My darling #Exvangelical fam. Before we start on Dobson, how are you? GodDAMN, it has been a fucking week, no? This insane roller coaster we are on just does not seem to let up. Sending special love to all my trans and enby friends today. You're not alone. You're loved.
For me, I will tell you that this week has been rough. And by week, maybe I mean month or more. I'm not really sure. I need to go do stupid adult things like get my meds adjusted and change the oil in my car. Do dishes. It all seems like a lot. For now, I'm gonna do this thread.
Because it has been such a hard week, I want to restate my usual note - please don't read this if you're not feeling up to it. You're not required to do this now, you are not required to do this ever. Taking care of you is the most important thing. We need you.
If you ARE feeling like going through the toxic bullshit that a lot of us grew up with and parsing out some of those details is the space for you right now... welcome. I'm so glad to see you. Here's the moment where I collect these if you need to catch up.…
This week we are on Chapter 7, which is entitled "Setting the Standard." Like the last one, it will be more adoring and worshipful notes on Dobson's accomplishments, as I think we've moved away from the family stories. There's a lot to say, let's see how I do.
The chapter basically begins with a list of policies. We are assured that Dobson carefully implemented the policies that guided this ministry right from the start, that this was extremely important to him. Integrity was critical, how they handled money was VERY important.
I'm not going to type all these up word for word, but if anyone wants to see them more in depth, feel free to let me know. I would like to say before I start that these are very basic and pretty vague, I would LOVE to see a full FotF policy guide, particularly from early on.
I would love to see one from any point though, whatever guide they give their employees. If any of my followers have one of those lying around, please let me know (it's a long shot, but sometimes the internet is a magical place, and you never get what you don't ask for).
I should note that, much like data, I do like policy. I like that it lays out visible lines for things, that in it's best forms it creates safety and support for people. I think there's a lot of power in policy that is often not taken seriously. These are not good policies.
The first is that this ministry will belong to God and not Dobson. He proves this by pointing out that he didn't name it after himself, or name any buildings after himself, or a school or ANYTHING. He's just another fellow worker really. Just a bee in the hive.
I just have to note that, based on our last chapter, he supposedly kept FotF going because of how he believed that there was literally divine prophecy over his life saying that HE would be god's instrument to millions of people, so I find his humility very unconvincing.
The second is that just because God is approving of FotF now doesn't mean he always will, and that they are committed to closing the doors if God ever takes away his divine will. Until then, they work as hard as possible.
The third is that ONE of the ways they can tell if god is feeling pleased is if they are receiving money. Things get even more vague here. During lean times they will TELL people they need money but they will never "squirm, scratch or claw for contributions."
They will "never resort to what we consider to be disrespectful and dishonorable methods of fundraising, even when the needs are serious." We are given no idea whatsoever of what those might be. Funny thing about policy, it's only really helpful when it is SPECIFIC.
Like you have to define your fucking terms. It's all well and good to say you won't do anything that YOU consider disrespectful or dishonorable, but if you don't say what those are, that leaves a pretty easy to move goalpost, no? And what if everyone defines it differently?
So you know. Let's say one drink for lack of specificity in the whole policies because I think if you took one for every time I might kill you all, and I am VERY FOND OF YOU.
Number 4 is that they won't ask people to give to FotF until they've first given to their local church. This is because "the church is the first line of defense for the family." I mean you know. Cool. I don't really care who you give your money to, burn it all down, I'm tired.
Number 5 is that they won't operate at a deficit. Maybe they'll borrow money sometimes for large projects but they'll always try to pay it back asap.
Number 6 is that they will consider all donations to be "blood money" which is a bizarre way of putting that.
What they apparently mean is that they are going to assume that people have sacrificed to send in those gifts so they will try as hard as possible to make sure money goes back to helping families, no jets or limos or anything. But again. Blood money is weird.
7 is that they will make sure everyone gets a receipt so they can make their gifts tax deductible. This I find really interesting because... does every organization not do this? Was there a point where they didn't? I understand it's a cornerstone for Dobson.
He would like to always ensure that people pay as few taxes to the government as they possibly can, that is an important thing for him. But like... they didn't START this, right? Twitter geniuses, help me out here. Did this not used to be standard practice?
Number 8 is that when they buy something they will pay the invoice asap. I mean, you know. Pay your bills in general, good principle, I guess?
Number 9 is they won't try to raise more money than they need, although I gotta say that could be a moving goalpost also.
10 is that Dobson is not going to be the primary fundraiser. I'll get into more of my thoughts on this later, but I do think it is important.
11 is that he and Shirley will not accept a salary, are paying a portion of the radio expenses, and they will waive royalties when books are offered to listeners. I think it's important to note the "when books are offered to listeners" which gives plenty of other space.
Also I believe Dobson is and has always been a snake. There are a lot of ways around these things, he's just good at making it look like they are being charitable. Don't make a mistake - he and Shirley are for sure very wealthy (and kinda always have been).
12 is that they won't rent or sell their mailing list, which is good. It creeps me out that they refer to people as their "friends and supporters" but it is also smart. It's good to have industry speak? I refer to people as my clients. Doctors refer to them as patients.
The reason friends freaks me out is because I think it tries to create false intimacy for the sake of manipulation. But it's smart to have something to call your regular folks regardless. I call y'all family because I consider that to be true. I don't think FotF has friends.
Finally, and this one is interesting, 13 is that they will conform with the standards of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability. Obviously we looked it up, I've got you. The history of the organization is interesting. It's a tax-exempt non profit.
It started in 1977 and the REASON it started was because there had been a bill proposed in congress that essentially tried to demand more oversight on religious organizations asking for money. Senator Mark Hatfield, who also happened to be on the World Vision board, was not down.
Basically it was determined that the way to avoid federal intervention was to do voluntary disclosure and oversight on financial matters. So they created this organization. Which is neat! Make sure they have no ACTUAL consequences by creating a board of rich insiders.
You have to admit it is kind of a great plan. Obviously Dobson and FotF have been part of it since basically the beginning. You can get like an official stamp of approval sort of thing from them. It apparently is viewed well. This sort of thing is not my strong suit.
I am mostly just interested in the beginnings being 'oh shit, the government wants to oversee us, let's make sure we do private oversight instead.' EVEN IF it is decent oversight (I consider that a big if), this idea of privatizing instead of allowing federal oversight is a theme
So we are assured that all of these policies have gone over swimmingly, people love them, whatever. PARTICULARLY number 8 about always paying your bills. We are treated to a sappy letter from someone who runs a printing company or something.
This man swears he became a Christian after visiting FotF because he saw "something different" there (was it white men behaving incredibly insincerely, because I can find that in a lot of places) and that the VERY ETHICAL WAY they have handled business with his company...
has been an incredible witness to his staff. Also apparently this guy's father went in the hospital and FotF sent a card that staff signed and his dad let him pray with him for the first time, so miracles never cease or something. Idk. It's all very syrup-y.
THEN we are treated to a different story and before I get to it, I want to say that one of the things about this chapter that drives me nuts is that there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to how it is laid out. It definitely isn't chronological, it just jumps around.
So I don't know when much of anything happened, and I honestly can't tell if they are intentionally keeping things vague or if it is just the really poor writing. Either way, fuck that, it's really annoying.

Everyone pause and take a breath with me?
So the next story is how this one time FotF was $400,000 short on expenses and Dobson had to get on the radio and make a plea and immediately people gave a ton of money. He wrote a letter and thanked them, told them the crisis had past. The author recalls he was not on board.
He pointed out to Dobson that if they told people the need was past that maybe they would be right back where they started soon. But like the SAINT HE FUCKING IS, Dobson was like yes, but we need to make sure we do it anyway because I think we are taking money from churches, and
I think people have probably had to sacrifice to give us money and also we need to make sure we thank people for giving to us.
We're clearly supposed to be impressed here, and I am a little. I think Dobson is smart, and especially at the time understood some things.
You can't keep taking money forever, people will run out. You can't run on that boring of a crisis forever, you have to space things. I am always annoyed to admit that he's smart but he IS.
Anyway. then we get a very LONG and boring story about how this one time Dobson was in Atlantic City for a Christian Bookseller's Convention, before he was the crazy famous human we know and hate today. He walked past his books and tapes and a "large photograph of himself."
As he walked past all these images of his own damn face, god spoke to him, which I guess is what happens when you are a narcissist. God says that he's choosing to make him influential "for purposes he may not comprehend." Mysterious ways in-fucking-deed.
"In doing so, I am making My Kingdom *vulnerable* to you. You will be able to hurt and disappoint the family of believers by the things you do and say. DON'T MESS IT UP! Bridle your tongue. Guard your behavior. Raise your ethical standard. Protect my people!"
So obviously I think this is made up or in Dobson's head, but it's interesting, right? Because he's not *wrong.* He did have the ability to do all of those things, which is why I'm spending a significant portion of every week talking about him, and why y'all are reading.
He had the ability to traumatize a group of people who were vulnerable to him, and I think it is interesting he used that word, because that is definitely accurate.
Dobson says he still hears that warning, that his "greatest fear is that my inadequacies and imperfections will lead me to do something to hurt the body of Christ."

Dobson, I have super news for you. Your worst fear is behind you, buddy! You can relax maybe.
He reassures everyone that OBVIOUSLY he would never commit "deliberate and blatant misconduct" but there could be financial stuff or an "on-air blunder" or "press distortions of a Bundy-like episode." He clarifies he is "referring to mass murderer Theodore Bundy."
Theodore Bundy! Sounds like a nightmare version of Teddy Ruxpin or something. Who the fuck calls him Theodore? Also, let's be clear about those "press distortions" that Dobson is so upset about. They weren't. Dobson used a man on death row to get money and fame.
For more context on the interview, here's a pretty excellent article from the time, talking a lot about how Bundy lied and Dobson helped him do it, and encouraged it. It is not a long article, I encourage looking at it if you aren't familiar.…
I think the Bundy case is interesting because it is a bit unique. Dobson doesn't usually stick his neck out quite so publicly mainstream. This got a lot of attention and he was mad about the way he was being portrayed... but it also made him an incredible amount of money.
I remember being VERY young when my parents told me about this interview, who knows, maybe it was after it happened. In 1989 I would have been 5. Whenever it was, they told me about how Dobson had proved through this interview the evils of pornography.
Just have to note that, again, Dobson knows what real research looks like, he knows what "proof" would look like. He knows how to design an actual research study. I guess I don't know how much he knew about qualitative data, maybe interviewing wasn't his thing.
But these were blatant lies that had a LONG-lasting impact on the evangelical community, helped foster and give a foundation for the purity culture that most of us were so damaged by. The media was right to call him out. I wish they had done it more.
Anyway. Moving on. Dobson says he knows that Satan hates the ministry and is trying to bring it down. He talks about David and how he was successful hiding his sin with Bathsheba - which I say is complete bullshit, and led to this poll.

His reason for using David is apparently because when other high profile evangelicals commit sexual sin and it is found out "comedians like Johnny Carson and David Letterman are given a great occasion to blaspheme the name of our savior. It MUST not happen again!"
I think that is a weird part of things to be concerned about, but sure. Do you think god is most concerned with late night hosts? Is that high on the list? Whatever.
He also thinks the greatest danger FotF has is that they might "begin to believe their own press."
I genuinely find all this fascinating because he is NOT FUCKING WRONG. I mean, kind of not wrong. Like just in that he is referencing the danger of egos in an organization as big as this one, and that is... a genuine concern that we all saw realized, and was being realized then.
Like does he know this is a thing that is current? That he is calling out his own actual shortcomings? I honestly don't know. It's bizarre.
His point of course is that if they ever leave god out, god can just smite them all down immediately or whatever.
His example for this is Nebuchadnezzar, who wandered out and was basically like "I have built this badass kingdom to say how cool I am, how great is this?" And then as soon as he said that he had a psychotic break and wandered into the fields and ate grass and was unhinged.
He cites all this stuff, saying that leaders are called to a higher standard and everyone needs to pray for them because this is such a heavy burden, blah, blah, blah.
THEN we talk about how committed he was to making sure that FotF stayed Christian focused, no matter what other opportunities came along. Apparently when their radio program was doing really well, they were approached by a big network and Dobson was asked to do another show.
Basically they wanted him to cancel the Christian show and do a secular program every day. Dobson HEROICALLY REFUSED. But like... y'all. Come on. Does he want to be the medium fish in the giant pond or a HUGE FISH in a very small pond? This was clearly the better option.
They assure us he COULD HAVE BEEN A WEALTHY MAN. Ffs, he was already wealthy. He would only get more wealthy. This was the smarter choice on many levels.
ALSO he has turned down many television appearances, including so many after the Bundy thing. Shock.
Specifically it says that after the Bundy thing, when every talk show wanted him, Dobson tested the waters in 4 local Florida stations, saw how things were going to go and was like NOPE. Didn't do another interview. He is not down with being grilled by anyone.
Apparently people DREAM about the notoriety Dobson is being offered... which is again a bizarre thing to say. He has everything he could want in the pond he chose to swim in. He doesn't need what they are selling is all. He's built his own space.
There's a little more talk about that, about the reason he was so successful on the radio, which I think is at least somewhat true. It basically boils down to that he didn't sound like anything else ON Christian radio, at the time everyone was just preachers.
I think Dobson knew that. I think he was very well aware that he had this skillset and could sound like a reasonable compassionate human in comparison to the options, and that allowed him to carve out a pretty wide space for himself, I think it was definitely planned.
He apparently worked hard on every show, adapted as seemed necessary. He started with an hour a week but then moved it to half hour a day because of the number of letters he was receiving. He tailored the questions around the letters supposedly.
The topics we see are pretty standard. Things about coping with toddlers, living with an unsaved spouse, the "lure of infidelity," questions about spanking and teenage rebellion, college, "traditional values in education," and sports with kids. Boring but I'm sure people did ask.
However in spite of the daily broadcast, he was getting a lot of mail still. We are given 3 examples. CW for some abuse ahead -
The first is that a woman told Dobson, the first person she had EVER TOLD, that when she was young her father had sexually abused her. This is described as "He was addicted to hard-core pornography, and throughout her childhood he subjected her to perform the acts he saw...
depicted in the pages of these obscene magazines."
I just have to say that this woman decided to tell Dobson this when she had never told anyone else in the world. And it made it into this book as an anecdote to prove the evils of pornography. These people are fucking evil.
The second was a story about a group of young children who had been abandoned by their stepfather when their mother died, a family had taken them in and had questions, I guess. Bit of whiplash after the first one. Very sad, but... different.
And the last was that a woman had written her whole lifetime of pain on a 75 foot roll of freezer paper. She started with the words "No one cares." She filled the whole thing.
As a social worker who works closely with trauma on a regular basis, these things just break me. Not even the stories as MUCH, although that too. But that these people were so desperate that they turned to this man. THIS MAN who sees their stories as so much fuel for himself.
He's a fucking vampire.

Okay everyone. That was tough. Can we take a break? I need a breath.


Take a drink.

You are all great and I am so happy you are here.

Dive back in as you are ready, my loves. <3
So the point kind of being made is that Dobson starts a different part of his ministry, that may be the smartest thing he does. He begins a whole section of FotF devoted to answering letters. Praying over them and responding to them personally, one at a time.
There are all kinds of questions about all the things you might expect. One example we are given is that a pastor in Seattle might ask (probably did, I'm guessing?), "Our local school district is considering adoption of a policy that will allow homosexual counselors on campus.
Where can we obtain information to refute the propaganda that the gay community is presenting to the school board?"
THIS sort of question is now a whole part of what FotF does. I wrote a thread about that a month or two ago.

Actually two threads, here's part 2.

They NOW have a whole website ( to give you premade responses for this sort of thing.

Dobson writes or edits a lot of the letters, apparently. He gets very angry if anyone is not responded to. The book says it is one of the "few things that will raise his blood pressure" but we have seen plenty of evidence of his temper and I think we know that is a lie.
I would also like to note that absolutely no mention is made of mandated reporting and I'm sure he didn't mention that on his program and realistically he probably never ever required that and we have an idea of the sorts of things people wrote to him so just... imagine that.
He also is really big on FEEDBACK and made sure he has a list of critiques. We'll be getting into that next week, the next chapter is Common Criticisms. But we are to be very impressed that he wants that because SOME ministries that shall remain nameless do not.
I completely believe that Dobson wants the critiques. He needs that sort of thing, not to improve exactly but to know what needs optimal adjusting. Plus, and this is important, I think it fits with his image of himself.
Speaking of fitting his image of himself, we learn here that at every FotF meeting people carry yellow notepads and pens so they can take notes on basically everything he says. If someone does NOT take a note, he makes them. This is hilarious because that's what he did w/his dad?
He made a big deal about how he was always following his dad around wide-eyed taking notes and he always seemed a little disappointed that his children didn't do that for him. Not to worry! He just makes the people he PAYS do that. It's all about fucking DETAILS!
Sometimes he just jumps into a meeting and takes over on the white board. Which sounds fucking awful and like the worst boss but sure. Yay him.
In what I consider to be slightly more ominous he also requires something he calls "mutual accountability."
Essentially this means that the head of every department is responsible to and for other departments as well. There are no exclusive territories, everyone needs to know what is going on. This is supposedly to help things run more smoothly but I think that what it really does...
is make sure there's no mutiny. I mean, honestly. If you can't do anything without every other head of department looking in on you, and if everyone reports to Dobson on everything (no word on HIM being mutually accountable btw), that allows him to make sure there is paranoia.
No one can know when someone else might report them. Really the only thing to do would BE to report other people, it's not like you can be sure who to trust probably, right? It's not a bad system... although in the end Dobson DOES somehow get ousted from FotF...
after like 40 years but still. Must have broken down somewhere.
But no unilateral decisions, everything has to be done in group. He also walks into various departments all of the time, listens to employees, sends bosses away, listens to complaints, etc.
Again, this is clearly supposed to be good, but I am terrified just imagining that working condition. This section concludes with "If trouble exists in an area, James Dobson will soon know about it."

I'll fucking bet.
Oh, also did we mention how generous he was? One time another person from Focus was going to get him from the airport and there was an African cab driver and it turned out he loved Dobson's radio program! He was so thrilled to meet him! Amazing!
Then he told Dobson about how he was studying in America and having money problems and Dobson wrote him a $300 check. I mean... cool? But also there's a lot of gross racial implications and it's all just... I hate all of it. He's not generous! What if the guy HADN'T loved him?
A very vague instance about how they had been informed by the local police that "a man in the area was visiting churches and ministries looking for handouts." Dobson graciously said that God didn't require them to measure his need, they should meet it anyway. Cool.
Apparently if you just UNDERSTAND Dobson, you get along with him great. But sometimes people just don't and then he gets irritated and those staff feel like he's hard to please but that's just because they don't understand what a perfect fucking human he is.
If only they KNEW how he needs superior quality in everything maybe they would reach for that height. If you "know his cherished ideals and implement them, James Dobson is an easy man to work for." LOL
Also everyone at FotF prays 20 minutes a day and one time they thought God was giving them a building so they went and prayed for it after god told them to fast and he DID give them the building (after they paid for it anyway) so there you go. Magic. God's cool and so are they.
This is the end of the chapter but I want to close out here with a few thoughts. @ErikMKort and I had some conversation about what it is that DRIVES Dobson. Why is he doing this? He doesn't seem to care about sex, he takes money for granted - he wants it but it isn't his drive.
I said that I think Dobson has always wanted to be in the "room where it happens" so to speak, and I think he's had that opportunity. What has NOT been mentioned in this book, and I am curious if it will be, is that he started the political arm of FotF basically simultaneously.
The Family Research Council, which some of you may know of and is now being run by the Liar Tony Perkins, was run by Dobson for years, and was connected with FotF directly for years. They were inextricably linked with politics from inception, there's no doubt it was planned.
What a heady thing to be able to influence such a large group like that.
But Erik said that he thinks it's maybe more subtle (and he can correct me if I get it wrong here). He thinks he likes to know he HAS power. Like he can walk into any room and people listen to him.
People take fucking NOTES. He's called by the president about these things. He can walk down to the mail room, put his hand in a pile of letters and pull out one of thousands by people who want to know what he has to say, want his opinion. It's not exactly a scam...
those letters all get answered. But if the goal is to uphold the ego of a narcissist who will happily lie blatantly to continue the flow of fear and rage, it's not exactly... not a scam. The take is just less obvious.

I think my partner is a smart cookie.
So that's what I've got for y'all this week. Thank you for reading and responding and engaging. I love every DM, tweet, and retweet I get. You are all amazing humans and I really do love processing all of these things with you. Please feel free to contact me if you need to talk.
In the meantime, as usual, these threads take a lot of time and a lot of labor. If you feel like buying me lunch, please feel free to do that. I would be appreciative.

CashApp - $BethanySparkle
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