James Dobson’s near endorsement is now up on the web, and if anyone’s surprised by it, I’ve got a temple in Jerusalem to sell them. The conversation in which it occurs, however, is worth listening to. Dobson’s interlocutor is Al Mohler, the president of Southern Seminary in Louisville and a Southern Baptist of many parts. They devote most of their energy to Barack Obama, and there’s little question that he’s got them worried. By them he’s very charismatic, very intelligent, very seductive, and very very liberal–more liberal than Bill and Hillary, more liberal than any Democratic presidential candidate in history. And he’s got evangelical Christians all confused. Mohler signs on to the view that there’s a generational thing going on here, and cites his own position in the world as evidence. My goodness, it seems there may even be an Obama underground at Southern! If you detect a whiff of the AntiChrist in their portrayal of the Illinois senator, I won’t say you nay.
Dobson and Mohler take the view that there’s a new wind blowing though contemporary evangelicalism, and Mohler in particular thinks it’s necessary for the movement to do some rethinking, but what that rethinking might look like he doesn’t say. It’s still the same old abortion-and-homosexuality agenda, to hear them talk; if Al’s got anything up his sleeve other than a denunciation of climate change advocacy, there’s no evidence of it here.
Meanwhile, the real repositioning of evangelicalism is coming from the now increasingly familiar persona of Rick Warren, who, NYT’s Jim Rutenberg reports, has successfully managed to sign up both Obama and McCain for a forum at his megachurch prior to their respective nominating conventions:
“I just got to thinking, you know what? These guys have never been together on the same stage, it would be a neat way to cap the primary season before they both go to the conventions and things go dark for a couple of weeks,” he said. “I’ve known both the guys for a long time, they’re both friends of mine, and I knew them before they ran for office, so I just called them up.”
This harks back to Billy Graham-style establishmentarian evangelicalism–putting the seal of approval on candidates of both parties. Indeed, Warren is even prepared to go the interfaith route, joining forces with Faith in Public Life, the organization that ran the Faith Forum attended by Obama and Hillary Clinton just before the Pennsylvania primary. He will, he said, devise his questions with input from Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders associated with that group.
Such legitimization of Obama by the likes of Warren is no small barrier to Dobson/Mohler demonization.
Update: Melissa Rogers usefully recalls Warren’s 2004 “five non-negotiable issues” email that he now, apparently, regrets sending. Those were the days when he was a man of the orthodox religious right cloth.
Update: Warren meets Blitzer.