Friday, March 09, 2007

An open letter to Dr. Dobson

Recently, I read the letter that you and others sent to the National Association of Evangelicals, urging them to step away from the issue of global warming, and to stop shifting “the emphasis away from the great moral issues of our time, notably the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage and the teaching of sexual abstinence and morality to our children.” I also read some of the rebuttals you received from people like Jim Wallis and Brian McLaren.

Dr. Dobson, this whole thing makes me heart-sick. It troubles me that a man of your influence cannot see that the “great moral issues” might also include the fact that over 800 million people in this world are still living with hunger. What about the fact millions of people are dying of HIV/AIDS? And what about the fact that, because of the greed and excessive consumerism in “developed” countries, global warming is having the most profoundly damaging effect on the poor and vulnerable?

I have read through the gospels several times, Dr. Dobson, and every time I do, I am reminded that one of the things that Jesus talks about the most is that we should care for the poor. Where does that fit into your “great moral issues”? If someone does not even have enough food to eat and has to put their child to bed hungry every night, how can you have the audacity to tell them that the only thing Christians should be concerned about are morality, abortion, and the evils of same-sex marriage?

Your letter goes on to say that population control is a dangerous issue that Christians should not concern themselves with because the only way population control can be achieved is “by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young, and, even by infanticide in China and elsewhere.” So, in other words you’re suggesting that your definition of morality should always trump the other issues in this world, like over-population in developing countries and the spread of HIV/AIDS? Might I suggest to you that if we first addressed the heavy burden of poverty, we might THEN be able to address the morality issues you’re concerned about? Take for example the situation where the men in the village need to leave the village to find work to feed their families. While in a foreign place, living with intense loneliness, they take up with prostitutes who infect them with HIV. They then return home and infect their innocent wives and children. Yes, you’re right of course, their immorality is wrong, but perhaps the whole problem might have been averted if the root of the problem – poverty – had been addressed in the first place. Preaching to them about the evils of immorality will not save their wives and children from death at the hands of AIDS or hunger-related illness.

Let’s go back to global warming. Not long ago, I visited a nomadic tribe in the Afar region of Ethiopia. Historically, this region faced drought every twelve years or so. Because they had sufficient rains in the years in between, they could usually survive the barren years and still maintain their nomadic lifestyles, following their cattle to drinking holes and grazing lands. But now, due to global warming, they face drought every 5 to 7 years, and their lifestyles are no longer viable. They can’t count on the in-between years to sustain them through the barren years, and most of them are living with extreme hunger. Add to that challenge the freak weather patterns that come along with global warming – like the flood that wiped out many of their roads and bridges last year – and you have millions of people left scrounging for food in desperate situations.

I saw the faces of the children, Dr. Dobson. I held their hands. I tell you that there is no way I could have preached to them about morality if I didn’t first offer them food and the promise that I would strive to play a smaller part in the global warming that is destroying them.

Dr. Dobson, I am neither a scientist nor a theologian, so I cannot “prove” global warming nor can I present a great theological argument about what I believe is our responsibility to respond. I can, however, tell you what I have seen and what is on my heart.

It is my prayer that the Christian church can someday set aside the divisions and together address what I believe are the great moral issues that you should at least consider adding to your list. If nothing else, Dr. Dobson, I wish you would at least consider Jim Wallis’ invitation to join him in a healthy debate on these issues. We all need to keep an open mind – myself included.


Anonymous said...

i hope you are going to send this one to him.

Vicki said...

He needs to see this.

I just can not imagine putting my children to bed hungry. That thought is with me now. I feel responsible.

Joyce said...

One of the most sensible moral letters I have ever had the privelege to hear.
Makes beautiful, difficult sense.

Gina said...


Erin from Boston said...

I know that it is different from what you have seen, but there are already some native people in Alaska dealing with the destruction of their livlihood and homes due to melting ice caps due to global warming.

Whippersnapper said...

Wow. Great post Heather.

Focus on the Family and organizations like that make me, literally, sick to my (very delicate) stomach. The political influence they have is absolutely appalling. Honestly, if there is a modern definition of "evil" they would be it, they are (indirectly?) (directly?) responsible for so much of the crap that goes on in our world.

Everyone above is right: He should see this.

Anonymous said...

on the other hand:


Lucia said...

I really appreciate that you took the time to organize your thoughts and present a very serious issue in such a thoughtful and powerful way. Not that he'll listen, but I too hope you do send it to him.

All of these issues--global warming, HIV/AID, economic inequality, hunger--are interrelated, and until we understand that, we cannot hope for the world to change.

I love that new John Mayer song...Waiting for the World to Change.

karla said...

Heather, this letter has sent chills down my spine. It is very powerful and profound.

WOW. Who needs a morning cup of coffee to wake you up when you have the striking words of Heather?

Thank you for sharing.

sushil yadav said...

In response to your post on global warming, drought, environmental crisis and morality I want to post a part from my article which examines how all these issues are interlinked. Please read.

The link between Mind and Social / Environmental-Issues.

The fast-paced, consumerist lifestyle of Industrial Society is causing exponential rise in psychological problems besides destroying the environment. All issues are interlinked. Our Minds cannot be peaceful when attention-spans are down to nanoseconds, microseconds and milliseconds. Our Minds cannot be peaceful if we destroy Nature.

Industrial Society Destroys Mind and Environment.

Subject : In a fast society slow emotions become extinct.
Subject : A thinking mind cannot feel.
Subject : Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys the planet.

Emotion is what we experience during gaps in our thinking.

If there are no gaps there is no emotion.

Today people are thinking all the time and are mistaking thought (words/ language) for emotion.

When society switches-over from physical work (agriculture) to mental work (scientific/ industrial/ financial/ fast visuals/ fast words ) the speed of thinking keeps on accelerating and the gaps between thinking go on decreasing.

There comes a time when there are almost no gaps.

People become incapable of experiencing/ tolerating gaps.

Emotion ends.

Man becomes machine.

A society that speeds up mentally experiences every mental slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A ( travelling )society that speeds up physically experiences every physical slowing-down as Depression / Anxiety.

A society that entertains itself daily experiences every non-entertaining moment as Depression / Anxiety.

Fast visuals/ words make slow emotions extinct.

Scientific/ Industrial/ Financial thinking destroys emotional circuits.

A fast (large) society cannot feel pain / remorse / empathy.

A fast (large) society will always be cruel to Animals/ Trees/ Air/ Water/ Land and to Itself.

To read the complete article please follow either of these links :




Anvilcloud said...

the only way population control can be achieved is “by promoting abortion, the distribution of condoms to the young, and, even by infanticide in China and elsewhere.”

Did he really say that? The actual way to control population is through development. The saying that "Children are a poor man's wealth" has a lot of truth in it. Educate people (particularly girls) and give them a shot at raising their standard of living, and birth rates will fall.

Linda said...

I cannot add to what anyone else said except, Amen, Amen, Amen.

Robin said...

Heather, perhaps what I most appreciate about this open letter is your thoughtfulness and respect extended towards Dobson. I don't think he's evil or wicked, in fact, Focus on the Family has done a great deal of good! BUT, perhaps sometimes he (and the organization) is myopic...it has never quite squared with me how we (the Christian community) can elevate some issues while closeting others. When I look at the things Jesus cared about, well...sometimes it doesn't look the same as present day evangelicals.

The more I read, the more I realize I've been missing something not visiting you more often.