Two years ago Barack Obama spoke to a Sojourner's sponsored rally. At that rally he spoke of his faith and how it influences his moral and political decisions. It was, at the time well received. He spoke of the importance of faith -- opposing those who feel that faith has no place in the public square -- while making sure that any politician or politically active person understands that religion by itself can't be the argument. You have to use reason as well. Indeed, moral statements need to be set forth in broad terms, because this is, after all, a diverse nation.
For some reason James Dobson just discovered the speech and has denounced Obama. Dobson says that Obama distorts the Bible and offers a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution." Now, Dobson, who is by training a child psychologist, has no theological training nor legal training. Really, we shouldn't have to even be dealing with this "johnny-come-lately" attack. What has Obama done to warrant Dobson's wrath? He suggests that to simply claim the Bible as support for public decisions is difficult. Leviticus, as he points out, supports slavery and condemns the eating of shrimp among other things, while the Sermon on the Mount might prove problematic for the Pentagon. So, he asks, which texts should we make preeminent? As for the Constitution -- Obama's crime is simply to uphold the idea that church and state are two different entities.
Why the attack? Well, many Evangelicals are looking closely at Obama. Dobson is afraid that Obama will break apart his two-pole platform (anti-gay rights/anti-abortion). He fears a broadening of the conversation because a broader conversation makes it more difficult to cultivate a zealous, narrowly focused coalition.
Will it work? I think Dobson's days as an influential political force is in the past. At this point, no one's listening! And so, maybe the press should stop focusing attention on him.
The problem with Dobson's views -- and those of his cohorts -- is simply this. They have hijacked the Bible and the church and insist that if one doesn't read the Bible in the same wooden way as they do one isn't a Christian and is distorting the Bible. My belief is that it's they who distort it by not taking it contextually and historically. Reading the Bible and interpreting the Bible are two different things.