I confess to having a small chip on my shoulder (ok it’s not that small) about James Dobson, the 80-year-old US evangelical leader, author, and psychologist.
I was married in 1977, the year James Dobson launched his phenomenally successful “Focus on the Family” which by 2008 had grown to an international organization with an annual budget of $180 million.
In 1982 Dr. Dobson had risen to such prominence that he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the National Advisory Commission for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (1982-1984).
1982 is the year I was launched into the uncertain, and at the time to me, terrifying terrain of fatherhood. James Dobson appeared to offer a strong authoritative voice providing proven answers to the question that tormented my days and nights, how to become a good father. So, I read Dobson, watched his videos, and listened to his radio broadcasts and struggled to align my parenting with his “wisdom.”
I am sure Dobson’s advice was not all bad. But, eventually, I began to learn that there was within me, a voice of truth, beauty and wisdom that surpassed anything James Dobson had to offer. I came to see that the only role of a parent is to learn to listen to that inner voice of truth and to guide one’s children to recognize their own inner wisdom and strength.
Today, acknowledging my short and youthful commitment to James Dobson, feels like coming out of the closet and admitting to a shameful past. I hope my precious daughters have not suffered irreparable damage from those delusional years of my parenting.
All of this has risen to the surface of my consciousness in recent weeks as a result of the current election cycle in the US. It is horrifying to read, while he is supporting the candidacy of Donald Trump for president, that James Dobson has the ignorance and temerity to pronounce Barack Obama
one of the worst presidents in American history
Here, according to the Dobson narrative, is the horrifying destructive behaviour that has made Obama, “one of the worst presidents in American history”:
Obama, acting like a king, is wielding dictatorial powers never envisioned in the law. He is determined to change the way males and females relate to one another, and worse, how children perceive themselves. If you are a married man with any gumption, surely you will defend your wife’s privacy and security in restroom facilities. Would you remain passive after knowing that a strange-looking man, dressed like a woman, has been peering over toilet cubicles to watch your wife in a private moment? What should be done to the pervert who was using mirrors to watch women and girls in their stalls? If you are a dad, I pray you will protect your little girls from men who walk in unannounced, unzip their pants and urinate in front of them. If this had happened 100 years ago, someone might have been shot. Where is today’s manhood? God help us!
Leaving aside the incredibly irresponsible, but tacit implication that it might not be an entirely bad thing if someone were “shot,” think about the man the founder of “Focus On The Family” supports for president of the US. Dobson is reported to have said that he supports Donald Trump for president,
because I believe he is the most capable candidate to lead the United States of America in this complicated hour.
Remember this is the three-times-married Donald Trump Dobson is supporting while at the same time feeling compelled to villify a president who on 3 August 2016 said to a gathering of The Young African Leaders Initiative in Washington:
I am positive that if I’m lucky enough to live to a ripe old age and I’m on my deathbed and I’m thinking back on my life, I won’t be remembering some speech I gave or some law I signed. I’ll be remembering holding hands with one of my daughters and walking them to a park. That’ll be the thing most precious to me.
When asked about the importance of family life to political leaders Obama went on to say,
Maintaining balance, having a strong partnership with your wife or husband, raising children who are kind and useful and strong and generous and all the things that my wonderful daughters are, that really is its own reward…. For me, the reason that it’s been useful to maintain that balance is I think it’s grounded me. It’s allowed me, during the course of my presidency when things aren’t going so well, to remember that I have this beautiful family and this wonderful wife.
And when things are going very well, it’s good to go home and then my wife teases me about how I left my shoes in the middle of the living room, or my girls think what I’m talking about over dinner is boring, and that brings me down to earth.
Sure sounds to me like a program the founder of “Focus On The Family” would want to sign on to. But, no for Dobson, because Obama is a president who has sought during his time in office to “create an environment of some dignity and kindness,” he “is a tyrant in many ways… determined to change Western civilization forever” against whom we “must fight to protect our homes and families.”
Dobson’s exaggerated rhetoric is not irrelevant. He remains for many people an authoritative and credible voice providing “Solid Answers” to thousands on his radio broadcast “Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk”. (http://drjamesdobson.org/)
But, perhaps Dobson’s influence is waning. He concludes his August newsletter, pleading with his audience:
I’ll end by sharing with my listeners and friends that Family Talk is still experiencing a pretty serious summer slump. Any help you can offer would certainly be appreciated. https://www.drjamesdobson.org/about/august-newsletter-2016?sc=hpslider1
One can only hope that the current US election cycle may signal the dying gasp of a voice that has lost touch with reality and is unable to see the beauty and light represented by the life and service of a man like Barack Obama.