Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
Strengthen Families, Strengthen Society: An Interview with Jim Daly
Where you have serious murder charges, fair-minded people could differ on this. I could easily be persuaded to move to a life-sentence-without-parole position. You want every human being, regardless of his or her crime, to have an opportunity to repent and know the Lord Jesus Christ. So I'm not aggressive when it comes to the capital punishment issue. I can support it and have supported it. But if the pro-abortion people were to say, "Listen, we would end abortion if you'd stop supporting capital punishment"—even though I don't equate those two in any moral way, I would jump at the chance.
Another slogan: "Organizations like Focus on the Family reduce the Christian message to abortion and gay marriage, culture-war issues, and forget that the Bible talks an awful lot about helping the poor and needy."
Christian organizations often focus around certain key things. Very few organizations have the whole panacea of efforts. That's perhaps something the local church is better equipped to do as the local church. They do a lot of things. They have soup kitchens. They offer tutoring. Yet parachurch organizations like Focus on the Family tend to be licensed around certain activities. So you have World Vision and Compassion, directly taking care of hungry children, and you have other organizations that are dedicated to the improvement of education, and so on.
Then you have Christian organizations like Focus that concentrate on marriage and parenting. When that's your focus, you look at issues like abortion and non-traditional marriage, two things that directly impact family and parenting. So of course we speak out on those issues. They are right in the freeway of our mission statement.
One of the criticisms that can come to us is that, as a Christian organization, you don't fight poverty. But really, we fight poverty in the most direct way, by trying to keep a marriage together. If we're successful, no one really hears about it. But if we're successful then we have done the most important thing to keep a woman and children out of poverty. Divorce is the most important predictor of poverty. So the irony is that we fight poverty at the very core by keeping marriages together.
Was it ever the case that the Christian Right forgot about poverty and justice?
Again, certain organizations may not directly address poverty, if that's not the purpose of the organization. But when you look at Christian expression in its totality, you have Compassion and World Vision and other organizations that were set up under a Christian charter helping the poor and the oppressed directly. I express my concern for the poor in part through my support of those ministries that are pursuing that charter.
The Heritage Foundation speaks of a $300 billion "daddy deficit"—hundreds of billions of dollars are going toward social programs because dad is not in the home. So as I look at he landscape today, I think the family is the number one way to get at the root of so many of these difficulties. That's one reason, even though I wouldn't agree with many of President Obama's policies, when I look at his personal life I have a lot of admiration for him. The man is married to his first wife and raising his biological kids. If more families reflected that type in our country, we would be a stronger nation. I believe that at my core. One of the great things that President Obama models is his family.
Could Focus or could you ever support a Mormon for the office of the Presidency?
Yeah. It's not my place to tell a person how to vote. People need to vote their conscience. I would encourage them to understand the issues and make sure their candidates line up with their values. But I would also encourage them to look simply at the competency of an individual. We are—contrary to what some people might think—not about creating a theocracy. We certainly want candidates who reflect our values, but we also need the most competent candidates who can get the job done.
There's an analogy I love. When you step onto an airplane, you don't ask the pilot whether he's Christian. You want to make sure the pilot is trained and certified to fly the plane. The same goes for government. Government vocations require a great deal of skill and ability, to negotiate, compromise, come to an agreement, and push things through, looking out for the best interests of the nation.
The biblical mandate for government is to preserve order and punish evil. We should elect people who understand that sacred oath, who look out for the best interests of the nation, and who can get the job done. So I'm not perplexed about voting Mormon or non-Mormon. People need to vote their conscience. I would encourage them to understand the issues and make sure their candidates line up with their values.
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.