If you read a major national newspaper this week, you may have seen the screaming full-page ad beginning with this headline: “These Religious Leaders Have a Serious Gambling Problem . . . ” The ad, which also runs on television, pictures Ralph Reed, formerly with the Christian Coalition, Rev. Lou Sheldon from the Traditional Values Coalition, and Jim Dobson of Focus on the Family with a sinister photo of Jack Abramoff. Talk about guilt by association.
I was called the Nixon “hatchet man,” so I ought to know a “hatchet job” when I see one, though I am not sure that I have ever seen anything quite this vicious since the McCarthy era.
The facts are these: Jim Dobson had nothing to do with the Indian tribes or Abramoff. The allegations in the attack are without any basis in fact. Jim has fought gambling in forty-three states. This is nothing less than libel.
The attack on these Christians is sponsored by a group called Defcon. Its website lists the people, a Who’s Who of the extreme left, including same-sex “marriage” and pro-abortion activists, liberal professors, and ACLU luminaries. And they have the nerve to say that Dobson, Reed, and Sheldon have “waged war against our Constitution.”
While battling such horrors as stem-cell research, the ad says, “all the time they must have been betting that they would not get caught taking their thirty pieces of silver and selling out the millions who believed them. [But] they were wrong.”
Well, whoever is bankrolling Defcon will soon discover that sensible people do not react kindly to this kind of vicious smear and guilt by association.
But there are two lessons here. First, there is no way in today’s polarized environment that you can boldly oppose evil without being viciously attacked—even if you speak gently, lovingly, and winsomely. Attacks, I guess, mean that we are having an impact.
The second lesson is a bigger one. In the Internet age anybody can create a front group, and no one has to disclose where the money is coming from. A full-page ad in the New York Times costs about $168,000. Did the people listed on the Defcon website pay for the ad? If not, who did? Non-profit groups file with the IRS, and anybody can find out who funds them. But you can create a phantom group on the Internet and smear people with impunity. This is wrong.
And it goes over the top. If he were alive today, I think Sen. McCarthy would look at this and be embarrassed. Defcon gives McCarthyism a bad name.
With McCarthy the nation’s conscience finally kicked in. Joe Welsh, the legendary council for the Army, famously asked him, “Have you no sense of decency, sir . . . ?” That galvanized decent Americans, and the tide shifted as the press began condemning McCarthy’s vicious tactics. They were rightly outraged, and McCarthy was censured by the Senate. Where is the press outrage today?
Now, this is not a time for Christians to strike back in anger. But we ought to be calling people to moral indignation. And we ought to remember that when we fight evil, we will be attacked by unprincipled people. Take it in stride. As my friend Richard Neuhaus said some years ago, “Undaunted, we are enlisted for the duration bearing witness to the truth.”
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See Defcon’s website to learn more about the group. View Defcon’s ad against James Dobson, Ralph Reed, and Lou Sheldon. (Adobe Acrobat Reader required.)
Steve Jordahl, “Opponents Try to Tie Dobson to Abramoff,” Family News in Focus, 9 March 2006.
“Group Targets Dobson for Alleged Ties to Lobbyist,” Associated Press, 8 March 2006.
Max Blumenthal, “Abramoff Splits the Christian Right,” Yahoo! News, 7 March 2006.
Mike Soraghan, “Liberal Group Targets Dobson,” Denver Post, 7 March 2006.
M. E. Sprengelmeyer and Jean Torkelson, “Group Targets Focus Founder,” Rocky Mountain News, 8 March 2006.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060113, “Revolution to Revulsion: Ambidextrous Corruption.”