Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
Strengthen Families, Strengthen Society: An Interview with Jim Daly
Editor's Note: The interview below is published as a part of a symposium hosted by Patheos' Catholic Portal and Evangelical Portal, entitled, "For Life and Family: Faith and the Future of Social Conservatism."
Founded by Dr. James Dobson in 1977, Focus on the Family has worked ever since through a variety of ministries as well as print, broadcast, and electronic media to care for children and provide resources for families in the United States and around the world. Focus has also been a stalwart champion of traditional family values in the social and political spheres, drawing praise from some and criticism from others for its stances on issues like abortion, pornography, and the defense of traditional marriage.
Jim Daly's was precisely the kind of family that Focus sought to reach. After an early childhood characterized by abuse, alcoholism, and poverty in the slum of Compton, Jim saw his father abandon the family and his mother die of cancer. While Jim attended his mother's funeral with his siblings, their stepfather ransacked the home and ran away with the family possessions. In Finding Home, Jim tells the remarkable story of how God brought him through abandonment and loss, hardship and homelessness into a life of faith in Jesus Christ—and into Focus on the Family. After years of work with their overseas ministry, Jim became President of the organization in 2005. To this day he serves as President and CEO, and hosts a daily broadcast that is heard by nearly 3 million listeners each week. He spoke with Timothy Dalrymple by phone.
In what way does your biography shape the work you do today?
Well, there's an interesting contrast here. Dr. Dobson came from a stable, nurturing home, a home more typical of his generation. I think my own experiences are more reflective of today's families, families that are often so very fragmented and dysfunctional. I had what you might call a typical dysfunctional two-parent family: a single-parent mother, a stepfather, foster care after my mother passed away; then I lived briefly again with my biological father before he died too, and finally I lived with my older siblings.
From where I stand today, when I look back upon that journey, the path that I had to walk, I can see how it makes sense. The Lord was planting this from the beginning. It feels like this: You know what it's like to live in broken families—now go and do what you can to bring healing. Now it's an honor in every way to build upon the foundation Dr. Dobson laid, to apply my own experiences and pain to my everyday work life.
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.