The first time I noticed the change from James Dobson's Focus on the Family to Jim Daly's was when the phone rang—Dobson almost never returned Christianity Today's phone calls (he didn't grant an interview for this month's cover story, either), and the organization followed his lead. I don't know if it was this media engagement history or the specific subject of the interview, but Daly's first words to me were, "Bet you didn't think I'd call you back, did you?"

It was May 2009. Dobson was still hosting Focus on the Family's radio show, and I was inquiring about criticism of the upcoming episode, "A Modern-Day Esther"—"Esther" being beauty pageant contestant Carrie Prejean, who became a conservative celebrity when her comments on marriage apparently cost her the Miss USA title. Critics complained that Focus was undercutting its stance on sexual purity by hosting a bikini contestant who'd done some semi-nude modeling. (Focus renamed the episode "Standing Strong" before it aired.)

Daly was not defensive and didn't go on the attack. He recognized the issue but explained the ministry's stance. "Her past modeling jobs don't make her opinion on marriage any less valid," he said. "She's a 21-year-old girl whose Christian worldview is probably not fully formed …. [But] to have the courage to state her conviction is worth praising, even if it was feebly stated.

"The other stuff we're not as interested in. We're not condoning it or passing judgment," he said near the end of our interview. "I'd hate to have the Christian community focus on poor decisions she's made as opposed to celebrating that she had the courage to speak for biblical truth."

I'll admit that part of me wondered if the rule being applied was that opposition ...

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July 2011

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