A decade ago, conservative syndicated columnist Cal Thomas won some liberal props for criticizing the religious right in Blinded by Might, a book he wrote with Grand Rapids megachurch pastor Ed Dobson. Thomas and Dobson were old comrades-in-arms of Jerry Falwell–Thomas VP of the Moral Majority and Dobson associate pastor of Falwell’s Thomas Road Baptist Church. The book charged MM and the religious right generally of succumbing to the blandishments of power, and without backing off conservative social values, opened the door to a wider vision. Here’s a Wallis-esque passage from an essay of theirs based on the book (available here) that gives the flavor:
Both the religious left and religious right go wrong when their theologies and their practices are selective. They take from God those things that seem to bless their political agendas and reject or ignore those things that won’t raise money or that make them feel uncomfortable.
Dobson has gone on to live out this vision. Retired and suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease, he determined last year to live as Jesus lived, growing a beard, keeping kosher and observing the Jewish sabbath and holidays, taking the occasional alcoholic beverage, and preaching the word of God from place to place. And towards the end of the year, he decided to vote for Obama, despite the latter’s support for abortion rights. As he told Charles Honey of the Grand Rapids News:
I felt, as an individual, he was closer to the spirit of Jesus’
teachings than anyone else. (Obama) was a community organizer, so he
was into the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, which Jesus is very
Not surprisingly, this earned him some national attention and caused some consternation in the evangelical world.
For his part, Thomas has stuck to the religious right’s straight and narrow. Last week, for example, he took out after Meghan McCain and Steve Schmidt for presuming to suggest that the GOP should rethink its conservative orthodoxies, particularly on gay marriage.
Republicans are in electoral trouble for many reasons, but one of them
surely is not that they are insufficiently liberal on social issues.
What’s the point of having a two-party system if one party mimics the
other? Many erstwhile Republican voters turned on the GOP not because
they were insufficiently liberal, but because they were insufficiently
And true to form, Thomas’ GOP orthodoxy extends to economic policy–as witness this early attack on Obama’s stimulus package.
No doubt, as Thomas and Dobson argued in their book, those phone calls and invitations from the White House suckered some true believers into reposing too much hope in the Republican Party. But the real seduction was the Faustian intellectual bargain that bound religious conservatives to a reactionary economic agenda. Thomas remains in thrall to it. Dobson asks, “What would Jesus do?”