Sponge Dob, Square James

I appreciate the clarifying statement issued by Focus on the Family, but stand by my initial remarks on James Dobson. Conservative and religious bloggers are taking great joy in wagging their fingers, accusing liberal bloggers of being anxious to take a cheap shot at religious conservatives.

Well. It wouldn't be because they fired the first cheap shot, would it?

After all, it's not a new pattern for the far-right:

1) make a ridiculous, baiting, hellfire and brimstone accusation/condemnation, calling on your followers to boycott/picket/protest/be morally outraged, and then

2) make a follow-up statement that says, in effect, "gee, we didn't mean to upset anybody, we really love diversity/tolerance and would never suggest that anyone's right to free speech/freedom of religion/freedom to make their own adult decisions be curtailed. Sorry for the mix-up! Okely-dokely, friend? Jesus loves you!"

Then 3) meet in a back room at Liberty University for a conference call with the White House, running numbers on how that played politically, plotting the next chess move ("can we require a certificate of baptism before issuing a marriage certificate?"). Rinse. Repeat.

In "clarifying", Dobson's organization is attempting to make the rest of us feel foolish and himself seem faultless, and we must resist that. He deserves to be publicly shamed, in the same way and for the same reasons that Dan Quayle was shamed for his Murphy Brown remarks. That is why I said, and still say, James, "off to the fringes with thee."

I was a regular listener of the Focus on the Family radio program at one time. Tuned in every morning on my way to work. I thought I was doing a good thing, filling my head with a positive, Christian message that would help me be a better person, spiritually and in practicality. I even own a few Dobson books.

Then, a few things he said started to bother me. I didn't like his rigid characterizations of men's and women's roles, and didn't like that he attributed those characterizations to the Scriptures. I didn't like his constant reaching into my wallet. I didn't like his unshakable confidence that he had the right answers. The more I listened, the more uneasy I became with this narrow prescription for righteousness. Why would a loving God deliberately exclude the majority of the Earth's population from His grace?

Well, the answer lies within the question. For the religious right, if there is no "them", there can be no "us." Key to the appeal of organized religion is the sense of identity and belonging -- "who are we?" must be defined. The easiest way to do that is by pointing at something and saying, we are against that.

Kerry lost -- we think -- and so without a strong opposing "them" [read: Clintons] over the next four years, expect a backroom-at-the-bar atmosphere where a series of loony, outlandish, paranoid darts are sloppily tossed by the religious right to see what they can make stick. They're simply not quite sure who to take aim at. Gays and abortions are their only "old reliables", the targets that stand still long enough for churches to form doctrine around. Everything else is too frighteningly dynamic; science just won't quit making discoveries about the human body, the planet, and the universe.

We must pitch the conversation on a higher intellectual plane if we are ever to extract ourselves from the current morass. The rest of the world is united in viewing America as a brutal aggressor, a bully who can steal their lunch money (or oil) and call it "liberation." How can they all be wrong, and the Neo-Cons be right? If what we are doing is truly humanitarian, why is everyone resisting? Would you lob mortars at someone who was bringing you freedom on a platter? No? Neither would I. But it's not as simple as all that, is it.

Family's statement on the Sponge Bob video states, in part: "Dr. Dobson is concerned that these popular animated personalities are being exploited by an organization that's determined to promote the acceptance of homosexuality among our nation's youth."

And I am concerned that "the gay issue", the biggest red herring that ever grew in any of God's lakes, is being exploited by an organization that is determined to keep severely religious, lemming-minded Americans fearful of the bogeyman.

This strategy worked for them last November, when "gay marriage" was added to the ballot in regions where the Presidential race was too close. It succeeded; the worst President in U.S. history was re-elected. Why? Because only Bush, not Kerry, might advance the Taliban-esque agenda of curtailing liberties in order to create a Christian United States.

Of course this country has a Christian heritage. We also used to burn witches, own slaves, slaughter Native Americans, and dump our urine and poop in the streets. We have learned, and grown, and life has gotten immeasurably better. It's time to stop killing the messenger with textbook stickers, and incorporate that knowledge into our national conversation.

The alternative seems to be a future where Afghanistan is holding democratic elections and running the world with poppy money, and American women are no longer allowed to wear shorts, drive, or choose their husbands.

So if anyone should be offended, it's me and Sponge Bob.

As for Dobson himself:

As Seamus at 3Martini points out, "I don't hate Bin Laden. I just hate that he leads Al Qaeda."

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