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.

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NT Wright on dropping African debt

Interesting piece by NT Wright (as usual), defending his opinion that the massive debts that many African countires owe to Western countries and banks should be canceled.  Here’s a few quotes to whet your appetite:

In the 1970s, for example, Western financial institutions loaned the best part of a billion dollars to Idi Amin of Uganda – a vicious psychopath and known to be such. By doing so, they not only saddled that impoverished country with a millstone of debt, but financed the dictator’s reign of terror. These actions were both financially irresponsible and morally reprehensible. After Amin’s fall, the debts were inflated by massive rates of compound interest (up to 20% p.a.!) resulting mainly from economic policies pursued by the developed world, not least as long-term results of the Bretton Woods agreement. At the same time, the bottom fell out of the market for Uganda’s main exports.

Here in North East England, Christian Aid received an unsolicited email from Dr Simon Challand, when he was working in southern Uganda with the Church Mission Society. He wrote that: “Debt relief means money stays in the country instead of pouring out to Europe and the US and there have been huge improvements in health and education… The Ministry of Health has just increased the grant to all the health centres by 85%… four years ago they got nothing. Many health centres are able to provide immunisation, growth monitoring, health education and antenatal care to remote rural areas… Everywhere you go you can see new classrooms going up to support the Universal Primary Education programme which gives every child 7 years of free schooling.” [Uganda used its first tranche of debt relief to improve basic medical provision and to abolish fees for primary school.]

Read the whole thing here.

(HT: Emergent Village blog)

a bit of a tongue twister, but…

…Yet perhaps it is precisely this that we are being called to: engaging in that most difficult task of putting our religion to death so that a religion without religion can spring forth.

-Peter Rollins, from his new book The Fidelity of Betrayal: Towards a Church Beyond Belief

A bit of a tongue twister, I admit…  but a very interesting point.

What do you think?  Is it possible for Christianity to be a religion, that is in fact, not a religion at all?  What would that even look like?

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)

Rob Bell on Suffering

Here’s a neat video clip of Rob Bell, speaking at something called Seeds of Compassion InterSpiritual Day, in which different leaders from different religious backgrounds came together to discuss important issues.

I can’t actually embed the video here on this page, so you’ll have to go over to the original poster’s blog and check it out there:

“Rob Bell on Suffering” – by Mike L.

Here’s a quote from the end of it, to spark your interest, but I would really recommending watching the whole thing; it’s only a couple minutes long. Rob is speaking about revenge and forgiveness when he says this:

…when people choose not to hand it back, but to bear it, it will always lead to suffering. And you will unavoidibly become a better person on the other side. …that is what changes the world when somebody chooses not to hand it back.