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Tilting at Windmills

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February 27, 2009

DOBSON RESIGNS.... One of the religious right movement's most powerful and prominent heavyweights is exiting stage right.

The Associated Press has learned that James Dobson has resigned as chairman of the conservative Christian group Focus on the Family.

Jim Daly, president and chief executive officer of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based ministry, said Friday that Dobson will continue to host the organization's flagship radio program and speak out on moral issues.

The departure of the 72-year-old Dobson as board chairman is part of a succession plan. He founded the group in 1977.

Dobson has had some health problems in recent years, so it was only a matter of time before he transitioned from chairman to retirement. He'd already given up his CEO position several years ago.

Dobson's far-right legacy is, of course, hard to ignore. While some televangelists like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell became prominent partisans, Dobson was always more comfortable in the role of radical ideologue. Robertson wanted a seat at the table; Dobson wanted to chair the meeting and bark orders to everyone at the table.

Few modern figures on the political scene hate quite as many people, with quite as much intensity, as James Dobson. Gays, minority faiths, the First Amendment, Girl Scouts, SpongeBob Squarepants ... if you don't think, act, or believe as Dobson does, you're an enemy. (One of my personal favorites is when Dobson insisted that gay marriage "will destroy the Earth." He wasn't kidding.)

Dobson's departure from the Focus on the Family empire he built reinforces the fact that the old guard in the religious right is in need of successors. The fight to fill the vacuum will be interesting to watch.

As for Dobson, his contributions to the discourse and political world have been nothing short of toxic. He's been a force for division and animosity, cloaked in vaguely theocratic terms.

Don't let the door hit you on the way out, Jim.

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (35)

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Rats and ships comes to mind. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 27, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

As I recall, the loss of the originator of these cults usually results in its' speedy demise.

Time for dancing a small jig of despair :)

Posted by: firefall on February 27, 2009 at 1:07 PM | PERMALINK

"Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

"And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Posted by: rea on February 27, 2009 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Robertson wanted a seat at the table; Dobson wanted to chair the meeting and bark orders to everyone at the table.

For some reason, I read this as "Dobson wanted to bring a chair to the meeting and hit everyone across the back of the head with it."

More apropos, I think.

Posted by: Mary Contrary on February 27, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Few modern figures on the political scene hate quite as many people, with quite as much intensity, as James Dobson. Gays, minority faiths, the First Amendment, Girl Scouts, SpongeBob Squarepants ... if you don't think, act, or believe as Dobson does, you're an enemy.

That just about perfectly distills it, and since the first and foremost commandment of Christianity is to LOVE ONE ANOTHER I really don't have much of a problem saying that Dobson never really got it. As if the religious right really cares about using the Bible for anything other than to justify whatever they want to do, whether or not they support it.

The counterpoint for Dobson is the late Pope John Paul II. He was really conservative as well, but you did often get a sense of love from him. This is why few people really hated the guy, aside from your Hitchens here and there.

Posted by: Lev on February 27, 2009 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

One time on a driving trip I happened to listen to the money advice program on Dobson's radio network. It was just like the usual radio money shows, except about every fourth word was "God" or "Jesus." The main thrust was - God wants you to get a good mortgage rate; Jesus will help you reduce your credit card debt, etc.

What a world view! With a billion people malnourished, I'm supposed to believe that Jesus sits up there in heaven worrying about the credit card debt of middle-class Americans.

Posted by: Virginia on February 27, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Dobson isn't really leaving the scene, he's just reducing his workload.

Trust me, he'll be hatemonger emeritus for years to come.

Posted by: K on February 27, 2009 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

... if you don't think, act, or believe as Dobson does, you're an enemy.

More accurately, if you aren't eager to do anything he tells you at the drop of a pin you're the enemy.

Posted by: alan on February 27, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

You know, as a conservative Christian, I can just feel the bipartisan love coming from you Steve.

I do not know what your religion is, but you must have some gall to sit there in such harsh judgment of Dobson and "Focus on the Family".

Dobson had his opinions on things. He focussed his arguments on what he thought would build stronger, traditional families. That is going to mean you are going to find opposition among those who think the nuclear family is a concept which should be thrown on the ash heap of history.

So tell me Steve, what better solution do you liberals have for the family then the traditional one.

Why is that one of the highest correlations amongst the prison population is absent fathers?

Why is it that Faith based prison programs such as Colson's Prison Fellowship which seeks to connect the families with their incarcerated dads, actually seem to work?

Why is it that liberal programs like the "Great Society" fail so miserably?

I challenge you to show me a program started by a group of secular volunteers that does a great job on strengthening the family. I would seriously like to see it if you have one.

Thanks for letting me rant in you comments.

Hoping you will seriously consider what I say, and not simplly discard it.

Posted by: John Hansen on February 27, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

If strengthening families comes from demonizing anyone else who dares to be different, then I say to hell with the nuclear family.

Posted by: rob! on February 27, 2009 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

My Family is plenty strong without the likes of Dobson sticking his nose in and telling us how we should live thank you very much.

Posted by: B.Mick on February 27, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

John Hansen - Are you here? I get the impression we're getting a bunch of your members comments today.

Posted by: Danp on February 27, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Absolutely. Those are great things they've done there. And if you happen to be white, straight, and come from a nuclear family, there's a place for you among the chosen. Unfortunately, if God made you gay at birth, you are deserving of nothing but contempt. If you were raised Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu, you are a second class citizen. Please don't tell me that Dobson doesn't believe these things and espouse them publicly on a regular basis. I have no problem with person's chosen faith or lifestyle, as long as it makes no effort to interfere with another person's rights. It's amazing to me that the people who constantly harp about the idea that radical Muslims want to impose Sharia on the world are the very same who would be happy to impose a Christianist theocracy. Stick to the charitable programs and stay out of my personal life. When I need you, I'll come to you.

Posted by: Singularity on February 27, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

His hatred isn't species-limited. He once wrote proudly of how he beat his dachshund (and no, that's not a euphemism for anything) when the poor dog wouldn't get down from the fluffy toilet set cover he was perched on.

Most serial killers start out as animal abusers; one more thing they have in common with right-wing wackjobs.

Posted by: gradysu on February 27, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

Not only does the outgoing generation need to find successors, they need to find ones who won't be mired in quite so many sex scandals. It hurts the credibility.

Posted by: paul on February 27, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

I challenge you to show me a program started by a group of secular volunteers that does a great job on strengthening the family.

Implied in this challege -- indeed, central to your post, Mr. Hansen -- is the idea that Focus on the Family did anything whatsoever to strengthen the family. So you'll pardon me if I first ask you to provide some evidence of a group of religious volunteers that does a great job strengthening the family. After all, the states in which Focus on the Family is the strongest are the states with the highest divorce rates, so it really couldn't be Focus on the Family, could it?

Posted by: C.S. on February 27, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

In the future we'll be able to identify people like Dobson in utero and abort them before they get loose.

Posted by: alan on February 27, 2009 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

Dobson, another of the hateful men of God. But, doesn't that pretty much describe fundmental leaders of all religions?
The world began to move past these people in the 16th Century. And they've been trying to hit the brake's ever since, and do a U-turn back to the 15th.
Mr. Dobson, if there is a God in Heaven, you'll never get anywhere near Him/Her/It.

Posted by: c u n d gulag on February 27, 2009 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

People like Robertson, Dobson, Falwell, et all, will be hard to replace on the political scene since their appeal was based mainly on their unique and forceful personalities. This is something that can't really be taught, you either have it or you don't.

And from what I've seen so far, none of the offspring or other successors have it. They can continue maintaining the structures like Liberty University that the founders left behind, but it will probably be at least another generation before we see their like again.

(Clap paws, squeal with glee!!!)

Posted by: Curmudgeon on February 27, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Don't let the door hit you in the "Left Behind."

Posted by: sullijan on February 27, 2009 at 2:12 PM | PERMALINK

"Why is it that liberal programs like the "Great Society" fail so miserably?" — john henson

the great society actually wasn't a program. rather it was a collection of programs, some of which are still in existence (head start for one medicare for another) and have been great successes.

the greatest argument against james dobson is actually a conservative one. i don't want the government meddling in my personal life. it's called freedom of choice, freedom to believe what i believe is right, not what you or anyone else believes. that's a basic principle of this country. that's why there is a first amendment.

if you want religious arguments against dobson, try these: by preaching intolerance he violates two basic christian tenets: do unto others as you would have others do unto you; love your neighbor as you love yourself.

Posted by: mudwall jackson on February 27, 2009 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

I challenge you to show me a program started by a group of secular volunteers that does a great job on strengthening the family.

PFLAG

Posted by: rea on February 27, 2009 at 2:18 PM | PERMALINK

those who think the nuclear family is a concept which should be thrown on the ash heap of history

Oooo-eeeee. That strawman's so tall it needs an elevator.

Posted by: shortstop on February 27, 2009 at 2:21 PM | PERMALINK

After all, the states in which Focus on the Family is the strongest are the states with the highest divorce rates, so it really couldn't be Focus on the Family, could it?

Game, set, and match to C.S. playing for the Liberal Team.

Posted by: trex on February 27, 2009 at 2:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Destroy the Earth"? It hasn't even started destroying Massachusetts yet, which you'd think would be a much easier job. Still, so far not a sign. And it's not like I haven't been watching.

Posted by: noncarborundum on February 27, 2009 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

Game, set, and match to C.S. playing for the Liberal Team.

And building on C.S.'s excellent point, a 1999 study found that divorce rates for born-again Christians were higher (27%) than for other Christians (24%), or atheists and agnostics (21%); in fact, they were the nation's highest among faith (or non-faith) groups except for Jews (30%).

Posted by: shortstop on February 27, 2009 at 2:58 PM | PERMALINK
Hoping you will seriously consider what I say, and not simplly discard it.

These aren't necessarily mutually exclusive, depending on what it is that's been said. Just saying.

Posted by: noncarborundum on February 27, 2009 at 2:59 PM | PERMALINK

There are lots of ways of strengthening families. Here are a few:

--Good jobs with good benefits such as maternity leave, decent hours, decent vacation time, day care, etc. These are the kinds of things that come with strong labor unions, something consistently opposed by the right.

--Provide universal health care and thus better pre-natal care, fewer childhood illnesses, etc. Again consistently opposed by the right.

--Good, strong, well-financed public schools, something the right rarely champions.

--Strong well-financed public television as an alternative to commercial TV. Another bogeyman of the right.

--Focus on your own family, making it the best you can. Don't waste energy worrying about other people's arrangements.

Posted by: Virginia on February 27, 2009 at 3:16 PM | PERMALINK

Reverend Dobson is resigning to spend more time with his family.

Specifically, more time with his son, in the shower.

Posted by: Roger Ailes on February 27, 2009 at 3:22 PM | PERMALINK

^ Bahahaha, thanks for the laugh!

Posted by: The Galloping Trollop on February 27, 2009 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

the greatest argument against james dobson is actually a conservative one. i don't want the government meddling in my personal life

That's conservative? Where are you commenting from, the late seventies?

Posted by: gil mann on February 27, 2009 at 4:52 PM | PERMALINK

"I challenge you to show me a program started by a group of secular volunteers that does a great job on strengthening the family. I would seriously like to see it if you have one."

Um, ok... the PTA, Planned Parenthood, The girl scouts and boys scouts, any youth sports organization, youth music and arts programs, youth scholarship programs, shall I go on?

Posted by: donna on February 27, 2009 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

That's conservative? Where are you commenting from, the late seventies?

Priceless.

Posted by: shortstop on February 27, 2009 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK

Health? Yeah right, more like who'd he shtupped?

"After all, the states in which Focus on the Family is the strongest are the states with the highest divorce rates, so it really couldn't be Focus on the Family, could it"

They also purchase the most porn;
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16680-porn-in-the-usa-conservatives-are-biggest-consumers.html?DCMP=OTC-rss&nsref=online-news

and show a preference for synthetic textiles.
http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2007/1008072scuba1.html

Posted by: The Pale Scot on February 27, 2009 at 6:36 PM | PERMALINK

Seems to me that the most effective way you could "get back" at James Dobson is to show him the kind of love you accuse him of lacking.

Posted by: Marla Taviano on February 27, 2009 at 10:13 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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