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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In his radio show June 24, James Dobson examined Democrat presidential contender Barack Obama's use of Scripture and concluded Obama "deliberately" distorts the Bible "to fit his own worldview -- his own confused theology."
Dobson was commenting on a speech Obama gave in 2006 to liberals and moderates gathered for "A Call for Renewal" organized by former Marxist Jim Wallis' Sojourner organization:
"Which passages of Scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is abomination? How about Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith? Or should we just stick to the Sermon on the Mount -- a passage that is so radical that it's doubtful that our own Defense Department would survive its application?"
Largely, the secular press and Obama's handlers have responded by treating Dobson's remarks as controversial, rather than Obama's. Others dismissed Dobson's criticisms because Obama delivered the speech in 2006. Unfortunately, both responses badly minimize the seriousness of Obama's error.
It's not that Obama simply misunderstands the Bible. His questions about Leviticus and Deuteronomy aren't merely rhetorical, but were posed to create doubts about the sufficiency of Scripture.
Without doubt, the Old Testament is relevant today and teaches us moral truths and principles God used to shape Israel to be His nation. However, it is disingenuous at best for Obama to suggest the dietary laws God delivered specifically to Israel somehow are in play today; nor is it right to imply there is serious discussion on any scale that such laws apply to the New Testament church (Peter's experience in Acts 10:9-16 put this issue to rest).
The same is true about Obama's suggestions regarding the stoning of a child and slavery. For the record:
-- 1 Timothy 1:8-11 condemns slave traders, and the book of Philemon is Paul's passionate appeal to secure the freedom of the runaway slave Onesimus.
-- The story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) gives insights about the New Testament teaching about how to deal with children who stray from the faith.
Moreover, it's not that Obama erred this one time. As it turns out, he has repeated his 2006 offense.
In March 2008, during a Q&A at a campaign event in Nelsonville, Ohio, Obama justified his support of legal recognition of same-sex unions by misappropriating Matthew 5-7 and disparaging Romans 1.
"I don't think it [a same-sex union] should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state," Obama said. "If people find that controversial, then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans."
Never mind that the Sermon on the Mount does not contradict biblical teaching about marriage. In fact, in that Bible passage Jesus actually strengthens His instructions regarding marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
However, again, Obama disrespected a portion of the Word of God simply because it does not fit his worldview. The text he dismissed, Romans 1:24-32 states that homosexuality is sin (along with greed, envy, murder, strife, deceit, etc.) and condemns people who "give hearty approval to those who practice" such things. To say the least, it's not very reassuring that someone who describes himself as a person of faith would reject God's warning about those who facilitate others' sin.
During his radio show, Dobson delved into the political facets of Obama's religious beliefs -- pointing out Obama's view that "democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values." There are many biblical examples that contradict Obama's position (see Daniel 3:16-18 and Acts 5:29 for instance), but Dobson chose to call it a "fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution."
My concern and motivation, however, are solely spiritual, not political.
I do not mean to downplay what could be serious constitutional and other public policy concerns. When Christians are given the opportunity to vote their values, they should consider the social and political impact of a candidate's biblical views as well as how personal beliefs affect his or her spiritual fitness to lead. However, Obama's misappropriation of Scripture to fit his political perspective is more grave than its implications for a presidential election. Indeed, the potential consequences of his scriptural misapplications far exceed the realm of politics -- the repercussions truly could be biblical in proportion.
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press. Parts of this column were reprised from an earlier editorial published March 5, 2008, http://www.bpnews.net/BPFirstPerson.asp?ID=27556.