Tuesday, July 16, 2019

James Dobson and "Spiritual Pornography" (or, how to feel good while doing evil.)

I was prompted to write this post because James Dobson, a prominent Evangelical leader (who was revered in my family when I was a kid), wrote an article which so utterly horrified and disgusted me, that I couldn’t remain silent. 

Having contemplated it for a while, I realized that it is of an all-too-common genre of the Religious Right, which I am calling “Spiritual Pornography.” 

Let me explain what I mean first, before I analyze the article itself and why I believe it is thoroughly unchristian - anti-christian really. 

The human creature is capable of pleasure of many kinds. I love food - perhaps a bit too much. I love music. I love poetry. I love the endorphins after hard exercise. I love nature. And yes, I love sex. Sex is, in many ways, the most visceral of pleasures. At its best, it involves body, psyche, and soul, and creates an intimate connection. 

Spirituality is a lot like sex. Ideally, it is an intimate connection to the divine and to our fellow creatures. As Christ put it, love of God and love of others. While not exactly the same, there is a certain analogous pleasure in these connections which resembles the ecstasy of sexuality. (I know some will violently disagree with this assessment - and I believe it is often because of the way sexual pleasure has been relegated to the status of “dirty” at best, and evil at worst. At least within Evangelical circles.) 

The thing is, spiritual pleasure, like sexual pleasure, is somewhat morally neutral in itself, and can be experienced in ways that are good, ways that are neutral, and ways that are thoroughly evil. To give an example, in the case of sex, a mutually pleasurable sexual experience with a willing and enthusiastic partner is a good thing. But obtaining sexual pleasure by raping someone is very much an evil thing, even if it feels good to the rapist. The key takeaway point, though, is that to a penis, the experience of ejaculation is the same in both cases, and the pleasurable feeling is not a good guide to the morality of the act. 

In my opinion, spiritual pleasures are experienced largely in the same way. We each have, in a manner of speaking, an organ in our psyche which experiences this pleasure. It can be stimulated by a morally positive spiritual experience, but it can also be stimulated by evil. 

I’ll come back to this later and explain how it works in context.


First, here is what Dobson wrote. (This is a “do not link” link, so it won’t give him hit counts.) 

Astonishingly, several people have linked the article and told me that if I actually read it, I would realize what a great thing it was.

In fact, I DID read it - all the way through - which is why I was appalled and called it thoroughly unchristian, cruel, and shameful. 

Basically, Dobson, who has been a close buddy of The Toupee Who Shall Not Be Named, was invited by said narcissist to go view the internment camps where we are imprisoning refugees seeking asylum in our country. After viewing the conditions, and the desperation of those fleeing violence and poverty in their homelands, he came away with a rather astonishing conclusion. (See below.) 

A good bit of the opening of the article lays out the horrors. Many of these are, to put it honestly, OUR FAULT. We chose and choose to incarcerate refugees rather than letting them in with a work permit while we go through the process. We do this essentially for political reasons - our laws since the founding of our nation have been hostile to non-whites, and our immigration restrictions since the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 have been intended to keep America white. There is no morally compelling reason for this mass incarceration, so any hardship and pain to immigrants and refugees is inflicted by US, and WE are to blame for that pain. (And I believe God will hold us accountable in eternity for what we have done.) 

The article also spends some time on the hardships of the journey here. And notes that there are a lot more families and children coming now than before. Although Dobson fails to understand the obvious point: things are so bad that whole families are fleeing - I mean, nobody travels thousands of miles with toddlers unless staying is unthinkable. 

Dobson is oh-so-careful to say in detail how his good “christian” heart bleeds for these people, and how it made him cry. And he wants them to know that “God loves them.” 

But then…

What is his solution to this pain and suffering and hardship refugees face?

Send them back where they came from, and build a giant wall to KEEP THEM OUT! And then change the law to prevent them from applying for asylum. 

I wish I were making that up, but he literally says that! After detailing the suffering, he says that this proves that Christians need to support Donald Fucking Trump’s giant wall. To keep poor and desperate people where they belong: away from us where we don’t have to see them. 

It gets worse!

Dobson then goes on to repeat Trump’s talking points about how immigrants are mostly gangsters and drug runners and diseased and poor and...well, we don’t want THOSE people here in our nice little [white] Christian country, do we? Heck, they might vote Democrat, and we know Democrats are evil, right? 

Let me give a few quotes here which illustrate the utter depravity of Dobson’s conclusions. 

I have wondered, with you, why the authorities don’t just deny these refugees access to this nation. Can’t we just send them back to their places of origin?
[Dobson explains where they come from, which is from quite a few countries, not just Mexico.]
What are we to do with them? The Mexican government will not take them back, and there is no place to send them. Our current laws do not permit us to repatriate them to their country of origin. This is a disaster with no solution or projected conclusion. 

Okay, did you get that?

Faced with overwhelming evidence of need and desperation, Dobson’s question - which he assumes his readers share - is “Can’t we just send them back?” 

And his answer is, well, no, because our laws forbid that - so we need to change the laws so that we can. 

Holy mother of Beelzebub. 

What kind of evil person comes to that conclusion? There is somehow a pathological lack of empathy and compassion that is ugly and disgusting in any human being - but doubly so in someone claiming to be “christian.” 

I won’t quote all of the rhetoric in this post, but in addition to the original (linked above), I recommend Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism’s more detailed look at the specifics

So where does this come from?

Here is a good hint:

“What I’ve told you is only a glimpse of what is occurring on the nation’s border. I don’t know what it will take to change the circumstances. I can only report that without an overhaul of the law and the allocation of resources, millions of illegal immigrants will continue flooding to this great land from around the world. Many of them have no marketable skills. They are illiterate and unhealthy. Some are violent criminals. Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it, and it could bankrupt the nation. America has been a wonderfully generous and caring country since its founding. That is our Christian nature. But in this instance, we have met a worldwide wave of poverty that will take us down if we don’t deal with it. And it won’t take long for the inevitable consequences to happen.”

Hmm. Some of that language is VERY familiar. Let’s unpack it a bit. 

First, let me point out two points which should be obvious to anyone who has actually educated themselves about Immigration Law and the circumstances of the situation. It is not “illegal” to seek asylum. In fact, under international law (which Dobson loathes, but that is a different post), humans have a right to flee violence and persecution. Isn’t this kind of an obvious human right? I mean, it’s even in our own Declaration of Independence - the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (Keep in mind that “happiness” in historical context doesn’t mean a feeling, but a state of well-being - a decent life free from oppression and destitution.) The second part, though, is also important. Let’s say Trump and Dobson get their way, and change the law so that seeking asylum IS illegal. Does that make it MORAL to deny people the ability to flee poverty and violence? I mean, Dobson claims to be a “christian leader.” Shouldn’t he be expected to answer to a higher standard than what is “legal”? 

On that note, notice that Dobson says we have been generous and caring – and Christian. But now it is time to STOP THAT!

Next, notice the slanderous dehumanizing of refugees. They “have no marketable skills.” (I guess farm labor, food service, health care, and other service sector jobs that employ millions of immigrants aren’t marketable skills?) They are “illiterate.” (So they are stupid and undesireable because they haven’t had access to an education?) They are “unhealthy.” (Nice euphemism for “dirty brown-skinned people” there. Also, there is a whole history of dehumanizing non-whites by calling them “diseased.”) They are “violent criminals.” (Hey, why not quote Trump, right?) They will “bankrupt us.” Because people who come here and work long hours at demanding jobs are clearly the cause of bankruptcy.

I continue to be astounded at how members of my former tribe, white Evangelicals, are so cavalier about slander, which is repeatedly listed as a serious sin in their own scripture. This is indeed slander - telling lies to harm others. And it is intentionally dehumanizing language. Because you have to dehumanize refugees before you can justify to yourself why you want to turn your back on them. 

And then, how about the next one?

“Their numbers will soon overwhelm the culture as we have known it.”

My response when I read this was “Oh. My. God.” Because this isn’t a new idea. As Tyler Huckabee puts it in his excellent article on Relevant Magazine, “That sort of fearmongering and doomsaying plays into some very, very ugly and very, very old fears in the U.S.” 

I’ll be more explicit:

They are indeed very, very ugly and very, very old. In fact, that is pretty much the exact language used historically by the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in their nativist, anti-immigrant rhetoric. Of course, originally, it was the dirty Catholics from Ireland and Italy which would “overwhelm” the “Anglo-Saxon blood” of “true Americans.” It is the same language used to argue against interracial marriage. It has a history literally hundreds of years long as the rhetoric and fearmongering of White Supremacy. 

Calling this sentence a racist dog whistle is generous. I would call it outright White Supremacist propaganda.

It is naked racism.

And it has NO place in the words of a person who claims to follow Jesus Christ. 

What this whole incident has made clear, though, is this:

White Evangelicalism isn’t really a Christian religious movement. It is, at its heart, a White Supremacist political and cultural movement.

Need proof? Well, compare the teachings of Christ (and the Torah, and the Prophets, and the Apostles) on how we should treat the needy - the poor, the ill, the refugees - to Dobson’s vile article. (See below for references.)

Does what Dobson says look anything like Christ?

Or does it look eerily similar to White Nationalism?

And, when Christian values of compassion and caring for the needy conflict with the White Supremacist hatred for immigrants, particularly those of brown skin, which one wins?

(Dobson literally says we should stop being generous, caring, and Christian…because of white supremacist fears.)

And no, don’t put this down to “Dobson is an outlier.” I have literally heard versions of this rhetoric from many, many white Evangelicals in my life. Friends. Family (including close family.) Pastors around the country but also in my own city. A solid dozen people (including leaders) from our former church. I ended up unfriending an acquaintance who is outspoken about her faith because she posted - and then defended Dobson’s article. This is endemic to white Evangelicalism. Not everyone. But a hell of a lot of them.

It is also, as I have noted before, a huge reason that Evangelicalism is losing the next couple of generations


A Christian analysis of the issue.

What is astounding to me is that those claiming Christianity - of all people - should defend this tripe. It is contrary to the teachings of the Torah, the Prophets, the Apostles, and especially Jesus Christ himself. Yahweh describes himself as the god of immigrants.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD [YHWH] your God. (Leviticus 19:34) (all quotations from the NIV unless otherwise noted – it’s what I grew up reading)

As professor Christine Hayes points out in her excellent lecture series on the Hebrew scriptures (available free online from Yale), “I am YHWH your God” is a standard formula with the meaning of “This is my character - it is who I am.” So, in this context, God is literally emphasizing the importance of the preceding sentences as a core value of his own being. “I am YHWH, the god of immigrants.” 

Yahweh does so again in Deuteronomy:

He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:18-19)

There are other places in the Torah, commanding Israel to apply the same law to native born and foreigners, commanding that gleanings be left for the poor and immigrants, and more. Heck, we forget that the Tithe (which preachers LOVE to claim for themselves) wasn’t there to pay for church buildings - it was there to provide food for the poor, the fatherless, the widows, and...the immigrants. This whole “why should we feed these ignorant, diseased poor people?” is thoroughly unbiblical and unchristian in the extreme. 

And how about this? In the list of curses in Deuteronomy - you know (I hope), the section where the whole assembly of Israel is supposed to listen to the list of behavior which leads to curse, and shout out “Amen” in response, thus binding themselves to obey or else suffer the (rather horrible) curses which follow? Here is one:

“Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.”
Then all the people shall say, “Amen!” (27:19)

How about the prophets? Well, in the list of offenses against God that Israel is condemned for, oppressing the poor and immigrants is high on the list. Just a few examples:

From Psalms, again showing that Yahweh is the god of the oppressed and the immigrant:

He upholds the cause of the oppressed
    and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
     the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
    the Lord loves the righteous.
 The Lord watches over the foreigner
    and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
    but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. (146:7-9)

Hmm. It looks like God identifies with the oppressed, hungry, prisoners {ahem} and the foreigner. And not with the wicked who oppress them. 

If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly,  if you do not oppress the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm,  then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your ancestors for ever and ever. (Jeremiah 7:5-7) 

This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. (Jeremiah 22:3) 

“You are to distribute this land among yourselves according to the tribes of Israel.  You are to allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the foreigners residing among you and who have children. You are to consider them as native-born Israelites; along with you they are to be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel.  In whatever tribe a foreigner resides, there you are to give them their inheritance,” declares the Sovereign Lord. (Ezekiel 47:21-23)

Wait, what? You mean we have to SHARE with the immigrants? Horrors! Isn’t this one of Dobson’s objections? That we might have to sacrifice a bit of our own wealth to care for others? Hmm, I thought that was actually a commandment of Christ, but whatever. 

There is a particularly interesting passage in Zechariah 7, where the translation only partially draws out a parallel more obvious in the original. Here is how the NIV says it:

And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah:  “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.  Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’
 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.  They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by his Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the Lord Almighty was very angry.
 “‘When I called, they did not listen; so when they called, I would not listen,’ says the Lord Almighty.  ‘I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations, where they were strangers. The land they left behind them was so desolate that no one traveled through it. This is how they made the pleasant land desolate.’”

The literary parallelism is an example of why the Bible - particularly the prophets and poetry - is breathtakingly beautiful as literature. But also, the literary devices make the point just leap off the page. Let’s look at it. 

Again, we have the four classes of people which are the standard language for the vulnerable in a society: the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, and the poor. (You see these groupings throughout the Old Testament - and they are echoed in the words of Christ and the Epistles. 

There is also a common repetition here. First “do not oppress...the foreigner.” Then, “I scattered them...where they were strangers.” Finally, “The land...was so desolate that no one traveled through it.” 

These are all related words. Oppress the stranger (foreigner, immigrant), and I will exile you to a land where YOU will be the stranger (foreigner, immigrant.) And the land itself will be inhospitable to everyone - not just immigrants. 

So, here is how it works: “you oppressed the immigrant, so God made you an immigrant yourself, and your own land is so bad now that people not only won’t live there, they won’t even pass through to somewhere else.” Powerful stuff. 

One final one from the prophets, this one from Malachi 3

So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty.

Again, note the four categories: the widows and fatherless, the poor (who are cheated of a living wage), and...foreigners. And then, immediately afterward, the favorite proof-text for pastors who want to bully their flock into giving them money. But remember, the Tithe wasn’t to support church buildings or pastor salaries: it was to feed the poor, the orphan, the widow...and the foreigner. 

Let’s move on to the New Testament. 

First, let me start with a bit of Greek. In that language, there is a word, xenophilia, which is the opposite of xenophobia. Rather than “fear of the outsider,” it means “love of the outsider.” (The opposite of fear is love.) And, it is translated in various places as “show hospitality to strangers.” And again, remember that the word translated as “stranger” is better translated as “foreigner” or “immigrant.” It is a person outside the tribe, so to speak, who is in need. 

With this understanding, look at this passage from Romans:

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality [xenophilia]. (12:13)

This is a sign of a true Christian (in the Christ follower sense): do they help immigrants and refugees? Also interesting in the same passage is an exhortation to give food and drink to your enemies. And, a warning against being proud - instead, be willing to associate with people of low estate. You know, like those “illiterate,” “diseased,” and “no marketable skills” poor people at our border. 

From Hebrews:

Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers [xenophilia], for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it. (13:2)

Again with the love and care for immigrants and foreigners - those outside the tribe. We are to view them as literal messengers from God. 

And one more from the Apostles. Growing up in Evangelicalism, I was taught that the Epistle of Saint James was about faith and works and stuff. What I was NOT taught (for what are now obvious reasons) is that the main point of the book is addressing rampant favoritism toward the wealthy - and, on a related note, the greed and slander that always go along with contempt for the poor. And look at what it says regarding faith and works: 

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?  Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (2:14-17)

Remember, this comes after a whole section on how God has chosen the poor to be rich in faith, and that it is the rich who are oppressing others. (And, in chapter 5, Saint James specifically addresses the rich, castigating them because their wealth is built on the theft of wages from the poor.) 

I cannot think of a more applicable portion of scripture to apply to James Dobson right now. 

He literally went to see desperate people, and said “God loves you” and did NOTHING to help them. Instead, he called on his followers to support sending them back to...well suffer more or die I guess. And build a giant wall to keep them out. 

You know, maybe HE could show God’s love to them, rather than saying a platitude and then trying to harm them?

Am I REALLY the only white Christian who can see this? 

Finally, there are two passages in the Gospels where Christ talks about eternal punishment. (Dobson preaches about Hell, naturally, so he had better hope he is wrong…because he is doing his best to go there.) 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
 “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46)

I am simply astounded at the number of self-proclaimed “christians” who can read this passage and apparently believe that they have ZERO duty to vulnerable and needy people. Remember, again, that “stranger” means “immigrant” or “foreigner.” This is pretty explicit. How we treat vulnerable, needy people, is how we treat Christ. 

Each and every one of those needy people at our border and in our internment camps should be viewed by us Christians as if they were Christ himself.

This is not a negotiable minor doctrine of the faith. It is a direct teaching of Jesus Christ himself! And He says our eternal destiny depends on it. Shouldn’t we take that seriously? 

There is one more spot in Luke that seems applicable here. The only other passage where Christ talks about eternal punishment is in the story of Dives and Lazarus. 

“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day.  At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores  and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony.  And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’
 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’
 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Let’s look at this. We have a rich man (by tradition, named Dives, although this isn’t in the text.) Very rich, apparently, because he had a nice big wall around his property – to keep the hoi polloi out. Lazarus sits by the gate, walled off from the luxury Dives enjoys - and apparently doesn’t share. Lazarus can’t even get the crumbs. 

They die, and Dives discovers that there is a...wait for it…large chasm separating him from the comfort Lazarus enjoys. Of course, Dives is such a prick that he thinks he can have Lazarus be his slave boy and deliver a drop of water. But Abraham reminds him that Dives has had his reward - and he now receives his punishment.

And there is that chasm. Remember the parallelism? It’s here too. Dives builds a big fucking wall around what is “his” to keep out the poor and the needy. And he finds that he has also dug a giant chasm between himself and his salvation. 

Doesn’t this sound relevant today? Let’s build a big fucking wall to keep the illiterate, diseased, and impoverished people out of our nice little rich white country. They can go back and starve or get raped and murdered or whatever - it’s not OUR problem, right? 

Jesus Christ begs to differ. 


I want to return to the idea of “Spiritual Masturbation” again. James Dobson, like most of us, wants to feel good about himself. He wants that thrill of feeling good and righteous and decent. 

But he has no intention of actually BEING good and righteous and decent. He wants to be vicious and cruel to vulnerable people by sending them away and locking them out. 

So he needs another way to reach spiritual orgasm. 

Look again at his article. Notice all the careful language describing all the suffering. He wants the reader to feel just how empathetic and sorrowful he is. He cries with them, you see. He yearns that those poor children know that God loves them (even as he flat out refuses to actually show God’s love to them by his actions.) 

This is intentional, and it serves a purpose. Dobson needs to feel good about being bad - and he needs his audience to feel the same way, or they might notice his cruelty and call bullshit on him. 

So, he creates an emotional response - seeing our fellow beings suffer tends to do that if we are not sociopaths - and crafts the appearance of empathy. That “Biblical Boner” or “Kristian Klitoris” starts getting aroused. The feeling of well-being because of empathy starts getting closer. It’s coming, it’s coming…

And then, Dobson does a nice little switch. With all that spiritual/empathetic arousal going on, he switches away from empathy for the hurting. He makes “those people” into threats, and re-directs the empathy toward the reader, who is encouraged to feel fear and loathing toward “those people.” See how that works? 

Dobson has written pornography here. 

This is a species of what is known as “Poverty Porn.” To give a quick definition:

 “Any type of media, be it written, photographed or filmed, which exploits the poor's condition in order to generate the necessary sympathy for selling newspapers or increasing charitable donations or support for a given cause. It is also a term of criticism applied to films which objectify people in poverty for the sake of entertaining a privileged audience.”

There is a long and sordid history of this both with charities and organizations like National Geographic. In some cases, the cause is at least noble - raising money to fix problems. However, as the marvelous Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie notes, “The problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” In essence, Poverty Porn denies the impoverished their own voice. 

Dobson goes one worse, however. His cause is most certainly NOT noble. He is literally calling for great harm to be done to the vulnerable. But he is still exploiting the victims of his cruelty. He builds up a feeling of goodness and empathy, and then twists it to fear and hatred of the refugees. It’s astounding to me. But it appears to tap into a dark part of human nature. 

I remember in 2015, President Obama took some heat for making a very astute observation regarding ISIS (which he called a “death cult):

“Lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ … So this is not unique to one group or one religion. There is a tendency in us, a sinful tendency that can pervert and distort our faith.” 

The thing is, Obama was absolutely, completely correct. There is indeed a sinful tendency in us to make cruelty and violence to outsiders part of a religious ritual. Which is EXACTLY what James Dobson has done here. 

I strongly recommend Jamelle Bouie’s article from 2015 on the way lynchings were a religious ritual. It is vital to understand that white Southern Evangelicals were obsessed with female sexual purity - like modern Evangelicals. And that obsession manifested in a hatred of black men, which were deemed the threat to white virginity. All toxic religions demand sacrifice - usually of “other people.” And thus, African Americans were murdered in the name of “christianity” in order to preserve “purity.” 

You can see the same vile principles at work in Dobson’s article. Those “diseased” poor people are a threat to “the culture as we have known it” and thus must be kept out. If they die, so be it. Purity is to be preserved at the cost of those dirty “other people,” who aren’t fully human anyway. 

Thus, Dobson hasn’t just made Spiritual Pornography. He has made a rape and snuff film, where his voyeuristic readers can get their spiritual rocks off reading about suffering - and then taking action to harm those who suffer. 

This has to be the most disgusting thing I have ever seen. 

I need to go take a shower now.


Having laid this out, let me conclude with this:

James Dobson is openly advocating for sending desperate people back to suffer more.
James Dobson’s response to the suffering of others is not to invite them in, as Christ commanded, but to send them away still suffering. And build a big fucking wall to keep them out. And change the law so they have no ability to come here. James Dobson manipulates the emotions of his readers through Poverty Porn, using moral and spiritual arousal to excite hate and cruelty toward vulnerable people. 

There is a word for this:


Pure Evil. 

James Dobson is an evil man, and we need to say so. 

He is also a Sodomite:

‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.  They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.’ (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

This was a particularly horrible discovery for me, given my background. Dobson was one of the big figures in my childhood. We enjoyed the Adventures in Odyssey radio program, among other things - but there is no way I am letting my kids near his stuff now.  My textbook on puberty was Preparing for Adolescence. I read (and then had to completely unlearn) his book on women. What a total joke that was - wildly inaccurate about...pretty much everything. 

But for a long time, I thought that he was, like my parents and others who followed Dobson, wrong but misguided on a bunch of stuff. 

But it turned out that, like sexual predator Bill Gothard, James Dobson wasn’t just wrong. 

He was evil.

He wasn’t a Christian at all, but an anti-Christ.

He wasn’t following Christ, but following the call of White Nationalism, misogyny, and abusive parenting. His words and actions are the fruit - and they reek to high heaven. 

And make no mistake - he is very much the enemy of true Christianity. He is a threat to vulnerable people, particularly refugees. Rather than help and defend the vulnerable, he advocates for sending them away where he doesn’t have to see them die. Although I would welcome true repentance on his part, I am not holding my breath. (True repentance requires restitution, and he has a HELL of a lot of damage in his wake.) But I do hope he reads this. It is high time he was rebuked for his evil and called to repentance. And the same goes for his followers. Those of you who reposted Dobson’s nastiness: you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself, and have no right to name the name of Christ while doing so. You stand against the very teachings and example He gave us. 

For the rest of us, we have a choice. Will we continue to defend the unjust and show partiality to wicked men like Dobson? Or will we side with the vulnerable and defend them from the evil that Dobson and others would do to them? 

“How long will you defend the unjust
    and show partiality to the wicked?
 Defend the weak and the fatherless;
    uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
 Rescue the weak and the needy;
    deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:2-4)


I wrote this a few weeks ago, and posted it to Facebook, but not the blog.

Some Sunday Morning Thoughts: 

There has been a good bit of discussion as to whether our immigrant "detention facilities" qualify as concentration camps. Under the most textbook definition, they clearly are. Civilians are detained - children included - despite having committed no crime other than that of trying to migrate the the US. They are detained because of their national origin - essentially their race or ethnicity. They are, to put it bluntly, detained for political reasons, namely that a significant portion of the white citizens of the United States do not want more non-whites to come here. (Otherwise, we would have fixed our immigration laws to match those of the 1800s, when borders were largely open to immigrants.) On the other hand, the term "concentration camp" conjures up images of the Holocaust - when "christian" white people in Germany did their best to exterminate a people group.

I have been to Dachau - a concentration/extermination camp in southern Germany. I have smelled the remains of the ashes in the crematoriums. (I will never forget that.) I have also been to Manzanar, the concentration camp where thousands of innocent men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned for no crime other than their ethnicity. To be sure, we didn't try to exterminate them - but what we did was still a moral shame and outrage, and a blot on our history.

But let me lay it out: when you have come to the point where you are having an argument over whether your particular prisons for innocent civilians - men, women, and children imprisoned because of their national origin and inconvenience to the rest of us - qualify as "true concentration camps" or not, your morality is already fucked up beyond repair. To anyone seeing this from the outside, these prisons have more in common with Dachau than not - and are indistinguishable from Manzanar. Innocent people are being imprisoned, not because they have chosen to commit immoral acts which endanger the rest of the community - but because they have had the gall to flee violence and poverty and seek a better life for themselves and their families - and the color of their skin makes racist white people uncomfortable.

The fact that these uncomfortable people are overwhelmingly self described as "christian" and "evangelical" is an incredibly powerful argument in favor of atheism as a morally superior religion/philosophy - and overwhelming proof that "christianity" in America is a morally bankrupt mess.

On a related note: we are not in church this Sunday, have not been for the last 2.5 years, and have no intention of doing so in the foreseeable future. #irefusetosellmysoul #exvangelical #emptythepews


It might be worth closing with this one, from a perceptive artist, dramatizing one of the great early humanists, Thomas More, who literally died for his moral principles. 

From the hand of William Shakespeare (his contribution to Sir Thomas More):

Grant them removed, and grant that this your noise
Hath chid down all the majesty of England;
Imagine that you see the wretched strangers,
Their babies at their backs and their poor luggage,
Plodding tooth ports and costs for transportation,
And that you sit as kings in your desires,
Authority quite silent by your brawl,
And you in ruff of your opinions clothed;
What had you got? I’ll tell you. You had taught
How insolence and strong hand should prevail,
How order should be quelled; and by this pattern
Not one of you should live an aged man,
For other ruffians, as their fancies wrought,
With self same hand, self reasons, and self right,
Would shark on you, and men like ravenous fishes
Would feed on one another.
Let me set up before your thoughts, good friends,
On supposition; which if you will mark,
You shall perceive how horrible a shape
Your innovation bears. First, ’tis a sin
Which oft the apostle did forewarn us of,
Urging obedience to authority;
And ’twere no error, if I told you all,
You were in arms against your God himself.
...Say now the king
(As he is clement, if th’ offender mourn)
Should so much come to short of your great trespass
As but to banish you, whether would you go?
What country, by the nature of your error,
Should give you harbor? Go you to France or Flanders,
To any German province, to Spain or Portugal,
Nay, any where that not adheres to England,—
Why, you must needs be strangers. Would you be pleased
To find a nation of such barbarous temper,
That, breaking out in hideous violence,
Would not afford you an abode on earth,
Whet their detested knives against your throats,
Spurn you like dogs, and like as if that God
Owed not nor made not you, nor that the claimants
Were not all appropriate to your comforts,
But chartered unto them, what would you think
To be thus used? This is the strangers’ case;
And this your mountanish inhumanity.

1 comment:

  1. Well---and thoroughly---said. I've felt as if I was taking crazy pills this past few months seeing so many people insist that Christians have no duty to help others unless they're already US citizens, and that the people in the camps deserve it---even the children!---especially given that many, if not most, of the refugees seem to be (Catholic) Christians.