Sunday, October 09, 2005

The Man Who Turned Jesus Into an Empire: James Dobson

Little something different today; rather than focusing on a hot issue, I thought I’d cover a great article from the L.A. Times about superfundie and founder of Focus on the Family James Dobson. The article goes to great lengths to show just how the man has built his empire and reveals the simple, dark secret of his power: simple answers.

People yearn for simple answers. Your child hates you? The simple answer is that a corrupt, moral-free society is corrupting him, turning him against you. Surely your own parenting style or lack of empathy could not be to blame. There’s even proof that this is the case; open your Bible to a verse and you can find support for your views. Why do the hard work of changing yourself when you can help his movement do the work of changing the world to make it “safer” for folks like you simply by contributing money or lending vocal support? Here, this makes it clearer:

In daily radio broadcasts, monthly newsletters, 18 websites, nine magazines and 36 top-selling books, Dobson offers advice on toilet training, temper tantrums, infidelity and other stresses of family life. At the heart of his ministry is the toll-free resource line he has run for more than a quarter-century.

The calls to 1-800-A-FAMILY are personal, not political. Yet over the decades, the hotline has bolstered Dobson's influence in the nation's capital by cultivating millions of grateful, reverentially loyal constituents. It has also emboldened him to use that clout to push a conservative social agenda.

"In those thousands of calls, we believe we're seeing the unraveling of the social fabric of this country," said Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Dobson's organization.

Focus on the Family gets close to 10,000 calls, e-mails and letters daily. Most are book orders or other purchases from the vast ministry warehouse. But up to 1,000 a day are more complex: requests for help researching topics such as depression and divorce, or pleas from despairing men and women seeking Dobson's advice.

And the response to an “unraveling social fabric”? It’s certainly not to encourage those folks who are experiencing problems to look within themselves and seek answers, as they are a part of that social fabric. No, they treat the problem as if the person were merely a victim of what is going on in society, and if they follow a prescribed set of rules, all will be well. And people eat it up:

"I don't know where else to go," one young mother told social worker Sarah Helus, breaking down as she described her headstrong 3-year-old.

"I've tried spanking him with a switch like Dr. Dobson says, but it hasn't been effective," the mother said. "I've tried explaining to him that Mommy and Daddy make mistakes too and we all have to ask Christ's forgiveness. Nothing works. And I just lose it."

As her son howled in the background, the woman said she had read three of Dobson's parenting books, including "The Strong-Willed Child," several times. They hadn't much helped, but she hadn't lost faith. She begged for a few minutes to ask Dobson how, precisely, she should respond if her son throws a fit in Wal-Mart.

Helus told her gently that Dobson doesn't take calls. But his wisdom on scores of topics is loaded into two computers on every assistant's desk.

And easy answers are the man’s stock-in-trade. Just look at this simplistic world view. I’m not going to debate the points because I think any rational human knows better than what he’s saying here:

Urging listeners to take control of their children, Dobson advocates spanking, though never in anger. He acknowledges that marriage is hard but opposes divorce in almost every situation. He teaches that homosexuality can be overcome with discipline and prayer. He also offers tips on plenty of other topics, such as eating well, adjusting to menopause and guiding children to God.

People listen. Where Dobson leads, on any topic, people follow:

Dobson gains still more credibility because he's seen as less partisan, and less personally ambitious, than many leaders of the religious right. He routinely takes on top Republicans, calling them traitors who should pay at the polls for compromising on issues such as abortion.

A recent poll for PBS found that 77% of white evangelicals view Dobson favorably. Other Christian leaders were far less widely trusted. Pat Robertson's approval rating stood at 55% and Jerry Falwell's at 46%.

That broad base of support helped Dobson stage huge rallies to boost Republican candidates in the 2004 election. He's credited with helping unseat former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and with bringing conservative Christians to the polls in force to back President Bush.

"We try to follow up on what [Dobson] says," said Marilyn Budensiek, a fan from Hobe Sound, Fla., who organized a voter registration drive in her church last year at Dobson's urging.

All in all, this guy scares the hell out of me; anyone who commands such blind loyalty does, because you ultimately have to trust the intentions of such a man, and I sure as hell don’t. How do you trust a man who says things like this?

Other political references are overt: A recent edition of the ministry's flagship Focus on the Family magazine defined conservatives as championing democracy, human rights and "the cause of freedom around the world," while "liberals defend civil rights, abortion, pornography and homosexuality."

I get a very racist vibe from that line. We know how they feel about abortion, gays, and porn – is he saying Civil Rights are in the same category?

Bottom line, however, his message is one of control, benevolent control, but control nonetheless. Don’t worry: the smiling patriarch is here to take care of you, to tell you how to do things. It reeks of authoritarianism, and the thought of such a person with close personal ties and controls on the government scares the hell out of me, because what happens when the government starts to mirror his personality?

Posted by crimnos @ 10:22 AM

Read or Post a Comment

I am crossposting this tonite...It's too relevant to the few fundies that read the site.

Posted by Blogger Jessica @ 11:33 AM #

Ooh sweet; I'm interested in seeing the reaction. I'll keep a close eye out for it.

Posted by Blogger crimnos @ 12:28 PM #

Living in the same state of this organization (Colorado), I feel even more zeal in fighting them.

I have a bumper sticker on our car about my views on Dobson's "Focus on the Family." It says, "Focus on your OWN Family!!"

Posted by Blogger james @ 10:22 PM #
<< Home