Monday, July 25, 2011

ReFocus on the Family

While Focus on the Family isn’t the only conservative group that’s allied itself with the religious right (the Family Research Council, headed by Tony Perkins, also comes to mind) they’ve recently had a change of leadership. The previous head of Focus on the Family, James Dobson, notorious for claiming Spongebob Squarepants promoted homosexuality, (which inspired me to start writing letters to the editor) recently stepped down, allowing a new face to take his place. Jim Daly, the new head of Focus on the Family, is moving to change the group’s focus from political engagements to a general mission for family values. While I don’t know what these values might be to Daly, it’s heartening to see that at least one of a few groups is separating itself from the politicizing squabbles on ethical issues that populate the news these days.

The common angle for groups that have some sort of religious mission seems to be to popularize and ingratiate yourself with politically minded people. Once you get into the spotlight and appeal to the desire to change the world through policy and democratic action, you can even make what would initially seem theocratic or ultra-conservative ideas more accessible to an otherwise uninterested person. These days, however, the reverse has applied. People are less interested in politically centered groups to change the world, which Focus on the Family was long associated with. Jim Daly seeks to emphasize that the group is mission focused, which means that political gain should not be their primary goal, if at all. If they want to appear as a non-profit type of organization, then they shouldn’t associate with people who are in their jobs for the money and have that sort of fixation of developing connections and generating capital for a business or campaign respectively.

The group’s original goal, according to Daly, was not about advancing an ideology or an agenda through political means, but a concentration on marriage and family advice. In that sense, there isn’t the moralizing tendency, but simply being there for people who need help and extending a hand to people. I remember watching Adventures in Odyssey, a show adapted from a radio program that it originally debuted as through Focus on the Family’s Radio Theatre.  I don’t remember much, but it certainly wasn’t so preachy to get on one’s nerves. It seems as if there was some point where James Dobson, who was the original founder of FotF, started thinking that in order to make his points made, he had to get into politics and make use of the religious backing of politicians and their concern about issues like pro-life and same-sex marriage “threatening” traditional marriage. Dobson was originally a psychologist, though I’d even question that. He published a few books and those were part of the basis of his ideas that he promulgated through this company 
that spread out to associated groups in Canada and Singapore.

The future of FotF is uncertain, since Daly only started officially within this year, it appears. But if they slowly begin to separate themselves from politics and focus more on giving the particular advice from their foundations about marriage (traditional?) and relationships in general, perhaps they’ll draw in some of the people they pushed away before. I can respect this, especially since the decision to focus on something we all tend to encounter problems with at one point or another is much better than isolating a large segment of even the Christian population with insistence that if they don’t accept exactly what they believe in terms of politics, they don’t belong. When you welcome in people with basic qualifications, it serves to bridge the gaps in a more considerate way than creating boundaries just for the sake of separation or to stand out. I wish the group fortune in their future and success in their goals. Until next time, Namaste and aloha.

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