An Open Letter to Dr. James Dobson

Dear Dr. Dobson,

I read your July 2019 Newsletter this afternoon.

The letter you wrote about your visit to the border. I was curious about your first-hand experience. I was curious for several reasons. One, being that I too am an ordained minister. I am pastoring a church in the Christian tradition. Two, I value considering different viewpoints and I know that your stance is to the right of mine, on most issues. And, three, my father immigrated to this country. While a much different story, an immigrant still. I have not been to the border and mostly hear stories from NPR, the New York Times, The New Yorker and other progressive religious media/literature.

Hearing your story was important to me because we stand on different sides. It was in an effort to build a bridge, at least in my mind and heart.

I am confused by your letter. At first, I was relieved to know that you described the border consistently with everyone else on all sides of the political/religious spectrum. I thought, oh, good, we can agree, despite our differences. You experienced the horror of the border and described it with compassion. It was confusing, though. The difference lay in your response. This is what is profoundly confusing for me. Instead of taking care of the people, you want to shut them out. Your solution is to support the wall. That was it. I thought of our shared religion and faith. I thought of the Jesus we both know. And, what you have suggested, in my opinion, does not match that Jesus. It is not what I learned in Sunday School or what I teach my people about the Bible. It’s such a radical difference in how we understand the Christian faith.

Here are parts of your letter that stood out the most to me:

“What are we to do with them?” 

“They are the lowest rung of many societies.”

“The situation I have described is the reason President Donald Trump’s border wall is so urgently needed. He seems to be the only leader in America who comprehends this tragedy and is willing to address it. Those who oppose him do everything they can to impede his effort.” 

You are one of our nation’s most recognized religious leaders. Your impact widespread, your voice profound and you don’t reference Jesus once. You don’t say one word about his teachings or even the early church and what it stood for. You don’t even seem to model the character of Jesus with humility and grace. Matthew 25:31-46 – “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” Luke 4:16-21 – “…Bring good news to the poor…release to the captives…sight to the blind…let the oppressed go free.”

Not once did you mention your desire to say  “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” or “how can we bring good news to the poor and let the oppressed go free.” Not once.

Our Christian tradition, the one that you and I share, calls us to find creative, radical and revolutionary ways to problem solve for the sake of all God’s people. The only action item you gave us was to “pray for our president.” Did Jesus pray for the Roman Empire? Maybe. Did Jesus pray for Pontius Pilate and all his people? Perhaps.

Jesus also loved fiercely. I don’t mean that Jesus walked up to people and merely said, “I love you and so does God.” Jesus healed and blessed and laid down with those suffering. Jesus invited the lowest rung to him, broke bread with them, ate a meal with them. Created space of loaves and fishes, every time.

What did you do, Dr. Dobson?

Did you lay on the ground with the children?

Did you cover them with knit blankets instead of foil?

Did you play with them? Hold their hands?

Prayed like nobody’s business with anointing oil and holy water?

Did you help brush the lice out of their hair or take soapy clothes and wipe their hands and feet?

Did you light a candle and pass it around and invite them to share a story?

Did you learn about why they might have taken such a horrific journey?

What I know about Jesus is the power of healing came from human connection. The power came from genuine love and interest in the other. The power and presence of true Christian love is powerful and healing.

Your letter, with your voice and power, could have been a call to action to all faith communities across our nation. It could have included real, tangible ideas to take care of migrants the way Jesus would have. I am deeply hurt by your response and your misuse of power. I am deeply hurt because now I know that what is happening at the border is indeed horrific and real, and your response is far from the Christianity I know and live out, following the way of Jesus, who stood with the poor and the outcast above all.

In Faith,

Rev. Marta Fioriti

This letter was originally published by Rev. Marta Fioriti at on June 28, 2019. It is republished here with her permission.