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Thursday, March 08, 2007
Important Moral Issues
In response to the recent letter written by Dr. James Dobson and other conservative evangelical leaders to the National Association of Evangelicals attempting to get Richard Cizik fired for believing that global warming is an important moral issue, Jim Wallis has formally challenged Dobson to a debate. In a recent blog post he says:

Is the fact that 30,000 children will die globally today, and everyday, from needless hunger and disease a great moral issue for evangelical Christians? How about the reality of 3 billion of God’s children living on less than $2 per day? And isn’t the still-widespread and needless poverty in our own country, the richest nation in the world, a moral scandal? What about pandemics like HIV/AIDS that wipe out whole generations and countries, or the sex trafficking of massive numbers of women and children? Should genocide in Darfur be a moral issue for Christians? And what about disastrous wars like Iraq? And then there is, of course, the issue that got Dobson and his allies so agitated. If the scientific consensus is right - climate change is real, is caused substantially by human activity, and could result in hundreds of thousands of deaths - then isn’t that also a great moral issue? Could global warming actually be alarming evidence of human tinkering with God’s creation?

Or, are the only really “great moral issues” those concerning abortion, gay marriage, and the teaching of sexual abstinence? I happen to believe that the sanctity of life, the health of marriages, and teaching sexual morality to our children are, indeed, among the great moral issues of our time. But I believe they are not the only great moral issues, and Dobson says they are.

So Jim, let’s have that debate - the big debate. What are the great moral issues of our time for evangelical Christians? You’re right, a new generation is embracing a wider and deeper agenda than you want them to. I think that is a very good thing. You think it is a bad thing, and want to get people fired for raising broader issues than those connected to sexual morality. So, today, I am inviting you to have that debate about what the great moral issues of our time really are. Again, let’s ask a leading evangelical university to invite us both and host a public debate, and perhaps ask a major evangelical publication to co-sponsor it. Let’s have that debate, Jim, and see what America’s evangelicals think the great moral issues of our time really are. How about it?

A debate would be interesting, but I'm not going to hold my breath on Dobson actually accepting.

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posted by Julie at 9:14 AM ¤ Permalink ¤


  • At 3/08/2007 09:27:00 AM, Blogger Lydia

    I really hope that James Dobson accepts the challenge. He could help to bring about so much good in the world.

    And 30,000 children dead every day? I can't wrap my mind around that number, and it isn't even taking into consideration all of the adults who die from hunger and disease.


  • At 3/08/2007 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Lori

    I think I need to shut down the computer and go have a good cry. How God's heart must break...he loves us so dearly, and all we can manage is to protect our own little turf. I hope Jim Wallis is right--that a new generation is lifting up its eyes to the breadth of his kingdom, and the immensity of the task before us. It's overwhelming, but he's there in the middle of it all, and I'd hate to be so nearsighted that I miss him!

  • At 3/08/2007 10:54:00 AM, Blogger Linda

    Absolutely amazing. I think the thing that breaks my heart even more than Christians not caring whether or not they are good stewards and managers of God's world is the vehemence with which some Christians approach others when they differ about an issue of secondary importance. That Dobson would call for Cizik's resignation because of global warming is so far removed from the behavior scripture requires of fellow brothers and sisters. I could understand wanting to remove someone from a position within a parachurch organization because of a view that Christ is not the central figure of the gospel, but parting ways and becoming nasty over a secondary issue is simply not acceptable in the kingdom of God.

    That said, I think that those of us who believe that global warming and the environment are legitimate moral issues ought to stand up for them as persuasively and kindly as we possibly can.

  • At 3/08/2007 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    I'm not sure why Dobson was singled out here...anyone know?

    I'd agree that its not acceptable for one member of an organization to put forth views that are meant to represent an organization as a whole - i.e, to speak on behalf of that organization - if its not an agreed upon or settled matter. I can't be sure from this if that's what he actually did or if it just came up in his daily life/other activities.

    I do find it odd though that the letter comes from outside the organization and that its 'public' but I have no idea if there were former attempts to speak one on one or in private.

    I don't see anything in that letter to indicate that the NAE isn't concerned with 30,000 children dead each day. The associated letter indicates information to the contrary actually - that there is a concern for looking at what some proponents of global warming might suggest and the effects that THOSE things might have on the poor etc.

    I have to admit that I don't know much about global warming and I admit I'm no fan of Dobson, but I think the associated letter he referenced is worth reading.

    And is anyone else bothered by Ciziks comment re: population control? Does anyone know what his beliefs are about that?


  • At 3/08/2007 01:40:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Thanks for posting this - it's hard for me to imagine that God would rather have preachers rail against supposed "sins" like same-sex unions and gender equality rather than empower people to do what they can to help the world.

  • At 3/08/2007 01:47:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Oh yeah, and the whole 10 commandments in the courthouse thing - that's really more important to focus on as opposed to millions of kids dying from diarrhea because they didn't have access to a simple IV saline bag - let's focus on the HUMAN family, Mr. Dobson.

  • At 3/08/2007 02:11:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Amen, Medium Guy.

  • At 3/08/2007 03:03:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    "Oh yeah, and the whole 10 commandments in the courthouse thing - that's really more important to focus on as opposed to millions of kids dying from diarrhea because they didn't have access to a simple IV saline bag - let's focus on the HUMAN family, Mr. Dobson"

    So, Medium Guy, do you ever focus on other issues besides millions of kids dying each day? To you concern yourselves with other things? Yes, you do. Like all the rest of us.

    For crying out loud people, its not "either/or".....

    Is that really what this blog and the emerging women are turning into?

    What are YOU (all of you, us, me..) doing to help change the numbers of dead children every day? Do you not think the sanctity of life issue - i.e abortion - is not about stopping children from dying?

    I'd love to see a thread with tangible actions people are taking in their own lives - not writing and protesting - but what everyone is actually DOING to change the world. Whose mouth did you put food in today? Who did you supply an IV bag to...

    There's enough wit and sarcasm and words flying around,'debate's and challenges and lines drawn in the sand about who is more 'right' and what issues are more important and trying to figure out what saddens God the most.......

    If we can JUST figure out what the MAJOR moral issues are today - then we'll be alright. Yeah, then we'll be good. GO for it Wallis. Duke it out with Dobson. I'm sure we'll all sleep easier at night when you do. A resounding cheer will go up from the Emerging Kingdom...

    but wait - what's that other sound I hear?

    Oh, its the wailing of the mothers and fathers of those 30,000 that just dropped dead.

    But thats okay - you boys put up your fists and duke it out. Have at it.

    *mutter* *sputter* ......

  • At 3/08/2007 03:35:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Hey Janice, I can see you're passionate, but I'm confused a bit as to what exactly you want.

    I agree stuff shouldn't necessarily be either/or. I personally think that was Wallis' point. That all these things are huge issues (including the sex stuff), they are all important to Christians. It is Dobson who's leading the cause to get someone fired for talking about other stuff. For him it is an either/or.

    I personally think the whole 10 commandments debate is insane - a huge waste of time and seriously not important. And yes I will make a judgement that a child dying is way more important to God than a list on a wall and then not waste any more time on that conversation.

    why do I think a debate would be worthwhile? People are leaving the church in droves because they perceive the church as being stupid an irrelevant. When pop stars care more about dying children than the voices of Christianity they have good cause to leave. when all they hear about is christians throwing hate speech at people because of their sexuality they have good reason to leave. When they hear christians rejecting science and reason because it doesn't agree with their political agenda, they have good reason to leave. But that is not christianity. James Dobson does not speak for me and for the sake of the kingdom I want to get that word out. I want others to get the big picture and to not reject God because of the narrow focus of guys like Dobson.

    And of course we need to be out there doing. The truth is is that for a lot of the world's injustices all the average person can do is send money or use mere words to lobby. That is action as well. If words aren't spoken and protests aren't held - awareness disappears. In no one speaks up for the suffering, the oppressors have won and the suffering continues. There are enough people in america today who can't tell you who the President is or where africa is on a map - do we think they will magically be aware of injustice and seek action steps to end it? It's not an either/or here either. words and actions are needed. Causes need to be defined, promoted and fought for on every level.

    I'm for promoting love - love for dying children, love for the unborn, love for the homosexual, love for God's creation, love for the lost. I want to help spread christ's love but that's hard to do when others spead hate in the name of christ. So there isn't an either/or on the issues, but it is an either/or on if we speak the truth in love or in hate.

  • At 3/08/2007 05:59:00 PM, Anonymous Rachel

    Amen, Julie!

  • At 3/08/2007 06:47:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    Hi Doxallo,

    I can appreciate that my previous posts were brief and yet loaded, and I can see where the logical endpoint would be one devoid of context. Believe me, when it comes to pondering how God's love is being manifested in our world by people like you and me, I put a great deal of prayer and thought and discussion into the effort to be a disciple, and try to get my mind and heart and soul around what a huge and complex issue that is. My previous posts were speaking to the fact that when I tune into my local "Christian" KLOVE affiliate radio station, the top "news" stories are all about issues very much like the ten commandments posting issue - local, domestic, political, and not very much to do with incarnational ministry. When I read other secular news stories, people like James Dobson are quoted as saying very typical "Christian Right" kinds of things and not very much is said about the other issues (ie peace and poverty around the world, etc.) Therefore, I am not assuming that James Dobson has absolutely no care about these other issues, however, the message he and his compatriots send suggests otherwise, and that is what I think the other posters and myself are trying to get at. These folks have a large influence in mainline Christian circles and are heavily quoted in the secular media and have a lot of political lobbying power. Therefore, I feel led to give voice to those issues that seem to be minimized, so that they can get the same level of attention. It is not either/or, Doxallo, but rather all/and and above all putting discernment of God's calling above politics.

  • At 3/08/2007 06:57:00 PM, Blogger medium guy

    p.s. along the lines of Doxallo suggesting we contribute how we have done things to help the world, I have had experience as a patient advocate in a developing country and I plan, God willing, to continue and support outreach there with just the kind of public health interventions that include getting basic medical supplies to those who need them. Hence the saline bag reference.

  • At 3/08/2007 07:14:00 PM, Blogger Linda


    Oh, how I respect what you're saying: "Faith without works is dead." At least I think that is mostly what you're saying in your last post. And I'm fairly certain that there are a significant number of people who post on this blog quietly going about the work of helping others wherever they can - the poor, sick, and drug-addicted in their communities, the single pregnant women deciding whether to carry to term, the illiterate, the poor of other countries through donations, and, in general, the "weak" of this world.

    The battle cry of the women's suffrage movement was "Deeds Not Words!" But ironically, those in the movement also found that they needed words to persuade others of the justice of their cause. So it was because of both deeds and words that women finally obtained voting rights. Granted, that was an issue of civil rights, but it certainly shows how important are both deeds and words to the cause of justice in our world.

  • At 3/08/2007 10:03:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    Julie, Medium, and all,

    I agree with you. For me personally, my family has followed James Dobson and Focus on the Family as if they "were" God. What Julie described is exactly what happened in my own family. Many family members would "boycott" this, that and the other (things like Disney Land because of "gay Day"). It got to where it was absoluntely insane the things we couldn't do or buy because of a boycott.

    Those in my family that weren't as extreme, got to where "Christianity" completely turned them off. I remember my dad saying "In the time that they have spent worried about Disney Land, they could have volunteered for a homeless shelter, or fed some hungry people."

    I agree that we need to be doing what we say also, as I feel many of us probably do. If I had the chance, I would up and fly to Africa and offer my services tomorrow. I have asked God to help me find ways to do more.

    I know that the "debating" gets old, but I agree with Julie, that if the other side didn't make it known that these vocal people don't speak for all of us, than a certain presumption will be made.

    I think at the heart, we would all love to get to a place where people and their ideas can be respectfully discussed and considered, unfortunately, too many groups "know they are Right about God", therefore, everyone else is "wrong".

  • At 3/08/2007 10:47:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    I know that the "debating" gets old, but I agree with Julie, that if the other side didn't make it known that these vocal people don't speak for all of us, than a certain presumption will be made.>>>

    I really don't care about the 'presumptions' of others - actions are the only thing that will undo the voices of Dobson and others. Not to say he isn't doing his work for the kingdom and probably doing a lot of good for a lot of people.

    too many groups "know they are Right about God", therefore, everyone else is "wrong". >>>

    Exactly. And the EW folks don't aren't exempt from that attitude and that concerns me

  • At 3/09/2007 12:18:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    To turn this into a constructive discussion, Janice what actions do you suggest would "undo the voice of Dobson" that average people can do?

  • At 3/09/2007 08:40:00 AM, Blogger Doxallo

    You're really missing the point Julie. I'm not concerned with Dobson's voice. Nor do I think its worth wasting time on. Not when there are other pressing issues, that's really part of the irony.

    Where I'm sitting - Wallis doesn't look any different than Dobson, and neither do you in this particular regard.

    I personally don't think Dobson is the enemy. I believe its wasting time debating Dobson, or pumping PR for God or the church, or competing with celebrities for the worlds attention. Like charging windmills. Not only that, but it detracts from the important issues and only creates one great big mud puddle for everyone to play in. And for others to stare at. It diverts attention from more important issues.

    Got a problem with Dobson? Take it up with him. Go to him. Tell him. Write him.

    I find all the posturing and blogging and catty remarks sad.

    And someone said they were concerned with image?

    Where's the love and respect for Dobson - or wait, doesn't he 'deserve' any or merit it?

    If you don't see it..... well, guess its just another one of those 'different perspective' kind of things.

  • At 3/09/2007 10:35:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Janice - I was just quoting your own words and trying to move the conversation forward.

    Yes we will have to agree to disagree on Dobson - for reason mentioned here and others. I think he is dangerous and slanders God.

    The point of my question was that it seemed you were promoting action instead of talk. I was curious what action you would recommend and am still interested. If your point was just to talk and tell us why we are all wrong and get that off your chest, fine we agree to disagree. Differing perspectives need to be brought up here more often. But I wanted to give you space to present different options as well.

  • At 3/09/2007 12:01:00 PM, Blogger Doxallo

    I do promote action.

    I stated it.

    Go talk to Dobson Julie.

    Take it where it belongs.


    Go feed the hungry - care for the poor - love your neighbor - including Dobson.

    That might be a start for you.

    And you're right, this has become a mighty one sided blog - more thoughts need to be put forth. I hope they will be.

    I think Wallis and the like are dangerous when they turn the christian agenda to this:

    "Let’s have that debate, Jim, and see what America’s evangelicals think the great moral issues of our time really are. How about it"

    Debating over what evangelicals believe to be the great moral issues of our time. Pish posh.

    Sounds sort of like Dobson writing that letter to the NAE - perhaps a waste of time depending on who's judging. Meanwhile, they (and you) all could have spent the time moving forward to actually take care of some of those moral issues (there's the action part again) instead of bickering with our siblings.

    Not that you apparently consider Dobson your sibling. I can see why you wouldn't - With him being dangerous and slanderous and all.

    I personally find the attitude displayed disrespectful, as I may have already mentioned. Not that you disagree with Dobson's views, but the manner in which its done. Rather than talking about Dobson, talk about the issue. You've made him the issue. I don't believe he is, so yes, we'll disagree there.

    Perhaps its really Cizik who is MIGHTY dangerous and slanderous when he begins talking about population control. SO lets talk about population control, not Cizik - don't make him a 'legend' of some magnitude.

    I appluad Dobson's approach to global warming, as he states:
    'there are many unanswered questions (cut)..the causes of increased temperature....(cut)..public and scientific dialgoue over global warming is far from resolved...(cut)greater certainty is critical before public policy decisions of such magnitude are made."

    I agree.

    I don't deny global warming or think we shouldn't be concerned about it - neither does Dobson. A measured approach is his thinking - its mine too - and a lot of other people's. I appreciate your right to tell us that we're all wrong though. ;-) Or that we're dangerous for having other primary calls or agendas.

    Also well within Dobson's rights as the mission statement he's committed to:

    "(CUT) these issues (marriage, family, protection of unborn, support of religious liberty, preservation of morality and decency in public and spread of gospel) remain the focus of FOF."

    Now, people like you and Wallis can jump up and down and focus on the ten commandments in a courtroom or the issue of gay marriage -- those aren't the thrust of Dobson's mission from what I see. But the more you all holler about it, the more press it gets. GO figure.

    As I said, I personally believe your chasing windmills. That is of course your right. I'm sure we all chase a few in our lifetime.

    Take alook at the opening post - its says nothing about the issues. It talks about Wallis and Dobson and a great debate. Now thats something worth dreaming and praying for. A great debate - all hail the great debate!

    For the great debate will come forth and save us all!

    A few in the following comments seemed to get it - but the over riding theme is about personalites and not issues.

    As I said, if you don't get it - you don't get it Julie.

    I am a great proponent of agreeing to disagree. But perhaps I'll begin to take your cue and not do it in silence anymore. I'm sick to death of people attacking the person and not the issue and most are too damn blind to see the difference.

    And no, I'm not out to attack you personally, I'm not calling for a debate or your resignation. I'm weary and I'm sad. And I responded directly to medium guy and he responded back. As I said, Got an issue with Dobson - tell him about it Julie.

    I won't respond again in this thread. You can email me if you'd like. This wasn't meant to be personal.

    Here's another action item - if KLOVE (whoever the hell they are) isn't broadcasting the news you want to hear - tell them. Not by bickering with Dobson, but by systematically and thoughtfully putting forth what IS important. THATS the action that I'm talking about.

    You don't have to detract from others or fight with others - thats not getting your issues heard. Speaking about your issues is action.

    It seems to me far too many make Dobson and the likes their issue. THE issue. Its not.

    If the issue is global warming - go talk to people, your neighbors, your co-workers, companies, churches, families about global warming. THATs action. Go gren. THATS action. Don't waste your breath debating Dobson. You care far too much what Dobson has to say.

    I'm done on this topic.

  • At 3/09/2007 12:16:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Thank you for the response. I disagree and have my reasons, but it is obviously pointless to state them. (which does make it hard to have discussions on differing viewpoints), So you can have the last word. Peace.

  • At 3/09/2007 04:34:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    It saddens me when it comes to the above. In my perception the original post was nothing more that posting a letter and a response. Of course there is an opinion that leans to one side, what isn't. I didn't however see it as a big sling of mud, originally.

    After being on this blog over a year, I have always felt that you have handled yourself well. We all get emotional about things, but I have a lot of respect for you.

    As for

    "And you're right, this has become a mighty one sided blog - more thoughts need to be put forth. I hope they will be."

    Emerging "ideas" are not perfect and yet, there are probably common ideas within the emerging concepts. It is called "Emerging Women" for a reason. And, as for getting off this blog and "doing something", it is a blog. We are talking because demographics don't allow us to "do things together", not that we aren't "doing things" in our own right, but this is one facet of living out our faith.

    Had you not posted the letters etc., I would have known nothing about it. I personally get annoyed with it all. However, as much as I would love to "just do" my faith, and ignore all of the battles, I agree that "discussion" and questioning are important to keep a balance.

    Again, in my experience it is way to easy for people of influence to "speak" for all, and many times, ideas aren't questioned or evaluated. Ex. I don't think anyone in my family has ever disagreed with anything James Dobson has said or done. He is so revered that they just wouldn't. I don't think he is a horrible person, but I do disagree with a lot of his beliefs.

    I don't think it is a problem to disagree. The problem lies with the attitude that is behind it. Without being in your shoes Julie, I venture to guess that you have had your share of attacks. I don't think you have any problem "discussing" with others...but if my experience is anything like what yours has been, "discussion" doesn't usually happen.

    In my experience, I share thoughts, and then am attacked for being "wrong", then it usually ends like the above. I am sorry that this happens.

  • At 3/09/2007 04:34:00 PM, Blogger Michele L

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 3/09/2007 06:49:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Janice, I completely understand your desire to not demonize any one individual and to keep to the issues.

    Sadly, we live in a personality cult culture where people offer up their hearts and minds to celebrities ranging from Angelina Jolie to James Dobson in mass idolatry. Celebrities are therefore in a unique position to either exploit their power or use it for good. Most don't do just one or the other. And when that power is used in harmful ways, the individual needs to be called to accountability because of their influence on the masses. "To whom much is entrusted, much is expected." My neighbor/grandmother/co-worker simply isn't going give a hundredth of the weight to what I say over coffee as they are to what somebody like Jolie or Dobson say.

    Also, I feel strongly that there is a place for quietly going about doing good on an individual basis, but poverty is not primarily an individual issue; it's a systemic evil, resulting collective selfishness, and the only way to change it is to work both at individual hearts and at public awareness and policy to bring mercy and justice to our human family.

    And of course Dobson is part of that family.

  • At 3/09/2007 06:54:00 PM, Blogger Jemila Monroe

    Sorry, I totally forgot to mention the environment, which is the primary topic of the original post. My statements go for that issue as well -- we can all do our best to use resources wisely, but we tend not to think greatly about things that are not habits unless we continually raise one another's awareness. Many people, once their awareness is raised genuinely want to do what they can to be responsible with the earth's resources and to consider how we can care for our planet so that is is a nurturing planet for our grandchildren's children. But we need to be reminded of the importance of doing our part and raising the awareness of others -- awareness and urgency lead to positive action.

  • At 3/10/2007 12:06:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

    Ironically, Julie and I just hosted a "Faith & Our Environment Forum" the other night for our whole community where one of the major topics of discussion was global warming and what we can do about it. How's that for following Janice's advice to "go talk to people, your neighbors, your co-workers, companies, churches, families about global warming."

    But amazingly we also found time to debate about Dobson online and thus help make sure that his is not the only Christian voice out there on this issue. What do you know... it's possible to do both.

    It doesn't always have to be an either/or.

  • At 3/10/2007 12:33:00 PM, Blogger Linda

    I don't know if anyone is still following this thread, but I would be interested in discussing the original post a bit more. I think that the negative things we say about any person or organization ought to be aimed at change within the boundaries of grace, and I think this issue is worth discussing. It is unfortunate that attention was diverted from the original topic.

    Here's what I would like to discuss: Aside from raising public awareness about the issue of global warming, what (specifically) are people doing to combat it? I'd love some more ideas to fit into my family's life.

    Here's another thing I would like to discuss: How do we allow everyone in the Christian community a voice to speak from their convictions when we strongly disagree? (Maybe I should publish this as a separate blog post for comment.) It seems that the original post is an excellent example of intolerance regarding views within the Christian community. While I don't know much about Cizik's tolerance of other viewpoints, it sounds like Dobson has decided that Cizik ought to be silenced because of the belief that viewpoints that do not echo his own should not be heard. Am I perceiving this wrongly? The other thing that perplexes me is that Dobson has his own organization, and it seems odd that he would try to dictate the leadership of an organization not his own.

    I wish the Christian community could truly learn how to listen to each other and have conversations that show a desire to step into the other's shoes for the duration.

  • At 3/10/2007 07:04:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    I do think these are good things to continue to discuss - all the topics you mentioned and perhaps a new most would be good.


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