Regular readers of this weblog know that that your GetReligionistas are fans of verbatim question-and-answer interviews, especially when they focus on religious (and political) leaders whose views have previously been crunched down into soundbites and factoids. Well, the Washington Post team that does the God and Government site offered us a classic example the other day of how to use this tool. If I have a problem with the online feature called "Dobson's Successor Praises Obama, Looks for Common Ground" it's that some of the contents really needed to move up a notch to the analog newspaper, perhaps in a solid Sunday editorial-page setting. This is especially true in light of the flame outs taking place right now among the GOP heroes of the old Religious Right (and there is really no need to name names).
Thus, it isn't a surprise that the new leader of Focus on the Family is interested in talking to First Father Barack Obama about fatherhood and parenting. That used to be what Focus on the Family was known for, after all.
You can also see this feature as the flip side of the Southern Baptist Convention's current resolutions -- passed, with this text -- to celebrate the racial reconciliation side of Obama's rise to the White House, while underlining differences on theology and politics.
Anyway, the White House -- this is news in and of itself -- invited Jim Daly, the new Focus on the Family president and CEO to that recent summit on fatherhood. Click here for the president's remarks.
In a way, it probably would have been impossible for Dr. James Dobson to have punched that ticket, without causing a media storm (in mainstream and religious media). But Daly showed up and got some face time with Obama to talk shop. That's where the Washington Post piece starts, beginning with this question:
What did you think of the fatherhood presentation this afternoon?
It was outstanding. There wasn't anything lacking in the president's presentation. He reaffirmed the importance of fathering and the damage done when fathers are lacking in the home. And it's something that is core to Focus on the Family as well. Thought it was gracious for the White House to extend an invitation to Focus on the Family. We're certainly going to have enough areas to disagree on certain policies. But one of the things I want to do as president of Focus is when there is common ground that , we can pull together and say, "This is good. This is a good thing." And personally, I am 47, like the president. I also didn't have a father. So I can identify with what he describes as that hole in your heart. Anything we can do to help kids fill that void, I applaud. It's something we're trying to do every day at Focus and I think it's wonderful for the government to also lend its support in that way.
And here's another look into those links between the two men:
What did you say to the president?
We shook hands, and I thanked him for the day. And I thanked him for putting attention on this issue of fatherhood and mentioned that, like him, I am 47, and I was raised without a dad. He had made a comment during his presentation that when he called his daughters during the campaign, they would answer with one word. I said, "I was glad to hear you say that because my sons are a similar age and do the same thing, so I'm glad it's not me."
He actually said congratulations for becoming president of Focus. I thought that was gracious, and I appreciated that acknowledgment. We have to remember that we're all human beings. We're all made in the image of God, and I'm sure everybody is trying hard and, to the degree that we can help in any way, that's what we want to do.
And listen for this ironic soundbite in the future, which came out of the press conference in which Dobson stepped down as Focus chairman. That's when the senior leader of the old Religious Right, and the man with the strongest credentials and most loyal followers, said: "What we want to see is more families like Barack Obama's."
Read it all. It's worth the time. In fact, read the transcript of the session at the White House. It's interesting, in the Q&A time, to note the other people who came and took part.
Hat tip to the omnipresent blogger and correspondent David Brody over at CBN News.
Photos: Recent shot of Jim Daly and the cover of his book.