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For the first time, we can envision a future without Focus on the Family

by Jeremy Hooper

Focus on the Family circa 2010 wants to have it both ways. On one hand, they still want to have folks like Tom Minnery going around saying that openly gay Supreme Court nominees are "non-starters" because of no reason greater than their sexual orientation. On the other, the PR team wants to pitch around their new head, Jim Daly, to outlets like AOL News and The Denver Post with the idea being that he's a "newer, softer" version of a "pro-family" leader.

Now, we reject that latter position, because we know that Focus on the Family's cosmetic changes are exactly that, and that underneath it all is still LOADS of hostility for LGBT lives and loves. And we refuse to accept the meme that someone who has worked at Focus on the Family for 21 years, and who says that people who "find themselves in homosexuality" will, via their legal loving, bring forth the "judgement of God" is some kind of new voice. Because we've monitored Jim Daly for years. We've read quips like this..

"Is it any wonder that advocates of various “modern” forms of marriage–be it same-sex, “open marriage”, “group marriage” or polygamy...opponents of traditional marriage are mistaken to suggest that God has changed His view about same-sex marriage. They forget that God leveled the city of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 because of the rampant practice of same-sex behavior. What could be more clear?" [Source]

...and this...

"Left unchecked, homosexual activists could strong-arm churches into permitting civil union ceremonies in their sanctuary, force pastors to officiate such unions against their will, and fine photographers, catering services, florists, bakers, wedding planners, musicians or other businesses who, due to their religious convictions, elect not to service certain cliental." [Source]

We know that while Daly might be far less reluctant to get his hands dirty, there is still oh-so-much mud being slung from the Colorado Springs HQ. Daly may very well be a great husband, father, storyteller, sushi chef. He very well may be "nice." But it's the work that matters. And the work is just as "culture war"-y as it's always been.

Okay, now that all being said: We will now show you the other side of the tale. Because while we are rejecting the "nice," personality-driven act, there is another set of people who are also raging mad that FOtF is putting up such a front. However, their motivations and read of the situation could not be more different:

It seems that Focus on the Family (FOTF) is becoming a schizophrenic organization. Recently we applauded Focus for reaffirming a principled position against homosexual judicial nominees. Now, oddly, Jim Daly, FOTF’s new president and CEO, is talking down the pro-family “culture war.”

Daly’s softness on public policy must be understood in the context of the ongoing evangelical retreat in the Culture War (typified by the book UnChristian). Many Christians are more concerned with the Church’s “image” than they are with confronting lies in the culture and standing against secular threats like “Gay” and Abortion Lobbies. They claim that Culture War activism hinders the Gospel.
Scolding bands of unshaven, gun-toting fundamentalists roaming the woods surely will earn Jim Daly plaudits in the liberal media. Reminding the world that homosexuality and Christianity are incompatible; that repentant homosexuals can leave the lifestyle through Christ; and educating on how sin-embracing “Christianity” corrupts and confuses the Church, will earn him derision in the same media.
Is Jim Daly Emasculating Focus on the Family? [AFTAH]

The above is from Peter LaBarbera. But he's far from alone. We've heard the same sort of thing from other "pro-family" voices and media outlets, and are not even 100% convinced that James Dobson himself is happy about what's going on (based on some comments he's made while promoting his new, independent radio show). So basically FOtF is facing a pretty major dilemma. Folks like us are not going to back down, making sure to push back until the day they stop shoving us in the soul. But at the same time, the older school evangelicals (who donate) and newly burgeoning far righters (who must be convinced to donate) are not going to accept the idea that the past 30 years of "culture war" activism have all been a waste. They're just not.

Yes, some like Rick Warren and Joel Osteen have had success with "ah, shucks" personality-driven images. Yes, candidates like Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin have had success with "folksy." But the former depend on devoted congregants and book sales for their survival, and the latter depend on the idea that he or she can lead social conservatives out of a political abyss. Focus on the Family, with a more abstract goal and mission, depends entirely on the idea that they as an organization are worthy enough to receive donations, in a world with a gagillion other places to send money (including to those churches and candidates that offer tangible claims of saving souls/passing laws). So with this new mindset, which both we and the Peter LaBarbera's of the world see as somewhat schizophrenic, FOtF is playing a risky game. By stepping out with two incongruous feet, they very well might trip.

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