Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
Strengthen Families, Strengthen Society: An Interview with Jim Daly
How has your experience with the foster care system shaped your ministry with Focus on the Family?
We started the Wait No More program a couple years ago, motivated by a vision to do more to help children in foster care. That's born directly out of those experiences I had as a little boy living in foster care. It's important for all of us as Christians to remember the biblical injunction to care for the widow and the orphan. In many cases, these people feel deeply alone. It's a wonderful opportunity for the church to step up and be a mentor, be a friend, be a mom and dad.
Wait No More started when someone informed me that there were 850 children waiting for families in the foster care system in Colorado. With three- or four-thousand churches in the state, we could make a real difference. So, to the credit of countless pastors on the Front Range, we got together and talked about what we could do.
Over the last two to three years, 500 out of those 850 kids have been placed into permanent homes with mothers and fathers. To me, that's one of the most gratifying things we've done here at Focus. We've had great success in other states as well. When we host a Wait No More conference, generally about 800 to 1000 families will show up, and about 42 percent of them will start the adoption process. It's fantastic.
Are you seeking to chart a different course for Focus than your predecessor?
They're not so different. Last year, for instance, our counseling care specialists conducted 66,000 counseling sessions. Those things are the heartbeat, the nuts and bolts, of Focus on the Family. We've sought to invest more in the area of orthopraxy—the doing of the Word—but that's not so much a change as an application and amplification of the good things that were already being done for marriage, for parenting, for engaging the culture, and for speaking out for the people who do not have a voice in our society.
Some have the impression that you're less politically oriented than Dr. Dobson, and so Focus is less engaged now with the political process. Is that true?
I know that impression is out there, but it's not really true. We continue to care about policy matters. If there's any difference, it's that we're trying to come at our work from the point of view of the mother who's making lunch for her young children. What are the policy battles that are important to her? Parents raising children are busy caring for them, going to work, trying to survive. We try to lift up things in the culture that mothers and fathers should be aware of, things that impact their families. The federal deficit is an example. Not everybody would take the time to understand that. But it's certainly important to think carefully about the burdens we're placing on the next generation.
Also, we often talk about things like abortion and marriage in a political context—and they certainly get hijacked by the political process. Yet these are not simply political issues. They're profoundly moral issues and problems that we face as a society.
The fight against Prop 8 in California was famously led, in no small measure, by the Mormon Church. And the Catholic Church has been strongly in opposition to abortion and gay marriage, even while many evangelicals are moderating their stances. Is there any sense that the evangelical commitment to social conservatism is waning, while Catholics and Mormons are standing fast on these issues?
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.