Today, a voice of prophecy from within the upper rungs of the US Evangelical community announced that a principal monster in recent American history is on the decline.
I often muse on monsters, and on what people at the times of their decline must have felt and thought when at last they realized that the monsters were no longer there, no longer real – at what point did scholars accept that the scrawl on a map reading “Here There Be Dragons” was only figurative? When were the braids of garlic taken down from the doors, the salt used simply to flavor food rather than cast away demons? When did we finally, as a people, give up on the idea of finding a giant?
There must have been a comfort to it, but with it, a certain degree of willful disbelief – an instinct that demanded that the monster was real, their impotence just another sinister deceit, their dread violation imminent. There must be those who believed the only fact that mattered was keeping the door barred and the cross clenched tight.
I’m trying not to be one of those. I’m trying to believe that James Dobson is soon to fade from the political scene.
In his article, “Dr. Dobson Has Just Handed Obama Victory,” Frank Schaeffer, novelist, Evangelical and former religious right member, declared that Dobson was on his way out:
Dobson is one of the Evangelical religious right old guard. He’s to the right what Nader is to the left.
For those of you unaware, Dobson is the head of ‘Family Research Council,’ a media network and political action group that four cornerstones: The eradication of all forms of legal abortion, sex education and birth control; the blanket ban of gay marriage and gay rights; the mandate of Christian prayer and teaching in public schools and services; and severe punishments for criminals.
It is little surprise, then, that Dobson became to George W. Bush what Billy Graham was to Nixon. His power was more considerable, in fact, with his prayers welcoming Bush to office on the inaugural day and his pay-off coming hours later as Bush cut off funding to all human rights groups abroad that had the audacity to mention contraception, thus causing more abortions, AIDS babies and unwanted pregnancies.
Since then, Dobson has been a guiding light, helping Bush lead America back toward the dark ages. Principally, his role has been to deliver the Evangelical vote as a bloc, giving the administration and its cronies in the GOP that crucial dependable sliver of voters that kept them winning elections, much to peoples’ shock.
But the political winds have shifted, and with them, Dobson’s fortunes. His followers have been scattered like wheat, you might say, as the Evangelical community fragments into the dozens of diverse political positions it once was before the era of the Religous Right’s yoke.
This transformation, compellingly depicted in the CNN Special, “God’s Warriors,”
may surprise many accustomed to seeing “concerned Christians” as a tongue-clucking, gay-sex-obsessed voting bloc. We now have the bizarre offshoots of Pastor Hagee’s eschatalogy-made-policy ministry, Cizik’s “Green like Jesus” movement, and numerous other reassessments of what it means to be both old enough to vote and born-again. I eagerly await the release of “The Faith of Barack Obama” by Evangelical author Stephen Mansfield, who wrote a similar piece on George W. Bush, rallying readers to examine and endorse Obama as a “true Evangelical.”
Mansfield’s principal concern is not policy, but the sincere synergy with a person of sincere faith. That is a priority many Evangelicals share. It may, in turn, harken an era of shared political will between the future President Obama and the Evangelical community at large, as they come to embrace his vision of a more universal, tolerant and social Christianity.
Soon, we might find ourselves marveling at the very notion that such monsters as Dobson could have even existed in Evangelical America.