Brian McLaren weighs in on the Dobson vs. Obama debacle

Chances are you’ve heard about James Dobson‘s recent comments about a speech that Barack Obama made a little while back.

If you haven’t, then great, don’t bother looking into it.  It’s the same old, same old, stuff that people like Dobson have been saying for a long time.  Stop reading this post now and go do something else.

But, if you did already hear about, then you should read this blog post from Brian McLaren where he weighs in on some of the issues with what Dobson said, and (equally as important) how he said it.  Here are a few choice quotes:

This week’s “Beloved Christian Broadcaster Attacks Beloved Christian Presidential Candidate” headline reflects at least seven patterns of unhelpful discourse I frequently see among the religiously vocal, whatever their political persuasion.

First, this Christian leader didn’t restrict himself to making judgments on Barack Obama’s statements; he inferred the candidate’s motives and judged them as well. Consider his use of the word “deliberately” in this sentence:
“I think he’s deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology.”

The Evangelical leader in question – whose attempts at persuasion I would judge as average or slightly above average in the world of religious broadcasting – displays the common religious tendency to lapse into name-calling, which has predictable and unhelpful results. For example, he referred to Obama’s approach as “a fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.” This tendency to mock the opposition might be deemed excusable if it were a rhetorical icing on the cake of solid analysis, but lacking that analysis, it can hardly be called an improvement over the thoughtful speech by Senator Obama, given at an event at which I was present in 2006, which was being criticized by the respected Evangelical speaker.

Unless this leader and his political and religious allies can lift their level of discourse, their shared good ideas will be discredited along with their bad ones. The same goes for all of us. And unless more of us become more scrupulous regarding how arguments are made – even if we agree with the point they’re trying to prove – we will become less able to tell the bad ideas from the good ones.

Read the whole thing here.

Thoughts?  Is Brian off base in his critique?  Was Dobson off-base?  Do you agree that HOW something is said is equally as important as WHAT is said?

UPDATE 7/2/08:

Scot McKnight weighed in on this as well. It’s a lot more concise than McLaren’s, however, he does come to some of the same conclusions.  For those people who have a tough time hearing from McLaren, maybe this other take on it would be beneficial to check out?  Just a thought…  (HT: David Swanson)

UPDATE 7/3/08:

In the comments, John pointed us to a site with more info on what went down.  It’s clearly Pro-Obama, but I still think it’s worth checking out because it doesn’t inject much opinion, it merely compares their statements side by side.  The fact that, when presented in this way, Obama comes out “on top” should say something to us…

Oh very cool. Take a look at this website: http://www.jamesdobsondoesntspeakforme.com/

It does a good side-by-side comparison of Dobson’s skewed characterizations and Obama’s actual words.

Israel vs Palestine: Is there a “third way”?

Fantastic article called Israel/Palestine: Which Side Are You On?

Here are a few good quotes, but you should definitely read the whole thing:

Every time I read the two sides on the Middle East conflict, I can’t help but notice a strange resemblance in their narratives. There is the common sense of gloom, for one. There is, of course, the mutual finger-pointing. And there is the insistence that the core identity of the other is inherently violent, that the people over there are simply dominating by nature – and therefore must be stopped at all costs

Most Sundays, I would have just shook my head and flipped the page. I’ve heard it all before. We all have. Each side has a library full of facts and stories championing their cause, and demonizing the other side.

But on Saturday, at the Pangea Day Film Festival in Los Angeles, I saw things that flipped the script. I watched a segment of Encounter Point, a film about Israelis and Palestinians who are part of the Bereaved Families Forum. Each lost an immediate relative in the conflict, but they had decided that forgiveness was the weapon they would wield instead of revenge.

Robi Damelin, an Israeli mother read a letter she had sent to the family of the man who murdered her son: “Nothing for me is more sacred than human life. No revenge or hatred can ever bring my child back … We are looking for ways to create a dialogue, with a long-term vision of reconciliation.”

(HT: Brian McLaren)

“May God bless us with discomfort…”

A Franciscan Benediction
May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God’s creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbors who are poor.

Amen.

(HT: Brian McLaren)

Interview with Brian McLaren

Here’s a pretty good read if you’ve got the time; especially if you’re still not sure what you think about this Brian McLaren guy… it’s a pretty indepth snapshot of a lot of his thoughts/positions on things.  Very worth the read, in my opinion, so I thought I’d share it for those of you who are interested.

A battle cry for Christian reform – an interview with Brian McLaren

(HT: Emergent Village)

love never fails

“A moment on the last night of the gathering will stay with me as an icon of what we were about. I was speaking with a rabbi with whom I had been in several sessions. A Muslim woman from our group came up with her husband and we began saying our goodbyes. The rabbi looked at the two Muslims and said, “I see the light of God in you. You are radiant with the image of God.” The Muslim woman said, “I feel I have a new brother in my family.” A small gesture, you might say, fragile as a snowflake, easily extinguished by the avalanche of weapons and tsunamis of propaganda that sow distrust rather than mutual regard and affection. But I couldn’t help but think of Paul’s pregnant phrase: love never fails.”

Dialogue at Davos (by Brian McLaren)

It’s about participating in something…

Imagine what it would be like in our churches, if there were no such division (between personal justification and social justice). If we were not invited to go forward as individuals to receive a packaged salvation from God that gets us off hell, but instead came forward to become part of something, what God is doing in the world through Jesus Christ – the reconciliation of all men and women with Himself, each other, and all of creation (2 Cor 5:19), which BTW inextricably must still include my own personal reconciliation/relationship with God.

-David Fitch, from the Article “Me, Myself, and Jesus

I like this quote (and the whole article) a lot, since it doesn’t just point out an issue (which is really easy to do, and happens too much)… But it also points us in a new direction and gives us an alternative. Good stuff, thanks David.