Wednesday, May 16, 2007

James Dobson and the Middle East

Andrew Sullivan links to a discussion between James Dobson and fellow traveler Joel Rosenberg about a book the latter has written about Armageddon and the current middle eastern situation. Here is a favor of the discussion:
"Dobson: Joel, we've just read quotations telling us that a nuclear attack on the United States in the long run is inevitable. ... We know that appeasement never works. How can you negotiate with people whose stated intention is to kill you?

Rosenberg: you can't. ... our command is to "be strong and courageous." That's what God said to Joshua four times in the first chapter of Joshua. We who have the Holy Spirit in us should not cower in the face of this, because the Muslims are lost, and because they are lost they are being driven I believe by THE ENEMY in a way that will confront us but we know that Jesus Christ is powerful and we know he is moving in the Middle East.

Dobson: We know the Lord is in control. We know that he has never lost a battle. And we know he loves us, and he loves the nation of Israel and has made that clear for thousands of years. So what should we do?

Rosenberg: I think the bottom line is found in Matt 28, verses 18-20, where Jesus says "All authority under heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples of all nations." Jesus is calling us to go reach the nations of the Middle East, Russia and elsewhere....God says he is going to supernaturally intervene, we're talking about fire from heaven, a massive earthquake, diseases spreading through the enemy forces. It is going to be such a clear judgement against the enemies of Israel that Ezekiel 39 says that will take seven months to bury all the bodies of the slain enemies of Israel. And the birds of the air and the beasts of the field are going to eat many of these slain soldiers. "
This is lunacy, but should we be surprised? I've always argued that the zealous support for Israel in the US owes more to fundamentalist protestant theology and less to the "Jewish lobby". There are various hues to this theory. In its most extreme form, dispensationalists believe Israeli strength against its neighbors will help bring about the second coming of Christ. Of course, ironically, the Jews are damned in the end. A less extreme reading holds that the Jews have a divine right to the land of Israel.

Catholics believe differently. While the Jewish people are our forefathers in faith, they have no divine land lease. Neither does anybody else. In fact, Jesus made it quite clear he was not interested in a political campaign to get rid of the Romans. He emphatically rejected reclaiming the Promised Land by conquest. The false messiahs who were his competition embraced the idea. Their efforts led to the destruction of the Temple and Masada, as well as the abolition by the Roman Empire of the province of Judea. In recent times, the Vatican has never recognized the existence of the state de jure, only de facto.

The views of Dobson and his friends are not just examples of bad theology to laugh about (like Scientology!). No, they have chilling implications. They are behind the obstinate refusal of the US to play fair in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle. And ominously, Dobson is now talking to Bush about Iran, and making comments about how we cannot appease Hitler/Ahmedinejad. Again, their messianic Calvinism allows them to divide the world into two groups, the good and the bad, assured that the bad will eventually perish. Going to war is nothing to be feared, as God will look after his own. As Catholics, we need to stand up to this insanity. It's the theology, stupid.

But where are the Catholics? Our old friend Bill Donohue is busy attacking Catholic Democrats and praising Jerry Falwell's "moral courage so often lacking in religious leaders of all faiths." What else is new?


Michael said...

The super blog is praising Falwell also.

Anonymous said...

No doubt Falwell was greatly admired by Aikin, the Catholic Answers crowd and their followers. Falwell spoke out politically. He consistently made a fool of himself but did not shirk from what he considered his his "moral duty" to herd his flock into the Republican fold (not to mention the considerable power and perks it accorded him).

The reluctance of most Catholic bishops to follow Falwell's example is what underlies much of the criticism you hear from certain elements in the church today. It's not enough to have Donohue making a public fool of himself, we should also have our bishops patterning themselves after Jerry Falwell.

wvarner said...

I really enjoy reading your comments, and I agree with you quite a lot (and even when I don't, I find your comments insightful). But I did bristle a bit at your claim that it was their "messianic Calvinism" that was underlying this laughably bad theology (and I agree - it approaches even that of Scientology). I don't think there is anything Calvinistic about it. In fact, as a Calvinist I find these views repugnant - as should any good proponent of covenant theology (which, it is my impression, has a surprising affinity with a Catholic view - check out this). If anything, its a Dispensationalist mentality that drives this unhealthy favoritism towards Israel (and there is nothing Calvinistic about Dispensationalism). Hope you don't mind my contending with you on this point. In fact, I think Calvinism and Roman Catholicism have a lot more in common than either of us would be very comfortable admitting.

Morning's Minion said...


Thanks for the comment. And no, I don't mind the contention-- I like good honest debate! You are probably right, and my langauage may have been a bit sloppy in this context. But I've seen many arguments (and I've stated it in this blog) that the American exceptionalism that underpins American foreign policy has strong Calvinist undertones. Wilson and Dulles were both devout Calvinists. And I'm sure Bush has no idea what Calvinism means, but he is influenced by it nonetheless. Perhaps the best way to describe it is a form of derivative Calvinism that feels comfortable dividing the world into 2 groups, the good and the bad, the saved and the damned. See what you think of this post I wrote back in February:

Anonymous said...

Michael, are people really praising Falwell over there? I didn't see that. I saw prayers for his soul.

Regarding this post: Dear, dear God. I am not a big fan of Dobson and I am reminded why.

Anonymous said...

As an orthodox (loyal to the magisterium) Catholic, I'd take 10 Dobsons any day as a model to lead my family over your twisted liberal mindset.

Anonymous said...

Dobson is great

liberals need medication

Margaret said...

As an orthodox (loyal to the magisterium) Catholic, I take my marching orders from the CATHOLIC CHURCH and it's duly appointed leadership---NOT James Dobson or any other fundamentalist carnival barker.

The time is sure to come when, far from being content with sound teaching, people will be avid for the latest novelty and collect themselves a whole series of teachers according to their own tastes. . .
2 Tim.

Mike said...

Dobson is a sick man: