Dr. James Dobson, the supreme pontiff of the "Focus On the Family" organization, takes offense at the notion of Senator Obama interpreting the Bible for himself or questioning Dr. Dobson's own reading of the Judeo-Christian scriptures. Obama apparently observed in a 2006 talk that government according to the Bible might raise some embarrassing issues, since the document appears to condone slavery and is full of peculiar dietary rules, among other eccentricities. The learned doctor complains that Obama has taken texts out of context instead of reviewing Old Testament strictures in light of Jesus' revelation. Since Jesus didn't leave behind a verse-by-verse guide to what stays and what goes, experts like Dr. Dobson rely on their secret decoder rings, kept and treasured over generations of sectarian history, to tell them what's valid or not. What makes the Dobsonite decoder more reliable that the Democratic candidate's interpretation, if Obama's comments actually rise to that level, is unclear at first glance. Most likely it's a question of faith -- faith in Dr. Dobson and his tradition, that is, rather than faith in God or the Bible.
The doctor takes equal offense at Obama's alleged suggestion that Christians ought to defend their political preferences in terms that everyone can understand. From this initial third-hand report, it looks like Obama was demanding nothing more than that Christians, or any other group of believers, be able to justify their policies in terms more substantial than, "God wills it!" To Dr. Dobson, this means taking the abortion debate, for instance, to the lowest common denominator. The "slippery slope" is a quick slide for his eminence; it's probably a straight drop, in his mind, from the Dobsonite reading of God's will to the LCD. Perhaps he thinks he'll actually persuade people to adopt his views by crediting them to the Creator, or by threatening those who somehow remain in principled disagreement with the wrath of God unless they bow in submission.
The really sad part of this story is the allegation of the MSNBC article that Obama was actually trying to curry favor with Dr. Dobson and had been trying to arrange a meeting with the man. Maybe the Senator thought it worth pursuing because the doctor has still refused to endorse Senator McCain. Clearly he never considered that the country might be better off had Dr. Dobson endorsed no one at all. I think that the doctor's endorsement is not worth having unless he passes the same "Elijah test" that we proposed for Osama bin Laden last week (see "How to Prevent Martyrdom"). Unfortunately, the latest polls of American credulity indicate that Obama is probably doing the smart thing in seeking the approval (or even the neutrality) of the likes of Dr. Dobson. Religion seems to be the tar baby that Obama can't get free from this year. He wants to make the best of it with happy talk about faith and good works, but Dr. Dobson is like the Mr. Hyde of public Christianity, as Rev. Wright is in his own way, that all Obama's wishful words cannot suppress.