Why this, why now? Probably because Obama’s evangelical outreach is just starting to gear up and Dobson wants to use his influence to blunt it before it can build up steam. Whether he’s doing that out of loyalty to the GOP, genuine concern over a pro-choice candidate peeling away Christian voters, or just the usual craving for attention, I leave to you to decide. Here’s the money section from Obama’s speech on faith two years ago:
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. 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 cannot 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.
Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.
The example he gives to make his point is Abraham preparing to kill Isaac on God’s command, as though the moral argument against abortion were no more coherent or “universal” than the voice in some zealot’s head. Dobson’s rejoinder:
Dobson reserved some of his harshest criticism for Obama’s argument that the religiously motivated must frame debates over issues like abortion not just in their own religion’s terms but in arguments accessible to all people.
He said Obama, who supports abortion rights, is trying to govern by the “lowest common denominator of morality,” labeling it “a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.”
“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?” Dobson said. “What he’s trying to say here is unless everybody agrees, we have no right to fight for what we believe.”
That’s not what he’s trying to say. What he’s trying to say is that it’d be unfair and unconstitutional to make policy based on the ipse dixits of some religion’s God. You’re fully entitled to fight for what you believe, but if you’re going to turn it into law, you need a better justification as a legal matter than “Because God says so.” Otherwise, the only people who will understand it — not agree with it, necessarily, but understand it (i.e. who’ll find it “accessible”) — are people of your own faith. What’s obnoxious about the passage from his speech isn’t that he thinks policy needs to be based on more than a Biblical imprimatur, it’s that he’d choose abortion, of all things, as the example to illustrate his point. That’s a sly, convenient way for him to dodge the issue by implicitly reducing the pro-life position to nothing more rational than one of those holy say-so’s, something he can agree with as a God-fearing Christian but as a lawmaker in a pluralistic country is obliged to dismiss. Note to St. Barack: You don’t have to be a Christian or even a theist to find the pro-life position “accessible.” He knows that, of course, but this issue is so dicey for him with the evangelicals he’s trying to woo that he’s forced to try this feeble sleight of hand as a way of getting it off the table. Think it’ll work, when viewed in the soft glow of his Lightworker halo? Ask Doug Kmiec.
Exit question: Bizarrely, I got three separate e-mails this morning pointing to the year-old video of Obama saying America’s no longer a Christian nation. WND even wrote it up today. Were people connected to Dobson circulating that to lay the groundwork for this broadside, or has it been circulating independently for who knows what reason over the past couple of weeks and maybe that’s what inspired him to speak up now?