Culture,  Politics

Dobson Rejects McCain Candidacy

The President of Criswell College (where I teach) hosts a daily radio show in Dallas called “Jerry Johnson Live.” Last Thursday the show made headlines because of an interview that Dr. Johnson did with Dr. James Dobson. In that interview, Dr. Dobson stated emphatically that he would not support a John McCain candidacy for the President of the United States. You can listen to a clip of the exchange here, but here are the money lines from Dobson:

“I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances. . . He’s not in favor of traditional marriage, and I pray that we won’t get stuck with him” (source).

After the show, the Associated Press picked up the story (“McCain to Make Amends with Dobson”), and CNN aired McCain’s response to Dobson’s statement (“Evangelical Leader Snubs McCain”). McCain said:

“I’m obviously disappointed and I’d like to continue and have a dialogue with Dr. Dobson and other members of the community. . . I’m happy to say that I’ve established a dialogue with a number of other leaders” (source).

What is my take on this? McCain has no chance of winning the Republican nomination if he maintains his opposition to a constitutional amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. Unless he explicitly endorses this measure, he will not make it out of the ’08 Republican primaries—not by a long shot. The other Republican candidates will exploit this weakness, and McCain will not be able to overcome it.


  • dorsey

    I don’t think it matters. The republicans are done. The war is one reason, and the apparent power of religious leaders in American politics is another. We fear and decry the power of the ayatollahs and their role in Iranian policy, but Dobson’s wielding of inluence is no different.

  • Jason M.

    I believe you are correct in one respect, that is it may not matter in 2008 who the Republican ticket has on it due to the war. However, I’m unsure how to intepret your second comment regarding Dobson’s influence. Is influence a bad thing, or is religious influence a bad thing? The Homosexual Movement has in many respects just as much influence as Dobson. Is their influence negative as well?

  • Paul


    While I think that Dorsey is overstating the case a little bit, I think he’s on the right track.

    First off, Dobson has no place exploiting his tax-exempt status the way that he does, and I certainly hope that the Dems come after him with everything they’ve got in the next two years. It’d be one thing if he was simply supporting all pro-life and anti-gay marriage candidates. But, he was only throwing his support behind REPUBLICAN candidates. To do that is partisan, and to be publicly partisan is in violation of tax code. If the dems do one other thing beyond lobbyist legislation and a minimum wage hike, it should be nailing Dobson and his ilk to the floor.

    Secondly, while Dobson himself doesn’t wield the power of an ayatollah, taken in tandem with Tony Perkins, Pat Robertson, the ACLJ and Fox News, they as a team DO. I think it’s telling that on Sky Angel, the only news choice available is Fox News. And that’s disgusting.

    Third, the “homosexual movement” doesn’t have nearly the traction that you’d like to think it does. We’re talking about POSSIBLY 6% of the population, mostly clustered in urban and liberal leaning centers. When the “homosexual movement” starts gaining traction in Nebraska, then you have reason to worry, but not yet.

    Finally, as a point to Denny, you must remember that a Senator’s first duty is to HIS CONSTITUENTS. Not to James Dobson. Arizona has long been a very libertarian place, and Phoenix is a big center for homosexuals. Being pro-marriage amendment would be bad for his state, and against much of what his state is all about. You can’t ask a senator to go against the will of his state because James Dobson would like him better.

    While I think that John McCain is a politician in the worst sense of the word, I have to give him props for not giving in on this one. At least he’s a sniveling politician who understands the game.

  • dorsey

    I’m not saying influence is a bad thing. Politics is primarily influence.

    Here’s what troubles me about Dobson. I get furious when Louis Farrakhan claims to speak on behalf of Muslims. I get equally irate when Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton purport to speak for all African-Americans. They simply don’t, and their efforts to give that impression are dishonest. Similarly, when Dobson (or Robertson, etc.) try to give the impression that they represent evangelical Christians, I lose my mind. It’s difficult enough to combat people’s perceptions of what I stand for without some “Christian spokesman” coming along and trying to associate me with a political position (especially one with which I disagree).

    You can’t change hearts with politics. Dobson was more effective for the Kingdom when he was in family ministry. Now, he’s just another politician–except no one voted for him.

  • dorsey

    It should be noted that Dobson has set up a separate political organization that is not tax-exempt. I remember hearing him announce it on “Focus On the Family” (which IS still tax-exempt). He announced that the reason he was setting up this new organization was that his hands were tied by the IRS in the ministry and that, by setting up a political organization, he could “do whatever I want to do.” That’s a quote, and a mighty telling one, too.

  • Alex Chediak

    Denny, Dorsey and All:

    An excellent discussion. Dorsey makes many good points, but isn’t Dr. Dobson entitled to simply voice his personal opinion? I don’t think he said, “No Christian should support McCain.” So he wasn’t (at least in this instance) seeking to represent all evangelical Christians.

    This reminds me of a provocative book I’m reading called A Secular Faith: Why Christianity Favors the Separation of Church and State (by Daryl Hart, formerly a professor at Westminster West seminary). If you are curious, I have posted on the book here:

    Thanks again.

  • Kris

    McCain has repeatly stated he is against same sex marriage & abortion. His opinion is that the states should decide this issue which many have and I might add, every state that let the voters decide voted against same sex marriage.

    I think McCain’s stand on defense and spending are sound.

    I think Dobson is a good man and has done great things for our country and faith. I just think we should not be so dogmatic on the issue of an amendment “yet” at the risk of losing the presidency to a real far left person in 08.

    Ezekiel 16:48-50
    48″As I live,” declares the Lord GOD, “Sodom, your sister and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done.
    49″Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had arrogance, abundant food and careless ease, but she did not help the poor and needy.
    50″Thus they were haughty and committed abominations before Me Therefore I removed them when I saw it.

    Do we not see us the majority of the Church in the USA doing these same things God pronounced against Israel in the above passage? We build huge buildings and take ourselves out of the public schools. Do we vote for city sales taxes to build stadiums, canals, convention centers, etc, at the expense of taking away what little buying power the poor and needy have to sustain themselves? We are sick we worship entertainment and the Church is more guilty than the ignorant. I know many of the poor have lived lives that worsen their situtations, but do we not help the children of the man who will not work? If we do could we do more if we stop building these huge “compounds” with valet parking and starbucks stores while sitting in theater seats thinking God is pleased with our ‘careless ease’? Our justice system in this country has turned into money for justice and left the poor behind to serve out their just penalties while the those with money escape the very same penalties they should serve beside the poor.

    How come we don’t hear evangelical leaders on national TV addressing these issues?

    Like I said I think Dobson is a good man, but I hope he’s not the pied piper leading many who will follow him blindly into the sea on this issue. We have greater problems than this in this country.

    My 2 cents

  • dorsey

    Of course Dr. Dobson is free to voice his opinion. I appreciate your effort to give him the benefit of the doubt, but let’s be realistic. When Dr. Dobson said, “I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances,” and “I pray we don’t get stuck with him,” how many Christians do you think said, “So that’s Dr. Dobson’s personal opinion. I wonder what he would encourage other Christians to do?” James Dobson has already set himself up as a representative of evangelical Christians, so anything he says is seen as coming from our collective voice.

    I’ll look into the book you mentioned. It looks interesting.

    I’m enjoying this discussion. Thanks to Dr. Burk for hosting it.

  • Jason M.

    Thank you for helping me understand your point more accurately. While I understand your concern (Dobson does have significant sway on many people), I still have to agree with Alex on this one. Dobson made these comments on another show, correct? He was the one who was being interviewed. He is entitiled to give his opinion, even though some of you think he should have been more prudent.

    As to the comments and subject matter which are on his own show, I cannot speak to, for I have only listened to it about four times in my entire life.

    I hope we can get to the place where certain men or women are not looked upon as the chief spokesmen of particular groups. We all need to evaluate whether or not we agree with anything anyone states.

  • Jason M.

    I would have to disagree with your position that the Homosexual movement does not have very much political sway. Homosexuals may only represent around 6% of the population, however, there are more people in addition to homosexuals who politic for pro-homosexual rights. The Movement may not have an advantage population wise, but the Movement does seem have a lot of financial support.

  • dorsey

    To clarify, I think Dobson knows how much influence he has with many people and made his remarks with that understanding in mind.

    Our common ground:
    “I hope we can get to the place where certain men or women are not looked upon as the chief spokesmen of particular groups.”

    Amen to that, Jason.

  • debbie

    I feel Dobson has a right to say something against McCain. if McCain says one day that he is against gay marriage and abortion and then supports it by the way he votes. McCain flip-flops around as bad as Kerry.

  • dennyrburk


    McCain has said that he thinks marriage should be defined as the union of one man and one woman. He supports the effort to amend his own state’s constitution to reflect that belief. He does not, however, support an amendment to the U.S. constitution defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.


  • dorsey

    Thanks for clearing that up. I was unaware of the fine points of McCain’s position.

    Debbie, is this what you refer to as a flip-flop? McCain is not the first person to suggest that the marriage issue be one of states’ rights. I oppose amending the U.S. Constitution, also.

  • Paul


    You’d do well to go back and check McCain’s voting record. He’s voted pro-life every chance he gets.

    Yes, he flip flops, but he does it in the other direction. He makes overtures towards centrists, and then votes in ways in which we see that he’s yet another “socially conservative” republican. How he continues to stay in office in the land of Goldwater, I’ll never know.

  • Debbie

    I have heard McCain say that he would support unions if there were some kind of ceremony.
    If that isn’t supporting gay marraige then what is?

  • rf2r2

    Just fyi, in Ayatollah(?) Iran, the Supreme Leader has final say over all elected representatives including the President and regional representatives in all matters of public law. His decisions can only be opposed by a council of religious leaders who in his entire tenure have never been known to oppose him. Also, the Ayatollah came to be Supreme Leader by way of a violent religious revolution in Iran.

    As has been noted, I think the idea that there is no difference between Dobson and Khamenei is over exaggerated.

    As far as, “… anything he says [being] seen as coming from our collective voice [as christians],” I think this is more the fault of media than Dobson, though whether or not he relishes the imbued status is unknown to me. When cable news wants to do a piece about something related to ethics or religion of course they’re going to summarize the christian perspective into one talking head. Dobson happens to be a favorite these days. I think it is incumbent upon media consumers to read between the lines and gauge the accuracy of summarizing the entirety of christendom in one voice.

  • dorsey

    I’m not sure what you’re talking about. Go read my comment again. I’m almost certain that I never compared Dobson to the Supreme Leader of Iran. Ayatollah is a title given to certain Muslim clerics when they have attained a certain level of competency in the study of Islam. Sorry if I didn’t make that clear.

    And it makes little difference how Dobson came to be perceived as a spokesman for Christians. My point is that he IS perceived that way, and that he knows it. And, knowing it, he chose to make the statements that he did. To suggest that he is a victim of his own naivete is, itself, naive.

  • rf2r2

    My mistake, I read, ‘THE Ayatollah”, where you wrote, ‘the ayatollahS’. However, I still think it overblown to compare James Dobson to a group of religious leaders in theocratic Iran who lead thru domination of government and repression of public rights. For all his faults, I’m not ready to call Dobson (or his ilk) an iranian ayatollah.

    Also, I never suggested he was ‘a victim of his own naivete’. I merely pointed out that, regardless of his motives or his personal enjoyment or acceptance of his media status, he would represent christians anyway because the media summarizes protestants with his point of view. My point is that it can’t be helped – the media needs talking heads to survive, and Dobson is vocal enough and provocative enough to speak for christians. It’s just the way it is.

  • rf2r2

    Shouldn’t you be out defending something?

    They just moved us to twelve hour shifts – 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., bleh… so, yes, I’ll be out ‘defending’ very soon (if you can call pumping fuel defending 😉 ). BTW, how’s the weather in Jersey? It is cold as, well, you know, here in Carolina. I heard the north is getting it real bad.

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