Astonishing Parallels: Nazi Rhetoric and James Dobson

I have been deeply concerned about the inflammatory rhetoric about the civil rights of gays and lesbians.  As an example, I was deeply disturbed by the rhetoric of Dr. James Dobson earlier this year when he gave his imprimatur for then-presidential candidate Rick Santorum.  Note, it was not his endorsement that troubled me–he has as much right as anyone to exercise his influence during election season.  What troubled me was how much his endorsement resembled World War II Nazi propaganda.  I think you may be as surprised as I am by the stunning rhetorical parallels between Nazi anti-semitism and Dobson’s anti-homosexualism.

Clarification: James Dobson is Not a Nazi

Note one more thing.  The obvious and troubling parallels between Nazi rhetoric and Dobson’s rhetoric do not mean that Dr. James Dobson is a Nazi.  Far from it.  James Dobson is not a Nazi.  The striking similarities serve, however, as a red flag of caution.   The effectiveness of propaganda has nothing to do with the essential rightness or truth of the propaganda.  I think you will find the parallels as remarkable as I have.  We need to listen to the words of Paul when he told us to “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.”

Several years ago I found a website, the German Propaganda Archive, where Prof. Randall Bytwerk of Calvin College publishes his translations of Nazi and East German propaganda. When Dr. Dobson made the news in January, 2012, his endorsement of Rick Santorum for president of the United States reminded me again of Germany, the Jews, and propaganda.

I will first compare examples of anti-Jewish propaganda with examples of James Dobson’s anti-homosexual propaganda, and follow that with a few reflections.

In his presidential endorsement last January, Dobson stayed strictly on message, using the reliable and transparent boilerplate rhetoric that has served him faithfully for decades.

The institution of the family is the key issue facing this great nation. It is the foundation, the bedrock, upon which every dimension of Western Civilization rests. If it is undermined or weakened by cultural and governmental forces, the entire superstructure will collapse in short order. And indeed, today it is in serious jeopardy. The very definition of marriage is threatened, which has implications for the next generation and the stability of society itself.

I’ve previously compared the over-the-top language of anti-Jewish Nazi rhetoric and Dobson’s anti-homosexual rhetoric.  If you haven’t read it yet, I urge you to read “The Collapse of Civilization: Dobson, Ley, and Goebbels” (click here). Nazi propagandist Robert Ley’s warning against tolerating the Jews is identical to the baseless propaganda routinely parroted by anti-homosexualists.

He who tolerates the Jew, who takes on his customs, who works with him, who adapts his mentality, who eats, drinks, and lives with him, who even thinks the Jew is chosen and believes he can learn something from the Jew, who expects the salvation of the world to come from the Jews, he will inevitably be ruined by Judah.

Astonishing Four-Point Outline, Point for Point

The rhetoric of the Nazis and James Dobson share an astonishing four-point outline describing the enemy’s strategy and the pathetic response of the audience and their compatriots.  The outline is rhetorically effective in inflaming carnal feelings of fear, anger, and revenge.

    1.  Apparent Irresistibility of our Foes
    2. The Forces Arrayed Against Us
    3. Liberal Government Officials
    4. Mentions of Cowardice

The Four-Point Outline: Hanns Oberlindober’s “The Decent Jew” and James Dobson’s “The Future of the Family”

The Hanns Oberlindober piece, “The Decent Jew” (1937), was written to ridicule the idea that there could be anything like a “decent Jew,” that the idea of a German Jew was an oxymoron. Each of the four rhetorical elements listed above are all present in both Oberlindober and Dobson, and in the exact order.

The Nazi Version

Hanns Oberlindober writes,

Until the National Socialist takeover in the German Reich, you Jews understood how to clothe yourself with the mantel of (1) irresistibility. With the help of (2) the press, film, advertising, historical misrepresentation and silence about the accomplishments of all other races, you were able to present yourselves as the best, most diligent, smartest, and most noble people in the world, suggesting to an unhappy people bleeding from the thousand wounds of the war that they had to accept the unavoidable joy of Jewish leadership. For decades, you controlled (3) so-called statesmen like puppets, keeping yourself in the background despite your native Jewish vanity. Between you and the peoples, there hung the mystic curtain of your lodges, your so-called religious mission, and your obvious (4) cowardice.  But the German people have ripped apart this nimbus of Jewish irresistibility.

James Dobson’s Version

In his July 2001 newsletter, “The State of the Family,” James Dobson uses the identical inflammatory rhetoric, with the identical elements in the identical order.

The forces arrayed against the family are almost (1) irresistible. (2) Homosexual activists, radical feminists, abortion zealots and haters of Christianity have banded together to bring down the old order and substitute their own version of the Brave New World. With the help of the hostile media, the entertainment industry, the ACLU, People for the American Way, the National Education Association, and especially, (3) the liberal judges who are undermining the Judeo-Christian ethic day by day, they have brought the institution of marriage to its knees. Meanwhile, millions of Christians and some of their leaders are still standing around muttering, (4) “Let’s not get political.”

Describing your opponents as “irresistible,” whether or not they are as powerful as you make them seem, paints your struggle in heroic terms.  Repeatedly listing the enemy’s forces, conditions your audience and arouses hostile emotions. Likewise, mentioning privileged, allegedly feeble leaders like statesmen and judges not only arouses anger but also stirs up class resentments of your lower-class audience, encouraging them to feel self-righteous and superior to these “so-called” smart guys.

The Penetration of Every Segment of Society

One effective way to create a sense of alarm and fear, to arouse a sense of urgency and helplessness, is to describe how the enemy has penetrated every area of society. One such piece of Nazi propaganda published by the Office of Racial Policy (NSDAP) titled, Why the Aryan Law?  (1934). The Aryan Laws were written to eliminate Jews from the civil service, and ultimately from every area of German life and society: military, commerce, industry, banking, and culture. The document contains copious statistics documenting the percentage of Jews in each profession, and highlights the Jews’ successful upward mobility. This is characterized as “overrepresentation,” and is directly aimed at not only reducing Jewish influence, but eliminating it entirely. Similar warnings about the presence of homosexuals and their sympathizers in various fields and professions are scattered throughout James Dobson’s newsletters.

The Nazi Version

The Jewish people, once only tolerated, knew how to raise a hue and cry about discrimination and persecution, winning the sympathy of the world for the “poor Jews.” They increasingly infiltrated deep within our national organism, growing to have power over every single area of our national life.

The numerous moves from the Jewish religion to other faiths can be explained because the Jews seek to gain the advantages of the Aryan population. Using Protestantism, Catholicism or the independent churches as a cover, Jews found easy entrance to high positions in politics, the arts, business and the  civil service. The idea that all people were equal was accepted both by conservative and liberal thinking, allowing the incorporation of entirely foreign racial elements. This shows how every level of society was influenced by the thinking of the era.

The Germans kept copious records of people employed in the economy: self-employed workers, medicine, theater, film, radio, education, teaching, public administration, judiciary, attorneys, editors, dentists, etc. They were represented in these categories     from 3x to 20x more than their percentage of the total population. The author of Why     the Aryan Law? exclaims, “Is that anything other than a Jewdification of our entire cultural system?!”

James Dobson’s Version

James Dobson’s raises the rhetorical alarm about the enemy’s social penetration of various economic sectors in “In Defending Marriage – Take the Offensive!”

The “master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family…. the objectives that seemed unthinkable just a few years ago have largely been achieved or are now within reach. All that remains is for the movement and its friends in the media, the entertainment industry, the professions, the government and the military, to deliver the coup de grace to a beleaguered institution that was given to humanity by the Creator in the Garden of Eden.”

Dobson doesn’t have the kinds of statistics that were available to the German propagandists, but his intent is identical: paint the threat, arouse alarm, and enlist the energies compliant soldier-sheep against the identified enemies, their fellow citizens.

Attack the Enemy’s Cultural Influence

The Nazi Version

As you recall, Hanns Oberlindober underscores cultural influences:

With the help of the press, film, advertising, historical misrepresentation and silence about the accomplishments of all other races, you were able to present yourselves as the best, most diligent, smartest, and most noble people in the world.

One of the statistical sections in Why the Aryan Laws? zeroes in on major cultural categories, not commerce, industry, and government, but entertainment and education.

Similar statistics are found in the cultural area (theater, film, radio, education, teaching, etc.). The 0.4% of the general population are employed there, 2.6% of the Jews, also about six times as many.

In the section titled, “The Jew in Theater and Film,” we there are further statistics, and a quotation from a non-Nazi Catholic complaint about Jews in the film industry.

The extent of the Jewdification of German theater and film is evident from 1931 figures. Of 234 theater directors, 118 (50.4%) were Jews, 92 (39.3%) were non-Jewish.

Berlin led in this area as well, with 23 of 29 theater directors (80%) Jewish.

The situation in film is similar. The Viennese Catholic periodical “Schönere Zukunft,” which certainly cannot be accused of anti-Semitism, wrote the following in its 3 February 1929 issue:

“The percentage of Jewry in today’s film industry is so high, at least by us in Germany, that there is only a tiny part left for Christian firms.”

James Dobson’s Version

Dobson hits the same two categories (entertainment and education) in his newsletter, “The Christian Response to the Homosexual Agenda” (June, 1998).

The gay lifestyle is aggressively promoted throughout culture, especially in television sitcoms, Hollywood movies and on university campuses.

The Cowardice of Our Leaders

It is worthwhile to give special attention to the concepts of cowardice and courage in the anti-Jewish and anti-homosexual propaganda. There’s nothing like impugning someone’s manhood to goad them to taking a stand. Likewise, there’s nothing as likely to increase an individual’s sense of self-righteousness as calling them brave when they parrot propaganda. Finally, there’s nothing like letting people know that publicly criticizing individuals as cowards is a socially acceptable way of encouraging “alignment.” (If you need evidence of this, note the remarkable decline of civility in public discourse modeled after the daily trash talk on radio and television.)

The Nazi Version

In his book, The Jewish Question in Education, Fritz Fink writes:

But some teachers still lack the courage to address the Jewish question with enthusiasm. Nervously and shyly they avoid it. To be prepared for inspections, they briefly touch on the Jewish Question now and again. These are the teachers who have in their bones the ideas the Jews propagate of “objectivity, decency and humanity.” These are the teachers who at the behest of the churches display pity and brotherly love to the deadly enemy, even when they sense and see that their own people is being destroyed by this deadly enemy. They are the weaklings, the cowards, those German teachers ruined by foreign powers. They avoid the Jewish question in education but rather than meeting the desire of the child for education and at the same time fulfilling one of their most important tasks.

James Dobson’s Versions, 1998

In his newsletter, “Homosexuals in Hollywood” (1998), James Dobson challenges politicians on their cowardice to act and speak against “homosexual activists.”

How do we explain the lack of moral outrage — or courage — from anyone in Washington, D.C., or on the local level? The answer can be found in the unparalleled political clout of homosexual activists. In the course of two decades, they have succeeded in intimidating Washington, D.C., and most of the rest of the nation. Few dare step in front of the gay and lesbian juggernaut for fear of being labeled “homophobic,” “hateful” or “politically incorrect.”

The question is — how many senators will cave in to pressure from homosexual activists?

In a second newsletter the same year, “The Christian Response to the Homosexual Agenda (June, 1998), Dr. Dobson taunts the clergy for their cowardice, challenging their masculinity.

There is scarcely a politician or a national leader anywhere who has the courage to oppose [the aggressive promotion of the gay lifestyle] publicly. I suspect that many pastors and priests also avoid the subject because of the intimidation factor that has become so pervasive in recent years. It is one subject most influential people are afraid to address, unless, of course, they are echoing pro-homosexual rhetoric.

After identifying the coalition of enemies that has “brought the institution of marriage to its knees,” Dobson caricatures Christians who won’t jump on his bandwagon:

Meanwhile, millions of Christians and some of their leaders are still standing around muttering, “Let’s not get political.”

You know, if Dr. Dobson’s exhortations to political action were just the ravings of an old man in decline, that would be one thing.  But when his decades of work are taken in the context of an emotional political-religious movement, his work is, for me, genuinely ominous.

Today we have independent fundamentalist Baptist pastors urging the extermination of gays and lesbians.  Calvinist theologian R.J. Rushdoony (1916-2001) was quite popular with the D. James Kennedy, Jerry Falwell, Tim LaHaye, and James Dobson before his company started to be seen as a liability.  Rushdoony convincingly argued for the execution of  homosexuals: “God in His law requires the death penalty for homosexuals.”  As of this writing, twenty-three states have lined up to forbid marriage to gay and lesbian couples.  In 2010 the recriminalization of sodomy was made a plank in the Texas Republican Party.

Some readers will take exception to comparing James Dobson’s rhetoric with that of Nazi anti-semitic propaganda.  I have shied away from making such dramatic comparisons, as I don’t want to mimic the alarmist rhetoric of people like James Dobson.

I must confess, however, that I am not just grieved that fundamentalist preachers can mouth such foolish and hateful rhetoric.  I am concerned that James Dobson’s call for “moral outrage” will work its destructive work long after he has gone to be with his Maker.  And I have to ask myself, “What am I going to do about this?”

(All German propaganda cited with permission of Randall Bytwerk, Nazi and East German Propaganda)

Additional posts on James Dobson:

The Collapse of Civilization: Dobson, Ley, and Goebbels

About Ron Goetz

My first wife used to say, "There's nothing so sacred that Ron won't pick it apart." My desire to be a pastor -- that was a temperamental mismatch. She was so patient. If my birth mother had lived somewhere else, maybe I would've become a cold case detective. But I would have had to be J instead of a P, I think. And that mid-life reevaluation, starting adolescence as a GARB fundamentalist and transitioning to a non-theist, that gave me an unusual skill set.
This entry was posted in Dobson Rhetoric, Parenting, Propaganda and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Astonishing Parallels: Nazi Rhetoric and James Dobson

  1. Rory Griffin says:

    Well Ron – you asked. I thank you for a researched article, not hyperbolic response full of emotions. And corrective statements Dr. Dobson is not a Nazi, just using similar tactics is good. Yet there might be some points missed to come to what I see in an incorrect conclusion.
    Dobson first says homosexuality is sin. That is my question to you. If you don’t see it as sin, the rest is moot.
    God’s warnings to the brand new Jewish nation about those in the promised land was similar. They will entice, they will use subtleties, forcing their way into your homes by inter-marriage.
    This format is standard, useful formats that the Nazi’s used like George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth. What you did not and completely ignored in all this is first and foremost the standard used by each man. Goebbels was hate to yield power to the Nazi’s. Dobson is love for families and hating the evil. Ephesians shows that the fight against is some in the natural and lots in the spiritual. Dobson points out the groups are the problem. Not the sinners on the individual basis.
    So lastly Jesus said to judge by friuts. His organization also has a ministry devoted to helping homosexual get out of sin, like the rest of the 50+ ministry efforts in Focus on the Family. Nazi’s killed.
    It is never the ‘format’ of the message but the purpose. Declaring your enemy the enemy is good, clear and concise. Sin is our enemy. Homosexuality has proven never to be in a civilization that continued to prosper allowing it as a norm. But loving the sinner always is the norm. I love the sinner, including my now deceased brother, but if a lie is not acceptable (a clear sin), so to homosexuality. But I don’t stop talking to liars, but I don’t accept the lying.
    I try to be liberal in my love, by as God does. Declaring sin as sin so me, you, others can repent and turn from sin towards God.

    God Bless You.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Rory, you’ve raised some interesting questions.

      First, you say I have arrived at “an incorrect conclusion.” I’m not sure what you think my conclusion is. The main thing I’ve done is to point out what I think is a highly questionable, even sinister, parallel between a piece of Nazi propaganda and a piece of James Dobson’s rhetoric.

      Second, your comparison of Goebbels and Dobson is a bit confusing to me. Goebbels urges Germans to hate Judaism, liberalism, and homosexuals, the same way Dobson urges American Christians to hate homosexuality and liberalism. The Nazis held up love of country and love of family as justifications for their hate, and Dobson holds up love of country and love of family as justification for his. As you can see, Dobson and the Nazis are actually quite similar.

      Third, I already discussed the fact that Dobson says no civilization has endured that has tolerated homosexuality. Of course, this has never been substantiated, just repeated over and over, ad infinitum. But the Nazis made the same charge, that no civilization endured that tolerated the presence of the Jews. The same concern for civilization, just a different minority group to blame.

      Rory, in your reply, you actually repeat the unsubstantiated rhetoric I mentioned, the stuff about no civilization surviviving that tolerated homosexuals, yet didn’t add anything to the discussion. My main point was the fact that Christians need to “Test everything, and hold fast to what is good.” You need to listen to your teachers critically, and verify for yourself whether they really speak in accordance with the Holy Spirit.

      Unfortunately, we tend to accept what people say if they repeat the slogans we’ve come to accept as truth, without thinking about the results. The German people didn’t test what the skilled propagandists told them, but accepted it uncritically. They accepted anti-Jewish propaganda, they had grown up with it. Similarly, many American Christians accept anti-homosexual propaganda, they’ve grown up with it.

      Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it. If you doubt this, consider the many calls for putting homosexuals into concentration camps and executing them, according to the command of the Bible. Rory, there are Bible-believing pastors calling for the extermination of homosexuals.


  2. aboyandhiscat says:

    Reblogged this on Φml.


  3. Joseph Coyle says:

    I’m genuinely curious if Mr. Rory has ever entered the home of a committed gay couple with children. I mean, of course, as Jesus would visit such a house, not flying the flag of anti-sin, but simply taking a genuine interest in them as people.

    Bear in mind that if such a couple were to visit your house, genuinely curious about your life Mr. Rory, but came under a blanket of “We’re gay! Accept us or be labelled a hateful Christian homophobe,” you would most certainly not be inclined to show them the more cherished and loving parts of your life.

    So, have you truly engaged such a couple NOT seeing them for their “sin” but seeing them as the people God made them to be?


  4. Monte Hill says:

    I think The Holy Spirit is disappointed when anyone representing Jesus, Who Said, To treat one another as you would have them treat you, is actively isolating as “the enemy” any group of people, that are usually “The liberal media” and nearly always homosexuals. As a Christian and gay man, I can assure you that Decades or even Centuries of this has set the majority of gay culture to see Christianity as the enemy and oppressors of any life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness, into the future. I also imagine, this is making any principalities and powers that are wishing to conter the message that connects people to The Son and being part of the family of God, extremely happy. I think when the church attacks people or a subclass of people, as enemies of God, they, by default, reduce access to the message of Love that Jesus said was the ultimate point. To them I always say, “I rebuke you in The name of Jesus.”


  5. Brian Reid says:

    Mr. Goetz may have started out, “well-intentioned” but his superficial analogy is a failure. He attempts to highlight the parallels in technique between Jim Dobson’s appeal to the consciences of earnest Christians regarding the highly controversial topic of homosexuality; and the pernicious and murderous ideology of the Nazi eugenicists, whose aims included the genocidal extermination of all Jews. Goetz’s analogy is ridiculous and fantastic, and his inferences with respect to Dr. Dobson’s motives are to his shame. Not only does he fail to illuminate true believers with a biblical world view, but he does positive harm to less informed and less mature believers who really seek to understand how a man or woman of God ought to think about and interact in an increasingly “homo-sexualized” society, while maintaining fidelity to the compassionate heart of Jesus and the Holy character of God. I suggest that Mr. Goetz and the rest of us beseech the Lord for wisdom. I am praying that God will pull Mr. Goetz away from the fire, convict him of his intellectual arrogance and silence the deceiver, who informs him. And finally, enough with the Christian cannibalism, already. We need to figure out how to have a thoughtful and civil dialogue before we destroy the church, the culture and ourselves.


  6. Mary Agresti says:

    It is so nice to see such a respectful discourse on a subject about which there is so much misunderstanding, distortion, and non-objectivity. I had never thought about these parallels and I so appreciate how much I have learned and the perspective that I gained. In all aspects of my life, I have been friends with and associated with gay men, women, and couples, most of them very self-aware because of all they had to endure to have the courage and commitment to live openly when society as well as many of their own families shunned them. Most of those I know were deeply spiritual, many in committed relationships, many very compassionate and committed to social causes.and many were very effective parents because of their sensitivity to issues affecting children as they grow up. They were not saints nor are any of us and they are entitled to our understanding, respect, and the realization that we are all brothers and sisters entitled to the same spiritual evolution open to all of us as sons and daughters of God.


    • Ron Goetz says:

      I do my best to keep the conversation civil, Mary. I don’t publish the worst rants, and I try to address the lesser negativity as calmly as I can.

      Thanks for sharing about the gays and lesbians you’ve known. Arguments are no substitute for knowing people personally.


  7. Pingback: What does it mean to live in a society where truth is absent? | Elkhart County Grassroots Hub

  8. Pingback: More Cut and Paste artistry per request from the Ku Klux Krackers at Renew America!!! | Dummidumbwit's Weblog

  9. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I
    provide credit and sources back to your site? My blog site is in the exact
    same niche as yours and my visitors would definitely
    benefit from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this okay
    with you. Thanks a lot!


    • Ron Goetz says:

      Hi Juliet,

      You have my permission to quote material from my blog with proper credit. Of course!

      The translations of German propaganda are by Randall Bytwerk, and are taken from his site, Nazi and East German Propaganda. He is a professor at Calvin College. His email address is, in case you want to contact him. He very readily gave me permission to cite his on-line translations.

      So, you specialize in plagiarism studies, eh? Good!



  10. Pingback: Evangelist James Dobson Urges Fathers To Shoot Trans People In Unhinged Anti-Obama Rant ‹ Winning Democrats

So what are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s