Strengthen Families, Strengthen Society: An Interview with Jim Daly

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?

I haven't seen research on how policy positions break down according to Protestant versus Catholic, or one denomination versus another, so I'm not in a strong position to speak with authority in that regard. Yet I'd guess that it's more a demographic issue. Although I don't have the exact data with me, I believe that about 65 percent of those over age 40 or 45 support traditional marriage, while 60-65 percent of those below 40 years of age support same-sex marriage.

There's probably some fatigue amongst evangelicals. I don't think people will run from scriptural truth. It's important for the church to stand on its principles. The world struggles with this. They expect the church to bend its moral truth in order to accommodate the culture. But one of the wonderful things of the Christian church over the centuries is that it's had a bedrock foundation of scriptural truth it has stood upon. At times the culture has supported it. At times the culture has gone against it. We may be at a moment where we're seeing a transition from support to opposition, but that shouldn't change what the church teaches.

Polling data tells us that more Americans now identify as pro-life than pro-choice. The younger generations in particular are more pro-life than the older. Are we reaching a tipping point on the abortion issue, where pro-lifers might be able to achieve some real substantive legal victories?

I do sense a change of heart in the culture. The weight of the moral question is rising to the surface, even within camps that have not traditionally supported a pro-life perspective. More and more people are rethinking their position on the abortion issue.

Fundamentally, now that we have more advanced technologies that can show us what life looks like inside the womb, people are coming to the conclusion that this is more than a blob of tissue. It's a child, very early in development. It's a baby sucking its thumb, a baby with ten fingers and toes, two eyes and ears. You can see the dimensions and all the amazing detail. Technology more than anything has confirmed that this really is a human, and people are concluding that this is not something a good culture should do.

Abortion is not new. It's not just contemporary to this culture. The idea of discarding an unwanted child through inducing labor or exposure—or throwing the baby in a river, which was the practice in Roman times—is not new. Christians in that era would find children in these exposed elements, bring them home and raise them as their own. This was one of the hallmarks of the early church.

5/18/2011 4:00:00 AM
  • Evangelical
  • Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
  • Abortion
  • Family
  • Focus on the Family
  • Jim Daly
  • Marriage
  • Media
  • politics
  • Poverty
  • Same-sex Marriage
  • Christianity
  • Evangelicalism
  • Timothy Dalrymple
    About Timothy Dalrymple
    Timothy Dalrymple is the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of Polymath Innovations, a strategic storytelling agency that advances the good with visionary organizations and brands. He leads a unique team of communicators from around North America and across the creative spectrum, serving mission-driven businesses and nonprofits who need a partner to amplify their voice and good works. Once a world-class gymnast whose career ended with a broken neck, Tim channeled his passions for faith and storytelling into his role as VP of Business Development for Patheos, helping to launch and grow the network into the world's largest religion website. He holds a Ph.D. in Religion from Harvard's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Tim blogs at Philosophical Fragments.