dobson, he’s much smarter and more calculating. His organization is huge and he’s got so much power it’s scary. I hope that he keeps moving more and more to the right and that he eventually loses credibility because of his extreme views.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11821890685933261116 66211

    Please clarify the specific views that Focus on the Family/James Dobson holds that considered extreme.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05375862963526606147 Bill

    Tim, I’m surprised you give Billy such short shrift. Billy started Christianity Today, Books & Culture (a world-class book review publication), & other cool stuff. Didn’t Tom Oden edit for CT for a while, too? Shouldn’t that actually be you’re the bastard child of Bob Jones and Mother Theresa? THAT, would make you at least little-c catholic!

    RE: your comment, “He was on the cover of Pitch Magazine this year with the headline “Preachers hate fags, too.”

    Johnston may not be a great example of Christ to the outside world, but like the other sorry excuse for a ‘minister’ the Pitch[fork] was smearing him with, Fred “I Hate Fags” Phelps, to his credit, I don’t see Jerry’s name in the Pitch[fork]‘s masthead for layout or contributing editor. And they’d never be mistaken for a press agent for local ministers anyway.

    Now, Phelps I don’t have (surprise! surprise!) any compunction “speaking evil of,” since I see so little of Christ’s love in the man I just have to believe he’s on the Pitch[fork]‘s payroll as a stooge. But, I do believe being politically active (right or left) is permissible as a Christian, possibly even the loving, Christian thing to do. Would Jesus vote? Jehovah’s Witnesses & others say no. My Bruderhof & Anabaptist friends say, maybe/maybe not. Me? I don’t know.

    Standing up for traditional marriage also makes sense to me, since it seems clear as a bell (read, gasp! fundamental…or, as Sherlock Holmes might’ve said, “elementary”) that, well…homosexuality is, er…whisper, whisper….against the will o’ Gawd!

    But that’s just me (ok, and about 70% of my Missouri voter friends dems and repubs t’gether…and probably given that Missouri’s a typical snapshot of the nation, maybe even 70% of my friends all over these United States’)…oh, and the Bible, I guess.

    Now, selecting your moral stances can get dicey if you’re using popular opinion to find out where to stand, but sometimes it works out ok. This just might be one of them. But that might make it even more cognitively dissonant (that whole ideas in tension bit you mentioned earlier) when my brother and brother-in-law are homosexual, and people I hang around with are lesbians, & whatnot. Sounds kinda like the Jesus Style, though. (Matt. 11:19) Time will tell, or “… wisdom is shown to be right by what results from it.”

    Grace n’ peace!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    66211: Thanks for asking hard questions. One of the reasons I’ve needed this blog is because I crave the company of smart people who disagree with me. Over time that contact never ceases to correct some of my own extreme views and erroneous ideas. On Dobson’s extreme views.

    I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that James Dobson is on the extreme right of Politics. Any issue you want to look at he’s on the far right flank of all of America – always. That makes him extreme in my view. I mean I might respect him a tiny bit more if he had one thing in the middle…you know like he wanted a higher speed limit in western Colorado or something.

    When we put out records on Ardent/Forefront, one of the first things you had to do was make sure Focus on the Family was on board with your project. We literally had to make the pilgrimage to Colorado Springs to pay homage to James Dobson – even though we were broke and couldn’t really afford the trip, we drove out there to kiss his backside. We actually had to go there and ask them to like/approve our record – if they didn’t, stores wouldn’t touch it.

    Everywhere you went in the huge complex you could see their mission statement: “the people of God to practical action in their communities and our nation in defense of righteousness.” Just that phrase “Defense of Righteousness” seems a little extreme to me. Righteousness is a secondary theological issue. What about “defense of love of the brokenhearted and down and out.” I hear too many echoes of Bob Jones.

    You couldn’t talk to a single person in that building without them referring constantly to Dr. Dobson. It was scary, like the scene in Fletch Lives and the Bible-land amusement park. It became very clear to me that if you want the Christian right to come out and play, you gotta ask their daddy – that’s Dr. Daddy to you.

    Dobson, according to those he works with, believes himself to be totally sanctified and without sin. If you listen to his show, the guy thinks he’s infallible. I guess this is where he gets to try to be the morality police for the entire nation.

    I think this guy preys on the fears of normal American Christians who are afraid they are losing the fight and they are afraid. He portrays himself as a simple family guy, a psychologist working to strengthen American families. But if you dig around, it goes much deeper than that. He is the mastermind of one of the largest political machines in America and he’s got zero accountability. And if you want to really get in trouble with other Christians, just criticize James Dobson and they’ll be all over you, marching lock-step ready to drink the cool-aid.

    Focus’ got so many organizations under their umbrella that it’s nearly impossible to find them all. Focus, Family Research Council, FMR ties, FOTF Action, all of these able to wield incredible political power. If you believe Gil Alexander-Moegerle, which I do, Dobson holds racist views, believes he never sins, and his goal is the expression of isolated independent power. He says Dobson is accountable to no one. He was an only child who has been controlling people since he began controlling his parents. If you don’t toe the line with him, he can cause you so much trouble. It doesn’t matter if you work for him or not, he can get you fired.

    But if you need one simple “extreme view” he advocates keeping you children away from offensive videos like “The Little Mermaid” because it encourages usurping of parental authority. God help us.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Bill,

    welcome to the discussion! Nice post…

    About Jerry J. – I’ve had enough contact with this guy to know he’s a slime-ball. Let’s see how many celebrities we can bring in next week, is vanilla ice a christian?

    As far as my rants on Focus, I’m hard on them because nobody else is. I’m a little misleading in that I sound a lot more passionate about it than I really am. Dobson means nothing to me personally, I ignore him for the most part. It’s just that he has no accountability. And I’ve had so many experiences where Christians get unreasonably pissed when you say something bad about Dobson or Focus that it’s starting to freak me out a little bit. Nobody should hold that much influence especially in the name of God.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05375862963526606147 Bill

    I guess one other thought comes into play here, for me at least. That would be an old saying that goes, ‘you can choose your friends, but you’re stuck with family.’

    While I essentially disavow Phelps & his ilk as part of ‘the family,’ I don’t necessarily disavow other folks who’re perhaps in Dobson’s camp, or camping nearby. Mainly because I’ve been there, and apparently so have you. There has to be a middle ground somewhere we can all acknowlege is still part of the family acreage. How do I know this? Because that’s where I’m camped now.

    It’s easy, and really popular today to bag on ‘fundies’ and conservatives. Yeah, there are plenty Christians out here in the fold who’re pretty messed up. They’d say the same about us. They miss the boat on the right side of the dock, maybe we miss the boat on the left side of the dock. But we’re both standing on the dock. When the ship comes in, folks on both sides’ll be boarding for distant shores. Meantime, I hear Jesus prayed once for unity. Our jobs are to get ready for the voyage, and invite as many along as possible. With God’s help, that’ll happen..off both sides of the dock.

    Not sure why you mentioned Dobson in your response. I didn’t ever mention him in mine. Hope that you’re not focused too much on Focus. God is bigger than Focus, et al.

    Also, despite your experiences with Dobson and the CCM industry, there’s tons of great Christian music that definitely wouldn’t have passed muster in Colorado Springs but that *would* qualify as ‘CCM.’ It’s mostly on independent labels, of course. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

    Mainstream CCM is probably deserving of the term ‘crap-fest.’ However, like everything else, generalizations are bound to miss the mark.

    I’d hate to think that we’ve joined the rest of the mainstream church & secular society in condemning those true Christian artists who *are* producing great music and art to the CCM ghetto. The secular industry already does that well enough. If it’s good, it’s good. That doesn’t necessarily mean simply ‘using’ it as a glorified tract, but letting it adorn the works we were made for (Eph 2:10).

    Secular artists certainly have the freedom, gifts, creativity to communicate truth, but one advantage even the so-called ‘emergent church’ movement seems reluctant to give its own is the one advantage that secular artists have over their faithful counterparts: exposure.

    I believe a lot of what Mogerle says is probably true. I love the Door, and have read it for years. But even the Door gets to me sometimes, just like my leftist, pinko-commie, anarchist, lesbian, vegan friends’ rants get to me. I can only take so much cynicism before I’ve got to get away from it. Where to go though?

    “The name of the Lord is a strong tower…” Now there’s an answer. (ps61.1/2)

    Grace n’ peace

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11821890685933261116 66211

    Tim,
    1. I asked about specific “extreme” views of Dobson. You gave a vague answer about the political right. If you’re calling him extreme, you need to back it up specifically, without resorting to stereotypes. So you don’t like his taste in movies; is that the only thing that is extreme in your view? Please list other views that are extreme in your opinion.

    2. Curious about the mission of Focus on the Family, I went to their website. Here’s their stated mission:

    “To cooperate with the Holy Spirit in disseminating the Gospel of Jesus Christ to as many people as possible, and, specifically, to accomplish that objective by helping to preserve traditional values and the institution of the family.”

    That mission sounds pretty good to me.

    3. You stated that you believe Dobson is a racist and that he thinks he is above sin. Those are pretty strong accusations, given without ANY supporting evidence.

    4. You called Jerry Johnson, a pastor of a large and influential church in suburban Kansas City, a slime-ball, from your own personal experience.

    You’re throwing a lot of bombs, then walking away. My guess is that if someone from the “Christian right” used the same types of verbal bombs, they would be accused of intolerance and hatred.

    I have no problem discussing specific concerns of a movement or a ministry. But name-calling and the use of slurs, especially unsubstantiated, –that’s wrong. I have every reason to believe that Dobson, Johnson, and Falwell are Christians. If so, then you’re going to be spending eternity with them.

    I’m all for discussion, but I’m not on board with the tone used.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    66211, again thanks for your opinion. I can tell that it strikes a nerve with you that I’m on Dobson so hard –sorry if it bothers you but I really think he’s a bad guy. I just think he represents what’s wrong about Christianity today. I’ll address your points:

    1. Dobson takes an extreme conservative view on almost every social issue, there is nothing to the right of him, (at least that is rational) he is the flank. Now you can criticize my tone, but that much about Dobson is true – he represents the extreme right in Politics. You can’t make him into some sort of open minded guy, he is the extreme.

    If you want something specific, Dobson takes a really hard line on stem cell research saying he wants all research disallowed, even research on embryos set to be destroyed. On abortion he states over and over he believes it should not ever be legal, not for any circumstance. On homosexuality, let’s just say he’s not working for gay rights.

    2. On the focus vision, they may have changed it since I was there, but I went back and looked in my journal from when I was last there and it was as I have it written above. Now, I’ll agree with you that the vision sounds really good, let me try and explain my point of view a little differently.

    There is a difference between “preserving traditional values and the institution of the family” and attacking those who think differently that you. It’s none of Dobson’s business if my neighbor is gay and has a kid and raises that kid in a loving two parent home. His beliefs may not agree with that, mine may or may not either but it’s just none of our business. How would you defend Dobson’s approach to that sort of family? I’ve actually heard him on his show say that ultimately the break up an otherwise happy (albeit unconventional) home because of his view of right and wrong… a view I might add, not shared by everyone.

    The other issue is technical for me. It’s wrong to use parts of the Bible meant for the church against those outside the church. That is to say if verses were written to either the children of Israel or the early Christian community to deal with issues of morality, theology or practice, then these are “in house” documents and are not meant to be used for those outside the church. That is a hermeneutical principle…he ignores that all the time. The only approach we can have toward lost people is love, grace, acceptance, forgiveness…that’s not what I’ve observed from Focus.

    Plus there is the issue of a total lack of accountability. No one who is in Christian circles wants to stand up to this guy because everyone’s selling something. If they stand up to him, he’ll crush them.

    3. About the racist stuff, sinless stuff, even cases of him crushing certain people…it’s all backed up in the article I linked, here’s the link again. http://www.peacemakers.net/peace/doorgam97.htm You may not be familiar with Nazarene Holiness stuff, this is who Dobson is.

    4. About Jerry Johnston, dude, you do not want to be defending this guy. As far as I’m concerned slime-ball is being nice. Over the past few years I’ve met at least a dozen people who Jerry Johnston totally worked over, I mean financially, relationally – manipulation on many levels.

    Watch him on TV sometime, does it on his broadcasts all the time. “Raise your hand if you accepted Jesus for the first time tonight.” (no hands go up) “Raise your hands if you just want to say yes to Jesus.” (half the crowd, looking a little confused, raises their hands) “I want the TV cameras to pan around the room here and look at all of these hands of people who accepted Christ today…” That is a mild case.

    If you want specifics, I know a man, we’ll call him Bob, who Jerry had in a room with him while he was trying to raise money to build the building they are in now. Jerry was pushing Bob to sign this paper that would constitute Bob’s taking out a big bank loan to contribute. It was a huge amount and Bob was saying “I’m not really sure about this, I think I need to talk to my wife about it.” Jerry told him he didn’t need to go talk to his wife, that God wanted him to sign the paper. He totally manipulated Bob into signing it. The result was major financial collapse of a family, loss of trust and respect and an eventual divorce. Defend that crap.

    Who do you think Dobson is accountable to? Do you know how big his organization is? Do you know how powerful he is? Doesn’t that seem a little off to you? It bothers the crap out of me.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08040527410433185496 Anthony

    The issues that I have with Dobson aren’t so much with his conservative stance on these issues, as I tend to be in agreement with much of what he believes. I believe that homosexuality and abortion are flat out wrong, and I believe that Scripture would strongly support this position. My problem with Focus is more with their practice of implementing their beliefs. I do agree with Tim that the church needs to stress love, grace, acceptance, and forgiveness with those outside the church. What is difficult, though, is showing this attitude of grace toward the unsaved, without appearing to accept these sins as perfectly acceptable behavior. Would it be correct, for example, for the church to allow a known homosexual or abortion-rights activist to hold a leadership position within the church? I don’t believe so. Since groups like Focus tend to speak out on a national level against behaviors that are sinful, they tend to not do very well at expressing this attitude of grace on an individual level to the unsaved. I can understand how this would be a difficult balancing act for any large organization like Focus on the Family.

    I take issue more with the financial side of things with these large Christian organizations, as well as with the wielding of political influence, than I do with their apparent conservative stance. The manipulative tactics used by some bother me greatly, but I’ve personally seen this sort of thing at the local church level as well, so my criticism in this regard isn’t focused solely upon groups like Dobson’s.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    Anthony,

    Thanks for the post. Where are you from, by the way?

    You bring up a really good point that I want to comment on. You stated that the difficulty is “showing an attitude of grace without appearing to accept these sins.” That is where I part ways with most of the Christian right.

    One of my good friends just did a sermon on this and I know this isn’t a really popular opinion, but it’s an important distinction. I’ve heard all of my life that God hates the sin and not the sinner. What my friend pointed out in his sermon was that evangelicals think that gives them the right to hate the sinner, too.

    I think we’re not in a position to comment one way or another on the sins of other people – precisely because we are all sinful. We don’t get to approve or disapprove of other people’s sin issues because we have our own sin issues. What makes Dobson dangerous is that he claims to not have sin issues.

    I believe that the bible does not give us permission to disapprove of sin in other people that we’re not in communion with. In other words, we don’t get to hate the sin and not the sinner, only God has that right. We only get to love the sinner. It is not our job to judge anyone’s sin but our own. So it is not important that we don’t appear to approve of that which we deem as sinful, we need only to love them and accept them.

    The exception would be those we’re in communion with. A son or daughter who needs our discerning discipline, those we are doing life deeply with who can never doubt our love and support and who are open to hearing tender words of accountability from us…that’s who we can talk with about these things.

    Now I know that I open myself up to criticism here because I’m vocally disapproving of what many in the Christian right do, including Dr. Dobson. That’s a valid criticism and one that I think about a lot.

    I think it comes down to the issue of identity and relationship. I have been on staff with evangelical Churches or ministries full or part time for the past 15 years. As a recording artist and music publisher I have identified myself with evangelicals and have a certain, albeit small, sphere of influence within evangelical circles. And, as far as Dobson is concerned, he wields power in an arena that I made my living in for 7-8 years and still remain active in today. I think that more than gives me right and reason to comment as an insider.

    Here’s a question for you to ponder. Evangelicals generally think homosexuality is a sin. And they work to condemn it in very public ways like the gay marriage amendment. Why do evangelicals not denounce fat people? Why do they not seek legislation to put slothful people on diets? After all, it’s one of the seven deadly sins! Why do we not impose sanctions on gossips? What about just plain old selfish people? What about people who judge other people?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08040527410433185496 Anthony

    Tim,

    I’m from Maine.

    I appreciate your comments. I admit that it is a struggle trying to sort out all of these issues. I think that all of us believe the way we do based partly on the experiences that we’ve gone through. You may have sensed that, even though I hold to some beliefs which are generally thought to be “conservative,” I also go out of my way to separate myself from some of the things that many in the Christian right do. My own background includes past membership in three conservative Baptist churches. In each of these local churches, I saw firsthand examples of greed, gossip, sexual abuse, and adultery, and much of it involved the church leadership. In one instance, my pastor was one of the leading figures in the Northeast in speaking out against sexual immorality in our culture. It later turned out to be quite a shock when it was learned that he himself had been involved in an affair for four years! As a result of experiencing what I have in various churches, I have had difficulty putting much trust in church leaders who claim moral superiority, since I have seen all too often that their pride eventually gets the best of them and they get caught up in the very sin that they were speaking out against. But what I have tried hard not to do is to not throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. I still regard God’s Word as given in the Bible to be the authority in my life, as long as time is taken to properly interpret what it really says (I have seen the Bible misinterpreted all too often, by both the Christian left and right). So my focus has been to cultivate Christian relationships that take place on a personal level. I can appreciate what you say about needing to be in communion with people before speaking out concerning their sin. To speak out against sin in an impersonal way, as the larger organizations do, basically accomplishes two things: (1) it isolates the sinners to whom it is directed, and (2) it gives the organization’s members encouragement to donate more money for the “cause.” This further divides the culture into the “haves” and the “have nots.” The “haves” have Jesus, and are usually more than happy to associate with only others like them. And the “have nots” don’t have Jesus, so we’ll basically avoid them.

    I guess my point is, that I’m not all that crazy about mass media Christianity, because it is not easily done on a personal level. You and I would probably agree on this point. I have no intention of denouncing (in a public and impersonal way) homosexuality any more than I would slothfulness, or gossip. But on a personal level with my family and with those Christian brothers and sisters that I am in fellowship with, I do believe that it is appropriate to do so.

    Nice discussion!

  • stingr22

    Tim,
    Hey, it’s Rob from Ohio. I’ve always thought that James Dobson should experience the “real” world, but after I followed your link and read the interview with a former employee did I even realize how much.

    Did you ever see the movie “Doc Hollywood?” Michael J. Fox plays a surgeon from L.A. that breaks down in a small town after smashing through the town judge’s fence with his Porsche. His sentence is working 2 weeks in the town’s only small family practice.

    I think a movie should be made about a James Dobson type character. It could be called “Doc Pious”. His Lexus could break down in the inner city and he would have to pastor a small inner city mission for two weeks and live in the parsonage next door.

    He would have to minister to all of the people he has sheltered himself from and have to work in the mission’s soup kitchen. The church would be across the street from an abortion clinic and next door to a brothel. On Tuesday nights, the local AA group would meet at the church. Of course, the affluent gay community would be about 12 blocks away.

    Throughout the ordeal, he remembers the passionate, loving God who accepts all people and loves them equally. He realizes his own political agenda is really not as important as helping feed a homeless mom and her two kids.

    The movie concludes with him shutting down the factory and using all the contribution money and the money he made from his home and his Lexus, his boat, his beach house, etc. to helping people all over the world come to know Christ.

    Never mind. Nobody would believe it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10974397437648079481 Tim Suttle

    I love it…you should write it. Although JD doesn’t go anywhere without security, body guards, advance teams and a bullet-proof Suburban. Seriously, he’s got more security than the Speaker of the House. Maybe it should start with a fall from grace – some sort of reason that he loses his power and influence or gets kicked out of his ministry in a hostile takeover. Then his wife leaves him for the new head of the ministry. Then he gets drunk at a local tavern and joy rides into some small town where he crashes into a fence. Then his sentence for drunken disorderly is to be the pastor at their church which has been without a full time pastor for years…i think we got something here!

  • stingr22

    I like the idea of him falling. I think William H. Macy could play the JD character. His wife could be Joan Allen. The new ministry head could be Jeff Daniels. Oh, wait. That was already done in Pleasantville.

    As frustrated as I get at the James Dobsons of the world, it encourages me by increasing my awareness of what is really important – not in a pious or “earning my way into heaven” way. But the way I feel when I know I’ve made a difference in someone else’s life. Often times, I feel more blessed than they do.

    I think God does that on purpose.


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