A Life-giving Effect
*Wendy Murray Zoba is to be commended for her article on James Dobson and the ministry of Focus on the Family [Mar. 1]. I enjoy CT's well-balanced articles and appreciate that they do not focus only on an individual's mistakes or positive contributions.
Dobson is a believer who makes mistakes, but our Lord uses him in spite of his flaws (sounds like most believers I know!). As Zoba writes, "[Dobson] has a lot to say about today's America. He doesn't always say it right, and sometimes he confuses his roles. But Focus on the Family is having a life-giving effect in a soul-sick nation."
Union Grove, Wis.
* I believe your article understated the important impact Dobson's ministry has had on men by drawing so much attention to its impact on "millions of struggling moms." As a husband, father, and adult male in contemporary society, I treasure Dobson's insight into how to fill those roles more successfully and believe his voice speaks to men just as powerfully as to women.
* I was intrigued by Zoba's observation that "It could be argued that Dobson did not move into the realm of politics so much as politics moved into his domain: morality." One of the interesting myths that has grown up around Dobson's formidable political legacy is that he has been a reluctant, involuntary warrior. It is a myth fueled by Jim's constant disclaimers to the press that political activism is a very small part of his interest and work.
I was a senior executive at Focus on the Family in the late seventies when he added politics to the organization's original two-part mission statement (to help parents raise their kids and to help husbands and wives stay married). Whether you agree or disagree with his agenda and tactics, of one thing I can assure you—his foray into big-time politics was deliberate and calculated.
San Dimas, Calif.
Did the Dobson cover story receive the seal of approval from Focus on the Family before it was published?
During the past 20 years I have conducted journalism seminars in Washing ton, D.C., and New York City for college and graduate students from Christian schools. Sometimes Christian editors and reporters at secular publications expressed their frustration in covering Dobson and other evangelical leaders. The most well-known religious personalities often insisted that they see any article about them or photograph of them prior to publication. That overly defensive policy can easily be regarded as arrogance by secular media people, even by those who agree with a particular Christian leader.
About two years ago the staff of a campus newspaper at a Christian college wrestled with the Focus media policies. The student editors never were able to work out an arrangement with the FOF headquarters for publishing a statement from Dr. Dobson. They finally gave up and never published the piece.
It would be informative to know if CT had to get approval before publishing the recent article on Dr. Dobson.
Glenn F. Arnold
Focus on the Family did not ask CT to review the article before publication, nor did CT ask Focus to do so. We appreciate the more trusting approach Focus on the Family has adopted in facilitating this article. —Eds.
* I just read your article on James Dobson and am thinking the following must be a typo, yes? "Partial-birth abortion, explains Dobson, 'is profoundly moral . …' " If I know Dr. Dobson, he said "profoundly immoral."
Dr. Dobson said "profoundly moral." In the context of his remarks, he clearly meant that it was not a political issue but a profoundly moral one. —Eds.
Sending Money: Not Either/Or
It is good to make public the debate between sending "American missionaries or money to support local pastors and Christian workers" [Matters of Opinion: "Stop Sending Money," Mar. 1]. Mission agencies have considered the pros and cons for many years. Some of us have concluded that it is not an either/or situation. Each country must consider the local situation.
The Romanian Missionary Society (RMS) supports the indigenous support method, so I have read the case studies around the world that lend credence to the sad reports of "missions dependency" and other negatives associated with this method. But no consideration is given to "missions dependency" the American missionary develops upon the agency or churches who send him. What's the difference? Another question: Do people think there is no envy of American missionaries by the locals when they see their lifestyle?
McQuilkin's major proposition supports the conclusion that each country must consider the local situation. He asks, "To whom should we give money?" then goes to the New Testament and states, "The primary commands and examples for giving money in the New Testament center in one group: the poor."
The pastors supported by RMS are poor. When a pastor's wife shows me a ragged, thin mattress and a cardboard box as their dresser now replaced with a new bed with a mattress and spring alongside a new dresser, tears come to my eyes. Their outside toilet is up a hill about 30 feet from the well where they get their water.
I'm giving to the poor and promoting the Great Commission at the same time. The important thing is that we are teaching the churches why they should give and ultimately support their own pastors. It's not a "forever" money tree.
Darrel L. Anderson, Executive Director
Romanian Missionary Society
* Not a moment too soon, this wise word on the dangers of dependency from missionary statesman Robertson McQuilkin. As an observer/participant of mission to Vietnam for more than 30 years, I offer this sad example of the "money looking for workers" phenomenon. After Communists took over Vietnam in 1975, Christians came together essentially under one church body to face the common threat. With "Doi Moi," Vietnam's version of glasnost in the late eighties, the door was opened to creative missions. Sadly, many mission agencies looking for workers to pay and call their own rushed in. They contributed significantly to the splintering of the single body into at least 40 mini-denominations, with all kinds of wasteful duplication and unhealthy competition and relational problems. Growth has also slowed considerably.
The previous generation of missionaries counted success by the number of churches planted that didn't need financial help. This new money-dependent wave counts success by the number of workers they pay.
Chilliwack, B.C., Canada
* McQuilkin's article needs to be read and digested by every member of the church! What a conscience-easer it would be to send one's funds and not his children; to send one's money and not his friends; to send one's gifts but not oneself! The easiest thing a materially blessed person can do is send money. But God's demand of a living sacrifice will often mean going oneself to lands where the gospel has not been adequately declared.
God help us if we think that giving money to nationals is a cure to the problem of getting the gospel to the nations.
Prof. David P. Harvey
Toccoa Falls College
Toccoa Falls, Ga.
* I was hurt and disappointed by McQuilkin's careless and uninformed mention of Partners International. The ad quoted was not by Partners International, though one might get that impression. Partners does not share the view conveyed in that ad. McQuilkin made several points that deserve rebuttal; [a group] in India, for example, does receive outside funding, and it was the Christians in Jerusalem who received funds mediated by the apostle Paul. People are as easily the cause of dependency as money. Says Chuck Bennett, Partners International president , "To refuse to share our resources with overseas brethren because there have been abuses is like saying we should outlaw marriage because some husbands beat their wives. The problem is real, but the solution is simplistic."
Right on Target
"Protecting The Right to Convert" [Editorial, Mar. 1] was right on target; it provided an excellent defense of our American constitutional principle of separation of church and state. Religious liberty is guaranteed only by governments remaining neutral regarding all religions, neither favoring nor disfavoring any and refraining from compelling anyone to pay taxes to aid or support them.
Edd Doerr, Executive Director
Americans for Religious Liberty
Silver Spring, Md.
* The "right of the individual to convert" is a concept which, to be honest, eludes me. We as followers of Christ are not called to stand up for, litigate as a means to, or protest our viewpoint in an attempt to secure, the enforcement of our "rights." We need to realize that by converting to Christianity we give up every supposedly unalienable right. The Lord did not come to overthrow governments, but hearts. He did not call us to appeal for religious freedoms, but to "Go make disciples." That command was given by a higher authority than the order to "go and preach no more in this name." The latter is outranked even though it be accompanied by public humiliation, arrest, a profuse beating, or the threat and sentence of death.
Our persecution here and abroad, no matter how appalling it is to our human-rights-beleaguered mentality, is to be counted as joy and evidence of that which we are called to do, to say, and to live.
The article stated it well: "Religious conversion has public consequences, even though it is a personal act. … When individuals at the lowest rung of society become Christians, they may shake the established order." What better way to win a nation to Christ? The last shall be first.
Wisdom of the Ages
Thanks to Charles Colson for moving us to regain our culture-influencing bearings ["Moral Education After Monica," Mar. 1]. That he must persuade us to "appeal to the moral imagination through classic literature" indicates how much the Christian establishment has regressed in this generation. In my own coming of age, a moment of decision came in my first semester at a secular university after attending Christian colleges: my philosophy of religion professor, an apostate Baptist minister, with relish debunked Moses, and the majority of the class succumbed with amusement. My resolve, however, became that of Paul to Timothy: "Continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them." I completed a Ph.D. in classics at a Big Ten university, and I taught Greek and Latin for 11 years at a Christian liberal-arts college, from which position I was the fourth classics professor in a space of 13 years to be let go. Then I did an M.A. in biblical theology at a Christian university, but, contrary to my expectation, for the past 20 years I have largely supported my family by manual labor. I have no doubt that the hand of the Lord has been in all this, but at the same time I fear the evangelical church is giving up her birthright. It is unfathomable to me how the informed church could treat as optional and expendable devout believers trained in the classics. When the secular West does so, we are sure it has lost its moorings. Please do not consider my letter as self-serving, but rather as kingdom-advancing.
Broken Arrow, Okla.
* As a teacher of American literature (now retired), I used to tell my students that one of the reasons we study literature is so that we can get help in building our value systems and in knowing what kinds of persons we want to be. I very much agreed with Colson when he said, "As we read, we identify with characters who demonstrate courage and self-sacrifice, vicariously making choices along with them—and in the process our own character is shaped."
Shirley M. Bottiglia
* Colson simplistically takes poll results in favor of President Clinton to claim that at least two-thirds of the country has no moral compass, and so all sense of morality has clearly been "shattered." But though there are many who have such moral flippancy, there are others who supported the President's remaining in office for far more nuanced reasons. Many have carefully wrestled with this entire mess, bringing to bear not only the great moral stories of which Colson writes but also the great biblical stories of sin and grace, forgiveness and restoration. In addition, many have tried to cut through the fog of the many ugly and possibly illegal things that have taken place on both sides of this protracted mess. In short, we should not be so quick (or eager) to lump everyone into the same amoral category. Such talk unnecessarily causes panic about our ostensibly "barbaric" society even as it unfairly eclipses the earnest attempts of some to deal with all the aspects of this national nightmare. Those of us who opposed impeachment may have been wrong but, if so, it was not because we had abandoned our Christian faith or morals.
Grand Rapids, Mich.
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