Kinder, Gentler? Naw!: Focus Founder Dobson Launches New ‘Family’ Broadcast

You may hear James Dobson blaring at you from a different spot on the radio dial, but the message will remain the same.

Bust out your radios, kiddies, because Dr. James Dobson has returned to the airwaves.

You might recall that Dobson, founder of the Religious Right powerhouse Focus on the Family (FOF), announced last year that he planned to retire from the group and cease his daily radio broadcasts.

Not long after that, Dobson announced that he wasn’t really retiring. He had decided to keep doing radio broadcasts after all – only this time he would be doing them with his son Ryan, not with FOF.

The new broadcasts, called “Family Talk with James Dobson,” began airing Monday on 326 U.S. stations.

If you tune in, be prepared to hear the same old Dobson – a dour fundamentalist who “dares to discipline” the country because so many of us have failed to embrace his crabbed and narrow vision of theology wedded to far-right politics.

I suspect it will be the same-old stuff we heard coming out of FOF over the years – assaults on the church-state wall, unrelenting gay bashing, attacks on legal abortion, complaints that the public schools don’t promote fundamentalism, whining about evolution, etc.

Why do I think that? Well, Dobson says so.

“Please don’t expect me to take a ‘softer, gentler’ approach to the issues that burn within my soul,” Dobson writes on his new Web site. “I have never spoken or written without passion for values in which I believe, and I don’t intend to start now. Babies are dying, the very definition of marriage is under attack, the financial underpinnings of families are being destroyed by confiscatory taxation, and children of all ages are being taught wickedness and every form of godlessness. This is no time to grow timid!”

I also expect much of the banter will be political talk, not family talk. Recently, Dobson has been in the news for his meddling in partisan politics. As a private citizen, he can endorse or promote candidates – and he has been.

Most recently, Dobson was in the news for a gaffe. He endorsed Trey Grayson, a Republican running in the GOP primary for an open U.S. Senate seat in Kentucky and then about a week later said he had made an “embarrassing mistake” and switched his endorsement to Rand Paul, son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).

In Kansas, meanwhile, Dobson has taped radio ads for U.S. Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Republican who hopes to move up to the Senate.

Here’s the bottom line: You may hear Dobson blaring at you from a different spot on the radio dial, but the message will remain the same.

Meanwhile, things over at the Dobson-less FOF may be in a state of transition. Jim Daly, the ministry’s new president, says he plans to cultivate a less severe image.

“It’s not about being highly confrontational,” Daly told AOLNews. “It’s about results.”


Legions of FOF fans have been raised on Dobson’s “take-no-prisoners” style and like confrontation. Like Dobson, they are old-school theocrats who are certain they have a God-given right to tell you how to run your life.

I doubt this new approach is going to go over well with them. Indeed, the Illinois Family Institute has already declared itself unimpressed, fearing that Daly lacks the fire in his belly to confront those nefarious homosexuals and their myriad of schemes.

“If the family is FOF’s mission, then they better figure out how to stop the pro-homosexual juggernaut – nicely, of course – because soon every child from kindergarten through high school will be taught about ‘diverse family structures’ and Heather’s two nice mommies,” wrote the group’s Laurie Higgins.

How will all of this shake out?

My guess is that Daly’s friendlier FOF will go over like the proverbial lead balloon, and he’ll be forced to ratchet up the rhetoric – or find someone to do it for him – to keep the doors open. Meanwhile, Dobson and his son (who, despite the fact that he’s pushing 40 likes to pose as some kind of skate punk hipster) will rant and rave from their end of the broadcasting spectrum.

In other words, we’ll end up with even more Religious Right-fueled hate, vituperation, rage and rigid fundamentalism mixed with far-right politics wafting over our radios.

To the two Jims I can only say: Thanks for nothing!