Focus on the Family founder James Dobson is keeping religion-and-politics observers on their toes this election. Back in February, Dobson told his radio listeners that he would not vote for Sen. John McCain, citing McCain's support of embryonic stem-cell research, among other issues. In June, he began criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's interpretation of the Bible. Then, in late July, Dobson began warming up to McCain's candidacy.

Beliefnet politics editor Dan Gilgoff profiled Dobson's political influence in his book The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War. Gilgoff has been covering Dobson's moves and other religion-in-politics stories on his blog, God-o-Meter. Some of his coverage is also cross-posted on CT's politics blog.

Where did the idea for your book on Dobson come from?

This story kind of fell into my lap. After the 2004 election, the media was in a real frenzy as to how to capture the "values voters" who apparently tipped the election to George Bush. I got an assignment to identify and profile the most prominent evangelical, which brought me to Focus on the Family. After a few days of romping around there, I finally was able to secure an interview with James Dobson.

How did you decide to profile Dobson?

I came up with James Dobson initially by talking to some scholars and activists in the evangelical world. In going out to Colorado Springs and doing my initial profile, I got these glimmers of Focus of the Family being the headquarters of this vast machine. There was the untold story of James Dobson ruling over this national empire.

How does he compare to figures such as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson?

Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson were both evangelical ...

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