God, I miss the good old days of the Super Bowl, when the hottest controversy was the post-game hand-wringing over how to spank CBS for subjecting America to Janet Jackson’s right boob. This year, the game-related hullabaloo centers not on the halftime spectacle but on the ads—specifically, a pro-life spot featuring the curious case of 2007 Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow. As the story goes, Pam and Bob Tebow were serving as Baptist missionaries in the Philippines when Pam was pregnant with Tim, their fifth child.
We are witnessing a major escalation of right-to-life opinion-mongering--and backlash against it--in the sporting world, thanks to an ad starring football idol Tim Tebow for James Dobson’s Focus on the Family. It will air during the Super Bowl. According to an AP sports article: The former Florida quarterback and his mother will appear in a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl next month.
WASHINGTON--It is 2009's quiet story--quiet because it's about what didn't happen, which can be as important as what did. In this highly partisan year, we did not see a sharpening of the battles over religion and culture. Yes, we continued to fight over gay marriage, and arguments about abortion were a feature of the health care debate. But what's more striking is that other issues--notably economics and the role of government--trumped culture and religion in the public square.
In the wake of the display of craziness by Rep. Joe Wilson during the president’s health care speech, and the rather notable reluctance of Republicans to criticize him on substantive (as opposed to protocol) grounds, a perennial question arises: Do these conservative eruptions of extremism actually tilt the national political debate to the Right? This has long been a concern of progressives. Just this week Michelle Goldberg fretted: The marginalization of the left has its costs.
The Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins was gleeful after Richard Cizik, chief lobbyist of the 30-million member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), was forced to resign on December 11. Perkins and other “family values” leaders had been trying to get rid of Cizik for two years, ever since he launched a campaign to add environmentalism to the evangelical “values” agenda. Though Cizik lost his job over comments endorsing civil unions, not because of his attention to what evangelicals call “creation care,” Perkins still claimed his ouster as a repudiation of the green agenda.
In many ways, it was your standard Democratic fund-raiser in a Republican stronghold. On a recent Friday, a largely bleeding-heart contingent from Maryland's first congressional district--professors from the nearby liberal arts college, a left-wing lobbyist, a Sears scion turned Obama donor, the president of an environmental foundation--holed up in a Patton Boggs lawyer's Eastern Shore home to give their earnest young congressional candidate, state prosecutor Frank Kratovil, a sympathetic pat on the back. But somebody there was not like most of the others.
It looks like the Family Research Council (FRC) has finally chosen a candidate. Just one month ago, on September 12, James Dobson's organization started a political action committee and pledged to spend a modest $250,000 backing "pro-family" congressional candidates--but not John McCain. At the time, FRC Action PAC President Tony Perkins had the following to say about the GOP nominee: "At this point, we do not plan on endorsing a presidential candidate or ticket. We're not a huge PAC yet and to make a dent, even, in that effort would take a lot of money. ...
"Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances." -- James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, January 13, 2007 "I cannot and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain as a matter of conscience.... Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime.
Happily, James Dobson's political/theological arrogance has alienated some of his fellow Christians to the point that they are no longer staying silent. The WaPo has a fabulous tidbit today about how the Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell, leader of the nation's largest Methodist congregation, this week launched a pro-Obama web site named James Dobson Doesn't Speak For Me. Taking aim at Dobson's recent assault on Obama's faith, the site asks visitors to sign a statement declaring that the oh-so-righteous Dobson does not represent their views.
It's hard to see James Dobson's broadside against Barack Obama today as anything but another sign of nervousness among conservative evangelical leaders that Obama may be poised to make inroads among their flocks. It's proximate cause, after all, was not an act of offense but one of outreach--specifically, an Obama aide's offer to visit Dobson's Focus on the Family at its Colorado Springs headquarters.