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Obama distorts Scripture, Dobson says


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (BP)–Focus on the Family founder James Dobson used his broadcast June 24 to criticize Barack Obama’s usage of Scripture, saying the presumptive Democratic nominee misrepresents biblical passages.

“I think he is deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview — his own confused theology,” Dobson said on the radio program.

Dobson’s words come as Obama reaches out to evangelicals, who in recent presidential elections traditionally have voted Republican.

At issue during the broadcast was a keynote speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the conference of the Call to Renewal, a liberal Christian organization. Several clips from the address — in which Obama criticizes the way social conservatives have used Scripture in pushing public policy — were played on the program.

“[E]ven if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christians from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools?” Obama asked. “Would it be James Dobson’s or Al Sharpton’s? Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount — a passage that is so radical that it’s doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application. But before we get carried away, let’s read our Bibles. Folks haven’t been reading their Bibles.”

Tom Minnery, president of government and public policy for Focus on the Family, said Obama’s interpretation is off the mark.


“Laws that applied to [the Israelites] then — the Levitical code, the dietary laws — no longer apply,” Minnery said. ” … [I]t seems that he is vastly confused about the details of biblical exposition. I think he is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter. I just don’t know whether he’s doing it willfully or accidentally.”

Said Dobson, “He says we ought to read the Bible. I think he ought to read the Bible.”

Minnery noted that Obama recently “cited the Sermon on the Mount as justifying same-sex marriage.” Minnery was referencing a March campaign speech by Obama in which the senator from Illinois defended his support of civil unions and said, “If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That’s my view. But we can have a respectful disagreement on that.”

In another segment from the June 2006 speech played on the broadcast, Obama said, “Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. What do I mean by this? It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons … but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I can’t simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.”

Dobson said Obama’s views on democracy, too, are wrong.

“What the senator is saying there, in essence, is that I can’t seek to pass legislation … that bans partial-birth abortion because there are people in the culture who don’t see that as a moral issue,” Dobson said. “And if I can’t get everyone to agree with me, it is undemocratic to try to pass legislation that I find offensive to the Scripture. Now, that is a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution. This is why we have elections — to support what we believe to be wise and moral. We don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator of morality, which is what he is suggesting.”

Dobson noted that when Obama was a state legislator in Illinois, he opposed a bill that would have required medical attention be given babies who survive abortions.

“That, to him, was a moral position. To me, it’s anathema,” Dobson said. “Am I required in a democracy to conform my efforts in the political arena to his bloody notion of what is right with regard to the lives of tiny babies? What he’s trying to say here is, ‘Unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.’ I thank God that that’s not what the Constitution says.”

Obama’s 2006 speech also drew a response from R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on his blog. Writing in June 2006, Mohler called Obama’s position “secularism with a smile.”

“Sen. Obama seems to believe in the myth of a universal reason and rationality that will be compelling to all persons of all faiths, including those of no faith at all,” Mohler wrote. “Such principles do not exist in any specific form usable for the making of public policy on, for example, matters of life and death like abortion and human embryo research. This is secularism with a smile — offered in the form of an invitation for believers to show up, but then only to be allowed to make arguments that are not based in their deepest beliefs.”
Michael Foust is an assistant editor of Baptist Press.