June 25th, 2008
01:18 PM ET

James Dobson IS NOT an evangelical leader

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/25/art.vert.jamesdobson.jpg caption="Dr. James Dobson, talks in in Louisville, Ky. April 2005." width=292 height=320]

Roland S. Martin
CNN Political Analyst

Focus on the Family founder, Dr. James Dobson, is in the news as of late for ripping Sen. Barack Obama over a 2006 speech dealing with faith and public policy.

My issue isn't the speech or Dobson's criticism. I want to know why in the world we in the media keep holding Dobson up as an influential Christian leader or evangelical leader when the guy says with his own mouth that is nothing of the sort?

In a radio interview discussing the speech, Dobson was critical of Obama who said, "And even if we did have only Christians in our midst, if we expelled every non-Christian from the United States of America, whose Christianity would we teach in the schools? Would we go with James Dobson's, or Al Sharpton's?"

Dobson took offense to that and made this interesting comment.

"I'm not a reverend. I'm not a minister. I'm not a theologian. I’m not an evangelist. I'm a psychologist. I have a Ph.D. in child development from the University of Southern California. There is no equivalence to us," he said.

Yea. I had the same reaction you likely did. Here is a guy who is often declared a religious leader who now says, "Nope. Not me."

Now, if the guy who is held up as an evangelical leader says he's not, then why do we even care what he has to say about religion? Why even play up his reaction to an Obama speech ­ or even his criticism of McCain ­ in a religious discussion, when that’s where it shouldn't be?

This is part of the problem when religious conservatives and non-religious conservatives try as mighty as they can to roll moral issues, family values and religious values all into one ball.

They are not.

For instance, the Rev. Jerry Falwell was the leader of the Moral Majority, which advocated a host of "moral" issues that didn't have a particular religious bent. This has been seen as a Christian movement, but you can be a moral person and not be a Christian.

Later, the Rev. Pat Robertson launched the Christian Coalition, which was much more religious focused than anything before.

In the last few years, we've seen Dobson, by virtue of his radio show on Christian radio stations, columns and website, be seen as a major figure in the religious movement.

But he¹s not, and it's about time that we stop associating him that way.

There are a number of people in this country who are religious and who choose not to self-identify with either political party. And this is one of the reasons why. The co-mingling of "family values" with religion seems to provide certain groups with a sort of authoritarian voice on such issues when they don't deserve the platform.

It's fine to call Dobson a family values leader, if you will. But don¹t insult those individuals in the faith community who are truly ministers, reverends, theologians and evangelists. They've earned it.

Dobson's just a psychologist with a Ph.D. in child development. So his views on religion are just his, and not as a faith leader of millions.

Filed under: Barack Obama • Raw Politics • Roland S. Martin
soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Alex

    Have you ever noticed that many people in our country are so desperate for someone to lead them (in whatever area they feel is important in their lives) that they settle for just about anybody who talks the talk? I mean I'm not into this "Evangelistic Movement" thing who apparently accept just about any fast talking fool and put him on a pedestal as if he were sent down from Heaven to lead us back into righteousness. Most of those clowns want your money and usually get it just so you can put your mind to ease and give hope of salvation. Look at the example that some of the big names have left us with. As for Dr Dobson, many apparently ASSUMED he was a religious leader but his background, as you point out, suggests otherwise. But he sure enjoys stepping up to the plate and talking the talk and apparently those trying to get the vote of "Evangelicals" sure play up to him....case in point George W. Bush. Even Barrack Obama seems to take note when Dobson speaks. Why else would he respond to anything Dobson had to say? Simple....he was given a microphone and juice years ago and Dobson loves the limelight (and the money).

    June 26, 2008 at 8:28 am |
  2. James Dylan

    What's the difference between theology and mythology? The living are called theologists and the dead mythologists? In my eyes it is only the spelling of the same thing. A synonym. So I hear all this talk about religious morality and can't help but think the crusades have yet to end; only became more subtle. Now let me whisper; there is no God. Should you not be able to wrap your minds around that then let me say he is dead. Should that be struggle, I say , he created once, but now everyday we experience is God's seventh day. No I will not teach my children religion as anything more than mythology, rather responsibility. A glance at the world today and the dark ages; only differs in modes of transportation and communication. All religious leaders should learn the modesty of Buddhist monks. Let the Americas experience a Renaissance, an age of enlightenment. Of course the Priests do not wish to risk there authoritative power for the sake of worthy, beneficial knowledge (science, psychology, art philosophy). No one knows what radical, liberal, conservative truly is today. I embody them all and am far to "politically incorrect" and lacking in fear to be heard today. That is the State Of Our Union.

    June 26, 2008 at 6:07 am |
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