James Dobson

As many of you know, James Dobson retired from his Focus on the Family radio show last week.

Honestly, I've never been a huge fan but it's all mainly for how political he became, which is really a shame because there are good ministry programs coming from Focus on the Family.  Matthew Paul Turner wrote a post on his blog reminding me of some of the groundbreaking things Dobson did as well.

The reason why I am thankful for Dr. Dobson is because he was the first "famous Christian" that I heard who talked at length about clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality, antidepressants, and other mental health topics. That might not seem like a big deal today considering numerous Christians discuss their mental anguish on broadcasts, in books, and on blogs. But back in the 80s and early 90s, many Christians deemed those topics "hogwash."

How about you? What are your reflections on Dobson's exit?  Does his involvement in politics taint the work of his ministry?

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I have somewhat the same response as you. I often visit a WELS Lutheran church which distributes Dr. Dobson’s Focus on the Family Q & A Bulletin, and I have always found it to be compassionate, humane, insightful, useful advice. On the other hand, when I read direct quotes in the press from Dr. Dobson, he comes across as a raving lunatic—not what people say about him, his own words. The candidates he endorses, his reasons for endorsing them, the language he uses, not to mention openly talking about praying for a couple of Supreme Court justices to drop dead, the man is nuts. It’s hard to understand how the same man can be responsible for so much good and so much evil. But I’ve concluded, we all have our strengths and weaknesses, what we are called to and what we could rush into as fools where angels fear to tread. Without denying that every citizen is entitled to a voice, it is important to think carefully about what we can each constructively contribute to, and what we should have the humility to stay out of.

I did not appreciate a lengthy newsletter I received from FOTF written by Dr. Dobson before Obama was elected president. It contained inappropriate content for someone who is so prominent in the Christian community. 

To me, someone who is a Christian does their best to be “Christ-like,” or to behave like Jesus would in a given situation.  This did not seem to be the case in Dobson’s newsletter. His letter portrayed Obama as evil, and questioned the company he had kept in previous years (which is a little ironic, because Jesus was condemned for the company he kept as well). His flip-flopping in his support of McCain was confusing and sent a mixed message to his followers.  I found his newsletter a sad, desperate attempt to instill fear into millions of people by keeping alive the rumors of Obama’s “evilness” and making tunnel-visioned predictions for a future America with Obama at the helm.  Since when did Jesus encourage us to make others fearful? So therefore, to me, Dr. Dobson’s behavior was not “Christ-like” in the least, and I find it hard to follow someone’s ministry who is so narrow-minded.

FOTF has a lot of wonderful programs (I had gone on a mother-daughter cruise that they sponsored, and it was nothing short of miraculous with guests such as Gracia Burnham and Tammy Trent, and the encouragement of mothers and daughters to spend quality, fun time together). However, I am happy to see Dr. Dobson go.  I hope they can find someone a little less judgmental and more encouraging to non-believers to replace him. After all, isn’t our missionary job as Christians to give hope and good news to those who don’t believe?  If a non-believer listened to Dr. Dobson, they’d run in the other direction.

As a kiwi listener to James Dobson here in New Zealand I have never got used to the “You pat my back & I’ll pat yours’ style of Dobson & his guests, quite sick making to my ‘Down Under’ ears! & American political parties did not seem to have a socialist option anyway so Republican or Democrat—whats the difference? I do remember an early film of his that promoted the idea of fathers having ‘time out’ with their sons (new in the ‘70s) I did this & my sons & I have the memories still of camping & fishing trips. Have a happy retirement Dr. Dobson.

His involvement in politics (if you consider influencing the culture and public policy, politics) is one of the key ingredients of his ministry.
Would you rather he hadn’t opposed abortion, pornography or the gayification of America so strongly? Why?
Yeah, not everyone makes every move correctly, but who does when doing their part for the Lord?

I like Focus on the Family best when they focus on the family. The focus on politics has definitely tainted their ministry in my opinion. I welcome the rumored deemphasis of political issues in the post-Dobson Focus on the Family.

I think the problem with Dr. Dobson’s “politics” was more of a problem with media coverage—much of it oversimplistic if not downright biased. (Actually, I took issue a couple times with his broadbrush condemnation of media, but that’s another issue.)

A more balanced evaluation would take into account everything FotF has accomplished, including the issues in Jerod’s post. Dobson maintained a no-apologies foundation in Scripture, yet reached out across theological and cultural boundaries to unite people in support of family issues. Radio, print, seminars, educational materials…the list goes on.

Then there are the things he didn’t do. He never took a salary from FotF, never sought celebrity status, never fell into the trap of being too comfortable with the celebrity he did have, and (as evidenced by the transition process which ended last week) did not try to hold on to his “founder and president” title forever.

Dr. Dobson is not the greatest man on earth, but he and his colleagues are modest “heroes” in the struggle to maintain healthy families in today’s culture.

I think people who have political opinions should express them and be as involved as they see fit.  I don’t think Christians, nor Christian leaders, should be excluded.  I realize there were times it felt Dr. Dobson was being pretty forceful with his opinion - which I didn’t always agree with and I wasn’t going to “buy it” just because he said it (I know some who sort of let him do their thinking).  But in some way I was proud that he was out there and involved and not being careful because of how the politics might affect his ministry.  He didn’t seem to worry about keeping church and state separate - I respect that.

In a similar mental health vein, Dobson and FocusOnTheFamily were one of the first major conservative Xian groups to carefully and compassionately address SSAD (same-sex attraction disorder, also referred to as GID, gender identity disorder)—when in the 1990s that was a taboo topic. I worked for a decade with an “underground” safe community of women and men coming out of the GLBT closet to question their gender confusion (so often accompanied by childhood abuse and abandonment), and for some, in Christ, there was real healing and change. I recall quite a few individuals spoke highly of Dobson and FOTF. Getting it right even some of the time, in our highly politicized litigious society, that is a feat to be recognized and praised. While a number of times I was disappointed with FOTF and their politics, I still want to say: Thanks, James Dobson, for some great ministry…and for keeping sane and honorable as well. Bravo.

I too appreciate Dobson’s unique and qualified voice to speak as a respected Christian about clinical depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality, antidepressants, and other mental health topics. That gave a lot of people permission to seek medical help instead of being viewed as Christian failures. Also, I really appreciate his politics. He was a brave and courageous voice to speak so forthrightly about abortion, the advance of socialism and the empty promises of leftist politics. Millions of Christians across america appreciate his view on candidates and issues. To call him evil is just plain wrong.

Speaking solely for myself—everyone has a slightly different viewpoint—it wasn’t the fact that he was involved in politics, it was that he made such a mule of himself when he spoke about political issues. I don’t agree with him on abortion, but he has a right to advocate what be believes. On the other hand, I think I have more respect for his beliefs than he has for mine. Its fine by me that he denounced pornography, but he hasn’t been very effective. A more careful look at how to build a legal foundation for containing pornography, without raising fears of censoring legitimate expression, could have made some progress. I don’t have his platform to present that. I am firmly convinced that gay marriage is NOT an “equal protection” issue, and I am equally certain that there is NOT a gay conspiracy to take over America. More judgement, in the Biblical sense, less paranoia and raving outbursts, could have been helpful. On the whole, I think our country will move in the right direction a little more because his loud voice has retired from the talking heads.

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