One thing I’ve learned to expect of the Christian Right is that the “outrageousness” limit of their political rhetoric knows no bounds. I’d like to think that some ideologial movements as they reach the apotheosis of their power and influence take to overreaching. The grandiosity ‘quotient’ of their rhetoric and the demonizing of ‘enemies’ denote a kind of desperation for ever more power and influence. I would hope that the American people are watching this ‘flame out’ in the making within the ranks of the evangelical activist community. I would hope they begin to take notice of the rhetorical decay setting in to this movement.
As a student of Jewish history, I chronicle in this blog the serial abuses of the Holocaust employed by the Right to justify their various parochial political schemes. I’ve featured the rhetorical sins of Grover Norquist and Phil Gramm here among others.
Now, James Dobson of Focus on the Family gets the treatment. The Forward reports that Dobson “criticized embryonic stem-cell research, saying its lack of ethics and morality was reminiscent of Nazi experiments on death-camp inmates.” When the Anti-Defamation League protested this horrific misuse of Holocaust rhetoric, Dobson’s website urged its supporters to deluge the ADL with protest e mails, which they dutifully did. Only problem was that some of the slightly more ‘vociferous’ supporters got a little carried away and used anti-Semitic rhetoric and threats in their comments.
The article’s author notes an ominous connection between Dobson’s misuse of the Holocuast and previous right wing extremists similar rhetoric:
Stem-cell advocates said that the use of Holocaust analogies is particularly alarming in this case, given that similar language was used by elements of the pro-life movement before several abortion doctors were murdered. Some religious conservative activists argue that aborting a fetus or destroying a fertilized embryo outside the womb is akin to the taking of a human life.
Radical anti-abortion activists historically have invoked the Holocaust and trafficked in antisemitism, according to an ADL investigation conducted in the late 1990s. During that decade, four out of five abortion doctors killed in the United States and Canada were Jewish, including Barnett Slepian, who was shot in his Amherst, N.Y., home in October 1998 after returning from Friday night Sabbath services.
One has to wonder whether the Christian Right will next set stem cell medical researchers as their political or even physical target given the past history of the anti-abortion movement. God help us let’s hope this isn’t the case. I know I don’t have much in common with the evangelicals and don’t understand much of their thinking–but I cannot for the life of me understand why science and religion must be at war in their evangelical worldview. To me, it’s a crying shame that stormtroopers like Dobson lead their followers in such a retrograde movement away from scientific progress and medical advances that save the lives of evangelicals and non-believers alike.
Speaking of which, I have a proposal for Rev. Dobson and other prominent evangelicals opposed to stem cell research. Will you take a pledge that should you develop any life-threatening disease (such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, spinal injury, etc.) for which stem cell research develops a cure–that you will refuse such treatment because it is not in consonance with your ethical/religious principles? Any opponent of stem cell research who refuses such a pledge is a total hypocrite in my opinion. Now, of course I don’t expect anyone to take such a pledge. You’d be a fool if you did because you’d be sealing your own death. But I think you get my point about the evangelicals not having the courage of their convictions.
Dobson has twice refused suggestions by interviewers that he apologize in subsequent media appearances (as the ADL has requested that he do).
I’d like to know what gives Dobson the right to misappropriate such a sacred portion of Jewish heritage? If I wanted to make a political point would I stoop to manipulating Jesus’ suffering on the Cross to do it? No. It would be presumptuous of me to do so both because I’m not Christian and because I wish to show respect for the suffering of the Chrisitian God. Apparently, Dobson, megalomaniac that he is, thinks it’s fine and proper to appropriate Jewish pain and suffering for narrow political gain. For shame, Rev. Dobson!
It’s more than a crying shame. The “talibangalists” (as I like to call them) are succeeding in weakening science education even further in this country. I just read this really fascinating book called “The Trouble With Science” by Robin Dunbar, which came out 10 years ago back when “Intelligent Design” just meant a well-designed car or something. He made the point that we’re so dependent on science to sustain our way of life (our technology-dependent way of life including things like “eating” and “drinking clean water” and “not getting sick and dying of horrible diseases”) that if we stop sustaining scientific research and development, and lose our ability in these areas, we’re in for a really rough ride.
H G North says
Do Jews own the rights of the Holocaust? Do you own the Holocaust? That’s seems, or as you present it, to be pretty arrogant.
His argument comparing the stem cell research seems quite plausible to me and it appears your only objection is that his reference to Nazi is an infringement simply because it references a event you feel deeply about. It is more than the Jewish people that feel strongly about the Hitler’s treatment and value of life.
He has just as much right to “appropriate” that event as you do to object to it. It’s not sacred. LIFE is sacred.
Richard Silverstein says
What an ignorant & offensive comment by HG North.
Do Jews “own” the Holocaust? Let me put it this way. If your mother and father were turned to ash in a crematorium would I grant you the right to “own” their death and any discussion about it we were to have? Yeah, sure I would. If I said to you that some moral issue I felt strongly about reminded me of your parent’s death & you felt I was abusing their memory in making such an analogy should I respect you and their memory & desist from using such an analogy? Yeah, that would be decent & respectful of you.
The fact that you don’t understand what I’m saying & feel Dobson did nothing wrong despite protests from national Jewish groups like the ADL and from a Jewish blogger like me shows that you have no respect or decency on this issue.
You say my “only objection” to his analogy between stem cell research and Nazi medical experiments is that it is an “infrigement…because it references a [sic] event [I] feel strongly about.” NO! First of all, I object to Dobson’s views on stem cell research. I object to his analogy because it is historically false and because it is manipulative and debases the memory of 6 million Jews murdered and those of other religions and nationalities killed as well. Other than that, Dobson’s comment was fine.
“It’s [the Holocaust] not sacred.”
Says who? Says you? Again you are offensive and ignorant. The memory of those murdered by the Nazis IS sacred to Jews. You must have a heart of stone and the empathy of an icicle not to understand this.
Keith Higa says
You do make a good point re: whether the leading evangelicals would be willing to refuse treatment with stem cells. At least Christian Scientists (who have been known for shunning conventional medical treatment itself in favor of prayer healing) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (who refuse blood transfusions even in life-threatening situations), whom evangelicals revile, are willing to put their beliefs re: medical treatment into practice.
I just wish Dobson, North and the rest of them would turn their righteous ire on some real-life examples of genocide occuring RIGHT NOW. Like Sudan. I’m not a big fan of Holocaust/Hitler invocations anyway (people have compared Bush to Hitler and that doesn’t seem quite right either.). Sometimes things are just bad on their own — no need to invoke past disasters.
But these people’s logic is nonexistent. Shall we stop using electricity because it was used in electric chairs?
But when you drop the H(olocaust)-bomb, you don’t have to prove your point, back it up with evidence, or have a discussion. You can just say “XYZ is as bad as the Holocaust!” and watch your minions do your bidding.
Keith Higa says
Two words: Godwin’s Law.
Richard Silverstein says
I can’t believe I’d never heard of it (maybe because it’s bad luck to define it?). Anyway, this Wikipedia article is hilariously dense:
So can we agree that Dobson has lost whatever argument he was trying to make & should slink back in defeat fr. whatever lair he emerged??
Keith Higa says
My point exactly, Richard. 🙂