Here are edited excerpts of my interview with Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family, and the author of Stronger (David C. Cook, 2010). Daly became the organization's president in 2005 after 16 years with the ministry, succeeding founder James Dobson.
The reputation of Focus on the Family seems to be changing. For a while journalists made it seem to be an essentially political organization. Our budget has always been roughly 90 percent toward the bread and butter, marriage and parenting issues, and 10 percent toward policy. That really hasn't changed. What has changed is how we address the issues in terms of tone. . . . Everything I'm trying to do at Focus on the Family is to win the culture. I'm most concerned about our expression of the gospel preventing somebody from coming to the conclusion that Christ is who He said He was. I'm not saying that was the case before, but I am saying that as a Christian I want to make sure that my words, my rhetoric, my fervor for truth are balanced with God's grace.
As we talk about various issues, how do we get to the root, which is a lack of faith in God, and the solution, which is Christ? You have to demonstrate the love of Christ. That's the important thing. It's not a means to an end: It has to be the reason. So, at Focus on the Family, we're trying to stay true to the principles and reach people through the love of Christ, by doing the Orphan Care Initiative and helping with ultrasound machines. We have to be the gospel in action. If we're just going to be rhetorical, I think we lose, because the other side is much better at it.
Your Orphan Care Initiative is bearing fruit. . . . Probably 2½ years ago we started the Wait No More Campaign. It was really born out of my heart to do something with foster kids who are available for adoption. Just in Colorado we had 850 kids in foster care waiting to be adopted. In the last two years, we've knocked that down to 350. Five hundred kids have been adopted in the program. Before, the most that the state had ever adopted in a given year, I think, was about 80 children.
Some journalists are observing that success. . . . One of the guys who's been very antagonistic toward Focus on the Family was impressed with Wait No More. He said, "I just want to know more about what you're doing." We talked about it, and he said, "You know, we have carpet-bombed Focus on the Family for 17 years, and I would like to start writing articles that are more favorable."
The ultrasound initiative is designed to help crisis pregnancy centers. . . . That started in 2006 or 2007. We've placed about 515 ultrasound machines. The great news about this is that technology is on our side. Ultrasound has allowed us to look at the development of the human being-and the culture is beginning to say, "Wait a minute, abortion feels immoral." We don't need to pound anybody over the head with it. Let's ride science and technology and allow people to come to that conclusion.
We're winning the younger generation on abortion, at least in theory. What about same-sex marriage? We're losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don't know if that's going to change with a little more age-demographers would say probably not. We've probably lost that. I don't want to be extremist here, but I think we need to start calculating where we are in the culture.
Where are we? We've got to look at what God is doing in all of this. . . . Have we done such a poor job with marriage, is He so upset with our mishandling of it in the Christian community, along with our lust of the flesh as a nation, that He is handing us over to this polygamy and same-sex situation in order to, perhaps, drive the Christian community, the remnant, into saying, "OK, there's no no-fault divorce in our church"?
So churches would have a standard of marriage higher than the state's? We'd say, "The piece of paper that you get at the state to recognize your marriage is worthless. It's like registering your car. But if you're going to be a part of this church and you're married, you're going to be committed to your marriage. There's no easy way out." What if the Christian divorce rate goes from 40 percent to 10 percent or 5 percent, and the world's goes from 50 percent to 80 percent? Now we're back to the early centuries. They're looking at us and thinking, "We want more of what they've got," because we're proving in front of the eyes of the world that marriage in a Christian context works.
What's the current perception of gay activists about Christian marriage? I sat down with one. He said, "You guys haven't done so well with marriage. Why are you upset about us having a try?" We've got to look at our own house, make sure that our marriages are healthy, that we're being a good witness to the world. Then we can continue to work on defending marriage as best as we can.
It does seem that many of our national symptoms go back to the failure of marriage and the absence of fathers in the home. . . . One researcher found that it costs the government $300 billion a year because of the impact of dads not being in the home. In looking at the social problems we face, we should start with how to get dads reconnected to the family and committed to their marriages. If we could do that, we could achieve a lot in this country.
Do family problems contribute to poverty? Journalists will say to us, "If you're a Christian organization, why don't you fight poverty directly?" My response is, "We do." The No. 1 predictor of poverty is a divorce. Women and children land below the poverty line most often after divorce.
Some European governments, noting the costs of having children, are providing large child subsidies, in essence paying couples to have children. . . . But on the back end you have to tax families to pay for that. This then creates the need for both parents to have salaries.
Can't we just print more money? Seriously, do you recommend some non-financial ways for governments to help marriage? Make divorce more difficult. Have mandatory waiting periods. Have 90-day mandatory counseling for people so it's not just "we don't like each other any more." There are different things to do that do not involve taxing other families to pay for them.
Any thoughts on President Obama? I may not agree with any of his policies. I do appreciate that he's married to his first wife and raising his two children. We need more men like that. I once said that America would be better off if we had more families that reflected the Obamas, and a lot of conservatives went nuts with that, but it's true! Some of the conservative candidates that we put up-between a couple of them recently, I think they had seven or eight marriages. That seems a bit hypocritical.
Listen to Marvin Olasky's complete interview with Jim Daly.