Friday, February 04, 2005

JAMES DOBSON wants to set the record straight about SpongeBob. He is very upset that the media has made it look like he thinks SpongeBob is gay. He doesn't think SpongeBob is gay. What he's saying is that SpongeBob is being used to teach children "sinister" and "terribly dangerous" ideas; namely, that some people are heterosexual and some people are homosexual and that's just fine.

Dobson's comments about the "pro-homosexual agenda" are the usual serving of radical right-wing moral fanaticism passed off as the unarguable conclusions and beliefs of anyone who identifies as religious or Christian -- which of course is not true.

What's got Dobson's knickers in a knot is a video produced by an organization called the We Are Family Foundation. The video features most of the currently popular cartoon characters, including SpongeBob, in an effort to promote the idea that all human beings are family ("We Are Family") and that we should respect and accept our diversity. This is fine with Dobson -- as long as homosexuals aren't included in that message.

The stated purpose [of including the phrase "sexual identity" in a tolerance pledge], as we have seen, is to teach children to respect each other and to accept those who are different. We are entirely supportive of that message. I have been teaching it for years. There appears to be another agenda operating here, however, that has serious implications for your kids. Quite simply, it is to desensitize very young children to homosexual and bisexual behavior.

Somehow Dobson feels that children can be taught to "respect and accept" others, regardless of disagreements or differences, while simultaneously being taught that the essential nature of a specific class of people is evil and immoral.

Every individual is entitled to respect and human dignity, including those with whom we disagree strongly. The problem is not with acceptance or kindness, certainly. But kids should not be taught that homosexuality is just another "lifestyle," or that it is morally equivalent to heterosexuality. Scripture teaches that all overt sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage is sinful and harmful. Children should not be taught otherwise by their teachers, and certainly not if their parents are unaware of the instruction.

Apparently Dobson feels that public schools and secular private schools should not include anything in their lesson plans that would contradict the radical Christian right's interpretation of the Bible. But apparently he's not up on the story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, and Ishmael. Abraham had sexual relations "outside the bonds of marriage" with Hagar -- at his wife's urging, no less! Nowhere in the Hebrew Bible is that relationship condemned, by God or anyone else. There are other examples in the Bible of extramarital or nonmarital unions -- including incest -- that worked for the good and that were understood as being part of God's plan for the Jewish people -- and, if you're Christian, for the genealogical line that led to Jesus of Nazareth.

Dobson's statements are fundamentally dishonest. He accuses the We Are Family Foundation of having material on their website explicitly supportive of homosexuality (horrors!) and of removing all of that material after the controversy over Dobson's SpongeBob comments. He tells us, Don't bother to try checking the accuracy of my claims about the Foundation by going to their website. All the stuff that I'm telling you was on their site is gone now, "mysteriously vanished," as he puts it.

In the days since this story broke, the majority of overtly pro-homosexual content has been removed. The founder of the organization, Nile Rodgers, appeared on the "Today Show" and said that we had the wrong site and that they had nothing to do with homosexuality. That was Jan. 21. Two days later, most of the homosexual content disappeared or became inaccessible. I will leave it for you to determine the motive behind the mysterious vanishing of such material by the We Are Family Foundation. Suffice to say that we have clear documentation that these materials were being promoted on the Web site as recently as late January, despite denials to the contrary.

But Dobson provides no details about this "clear documentation," nor does he give any hints about how we may obtain access to it.

We are told, as usual, that Christians are being prevented from observing their religion by a corrupt secular society. "Easter has become 'Spring Break,' and the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ cannot be celebrated." It can't? I imagine that statement might greatly perplex the millions of Christians in America who spent Easter doing just that in churches and homes all over the country.

I draw my own personal line, though, when Dobson twists the meaning of important passages in MY sacred text -- the Hebrew Bible.

Parents, I urge you to keep a close eye on your sons and daughters. Watch carefully everything that goes into their little minds. Monitor their textbooks and the words of their teachers. Do not turn them over to harmful television programs. When God’s name is used in vain, or when sex and violence come on the screen, turn off the tube and then read and discuss together the scriptures found in Psalm 103:1: "I will set before my eyes no vile thing" [NIV]. Read uplifting and inspiring stories to your children daily. This obligation to teach your children biblical truths continually is unmistakably written in Deuteronomy 6:6-8, which tells us:

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands, and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. [NIV]

The translation is pretty close to the one in my Jewish Publication Society Hebrew Bible, but Dobson's interpretation of what it means is very different from what it means to Jews. That passage is talking about the obligation of Jews to teach their children the laws and commandments given in the Torah -- all 613 of them. Most of those laws are not observed at all by Christians. There is nothing in a Jewish understanding of that passage that means parents should teach their children that sex outside marriage is sinful or that homosexuality is immoral.

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