Hello everyone, I’m Dr. James Dobson. You know, last November I believe God gave America another chance with the election of Donald J. Trump. But he now needs the presence and leadership of Judge Roy Moore to make America great again. And that’s why I’m asking my friends in Alabama to elect Judge Roy Moore to the United States Senate. Judge Moore is a man of proven character and integrity, and he has served Alabama and this country very, very well. I’ve known him for over 15 years, but recently I’ve been dismayed and troubled about the way he and his wife Kayla have been personally attacked by the Washington establishment. Judge Moore has stood for our religious liberty and for the sanctity of marriage, when it seemed like the entire world was against him. I hope you’ll vote for Judge Roy Moore for United States Senate.
This is newsworthy for two reasons. 1) Apparently James Dobson is still alive?; and 2) Apparently there still exists an audience for whom the opinions of James Dobson are relevant and influential.
Both of those points are sorely disappointing.
Dobson’s hearty, unqualified endorsement of a viciously homophobic, birther-racist, theocratic, twice-impeached former judge and alleged child-molester is not surprising or newsworthy for suggesting anything new about James Dobson. We already knew that Dobson was a fan of homophobia and theocracy, and that he didn’t have any qualms about forming close alliances with white nationalists. And even Dobson’s carefree dismissal of all of the witness testimony alleging that Roy Moore is a long-time, serial molester of young girls doesn’t tell us anything new about Dobson. The essential untrustworthiness of women has always been the foundation of Dobson’s politics and of his religion, so of course he doesn’t believe any of the women accusing Moore.
This is my quibble with Michael Gerson’s fine recent column about the recent extraordinary backlash against sexual predators and the utter moral irrelevance in this moment of “The religious right’s scary, judgmental old men.” Gerson writes:
On sexual harassment, our country is now in a much better ethical place. And how we got here is instructive. … Where did this urgent assertion of moral principle come from? Not from the advocates of “family values.” On the contrary, James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family (now under much better management), chose to side with GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama against his highly credible accusers. “I have been dismayed and troubled,” Dobson said, “about the way he and his wife Kayla have been personally attacked by the Washington establishment.”
It is as if Dobson set out to justify every feminist critique of the religious right. Instead of standing against injustice and exploitation — as the Christian gospel demands — Dobson sided with patriarchal oppression in the cause of political power. This is beyond hypocrisy. It is the solidarity of scary, judgmental old men. It is the ideology of white male dominance dressed up as religion.
Gerson’s description and diagnosis of these “judgmental old men” is spot-on in all but one way: He seems to think that this siding with injustice and exploitation, this “ideology of white male dominance dressed up as religion,” is some kind of recent development. He seems to think that people like James Dobson have only just now, post-Trump and post-Weinstein, lapsed into something “beyond hypocrisy” and false religion.
But it’s not new. This is who James Dobson has always been. It is who all of the “religious right’s scary, judgmental old men” have always been. It should not be possible for anyone observing James Dobson in 2017 to be disappointed, because it should not be possible, in 2017, to have still retained any illusions about Dobson’s morality or honesty.
Consider, for example, Dobson’s 2008 Chicken Little Manifesto — the sky-is-falling “Letter from 2012” he sent to all of his followers warning against the disastrous calamities that would ensue if America elected a black man president. Dobson’s predictions — stated with utter certainty and confidence, with his personal word and honor staked on their veracity — were not just completely wrong, but also completely bonkers. It is the work of someone who — to borrow from C.S. Lewis — could only have been a liar, a lunatic, or a lying lunatic.
Dobson has never apologized to his followers for assuring them of the certainty of 34 consequences of an Obama presidency before seeing none of those consequences occur. Nor has Dobson ever explained why or how he was so completely wrong about so many things. Nor has he ever admitted he was wrong about any of those things. In fact, he has spent most of the last decade pretending as if all of his dire predictions really had come to pass — that churches are being padlocked, senior citizens are being euthanized, the government is confiscating everyone’s guns, Christian schools have been outlawed, gas costs $7 a gallon, etc. James Dobson has not been an honest man for a very, very long time. Not even close.
Dobson has always “sided with patriarchal oppression in the cause of political power.” This has been the central focus of the religious right, and of all of its scary, judgmental old men, for decades. These self-appointed arbiters of morality have always been utterly immoral. Across the board.
That’s not news. But I suppose it is news — and welcome news — that mainstream white evangelicals like Mike Gerson are finally seeing this and saying so.