2 Timothy 1:7: “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
James Dobson and the Christian Right activists at Focus on the Family seem to have forgotten that scriptural promise. Then again, there is a great deal of the Bible they seem to have forgotten, or chosen to blatantly ignore. Their real “focus” is on scare tactics to frighten conservative evangelicals away from any flirtation with voting for Barack Obama, who may as well be the devil incarnate masquerading beneath a veneer of seductive charisma.
The latest instrument in this campaign of emotional intimidation is a “Letter from 2012 in Obama’s America,” [download PDF at website] produced by Focus on the Family Action, the PAC arm of Dobson’s organization. The document is so over the top that it’s garnered the usual media buzz, which is the goal of the group’s media strategy, according to Focus senior vice president Tom Minnery. Unfortunately, the press finds such extremism more riveting than the message of a Christian political organization like Matthew 25 that supports Obama and candidates who are likely to promote the moral values expressed in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and which takes as its scriptural mandate Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “I tell you the truth, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”
Whoever crafted the 15-page letter clearly had a creative heyday while indulging paranoia at an unprecedented level. The letter, which is as likely to amuse as to appall most Christians who are more moderate and rational than Dobson’s devotees, outlines a world so transformed in just four years that it has become unrecognizable. Consider these 15 (and the letter contains more) “natural” outcomes if Obama is elected, most of which are fomented after a 6-3 liberal majority takes over the U.S. Supreme Court:
• Boy Scouts disband after refusing to allow homosexual scoutmasters to sleep in the same tent as young boys
• First-graders get “compulsory training in varieties of gender identity,” and parents can no longer opt out of school-based sex ed for their kids
• Churches are declared “public accommodations” and forced to offer marriage ceremonies for homosexual couples
• Military must offer “sensitivity training” for troops forced to accept enlisted homosexuals
• The Supreme Court declares that “proselytizing speech” does not have the same protection as other speech, and Christian ministries are banned from college campuses
• Nurses who do not wish to participate in abortions will lose their jobs, and doctors who deliver babies at hospitals must perform abortions or lose their licenses
• The FCC nullifies all restrictions on obscene speech or visual portrayals on TV, and it’s now a 24-hour non-stop diet of explicit porn
• States are allowed to ban guns, and illegal gun-owners face stiff fines or prison terms
• Home-schoolers are forced to use state-approved curricula, and rather than do so, many emigrate to New Zealand or Australia where they may teach without restrictions
• The U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq prompts a take-over by Al Qaeda, which in turn has carried out terrorist attacks on four U.S. cities
• Russia reclaims most of the old Soviet bloc, including the Baltic states, Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Bulgaria while UN & NATO fail to take action
• Latin America topples toward communism as the U.S.’s pro-Chavez policies give Venezuela more weight
• A single-payer national health care system has banned hospital admissions for anyone over 80
• Periodic blackouts are the norm after a moratorium is instituted on new oil drilling, nuclear plants and CO2-emitting coal power plants
• Business owners and entrepreneurs have moved overseas in droves to avoid higher taxes, with a huge loss of U.S. jobs
Wow, that’s one efficient administration. Even when G.W. Bush had both houses of Congress, a majority of Supreme Court appointees, and two-thirds of federal judgeships in his court, the American political and cultural landscape held relatively steady. That’s not to say that another four years of Republican control wouldn’t instigate a significant shift farther right – or that change won’t happen under Obama — but a scenario like the one Focus paints in this letter is as ridiculous as it is underhanded in its efforts to exploit the worries of religious conservatives who are beholden to fear rather than faith.
And to push the insult further, it turns out that some Christians themselves will be to blame. As the letter’s author, “A Christian in 2012,” states in an effort to explain how all this happened, “In 2008 many evangelicals thought that Senator Obama was an opportunity for a ‘change,’ and they voted for him. They simply did not realize Obama’s far-left agenda would take away many of our freedoms as a nation, perhaps permanently…[allowing] the law, in the hands of a liberal Congress and Supreme Court, to become a great instrument of oppression.”
As a result of these naïve voters’ ignorance, the country has become a pawn in the takeover by “the agenda of the ACLU, the agenda of liberal activist judges in their dissenting opinions, the agenda of the homosexual activists, the agenda of the environmental activists, the agenda of the National Education Association, the agenda of the global warming activists, the agenda of the abortion rights activists, the agenda of the gun control activists, the agenda of the euthanasia supporters, the agenda of the one-world government pacifists, [and] the agenda of far-left groups in Canada and Europe.” Heaven help us. That’s a lot of agendas.
Capitalizing on fear has been a mainstay in the religious right’s persuasion tactics, just as absolutist governments have perpetuated through history. Fear has always been the most powerful weapon tyrants have utilized to engineer consent to power, or to mobilize people into attacking other nations, races, ethnic groups or cultures. It is always fear that precedes fascism. And it is ironic that in trumpeting the threats to freedom posed by this litany of “leftist” agendas, Focus on the Family and its ilk would seek to replace existing freedoms with a form of government that leans dangerously toward theocracy.
But the greater irony is that the “gospel” of Jesus translates to “good news,” not “be afraid.” The Book of Matthew tells the story of the good news Jesus brings to the poor, the grieving, the hungry, the persecuted, the meek, the merciful, the pure of heart, and the peacemakers. It is these, the scriptures say, who will be blessed, comforted, satisfied, and who shall see God.
Not once does the Jesus of the New Testament express concern over homosexuality as the greatest threat to the Kingdom of God. Rather – as is made clear in the more than 2,000 verses in the Bible critiquing the love of money – it is being consumed with materialism and one’s own well-being at the ignorance and expense of others.
In Matthew 25:42-45, Jesus says, “For I was hungry, and you gave me no meat. I was thirsty, and you gave me no drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in; naked, and you clothed me not; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry, thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto you? He answered them, saying, I tell you the truth: inasmuch as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.”
Imagine a letter from 2012 in which genuine Christian values – an agenda for “the least of these” – were to prevail. Now that would be a transformed world. In the meantime, Dobson and his supporters would do well to heed the words of David in the Psalms: “The Lord is my Shepherd, whom shall I fear?” Indeed, the most frequently expressed command in the Bible is “be not afraid “ or “do not fear.” Focus on the Family’s political agenda is thus neither Christian, nor right.