In Defense of James Dobson

Another large tragedy, another Christian leader taken to task for saying that it might be connected to the judgment of God on America. From what I can tell it first began with an article from Right Wing Watch, “Dobson: Connecticut Shooting was God Allowing ‘Judgment to Fall Upon Us’ for Turning Our Back on Him” which included this quote from Dr. James Dobson’s radio program from this past Monday, “A Nation Shaken by the Sandy Hook Tragedy”:

Our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

You can imagine what the reaction to that was in some circles. The path it took to me was from Right Wing Watch to Mediate (“James Dobson Finds A Way To Connect CT Shooting To Abortion And Gay Marriage”) to Patheos (“The Callous Theology of James Dobson”) to a tweet by Brit Hume of Fox News fame:

Brit Hume Tweet

Christians seeking meaning in the horror of Newtown who may be drawn to the words of James Dobson should read this:
http://t.co/pDXK0J6F

Hume’s Twitter-shortened link pointed to the Patheos piece, which really was just an intro by Thomas Dalrymple followed by an article by Peter Wehner (who Dalrymple describes as “one of the leading evangelicals in Washington for a long time now.”  That is, Wehner is a Christian…and he goes after Dobson’s “callous” words with great energy.

Now, although I always question the wisdom of Christians publicly connecting a tragedy or natural disaster with God’s judgment (especially right after the occurrence), I figured it was important to hear what Dobson actually said, not just what he was quoted as saying.  That doesn’t mean just making sure the words are accurately quoted, but also that they are an faithful in-context representation of what the person was actually stating.

It seems that nobody else did that because (a) all of the articles quote Dobson with the same (albeit minor) transcription error from Right Wing Watch and (b) the minute-ish quote does not reflect Dobson’s point in-context (especially any claim he was directly connecting same-sex marriage with the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy…the “consequences” he was talking about in that respect had to do with its effect on the family and the domino effect that would then have on society). (In fairness to Right Wing Watch, they did include the audio…although they started it mid-sentence.)


I have called this post, “In Defense of James Dobson”…but other than what I’ve written already I am not going to do that.  Instead, I’m going to allow Dobson’s own words defend (or condemn) themselves.  I am including portions below from various points in his program (in order).  Please read and listen to them for yourself and then decide if Dr. Dobson was really saying God killed all those little children as judgment on America for gay marriage and abortion.

Better yet, listen to the whole thing yourself by downloading it for free.  One measure of a man is how much he is willing to give his enemy a fair shake in every situation.

As a final note, even if we do assume Sandy Hook was an aspect of God’s judgment on the United States (which I personally don’t), please ponder one of my tweets back to Brit Hume:

Response to Brit Hume Tweet

@brithume One big thing 2 consider is that those affected by judgment aren’t necessarily those who r being judged. Sin has collateral damage

And yes, that’s my 5 year-old I am snuggling with in my profile picture…so, this does hit home.


Excerpt 1 (Dobson’s very first words)

That’s right Lou-Ann. My heart is grieved…wounded…as others are feeling today over the killing of 20 children and 6 adults. Most of them kindergarteners, 5 years-old…that occurred last Friday. Senseless killing of children who had nothing to do with whatever was eating the man who did that.

Excerpt 2

Now this was spoken and then written down in the 1980’s. It is far, far worse today. Families are coming apart at the seams. Now I’ve read this account today because of the continued break-up of the family. I have plead with congressional leaders and presidents and parents to work for the preservation of the family. That has been my life’s calling. And if we forget the vital role that it plays in the well-being of society, and especially the mental and physical health of children, we will certainly pay a price for it.

Excerpt 3

He [Dr. Armand Nicholi] continues: ‘That figure [hospital beds taken by psychiatric patients] could hit 95% if the present incidences of divorce, child abuse, child molestation, and child neglect continue to soar. In that event we will see vast increases in teen suicide, in drug abuse, and crimes of violence and problems related to sexual disorientation. This is our future if families do not come to terms with the needs of their children.’ I am convinced that the level of violence occurring today, perhaps the killing of 20 children last week in a school in Connecticut, that when the facts are known they very well may fit into what Dr. Nicholi said.

Excerpt 4

That’s what I thought of. Now, I haven’t had time to determine whether the man who killed all those children last Friday. It may or may not be true that he fits into this picture, but I would guess that it is

Excerpt 5 (includes the “offending” words)

Lou-Ann, you and I were talking before the program started today about the fact our country really does seem in complete disarray. I’m not talking politically, I’m not talking about the result of the November sixth election; I am saying that something has gone wrong in America and that we have turned our back on God.

I mean millions of people have decided that either God doesn’t exist, or he’s irrelevant to me and we have killed fifty-four million babies and the institution of marriage is right on the verge of a complete redefinition. Believe me, that is going to have consequences too.

And a lot of these things are happening around us, and somebody is going to get mad at me for saying what I am about to say right now, but I am going to give you my honest opinion: I think we have turned our back on the Scripture and on God Almighty and I think he has allowed judgment to fall upon us. I think that’s what’s going on.

UPDATE: On Thursday, December 27 Dr. Dobson released the following statement regarding some of the reaction to what he said: "For Immediate Release! UPDATE: 'A Nation Shaken by the Sandy Hook Tragedy.'" And no, he didn't "back down." I respect that.


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