U.S. presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain are preparing to discuss AIDS, poverty, human rights, and the environment at an Aug. 16 forum hosted by the Rev. Rick Warren at California’ Saddleback Church.

Focus on the Family — an avowed opponent of humanitarian values and sustainable living — lobbied July 28 to replace these moral, social, health, and religious concerns with James Dobson’s two pet causes that FOTF says are at “the heart of Christianity”: Discrimination against gay couples, and imprisonment of women and doctors who choose abortion when alternatives fail.

Focus Action senior vice president Tom Minnery (pictured above) dismissed the forum’s topics as being of mere “secular” interest.

United Church of Christ minister Chuck Currie (pictured below) says:

The Rev. Chuck CurrieCare of creation (for the earth on which we live) and care of the least of these – the sick, those living in poverty – are actually issues central to Scripture and of deep concern to the Christian community.

And I suspect that most Christians don’t wake up each morning thinking that today would be a great day if we could just limit civil rights for gay and lesbian people.

Focus and the Family and their founder James Dobson are at risk of being left behind and left out of political debate. Their divisive rhetoric – the kind that has divided Americans in the past – isn’t listened to so much anymore (except on the very extreme and troubled edges of society). That’s a good thing.

Focus on the Family may be weakening, but with a $100-million-per-year budget, it remains a dominant force in conservative U.S. politics, a hardened and congested artery in the “heart” of U.S. Christianity.