There are some in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community who are uncomfortable with the fact that Barack Obama is reaching out to Evangelical Christians. How could he break bread—literally and metaphorically—with people who hate us? Doesn’t that mean he hates us too?
The answer is no. It’s time for the LGBT community’s penchant for “guilt by association” politics to go by the wayside. If Obama can bring a new brand of politics to America, why can’t we do the same for our own community?
The fact that Obama is reaching out to some in the Radical Christian Right and others who just consider themselves Evangelical is actually a stroke of political genius. In the past year or so, we’ve seen the goose step agendas of folks like Jim Dobson of Focus on the Family and Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council turn into a mosh pit of Christian politics.
The voting age kids of Radical Christian Right voters who put George Bush into office aren’t so enamored with the narrow minded politics of their parents. The likes of Dobson and Perkins are painting themselves into a smaller and smaller corner because they can’t seem to see that there are other issues—besides abortion and same-sex marriage—that concern their Christian constituencies.
We’re seeing Christians of all persuasions concerned with global warming and the environment, with health care, with poverty, with the war . . . we’re seeing Christians of all persuasions recognizing that they can no longer afford to be defined by two issues in a world that needs careful thought and action to save it from itself.
And, we see Obama recognizing the trend and taking advantage of this shift. Why shouldn’t he? He wants to get elected and that won’t happen unless he builds a broad coalition of voters. That broad coalition must run the gamut from conservative Christians to progressive queers if we’re to be successful in November and change the direction of our country.
But, just because Obama is meeting with folks from the Radical Christian Right doesn’t mean he agrees with them. In fact, he’s more than willing to do what no other candidate has yet to do—call James Dobson out on the carpet for his narrow-minded, my way or the highway interpretation of the Bible.
This past Tuesday, Dobson aired a segment on his radio program that gave his personal dissection of a 2006 speech Obama gave to Call for Renewal, a progressive Christian organization. In that speech, Obama said that religion does not have a monopoly on morality, that our country is not a Christian theocracy and that political agendas, even if they are firmly rooted in religious beliefs, must use moral arguments rather than religious arguments to win the day.
Sounds pretty pluralistic to me. Perhaps that’s what got Dobson’s goat launching a diatribe that misrepresented Obama’s words saying the candidate was “deliberately distorting the Bible,” “dragging biblical understanding through the gutter,” “willfully trying to confuse people,” and that Obama has a “fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution.”
Like the one brave kid who’s not afraid of the playground bully, Obama shot right back and said Dobson was “making stuff up” when he accused the candidate of distorting the Bible. Obama went on to say that people of faith, of which he considers himself one, “try to translate some of our concerns in a universal language so that we can have an open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us.”
Throughout the campaign, Obama has shown a fearlessness rooted in a political savvy that we haven’t seen in this country since Roosevelt. He has deftly weakened John McCain’s ability to attack by telling the public what McCain will attack him on. He’s reached out to constituencies and states that are traditional Republican strongholds—not to draw all those votes but enough of them to build a voting bloc that will mean victory in November. He has stood up to the Radical Christian Right’s playground bully and, in turn, is changing the rules of discourse within the religious community.
It’s time to heal the wounds that the Dobsons of this country have inflicted upon our citizenry. It’s time for all us—gay and straight, black and white, Jewish, Christian and Muslim—to take a giant step across the great divide that has become our country and bring us back to where guilt by association is a children’s game and the adults among us understand how important it is to find our common bonds.