Values and Errors

I often go to ABC News’ website to catch up on headlines and stories throughout the day. I noticed today that there was a story concerning some products being sold by a conservative political group, spoofing Barack Obama. The product was offensive on quite a few levels, although the product itself made me laugh: Obama Waffles: change you can taste. Now who wouldn’t laugh at that?? It’s clever and mostly harmless.  Except for this– On the waffle box, Obama is pictured with a turban on his head and the box says something about ‘turning toward Mecca.’  Whether or not you buy into Obama’s version of Christianity, these aspects of the product are highly offensive and not based in fact at all.  In addition, the graphics also contained strong allusions to ‘Aunt Jemima,’ which plays on images of slavery and black kitchen help. Please. Totally un-called for.

You can find the waffle product here:  (look for the depiction of Obama with a turban on the top flap… the Mecca reference is also there, but you may not be able to read it due to such small print)

I sighed and thought to myself, “Well, … Republicans and Democrats alike have done their fair share of dirty ads and funny cartoons. Whether it’s age-ism, sexism or racism, it’s offensive, but I’m not surprised.” But then I saw that one of the co-sponsors of the event where this particular product was being sold, was James Dobson’s organization Focus on the Family. My stomach turned.

Now Dobson has made no secret of the fact that he does not appreciate Obama’s perspective on Christian faith or politics. That is his right. I have no problem with that (although a friend of mine raised the ethical question of a non-profit religious organization declaring support for one particular candidate… should they lose their tax-exempt status? I don’t know.)  But to co-sponsor an event where this particular product is being sold?? That makes my blood boil. Now, before I jumped too far into my outrage, I began scouring the internet for any record of an official apology. I realize that there are probably scores of vendors at these types of rallies, and I’m sure Dobson’s people could not and did not vet each one.  I was hoping that Dobson would have the class and character to recognize the depth of this error, take responsibility for it and apologize for any offense. I went to Focus on the Family’s official site. Nothing. I went to Citizenlink, their political arm’s website. Nothing. I Googled “Value Voters Summit,” where I found an apology from the other co-sponsor… but nothing from Dobson or Focus on the Family. Nothing.

I am disappointed, and I am angry. To think that this product, this piece of trash, was connected to a Christian organization makes me want to vomit.  Dobson and his organization have claimed to serve Jesus Christ, and they obviously have a huge influence on Christian evangelicals in America. Dobson has claimed the spiritual authority to teach people how to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. He has taken on a huge amount of leadership. And while he doesn’t support Obama or what Obama stands for, he has got to recognize that this was wrong and extremely un-Christian… yes, I said it, un-Christian.

Though this story has been around for more than a week, he should, right now, apologize and ask forgiveness. Dobson needs to take responsibility for what goes on at events that his organization sponsors; and when something so offensive is connected with his name, I would think he would want to make it clear that he does not endorse nor does he support such things.  And, quite frankly, the fact that he has not acknoweldged this error in judgment, concerns me greatly.  What does that say about him and his organization? It is one thing to dislike a candidate’s position on the issues or his/her beliefs, it is quite another thing to lie about their background and make allusions to something as horrible as slavery. A great test of the character of a leader is how they handle moments of error. So far, Dobson is not passing this test, at least in my book.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Aunt Brenda
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 09:38:40

    I agree. I suggest we email Dr. Dobson and respectfully express our concerns about this.


  2. Jennifer Hershberger
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 13:35:59

    Kris Anne, I respectfully but adamently disagree. Knowing a bit about how booth space is rented for shows, I find you holding Focus responsible on this level unfair.

    Here is a copy of one of Obama Blog posts on the subject:


    September 18, 2008

    A Lie Is Still A Lie—No Matter How Often Repeated
    There’s no way we could possibly address the parade of half-truths and outright lies being reported as fact over what happened in Washington, D.C. at the Values Voter Summit. The latest lie served up by unreliable sources claims that “a lobbying arm of Focus on the Family rented a booth to sell Obama Waffles.”
    That claim is patently false.
    For those who still cherish the truth, our little company, West Wing Waffles LLC, is not a “lobbying arm” of Focus on the Family. Nor was that organization involved in the approval process or selection of the many vendors at the event. West Wing Waffles was solely responsible for renting the booth. End of story.


  3. krisanneswartley
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 14:14:03

    Thanks for the link, Jenn. Just to clarify, I didn’t say that Focus on the Family was selling the product or promoting it (except by proxy, since they co-sponsored the event). I agree that the product was not created or designed by Dobson’s organization, but I still maintain that their event-people should have vetted the vendors better. See the apology at

    I would have liked and would still like to see a similar apology from Focus on the Family.


  4. Jennifer Hershberger
    Sep 23, 2008 @ 22:17:10

    No, Kris Anne, I understood your point about Focus. I guess that I’m puzzled by the level of response in light of some other issues that are on the table.

    Obama pointed the finger at Americans for still not abiding by “that basic precept in Matthew that whatever you do for the least of my brothers, you do for me.”

    •To date has not helped his Kenyan half-brother who lives in a small hut on $12/yr.
    •Until he decided to run for office, he didn’t give above 1.4% of his income to charity. His highest rate was 6% in 2006.
    •He collaborated with Planned Parenthood to block a bill that would save the lives of infants that survived a partial birth abortion. Every other senator found this “grotesque and abhorrent.” An unwanted baby, who is powerless and cannot speak for itself (the least of these?)…

    …and a satirical cartoon on a box of waffle mix is unchristian?


  5. krisanneswartley
    Sep 24, 2008 @ 08:10:31

    Of course there are a number of issues to feel outrage over in this political season, and I for one, believe both these candidates have blood on their hands, for various reasons.

    I chose to express my anger over this because it involves pastoral ministry and pastoral leadership, things I have studied and obviously care about deeply. Demonstrating the humility to apologize for an error is something I value greatly in pastoral leaders, and something I hope I myself demonstrate.

    I’m not saying this negates any good James Dobson and his organization have done or are doing. I do think they’ve wandered into dangerous territory, however, and have made a significant error here.

    It’s not the box that’s unChristian, it’s the racism and the lies. I think we can all agree that those things are unChristian, as well as murder, greed and pride. And certainly, James Dobson is not unChristian, nor is Focus on the Family.

    Thanks for your comments and for pushing me to explain myself a bit further, and for pushing me to think about things from another angle.


  6. Jennifer Hershberger
    Sep 30, 2008 @ 11:20:33

    Just found this… I think it’s what we all want:


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