Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Dobson, Evangelicalism, and Political Language

James Dobson took offense at Senator Barack Obama's conception of political debate today: "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," said Obama.

Dobson disagrees: "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."

Dobson and his allies should be free to frame their arguments in whatsoever form they want. But if they want to be convincing to those who are not already in their camp and who start off with different religious premises, surely it would be helpful to adduce arguments accessible to people of all faiths. This is the tribunal of "public reason" that is at the heart of democracy, and this is Obama's point.

That Dobson is taking offense even at the invitation to speak in publicly accessible language reveals that he is quite simply intolerant of the views of people of other or no faiths. Presumably, the non-Christian perspective is so irretrievably misguided that the Christian, by Dobson's view, doesn't even have an obligation to try to persuade her otherwise. It is at peast peculiar that the bible invites us to perform good samaritan acts - that is to act above and beyond what is morally required of us - but Dobson insists that it is too much even to ask of a Christian that she tried to persuade people of other faiths to the Christian point of view. But then evangelicalism probably means something else to Dr Dobson.

No comments: