The Common Good

Jeff Carr: An Open Letter to James Dobson

Dear Dr. Dobson,

I've wanted to write you a letter for a long, long time, but until now, it just hasn't seemed like the right time. I waited all last week to hear what you would have to say about the scandal surrounding Rep. Mark Foley (R-Florida); the revelation that he was having sexually explicit conversations with underage pages, and that the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives knew about this for many months (maybe even years) and did nothing.

You see, I'm an evangelical Christian and an ordained minister in the Church of the Nazarene. As you know, we share a common Nazarene heritage that introduced both of us to a relationship with Jesus Christ, nurtured us in the development of our faith, and educated us through their colleges.

When I was growing up, you were one of the respected leaders in our church, even though you held no "official position." You wrote books about how to raise healthy children and sought, through your books, to help couples who were struggling with not only raising their children, but also maintaining their marriages in a culture and economy that creates more pressures on families every day. Your message was one of positive suggestions and tips for parents, and encouragement that with some focused effort, and God's help, families could swim upstream and provide the kind of safety and nurturing necessary for health and stability - for all members of the family. At least that's the way I remember the message as a kid.

But somewhere along the way, I fear you have lost your way. Your message of hope has turned into a message of partisan politics. Instead of words of encouragement, your words seem to continually blame someone else for the problems of the world.

I just read your words that were posted on your Web site on Friday about the Foley scandal, and I must say I was very disappointed, but not surprised. While, thankfully, you did condemn the acts of Rep. Foley, you spent the majority of your time attacking "the liberal media," the Democratic party, and gay people - who, according to your thinking, are the real problem in America.

Unfortunately, I don't think your statement rings true for millions of evangelical Christians, who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus and the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures ... inerrantly revealing the will of God concerning us in all things necessary to our salvation (Church of the Nazarene Manual). Your statement comes across as the same kind of partisan rhetoric that you claim to be fighting. More hubris than humility. More politics than principle.

The problem in American politics is that our leaders have succumbed to a lust for power and domination that is characteristic of the world. Rather than just condemn the acts of a sick congressman, I had hoped you would criticize an entire political system that is held by the vise grip of this lust for power.

This country is hungry for religious leaders who live by the principles lived out by our savior Jesus Christ. Hundreds of thousands of Nazarenes and millions of evangelical Christians are yearning to be identified by our love and acts of compassion. We want to be led by leaders who stand for principles, no matter what the cost may be politically.

The country and the world desperately need to hear "good news," which was the true message of Jesus and is the root meaning of the word "evangelical." Unfortunately, Dr. Dobson, I don't hear much "good news" coming from your lips these days.

I'm not just disappointed in the way you responded to the Foley scandal this past week. For if the definition of evangelical is "good news," I'm afraid you may not be very evangelical anymore for the vast majority of people in this country.

Sincerely,

Rev. Jeff Carr
Ordained Minister, Church of the Nazarene

Jeff Carr is Chief Operations Officer for Sojourners/Call to Renewal.

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