A Kind, Gentler Focus on the Family?

Where James Dobson used the stick (sometimes literally), his successor Jim Daly prefers the carrot.

For years, James Dobson has been the voice and face of Focus on the Family. Now, as he steps aside, his successor on FoF’s daily radio show, Jim Daly, will be bringing a softer voice, and a wider agenda, to the program and the organization:

Mr. Daly said he has no use for the sharp personal attacks on politicians employed by Mr. Dobson.
“I don’t see evil behind everything,” Mr. Daly said. Mr. Dobson declined to be interviewed for this article.

Mr. Daly said he preferred to build bridges with others. While Mr. Dobson blasted President Barack Obama for “fruitcake” ideas, Mr. Daly praised the president for his devotion to family and last summer attended a White House event celebrating fatherhood.

On abortion, Mr. Daly said he wouldn’t spend much energy fighting for a ban – though that remained his ultimate goal – but would emphasize adoption.

Daly will almost certainly keep up an anti-gay stance on the show, but says he wants to move FoF away from making abortion and same-gender marriage the central issues of the organization.

Politically, that may lead the group into surprising new territory. The ministry has never dealt much with immigration, for example. But Mr. Daly said he planned to take a fresh look at the issue because “families are being torn apart” through deportations.

While that’s actually refreshing news, it may not be a moneymaker for Daly and Focus on the Family, which has already seen a decline in giving and has been forced to cut back its workforce at its Colorado Springs headquarters.

Daly will have to compete with his old boss for donations as Dobson and his son start their own radio program. FoF also has to compete with fundraising being done by tea party members and other emerging right wing groups.

While Daly may be softening Dobson’s hard-line Christianity after George Barna’s research showed many young people are turned off by these tactics and see Christianity as mean-spirited and hypocritical, the gentler approach may bring in new followers, but little new money.

”I don’t personally know any Christians under the age of 40 who pay attention to Focus on the Family or James Dobson,” said Cameron Strang, publisher of Relevant, a magazine for young Christian adults. Whether Mr. Daly can win them over, he added, “remains to be seen.”

While it’s admirable that Daly wants to bring a kinder, gentler tone to Focus on the Family, I suspect the volume will be ratcheted up a few notches whenever the coffers begin to run low.

Categories: Journalism.

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