Dobson retiring from Focus on the Family

One of the most powerful figures in evangelical Christianity, James Dobson, is retiring as chairman of Focus on the Family, the ministry he started 32 years ago.

Dobson may not be as well known in New York as he is in much of the rest of the country.

But when people talk about the leaders of the “religious right,” they’re talking about Dobson and a few others. He has been a tremendously influential figure, promoting conservative values in society and government.

In a statement, Dobson says:

One of the common errors of founder-presidents is to hold to the reins of leadership too long, thereby preventing the next generation from being prepared for executive authority. I have wanted not to make that mistake with Focus on the Family, which is why I stepped back, first from the presidential duties six years ago, and now, from board chairmanship. Though letting go is difficult after three decades of intensive labor, it is the wise thing to do.

James Dobson and Sarah Palin talk faith

James Dobson, head of Focus on the Family and one of the leaders of the “religious right,” did an interview the other day with Sarah Palin that you can hear here.

They speak very directly about Palin’s faith and about her commitment as a (in her words) “hard-core pro-lifer.”

Dobson says that it is “risky” to politicize Palin’s prayer life. But he tells her that many Christians are praying for her and that “God’s perfect will will be done on Nov. 4.”

Palin says she feels the intercession.

2208d92f33114f81b653205cfe977375.jpg“I can feel it, too, Dr. Dobson,” she says. “I can feel the power of prayer.”

Asked if her faith is a big part of who she is, she answers: “It is my foundation, yes, my Christian faith is.”

They talk a bit about Palin’s infant, Trig, who has Down syndrome.

Palin: “To be honest with you, it scared me, though…I had to really be on my knees for the entire rest of the pregnancy asking that God would prepare my heart.”

Palin praises Dobson several times for the work that he does: “Your reward is going to be in heaven. I know that you take a lot of shots, also.”

Much of the interview focuses on the mainstream media and what Palin and Dobson agree has been unfair coverage of her campaign.

“I have never seen such hatred,” Dobson says.

“Even Joe the plumber is being carpet-bombed by the press,” he says.

Palin says: “This is when my faith becomes even more important to me. I have to have faith that my words will get out there to the American people despite the filter of the mainstream media.”

Dobson concludes that: “We’re on the same team. I’m just trying to serve the Lord, like you are…”

Whatever you do, don’t say that James Dobson makes stuff up

Gary McCullough, director of Christian Newswire, sent out a release today saying, basically, that Barack Obama has made a potentially career-ending blunder by challenging the evangelical leader James Dobson (that’s him).

The headline says that Obama’s blunder is of “Epic Proportion.”

jamesdobson.jpgI knew that Dobson is an influential evangelical leader, but not that “Susie Q. evangelical” — McCullough’s term — will be so outraged by Obama saying Dobson “was making stuff up” that undecided evangelicals will rush to John McCain’s side.

Dobson had accused Obama of distorting the Bible, prompting Obama’s reaction.

McCullough writes:

Barack Obama may have made a political blunder that will impact more swing voters than any other single factor: he insulted Jim Dobson’s integrity.

By picking a public fight with America’s most popular religious radio personality, Obama negated his best advantage with unaligned voters; evangelical Christians.

The evangelical community had been fairly unimpressed by John McCain. But Obama has shown a grave lack of political wisdom: he did not let this sleeping dog lie.

And he concludes:

Until this flurry, McCain’s standing with the evangelical community was undefined, and tepid at best. Moreover, it is commonly accepted that McCain cannot win without the evangelical vote. Obama’s treatment of Dobson did two things; it eliminated any sympathy for the abuse he took for attacks on his religious associations, i.e. Rev. Wright, and two; Obama insulted the single, most powerful influence on evangelicals.

Insulting Dobson’s integrity will cost Obama dearly with this critical swing vote. His mistake could prove to make the difference in November — in favor of McCain.

A new top 10: abuse of religion on the presidential campaign trail (so far)

And the worst abuse of religion during the presidential campaign goes to…

Mike Huckabee.

tjndc5-5iw2dfqrbysd2dum1rg_layout.jpgFor this line: “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards.”

He won’t get a gold statue.

The Interfaith Alliance today released its list of the 10 “worst abuses of religion during the campaign so far.”

Interfaith Alliance President the Rev. C. Welton Gaddy explains:

I have witnessed more abuses of religion in this primary season than in any election in recent memory. Candidates from both parties seem to be locked in a competition to be ‘holier than thou.’ Incidents like these demean the sanctity of religion by inferring that God has endorsed a certain candidate. Far be it for candidates to run for ‘Commander-in-Chief’ instead of ‘Pastor-in-Chief.’

Here’s the top 10:

10. Mitt Romney is asked if he believes “every word� of the Bible
(CNN/You Tube debate (11-28-07).
9. CNN’s Soledad O’Brien asks John Edwards to “name his greatest sin�
(CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).
8. James Dobson tells a reporter he does not think that Fred Thompson is a Christian
(3-27-07).
7. Barack Obama distributes a campaign flier describing himself as a “Committed Christian� (1-21-08).
6. Hillary Clinton said we need to “inject faith into policy�
(CNN/Sojourners town hall 6-26-07).
5. Mike Huckabee explains his rise in the polls by invoking the Biblical story of two fish and five loaves feeding a crowd of 5,000 people (11-28-07).
4. Tim Russert asks all the Democratic candidates to “name their favorite Bible verse� (MSNBC 9-26-07).
3. John McCain says the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that he would prefer a Christian president (9-27-07).
2. Barack Obama asked a congregation to help him “become an instrument of God� and join him in creating “a Kingdom right here on Earth� (10-17-07).
1. Mike Huckabee tells a crowd: “What we need to do is to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standardsâ€? (1-14-08).

(Photo: AP/Elise Amendola)