DOBSON POINTS TO CULTURE WAR DEFEAT…. James Dobson delivered a farewell speech to the Focus on the Family staff, and conceded that the culture war he helped start hasn’t turned out well for the agents of intolerance. Indeed, Dobson almost sounded resigned to defeat.
James Dobson, 72, who resigned recently as head of Focus on the Family — one of the largest Christian groups in the country — and once denounced the Harry Potter books as witchcraft, acknowledged the dramatic reverse for the religious Right in a farewell speech to staff.
“We tried to defend the unborn child, the dignity of the family, but it was a holding action,” he said.
“We are awash in evil and the battle is still to be waged. We are right now in the most discouraging period of that long conflict. Humanly speaking, we can say we have lost all those battles.”
Now, in fairness, this report omitted some context. As my friend Kyle reported, Dobson actually emphasized his desire to keep the fight going, despite the religious right movement’s setbacks: “Humanly speaking, we can say that we have lost all those battles, but God is in control and we are not going to give up now, right? … I have been assured by the board and by many of you that we’re not going to cow, we’re not going to be discouraged.”
That said, whether Dobson and his cohorts give up now or not, his assessment about their lack of success is nevertheless accurate. The culture war is all but over, and far-right evangelicals have precious little to show for their efforts. After about three decades of fighting, the culture warriors are hard pressed to point to any progress at all.
Anti-gay animus is not only waning, four states now allow gay marriage. Abortion is still legal and a majority of Americans are still pro-choice. School prayer isn’t even on the political world’s radar screen anymore. Pornography is not only a multi-billion industry; it’s more accessible than ever. The single fastest growing segment of the American spiritual landscape is non-believers and those with no religious identification.
In 1998, President Clinton’s approval rating went up after getting caught in a sex scandal, and in 2008, the first admitted adulterer to ever run for president sought and won the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.
Not only does the Republican Party establishment largely ignore its theocratic wing, but there are growing fissures in evangelical Christian communities, with a growing number of evangelicals, especially younger ones, rejecting the Dobson agenda and political worldview.
Dobson isn’t giving up, and I suspect the religious right movement will keep pushing its misguided agenda. But humanly speaking, this crowd has not only lost all their battles, they should probably stop trying to win.