It’s not everyday I get to say this, but I was quoted in the cover story for July’s issue of Christianity Today. It involves the future of the Christian group Focus on the Family now that James Dobson has stepped down.
A bit of background:
We were there for over two hours. You know what? There wasn’t a single mention of Prop 8 or gay marriage all night.
I felt cheated. That’s like going to a Jimmy Buffett concert and not hearing “Margaritaville.”
That was the event when I saw Jim Daly for the first time. He’s the new head of the organization and he’s taking a step back from the overly political, gay-hating image that Dobson spearheaded.
In a recent interview with World magazine, Daly made headlines when he admitted the Christian Right was losing the battle on same-sex marriage:
We’re winning the younger generation on abortion, at least in theory. What about same-sex marriage?
We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age — demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that. I don’t want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.
All the while, Focus is still one of the leaders in the fight against gay marriage. They still don’t support it, and I doubt they ever will. So while the rhetoric may have toned down since Dobson left, they really aren’t any more enlightened.
Back to Christianity Today.
Here’s my contribution:
Even non-Christians have noted a shift at Focus. “Friendly atheist” blogger Hemant Mehta wrote about how surprised he was when he attended a Wheaton College event where Daly spoke and did not mention gay marriage. A Focus spokesperson e-mailed Mehta and said he appreciated the feedback. “I wasn’t expecting that type of outreach.” Still, Mehta says, he and his friends see Focus on the Family as an obstacle when it comes to issues like same-sex marriage.
“I assure you no gay people are saying, ‘Focus on the Family is a great organization now that James Dobson has left!'” Mehta says. “The group may have a more affable public face in Jim Daly, but its positions haven’t changed, so Daly has a very uphill battle ahead of him if he wants to build bridges to the non-Christian community.”
Speaking of building bridges… A little over a month ago, I tried getting in touch with Daly for an email interview for this site. It was unrelated to the CT article.
One of Daly’s goals is to spread the gospel, so who better to speak to than a blog read by a whole bunch of atheists? I promised to print his answers in their entirety so that nothing would be taken out of context, and if he felt any question was out of line, he didn’t have to answer it.
I know Focus received the interview request because a staffer acknowledged it.
And then I never heard back.
So, I’ll make a more public plea to Jim Daly:
Come answer my questions. They’re good ones, I promise. Most aren’t even combative. You want to reach out to those of us who aren’t Christians? Here we are. We want to listen to you. Please talk to us. You know how to reach me.