Monday, March 26, 2007

"The Jesus Machine"

Published earlier this month: The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War, by Dan Gilgoff.

About the book, from The Jesus Machine website:

More than two-dozen amendments to state constitutions banning gay marriage. The reelection of George W. Bush by winning nearly 80 percent of the white evangelical vote. The Terri Schiavo congressional intervention. The Christian Right has achieved more in the last few years than at any time in its history. Yet the story of the man and the organization that have orchestrated those successes—James Dobson and his Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family—has gone almost entirely untold.

Until now.

In The Jesus Machine, U.S. News & World Report Senior Editor Dan Gilgoff provides the first inside look at Dobson’s vast national network, the most powerful web of organizations the Christian Right has ever known. From its origins as a Southern California radio show dispensing parenting advice, Dobson—not a minister, but a family therapist with a doctorate in child development—has turned Focus on the Family into the command center for an unrivaled grassroots army. Dobson’s radio show reaches up to ten million Americans a week and elicits so much listener mail that Focus needs its own zip code.

Gilgoff was afforded wide access to Focus on the Family’s Colorado Springs headquarters, its so-called Washington embassy, the Family Research Council, and its state-level affiliates. In addition to rare interviews with Dobson himself, The Jesus Machine showcases interviews with Jerry Falwell, Ralph Reed, Chuck Colson, the scandal-plagued Ted Haggard, and scores of others, including politicians as diverse as Republican senator and presidential hopeful Sam Brownback and Democrat John F. Kerry. Besides chronicling how Dobson became more powerful than Falwell, Reed, or Pat Robertson ever were, The Jesus Machine shows:

  • How Democrats applied the lessons of losing the “values” vote in 2004 to wage the congressional takeover of 2006.
  • How a small handful of evangelical activists in Dobson’s network coaxed Congress into intervening in the Schiavo case, even as most evangelical Americans opposed the effort.
  • How Focus on the Family’s Ohio affiliate organized the 2004 get-out-the-vote drive that sent Bush back to the White House.
  • How Dobson overcame fierce resistance from within the Christian Right to the idea of amending the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriage, turning the amendment effort into the movement’s top priority—and giving Republicans an issue to win on.