SpongeBob the Patsy

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James Dobson has stepped in it again. Captain's Quarters has the best analysis I've seen. Apparently he's accusing the SpongeBob cartoon of being pro-gay, when he doesn't even have the facts right. SpongeBob was in a video that promotes multiculturalism in the most uncontroversial sense, i.e. that we should welcome people who are different from us and get along with them. Christians normally refer to this as reaching out in love. Because the song "We Are Family" was used in it, and because some not uncontroversial group happens to have a webisite by that name that talks about welcoming gay people as if being gay is normal, Dobson has concluded that this particular video, which is unconnected to that website, is also advocating a gay rights position. So you shouldn't let your kids watch SpongeBob.

Apparently Dobson has even been confronted with these facts, and he won't change his stance. Has he finally gone off the deep end? I've been very glad for the great contributions his organization has made in helping families and parents in the hardest task of all known to humanity, which is the raising of children. When he started identifying political issues with the gospel, he became a Pharisee. They elevated often good moral principles (though some were beyond moral requirements and even conflicted with them) to the level of uncompromising absolutes. He seems to me to have done the same, and he's taking it to the same level of contradicting actual biblical commands, e.g. to love your neighbor as yourself. I've defended him from some of the left who call him bigoted. I'm not going to defend him from the charge of Pharisaism.

When Jerry Falwell went off against the Teletubbies, most evangelical Christians I knew laughed at him and thought he was being ridiculous. There's no way he represented the average evangelical in the 1980s, never mind now. Dobson is another story. His organization has been one of the most influential groups in the area they've been specialists in. When it comes to good childrearing practices, they've done a great service to Christians and have had a big impact. That's why this distresses me so much.

What's worse is that they're in the process of engineering the defeat of all the people they've worked so hard to get elected. This just makes conservatives look dumb. I know there are many other factors why Clinton won in 1992, not the least being that his opponent wasn't willing to campaign or seriously defend himself against Democrats' charges, assuming another landslide win like the previous two elections. Still, one of the factors, I'm sure, was the loss of political capital among conservatives on social issues, largely due to nuts like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who made two fatal mistakes. First, they equated Christianity with a political agenda that reflects part of the biblical perspective, overemphasizes some of the elements to the detriment of others, and actually contradicts biblical teaching in a few important places. Second, they simply made ludicrous claims about the intentions and effects of certain trends, events, and icons of popular culture, most notably their remarks about Barney and the Teletubbies.

Dobson has now officially entered that role of loony religious right freak. It's too bad, because I'm convinced he's not really a bigot. I don't think he hates gays. I'm fairly sure that he truly wants the best for people who are gay. Given his view that the best for gay people is to realize their sin and repent, he wouldn't be supporting groups like Exodus if he didn't want the best for them. Some may question whether that's for their best, but he truly thinks it is. That's why I don't think you can accuse him of not seeking what he believes is best for people who are gay. Yet he doesn't seem to understand how misguided his methods are and how radical and truly ridiculous his comments sound. It's the same trap the Pharisees fell into, though. Zeal for God's Torah could so easily be misplaced when you're not careful to apply the principles of the Torah to situations that you've reflected carefully enough on to see if those principles apply. The same goes for the gospel. I'm convinced that if Dobson had truly absorbed how the gospel applies in this situation, he would encourage reaching out in love to gay people rather than trying to throw up walls that will just continue the interference between evangelicals and the gay community that prevents many gay people from even hearing what the gospel message is. Dobson has done a serious disservice to Christianity in this effort.

Update: See this post at Rebecca Writes for a more brief but probably more clear presentation of this argument.

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SpongeBob from Weapons of Warfare on January 21, 2005 9:58 PM

The latest rage among God Blogs is Dobson's attack on the lovable (hateable?) SpongeBob Square Pants, summarized well by Captain's Quarters. Other perspectives can be read at Parableman and Evangelical Underground. The first question that occurred ... Read More

More Squarepants from Back of the Envelope on February 3, 2005 12:41 PM

Another article on the "We are Family" video can be found here, but it doesn't provide much new information. It was provided by Jonathan in , but it doesn't provide much new information. It was provided by Jonathan in , but it doesn't provide much new information. It was provided by Jonathan in , but it doesn't provide much new information. It was provided by Jonathan in Read More

28 Comments

I agree; it's unfortunate Dobson has taken such a turn. And I really don't quite understand how the head of the organization that puts out "Adventures in Odyssey" could have such a clumsy, crude understanding of this sort of thing.

I think he reached the point at which he felt he wasn't doing enough about issues like abortion and homosexual marriage; I can understand that, but he's clearly taken the wrong road to doing more.

I've got a quesiton about an idea that pops up fairly often in your blog.

You believe that if someone honestly loves gay people and tries to do what's best for them, then that person is not bigoted. This seems awfully close to the thesis that if somebody loves gay people and tries to do what's best for them, then that person is not morally culpable for his or her behavior toward gay people (even if the behavior is wrong). Do you believe the latter thesis, or are there other ways of being morally culpable besides having nasty intentions?

I ask because I can think of a situation where somebody honestly tries to do what he thinks is best for women, but is morally culpable for it. Imagine that Jim honestly thinks education harms women by destroying their feminine innocence. (Destruction of feminine innocence is intrinsically morally harmful, say.) Jim lobbies to bar women from college and to provide therapy for women afflicted with a wish to study mathematics, languages, science, or history. Even if Jim does this in good faith, I'd still hesitate to admit that he's a morally good and innocent person. His moral beliefs are mistaken enough to constitute a serious moral flaw.

So, do you think there's something wrong with Jim's character? Do you think that Jim is culpable, but not properly described as sexist, since he doesn't actually hate women? If I think long-term sexual relationships can provide people with deep spiritual benefits, is there a reason for me to draw a disanalogy between Jim and the individual who doesn't hate gays, but thinks that it's immoral for them to have long-term committed sexual relationships and acts accordingly?

You believe that if someone honestly loves gay people and tries to do what's best for them, then that person is not bigoted. This seems awfully close to the thesis that if somebody loves gay people and tries to do what's best for them, then that person is not morally culpable for his or her behavior toward gay people (even if the behavior is wrong).

I don't think those theses are equivalent, and the moral issues aren't clear in the second case. Let's take a less controversial situation for comparison. Some people just hate black people or at least think they're inferior or worthy of a lower moral valuation. They're true bigots. That's racism of the attitudinal sort, what some call classic racism.

Others have views that are well-intentioned but result in harm,. Is that always morally culpable? I don't think so. Sometimes they have every reason to know better, such as the segregationists of our day. Holding that sort of view can be morally culpable if the person has every reason not to believe it. I don't think everyone holding the view has access to what they need to have access to in order to know better. A teenager homseschooled by KKK loyalists who has never interacted with someone of another race and has been protected enough from the information that would make them culpable might be much less culpable, unless there's some moral intuition we all have that just gets suppressed in such situations, which I think might be possible but certainly not something I'd rest anything on.

Then there are lots of other issues. You might think it's harmful to hold the view that there are certain abilities that white people tend to be better at. That's an empirical matter, though, and it might end up harmful to hold views that turn out true. So a view's merely being harmful might not mean it's morally wrong to hold the view. Something similar to this actually seems to be plausible for men and women's abilities in more technical disciplines, not that men are better and women less but that men tend to have a higher concentration at both the highest and lowest levels of ability, with women less concentrated at the extremes. Is it harmful to believe that? It might be if it leads to discrimination or stereotypes, but it might also be a true belief. I can't accept that holding a belief because it's true can somehow be morally wrong.

So what about people's views about homosexuality? I obviously think there's something culpable about what Dobson is doing, or I wouldn't be complaining about it. I do want to distinguish that from bigotry. Bigotry can result in similar things, but it's the motivation and attitude that make it bigotry. One thing I'm quite sure about, and have argued at length, is that finding an action to be wrong, even an action related to a disposition that some people define their identity by, is not equivalent to attitudinal bigotry and does not even necessarily lead to harm. So it's a lot more complicated than it might seem.

I think the assumption of your last sentence is that thinking homosexual behavior is immoral necessarily results in doing something on the order of preventing someone from having education or even from having the relationship that's believed to be wrong. It doesn't require that. It doesn't require treating the people any differently. It doesn't require saying negative things about anyone. I could go on, but I think the point should be clear.

Well said Parableman!

I don't think Dobson has any sympathy at all for gays, experpt perhaps the few he knows personally and/or can use in some way to make money.

Here's why I say this:

Anyone at all familiar with the culture of the south knows that hatreds of gays, homosexuality, etc., are far stronger in the south than in the north. Indeed, in the past 20 years, virtually all of those who've been vociferous re gays have had strong roots in southern culture.

Dobson has strong roots in the south, too. It's very easy to say "oh, we just love gays", isn't it?--just the way southerners used to say "whaaaa, we jes' LOVES our nigras' ".\

Talk is cheap. Dobson is just using this issue. Why he's doing it, no one except he can say.

Also, nis failure to say "oops, I got it wrong" is very characteristic of Dobson. He's an arrogant, pride-filled guy who never admits he's wrong. He obviously craves respect--why do you think he instructs guests on the show to address him as "Doctor Dobson" ?

Diogenes6, I'm going to ignore the part of your message that's merely based in bigotry and ad hominems. I will now proceed to deal with what remains of an argument once those elements are removed.







Now that I've done that, I think it's safe to say that you've convinced me of diddly.

Do you understand what you've done here? By refusing to address the claims I make, you have in effect admitted that I'm right. If you had the skill or the information to refute what I say, I think you would have done so.

If you were curious and wanted to learn the *facts*, you could do so. If you knew the history of the south--the massive racism that has been practiced in the south, and especially in churches in the Southern Baptist Convention--you would not say I'm engaging in bigotry and *ad hominems*. If you had some inkling of the cutural differences that distinguish the south from other regions, you would not have dismissed my statements.

Unless, of course, you were embarrassed by the claims I make. Maybe that's it? If you'd like, I'll give you references to some of the research that's established the higher levels of bigotry among evangelicals than among real Christians.

Why don't you try again, this time stating which claims you think are untrue or ad hominems?

Diogenes6, apparently my sarcasm was lost on you. I simply did address your claims. There were two arguments you gave. One was an ad hominem. The other was pure bigotry against southerners. In pointing that out I have thus refuted your arguments.

Since you're unable to see this in yourself, I'll make it more explicit. You claimed that Dobson has connections with the South. Since there have been people in the South who are bigoted, that must mean he is. If you really think that's a good argument, you need to take some philosophy classes.

I think you're wrong about the north/south thing anyway at this point. It's as much urban/rural as north/south, and I've even known a number of suburban and urban northerners who have had real inhibitions against even wanting to know someone who is gay. That doesn't have any bearing on any other northerners or suburbanites or urbanites.

It's true that southerners had a more outright racism than northerners, but I would argue that northern racism is just as real but more insidious and more hidden, even to the person in question. I would argue as well that every single person in this country is affected by residual racism, which causes people in many cases to have snap reactions that they actually think they shouldn't have, e.g. locking a door to a car when seeing a young black man dressed a certain way. This is getting far from your claim now, but the point is that I don't accept the dichotomy between north and south, even though there are differences of tendency. Lots of southerners have been much less racist than most northerners, just as lots of northerners have been much more racist than southerners. That someone has a connection to the south is simply not evidence of racism, and the analogous connection to genuine homophobia or hatred for gays goes the same way. It's just a horrible argument to say that you know Dobson hates gays because he has a connection to the South.

I've argued in other posts about the consistency of believing homosexual relationships to be wrong and quite truly loving gay people. I'm not going to repeat all my arguments here.

I don't think everyone who says they love the sinner but hate the sin will really live up to that, which is one reason so many gay people don't believe anyone who says that. I can testify that people I know who are gay would never even suspect what my view is toward gay relationships unless I told them, because it doesn't come up and doesn't affect how I treat them. I spend time with them. I let them hold my children. I treat them as real people. Someone who truly hates gays would not do that. As far as I know, the only evidence that Dobson hates gays is that he believes gay relationships are morally wrong. That's not good evidence for that claim.

What I don't understand is your unsupported claim that Dobson is just using this issue. If he's just using it, then it's not based in gay hatred, is it? As a matter of fact, that's probably the only thing I agree with you on. He is using it. He's using it to get the law to reflect the value he places on marriage between a man and a woman. That's fairly obvious. All you have to do is pay attention to his words to see that.

I don't think Dobson sees this as a mistake. What disturbed him in the first place is there. It's not as if people pointed out facts, and he was wrong on the facts. The newspapers reporting on it were very wrong on the facts. They accused him of saying Spongebob was gay. They accused him of a bunch of things that weren't true. All he did is complain that the sponsor of this video supports a statement of tolerance on their website, and that statement is from an organization that promotes the gay lifestyle. My criticism of him isn't that he got the facts wrong. It's that it's a tenuous connection to be worth complaining about. One of the organizations that paid for the video supports a statement written by yet another group that says something that he doesn't want taught to children. That's not a strong reason to oppose a video.

I will reassert my claim that you are a bigot. Your last statement, which implies that evangelicals are not real Christians, is proof enough. Evangelicals are the closest thing this country has to offer to the early Christians. There are problems with evangelicalism, often because of ways they are not like the early Christians, but no one in this country is closer to the early Christians. Your overgeneralizations to the point of assuming any southerner is a racist and hates gays (or even anyone with connections to the South) also demonstrate an anti-southern bigotry and a willingness to tar a huge region of the country with a label that I think should be used fairly sparingly in our day so as not to insult those who were victims of real racism years ago.

As for bigotry among evangelicals, I can testify that I have been around ordinary evangelicals in the church my whole life, and I have been around the most tolerant of environments (the university) for the last fifteen years of my life, and I have to say that the most tolerant people I have known were evangelicals. There are bigoted evangelicals, but the bigotry I see among those like you who seem to hate evangelicals is much stronger than any bigotry I've seen, even among the racial segregationists who like to link to my site and call me bad names for producing children they consider bastards and demon children due to being racially mixed.

I have experienced far more uneasiness about my interracial marriage from nonbelievers or crusty mainliners than I have from evangelicals. The elder of my congregation who did our premarital counseling hadn't even thought to talk about the racial issue when we raised it with him, because he hadn't thought anything unusual about an interracial marriage. It simply is viewed as normal and perfectly ok by most evangelicals I've interacted with.

I've also discovered that among those who I've known who have had attitudes toward gays ranging from more hesitant to outright disgust for gays and anything they touch, those who are not Christians at all or are from mainline denominations have had a much stronger reaction than those who are evangelicals. This is just my experience, but it's a lot of experience. I've known lots of people (I tend to be a networker) and when I'm around philosophical topics come up (I'm a philosopher), including ones that deal with sexual orientation. Your claims just don't fit with my experience.

Jonathan, I just noticed that you had a link there.

That's got a little more information on the packet sent with the video than anything I've seen so far. Even World Magazine, which has defended Dobson, said nothing about this, at least nothing with any content. There are a few things in there that seem to me to be subjective judgments without any indication of what information was used to make such a judgment, so I can't say anything about some of what that article says. This makes me wonder whether Dobson has now clarified what he originally meant or whether he's been saying exactly this exactly this way all along. People so radically misinterpreted him to begin with that I can't use the argument that his fellow evangelicals wouldn't have complained if he'd been saying this all along, but even his supporters seem to have misinterpreted him, so there's got to have been some unclarity in what he was saying.

My impression is that he was criticizing the video itself, and I think that's deserving of everything I said about it. The packet they're sending to teachers is another matter. If that were all he was complaining about, I'd be less upset. I agree with the general intent of the packet. Raising these issues with children is fine, as long as the people doing it are sensitive to the fact that these are issues that people are going to have different moral views on. It seems to me that the material in the packet is somewhat sensitive to that but assumes a moral view on a number of things in a way that I don't think a public school should do. It would be different if all they were talking about was not mistreating people, accepting people, etc.

This is one of the things that's unclear, but the article describes the booklet as having "offered several exercises for educators that equate homosexuality with immutable characteristics, such as race or gender, and suggest it deserves limitless tolerance and acceptance". I'd need to see examples to evaluate this, because I know some conservatives will say that about things that merely call for genuinely seeking to understand and welcome someone, and I don't think the examples they gave clearly indicate to me something as strong as this description.

There are a couple things that worry me, and one of them should worry anyone. I don't have any problem with discussing definitions, talking about perceptions, and thinking through the effects of genuine attitudes (and homophobia is a genuine attitude of many people who would not want their attitude described by such a term, though I think the term is usually misused by those who most often use it to describe those who merely view homnosexual behavior as wrong rather than what it properly describes, those who have a visceral reaction to gay people and have trouble tolerating them as people worthy of moral consideration).

'Heterosexism' is another touchy term. If it describes mere discrimination against gays, I have no problem with discussing that. If it's used to describe someone's moral attitude toward homosexuality itself, I don't think that has a place in school unless it's going to be done in a value-neutral way, which is not likely.

I have some genuine worries about the notion of compulsory heterosexuality. One of them is that they're using the term to describe the view that heterosexuality is normal and natural, while homosexuality is not. I'm not sure it should be threatening to gay people to find out that there's some sense in which homosexuality is unnatural. Most of the philosophers I've seen dealing with this seem to acknowledge that. They then go on to try to show that there isn't a definition of 'unnatural' that shows how it can be both unnatural and morally wrong, which I've tried to argue elsewhere involves a simplistic understanding of the natural law view. My main problem with this element is that they assume anything treating homosexuality as unnatural (and even treating it as morally wrong, which goes further) does not treat it as compulsory in any way that a school has any business talking about. Thinking of homosexuality as unnatural or even wrong does not require forcing people not to engage in behavior that reflects homosexual inclinations. So I think this term is dangerously misleading.

The thing that really upsets me, though, is one that should upset everyone who isn't a radical lesbian feminist who considers heterosexuality inherently abusive of women. I'll quote the whole thing:

"The institutionalization of heterosexuality in all aspects of society includes the idealization of heterosexual orientation, romance, and marriage," the guide states. "Compulsory heterosexuality leads to the notion of women as inherently 'weak,' and the institutionalized inequality of power: power of men to control women's sexuality, labor, childbirth and childrearing, physical movement, safety, creativity, and access to knowledge. It can also include legal and social discrimination against homosexuals and the invisibility or intolerance of lesbian and gay existence."

No public school has any business teaching that (or even providing teachers with materials that say it, unless it's to discuss critically the merits of such a view). About that, I would say that Dobson should rightly be upset, and so should anyone who doesn't think heterosexuality is inherently immoral. My problem with Dobson's comments is that this isn't what he was talking about, and it's not even clear to me that the other things I've found troubling here were what he was talking about. The things I had heard about were the website and the video, neither of which seems to me to be a real issue. If he had wanted to talk about this stuff, he shouldn't have talked about the video at all except as a very short introductory matter. My sense is that he was trying to hype it by talking more about the popular cartoon characters who were in the video, because that would draw parents' attention. Unfortunately, it meant that he wasn't really criticizing what he should have been criticizing.

I could give you a list of the claims I'm making, and ask you to give your opinion on whether each one is true or false, but somehow I doubt you would be willing to provide honest answers. That's the way evangelical "Christians" are: they will deny, evade, distort, do anything to avoid stating an unpleasant truth.

Oh, what the hell, let's tru a few of these:

1. Almost every public statement against homosexuality in the last 25 years that's come from folks with a religious orientation, has come from someone with strong roots in the south. EXAMPLES: We all remember Jerry Falwell's obsession with the Teletubbies. And do you remember that fellow in Oregon, I think Ron something, who was behind the "Oregon Citizen's Alliance" and its demonization of gays? In Massachusetts, there was another vociferous fellow campaigning against gays recently--again with sytrong roots in the south.

There are others, but I won't bother trying to construct a list now because I know yhou would not acknowledge it.

There is a reason for this: culturally, the South is different from, say, either Coast, or even the West. And one of those cultural differences is that there is a much stronger prohibition against homosexuality.

Of course, not every southerner is this way; and clearly there are non-southerners who have a strong view re homosexuality.

However, let us not forget, Dobson's roots are in the south--Texas, I believe.

In the past, Dobson has made many misstatements of fact. I remember one time, for example, on his program, he was complaining bitterly "you will never see a single book by an evangelical Christian on the NY Times best-seller list." Anyone with an ounce of brains knows that's just plain false, and that there are many counter-examples that prove Dobson wrong.

You have to wonder, what's going on when Dobson, an intelligent guy with a large staff, keeps making so many, err, "misstatements".

1 is clearly false. The Nation of Islam has members with roots in the South, but it's not even largely so, to my knowledge. It has quite a strong following in New York City, for instance. I don't know where Elijah Muhammad, Malcolm X, and Louis Farrakhan are themselves from, but your anti-evangelical bias is blinding you to the facts if you think the statements of the Nation of Islam are not public or not anti-gay.

Even aside from that, consider all the rappers who say extremely negative things about gay people all the time. Most of them are from New York City or Los Angeles.

In general, there is more anti-gay sentiment in the South, just as there is more of a sense that homosexual acts are wrong in the South. It's not surprising that people who think homosexuality is perfectly normal and ok would not say things against it. That doesn't mean those who think the actions are morally wrong and the desires are unnatural will automatically therefore say cruel things to gay people and mistreat them, which is what you seem to be asserting.

When was Dobson's statement? I wouldn't say that having a prediction turn out false because of a surprising success of some popular books counts as a moral error. If he said it in the 80s, then there's no reason to think there was anything unusual about such a statement. There was every reason to think evangelicals wouldn't write books on the NY Times best-seller list. People didn't at the time know that John Grisham is an evangelical, and I can't think of any other bestselling authors who have been on that list who I consider evangelicals until the era of Jabez and Rick Warren. I don't think even Frank Peretti has been on it.

Even if Dobson is prone to exaggeration and misstatement, that's no reason to think he's going to lie deliberately about anything, as you have falsely accused him of (I say falsely because I give people the benefit of the doubt when it comes to lying due to my strong loathing of conspiracy theory epistemology, which you seem to endorse).

Dobson has a radio show. A lot of what he says is when he's recording a show. That means he's not going to go look things up in the middle of recording. Some things have already been researched, but the way radio works is that some things will just come out. I'm going to criticize him when I disagree with him, and I disagree with him on a number of claims, most notably his view of the nature of politics with respect to Christianity. Nothing you've said is evidence that he's hateful or deliberately misleading anyone, and that's why I'm reacting so strongly to what you're saying.

It's kind of funny that you left a comment about how I won't listen to you (because evangelicals Christians don't do that) immediately after a comment when I altered my conclusion in the face of real evidence given to me by Jonathan. So not only are you not presenting evidence for your position. You're making false claims about me that are refuted by the comment immediately preceding the one you're saying it in.

There is far too much in your statement for me to respond to everything (and still make this message readable and/or graspable), so I'll be selective.

I agree with yoiu that Islam takes a strong stance against homosexuality. Islam cannot reasonably be asociated with the south.

HOWEVER, if you will re-check my statements, I have said that I am talking about "highly public statements re homosexuality". afaik no Islamic group has made any public statement re homosexuality. By contrast--please read this carefully--those PUBLIC actions and statements that have been made, have almost ALL been made by evangelicals with roots in the south.


And I'm happy to see you acknowledge the (probably) stronger condemnation of homosexuality in the south than elsewhere.

As to my alleged prejudice against evangelicals, pre-judice means to pre-judge. My statement are based on the attitudes and statements I have seen and encountered from evangelicals.

Moreover, even lots of evangelicals agree with me! Hank Hennagraaf, for example, has spoken about "Pastor Billybob". And other evangelicals, such as Jay Sekulow, have repeatedly advised evangelicals and those on the religious right to be polite and respectful when challenging officials, "witnessing", etc--a clear acknowledgement of something we all know, that evangelicaLs (and perhaps more generally new converts to any pov) are so often overzealous.

Dobson's statement about books was made no more than 4 years ago, around October. I *might* be able to get an exact date, but what would be the point? I think yhou'd come up with some rationalization.

Finally, what books have you read about Dobson, or about the right generally? I've read at least 3--one written by a fellow who worked for Dobson and clearly admired him. So I suspect that I have a broader range of information than you do.

The bottom line is that Dobson does not actually cast any credibility on the religious right; indeed, as I think yhou might agree, he casts a considerable amount of discredit on it.

The Nation of Islam makes public statements all the time. Farrakhan is a major public figure. If you don't know that, then you're a bit out of touch. He was the one who organized the Million Man March, which didn't have a million men but was very well attended.

So you seem to be acknowledging that evangelicals are the ones trying to rein fundamentalists in. Why don't you then admit that there's a difference? New converts do tend to be overzealous. So?

I'm not trying to rationalize anything. I just wanted to know the facts. I already explained why people who say things on radio programs probably haven't spent the long hours thinking through every little line of speech. That's not rationalizing. That's realizing that the forum allows for more grace than a forum that allows for lots of time for fact-checking of every statement. There was a clear perception before Jabez that evangelical books did not tend to make the best-seller lists. Since Wilkinson and Warren have done so well, the market has changed. (Left Behind is another exception, but I think La Haye is borderline fundamentalist and not so clearly evangelical, due to his willingness to elevate views on the end times to the level of the gospel, which is a fundamentalist tendency.)

I used to listen to Dobson every day in the car for at least a half hour, because my dad liked to listen to him. My mom has read all of his books. I grew up with my church using much of his literature in Sunday School. I know plenty about him. I haven't followed him as much until recently when I discovered that he's gone off the deep end with regard to identifying Christianity with very particular political views (most notably and almost exclusively opposition to abortion and what he calls the gay agenda).

There are lots of Christian denoms in the US that believe homosexuality is a sin--Catholics, Anglicans, SoBaps, etc..

Think about all the "religiously-involved" folks who have spoken out voiciferously about homosexulity in the last 20 years or so. What names come to mind?

Let's see: Falwell, Robert$on (remember in particular his infamously silly statement some years ago about "a coven of lesbian witches"?), Dobson, Jame$ Robi$on, that fellow from the Oregon Citizen's Alliance about 10 years ago, and some others.

How many of those have their roots in the south?

Tell me the names of some "religiously-involved" folks from the NORTH who have made a big deal about homosexuality.

So the question is, why is it that its the folks from the SOUTH who've felt compelled to speak out, and not the folks from the non-south? No one who's curious and/or aware about religious POVs could possibly be ignorant of the fact that the Catholic church is opposed to it. Yet, it doesn't feel as compelled as others to speak out (except, of course, when there are votes to be garnered from doing so.)

The Pope has made a clear statement against gay marriage in the last year. It was of the sort that most evangelicals would make. Some Catholics make a big deal about it. Others do not. The same is true with Anglicans. Why do you think there's such a big dispute going on in the wider Anglican community over the Episcopalian rejection of the Bible on this issue?

Falwell and Robertson aren't evangelicals. They're clearly fundamentalists. I've never heard of Robison or this Oregon guy, so they're not exactly big names in evangelicalism if they're evangelicals at all. From your description, I'd guess that they're even among the most extreme of fundamentalists.

You don't seem to know much about evangelicalism, so let me refer you to Joe Carter's list of prominent evangelicals. Some notable ones not yet covered by him include Howard Hendricks, Chuck Smith, Elizabeth Elliot, Josh McDowell, James Montgomery Boice, D.A. Carson, John MacArthur, Lee Strobel, Jim Wallis, R.C. Sproul, Bill Bright, J.I. Packer, Norman Geisler, Kay Arthur, Phil Vischer, Michael Horton, Charles Stanley, Phillip Johnson, Henry Blackaby, Billy Graham, Chuck Swindoll. I don't study all these people very carefully. In fact, I've read not a word of some of them. I don't think any one of them is anything like Falwell or Robertson, though. I don't think very many of them have even talked about homosexuality a whole lot (or if so only on occasion). Most of the ones who have are nothing like Falwell or Robertson in doing it, and many of them have even spoke out against the way Falwell and Robertson do (e.g. D.A. Carson and John Piper have done so explicitly).

I can name a number of true evangelicals that I think have misplaced priority on this issue. Those include Marvin Olasky (a Jewish Christian who I believe is from New York, but I may be misremembering that) and Chuck Colson (an Ivy League graduate and northeasterner) come to mind. They're not rude about it, though, and their volume comes not in how they say things or what they say but in how often.

When you look at the spectrum of those most influential among evangelicals, though, and the breadth of their work and extent of public statements that get media attention, it becomes quite clear that the frequency and volume of evangelicals' statements against homosexuality are not representative of the evangelical movement.

Evangelicals don't sit around talking about gays or thinking the end of the world is going to come because gays are taking over. It's not a high priority in the daily life of most evangelicals, and almost every evangelical I know has a view on it but not one they'd place as more important than issues that get much less coverage in the news, e.g. divorce or sexual ethics within heterosexual relationships.

So the question is, why is it that its the folks from the SOUTH who've felt compelled to speak out, and not the folks from the non-south?

That's because, as the presidential campaign made quite clear, southerners speak up about their moral views, and northerners tend to be spineless, not caring if society around them is doing all sorts of evil things to each other. John Kerry's view on abortion is a case in point. He said he believes it to be wrong but that he doesn't think he should speak up against something he considers evil. That's the northern mindset, and it sucks. At least southerners will speak out against something they consider evil. Sometimes they misplace which things most need to be spoken out against, but that's the story.

Each culture involves a different good tendency and a different bad tendency, and it truly is bigoted to think of any culture as bad in itself merely because of a tendency in that culture that's bad in a different way than the bad tendencies in other cultures, including whatever one we happen to be part of.

Apparently, you have a lot more time available to you than I do, so I cannot hope to address all the points you raise. I'll limit myuself to 2.

1. You say Olasky is a "Jewish Christian". Olasky is a poor, confused soul. Before he became a "Christian", he was a Marxist--this, circa 1976 when all the European Marxists had finally seen the light! Poor Marvin is apparently searching for something.

As to your notion that he is a "Jewish Christian", that's like saying "Marxist Capitalist", or "dryu water". It's something that simply does not exist except in the minds of some evangelicals.

But the really great part of your response is below, in your characterization of Northerners. What a nice and "Christian" thing to say! That's precisely why the majority of American Christians despise most evangelicals: they're judgemental hypocrites who delight in demonizing others who dare to disagree with them. I cannot thank you enough for showing your true colors.


[Diogenes6] So the question is, why is it that its the folks from the SOUTH who've felt compelled to speak out, and not the folks from the non-south?

[Jeremy P] That's because, as the presidential campaign made quite clear, southerners speak up about their moral views, and northerners tend to be spineless, not caring if society around them is doing all sorts of evil things to each other.

One more quick point:

once again, you are confusing two things in talking about the pope (a man who I know well that evangelicals love--they love ti demonize him, that is).

Here is yhour statement"

JP> The Pope has made a clear statement against gay marriage in the last year.

You're correct. But that's very different from the kind of demonizing of gays that evangelicals and hillbillies do. Indeed, since evangelicals "don't do nuance", apparently you are unaware of the highly nuanced stance of the RCC on the subject of gays.

So you're a bigot on other grounds as well. There's nothing oxymoronic about being a Jewish Christian. The early Christians were all Jews for quite a while, and those who converted saw themselves as converting to a sect of Judaism. At one point all the other Jewish sects, the ones Christians didn't recognize as still following true Judaism, decided not to count Christians as genuine Jews. I disagree with their decision, but Jews throughout history have followed them in that. What strikes me as genuinely odd about anyone who says what you just said is that someone can be Jewish without even believing in God (which means the identity of contemporary religious identity is unnecessary for being Jewish; mere ethnic background is sufficient), yet you say it's impossible to be both Jewish and Christian (which means mere ethnic background is not sufficient). That's simply a contradiction.

There are ways to be a Marxist capitalist, by the way. There are different elements of Marxism, and you can accept his negative critique of problems within capitalism without abandoning it as the best structure we have. That's in fact my own view. I don't accept his positive reconstruction of how society should be, since I think the capitalist structure is better, but I accept much of his conclusions about bad things within capitalism, something someone like Adam Smith would not do.

Dude, do you even know what my views on human nature are? I think every single human being on this planet and everyone who ever was, besides Jesus, is downright evil. Sure, we're relatively better or worse than other people, but not one person is morally worthy of praise at root. That's the Christian view. So when I identify ways that plays out in one culture vs. ways it plays out in another, I'm not at all sure why you think it's unChristian. It's thoroughly Christian. Besides, I'm a northeasterner myself, and I do the same thing. Why is it judgmental of others when I talk about what my own culture does and why it's bad? Why is it hypocritical to talk about how different people are bad in different ways when I think everyone is equally unworthy of true praise of character. I'm not delighting in anything (though I think you are with Dobson). I'm not demonizing anyone more than anyone else, including myself. I'm simply stating what the Christian view of human nature is and emphasizing one way it plays itself out in my own group.

As far as I know, most of the people I listed off have a view very similar to the highly nuanced view of the RCC. I know D.A. Carson, John Piper, and Bill Bright have expressed similar views, as have I (and I'm most definitely an evangelical). The fact that you're saying that evangelicals don't do nuance pretty clearly sets you off as someone who only reads the stuff from a group that fits with your own image of that group. If I wanted to find the most unintelligent and uncareful Catholics I could find, I could come up with some stuff that makes even Falwell pale in comparison. In fact, I've taught football players who have views on homosexuality that they take to be the view they should hold as Roman Catholics. Do they speak for the RCC? I submit that James Dobson does not speak for a diverse group that he happens to be a part of, even if large numbers of people believe everything he says. Falwell and Robertson don't speak for a group that they don't even really belong to.

To evaluate the considered opinions of a group, you look to the clearest thinkers on the issue, not those who can earn the most visible spot in the public light. Piper, Carson, and Bright seem to me to be good examples of that. One of them, to my knowledge, never made any public statements on homosexuality, and he was the head of the second largest Christian missions organization in the world, after Billy Graham's organization. The other two have discussed it, and their views are probably more nuanced than those of the Pope.

I simply do not have the large amount of free time you have to message or blog, so once again I'll limit myself to 2 points:

1. It is ONLY evangelical Christians who think you can be a "Jewish Christian". Whatever the earliest Christians *thought* they were, it is ONLY evangelical Christians (and a tiny, tiny handful of Jews) who think "Jewish Christian" is anything other than oxymoronic. Why certain evangelical Christians are so eager to think of themselves as Jews is beyond me, given how often in the past evangelicals have been the world leaders in slandering and demonizing Jews.

2. I note that you did not address my point re the arrogance and judgementalism of evangelicals, in the matter of your remarks re "northerners".

Now, really, Jeremy, do you think such language is appropriate for one who thinks he's following the commandments of Jesus?

Ahh, but actually, once again I'm *glad* you didn't address my comments, because you've illustrated yet another virtually invariant feature of evangelicals: their incredible egotism and lack of humility and total inability to apologize in public for straying.

SOIME people are depraved, Jeremy, and most of those are evangelicals. And why not? If they should "sin", all they have to do, in their mind, is say (silently, of course) "Oops, big daddy, I goofed, sorry about that, you forgive me? Thanks." and that's that.

I'm having a hard time figuring out what your argument is or what your conclusion is supposed to be. You've manipulated this comment thread to be about your own issues and not primarily what it's about. You've insulted me personally and numerous large groups of people in a way that makes it seem as if you think they're much worse than others (and in a way that doesn't fit with my experience).

I have no problem with acknowledging that evangelicals have done stupid and even harmful things, just as others have. You don't seem to acknowledge that others have or that the large bulk of evangelicalism (particular among leaders) has repudiated any of that. I've spent most of my time responding to statements you've made that seem one-sided to me. I'm done playing this game.

I'm sorry, Jeremy, but you're gonna have to try much *much* harder to sell this line of yours that evangelicals are such warm, accepting, polite folks. No one's buying this product line, try another.

I'm well-aware of the dim (i.e. Calvinistic) view that evangelicals take of human nature and human beings. (Of course, that view does not extend to other evangelicals, who, when they "sin", are routinely granted absolution with lines like "must've been the devil that made him do it.") How anyone can go through life with such a pessimistic, unrealistic view of human nature is beyond me.

It's interesting, too, that the Jewish interpretation of the Fall story is so radically different from the Christian one. Since I don't have the same ability that evangelicals have to see into gthe hearts and minds of others, I cannot say how or why the Christian view came to be so much more pessimistic than the Jewish view, but my best guess is that the Christian view enables certain leaders of Christians to saddle them with unearned guilt and think of themselves as low-life, worthless dog****, which in turn makes it easier to control them and get them to swallow that massive cock-and-bull story about pie in the sky by and by (and hell if they're bad little boys and girls).

Did you think my harsh criticism of James Dobson was granting him absolution? You might reserve comments like this for posts that don't contradict your very point.

It's not merely pessimistic. It's optimistic in that that's the setup for the gospel. The word 'gospel' means good news, remember? This is what people are without the gospel. What people are with the gospel involves the ability to share in the divine nature, according to II Peter. That's pretty optimistic. It's just that we don't have anything close to a complete transformation into that until the resurrection.

I'm still not going to play your game.

I've just skimmed through this thread, and I'm impressed that you put up with it, Jeremy.

I'd be interested, if it's not too naive of a question, in a further explanation of the distinction between fundamentalists and evangelicals. The two concepts are pretty closely connected in my mind. Maybe that's something for a future post? (or maybe I just need to be pointed to an old one?)

I've dealt with it here. The post I link to from there at Back to the Envelope is more detailed. Here follows it up here and here.

If you read all that and the stuff linked to in the comments, you should get an award, but it explains it far better than I would if I tried to at right now. I see it as a difference of degree, but it's a difference of degree with absolutely clear cases in each category.

Some people want to draw the lines differently. Some emphasize that someone now called an evangelical would have been called a fundamentalist 50 years ago, but the term 'fundamentalist' has become so negatively-charged first due to its use by the media with terrorists in the 80s but also by two factors moving in opposite directions. Those becoming more open and willing to engage in reasonable discussion were mainstreaming, and that was part of the formation of evangelical identity. At the same time, reactionaries to that who saw it as giving in were isolating themselves. I think those two forces largely explain the social phenomena. There are doctrinal issues too, but I'm not sure the distinction is largely doctrinal but more attitudinal, particularly in social ways. Anyway, those posts give the details better than I could hope to try.

Wow, I actually made it through all the comments. Jeremy, excellent thoughts--I should read your blog more often. Diogenes, perhaps your best point, buried underneath ad hominem (seriously, give Jeremy, the South, and evangelicals a break--mass generalizations help no one; this is how hatred starts), is that of the difference in interpretation on the Fall by Christians and Jews. That would make the subject of a fascinating post.

Thanks for the links, Jeremy. Almost didn't see them after skimming past the argument with Diogenes. What I'd like to know, though, is what exactly did Dobson say? I haven't seen a transcript anywhere, and an actual quote would go a long way towards helping me determine how much was Dobson sticking his foot in his mouth, and how much was the media twisting his comments beyond recognition. The website Dobson criticizes and the group putting together the video are definitely the same people, by the way--links to both the video and the teacher's material have the same domain, although the teacher's material has since been removed. (I'm trying to track down some hardcopies of it, but I haven't had any luck so far.) My own comments, mostly defending Dobson, are here.

Jeremy, is this your first experience with a troll? The reason I ask is that although I tend to be slow in calling someone a troll, it was clear by Diogenes6's third post that he had no interest in genuine discussion, he was just throwing out random slander and ad homenim attacks. You would repeatedly respond to his points and he would ignore your respones, just repeating the points or bringing up something else. He repeatedly made broad demands of you for specific examples, while his examples were often so tenuous as to be not worth considering.

I think you've been suckered into wasting too much time repeating yourself in a comment stream that most of your readers will not finish.

I say this in love of course... :-)

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