Hello, darling #Exvangelical fam. What a fucking week, huh? I feel like I say that every week but let's be real, every week it is true. This crazed dystopia we are living in does not seem to let up.
So much love to the Jewish community this week in the midst of so much grief.
I will include my usual warning - if you don't feel up to this, that is fine. No one is requiring you to sit through deconstruction of a narcissistic asshole, you are loved and valued and your safety and well being is the most important thing.
If you DO feel like talking about Dobson and FotF today, this is the place for it. I'm not even sure I do, but we're gonna give it a shot, see how it goes.
Here's the link to the moment with all the threads, in case you need to catch up.

twitter.com/i/moments/1051…
This chapter is addressing Common Criticisms that Dobson receives, so it seems like it should be familiar territory! Some of it is, some of it maybe less so.
The chapter starts out talking about how Dobson and his ministry "have never been the subject of heated controversy within the Christian community." I wonder if that is true, or was at the time. Certainly in my upbringing he was ubiquitous but surely SOMEONE must have objected?
I don't know for sure though. For all I know he was widely accepted as the middle of the road human that I was always taught he was. I will take all knowledge to the contrary. It's equally possible he just didn't consider people who disagreed with him Christian.
HOWEVER they hasten to add that this was not true of the media, which obviously had it out for Dobson from the start and told many lies about him. I want to pause on this for a brief second. When all the fake news stuff started coming out, people were horrified.
And it is horrifying, don't get me wrong. Truth matters. The thing is that I don't think most exvies were shocked. This was normal. This was what I was taught. I remember so many times shrugging things off when I was young because the "media was liberally biased."
You simply couldn't trust it and we all KNEW that. It was drilled into my head from the time I can remember. There are a lot of reasons Trump appeals to white evangelicals, but this is an easy one. This is the rhetoric they've been using for years. They've been groomed for it.
The chapter goes back into the Bundy story. I'm not going to spend TOO much time on it because we talked about Bundy in last week's thread. I will say that the way they present it is... a thing. Dobson and Bundy had been corresponding for over 2 years (no word on who initiated).
The truth is that I fully believe that Dobson knew Bundy was manipulating him, I think this was a mutual gratification sort of thing. It was sort of perfect, really. You wouldn't want to talk to someone as fundamentally untrustworthy as Ted Bundy TOO long before he died.
What if he backed out on what he said? Doing it less than a day before he died ensured Dobson had a fucking household NAME. It ensured he got the story he wanted with no chance of taking back. Bundy could get what he wanted out of it, Dobson got everything he needed.
Obviously they feel differently. They try to present it as if Dobson had made some sacrifice. He KNEW the press would just eat him alive and lo and behold he was correct!
"For 6 weeks after the now famous videotape was recorded, Dobson was made to look like an exploiter, a liar, a fool, and a dishonest 'radio evangelist' who interviewed Bundy just for money."
Honestly? To some degree I think he was basically all those things.
They hasten to add he obviously didn't do it just for money, that Dobson didn't retain a cent from the interview himself, that they gave copies of it to he press instead of selling exclusive rights. But FotF certainly made money. And trying to separate those two out is absurd.
They also assure us that no matter what they did to try to drown it out, the real message they feared, "that there is a link between hardcore, violent pornography and violence against women and children" was heard by the American people. It was WORTH THE COST.
Most important here is that FotF improved in prestige with *the audience Dobson cared about.* I mean, you see what happened, right? The story he is selling his audience, that all pornography is so innately evil that it will explain a serial killer (by itself no less!)...
they are primed to receive. This is catnip, they believe this. And then the media descends upon poor, helpless Dobson, against this organization they believe in, calls them mean names. In one stroke he has made them trust him more and trust the media less. AND made money.
And you know what? Like all lies, it's partly true. There ARE connections between *hardcore violent pornography* and violence against women. That's true. Here's a link from Harvard.
cyber.harvard.edu/vaw02/mod2-6.h…
But the key there is sexually VIOLENT images. Which certainly not all pornography is. Whatever you think about porn, I don't care. But this was intentionally misleading, like most of what Dobson says. Reading Penthouse did not create Ted Bundy. It's laughable to suggest it.
Or it would be if people didn't take it so damn seriously.
For anyone who didn't grow up in this world, you should know that any male evangelical that *I* ever met was taught that basically the minute he looked at porn he was instantly addicted, that it was a terrible shame.
The layers of needless trauma and guilt that this added to young boys is truly astounding. Like most things, it became an all or nothing approach that really made no sense and only ended up causing harm.
Dobson uses this Bundy hubbub to talk about how he is nervous of falling from grace, of falling off a pedestal. He claims he's not worried personally, "If the Christian public ever grows weary of my work, I'll do something else. Tbh it would be a bit of a relief..."
We know this is at least something of a lie. He was ousted from his own organization and he certainly didn't move on to do something else. He'd probably argue that the PUBLIC hadn't gotten sick of him but you know. Whatever.
What he IS concerned about is "satanic mischief among believers." After all he is so prominent, he could cause trouble if he fell. "God help me! I'm just a man!" No really, that's in the book. Pearl clutching, melodramatic motherfucker.
He read in Ezekiel about how important it was for him to watch the sheep. Not much more about that, we're just assured he knows it.
This leads to the criticisms. At this time, they were gathered into a report for him every month. He got about 2 negative letters per thousand.
So about 400 critics per month. I'm honestly delighted at the idea of him getting this dropped at his house, although I doubt it was as emotionally overwhelming as they'd like us to believe. We are assured Dobson read them all carefully and sometimes changed things based on them.
One time a woman said she was tired of seeing only beautiful people in the magazine, maybe it would be nice to have some slightly overweight people, or normal looking folks. The reason was because they were using stock photos but Dobson insisted they find photos of "real people."
The woman's reasoning was that he was "perpetuating a myth that only beautiful people matter" which is well phrased. I suspect Dobson's reason for following up was the realization that it was an excellent marketing strategy for his audience (which I think it is).
We are given some examples of criticisms.
The first is someone very upset with him for blaming the women's movement for devaluing the role of wife and mother, and pointing out the church has a somewhat not great history with women. Maybe "confess our own sins first."
Sounds like an intelligent-ish person, something tells me (and by something I mean all of the books and such I have read by Dobson so far) that he never made any changes based on THAT letter.
The second is someone who is angry that the mailings being sent from FotF are "slick" envelopes with Dobson's face on them, that this "reflects neither the Lord nor the humble man that I think that you are."
I remember FotF mailings. He didn't change this either.
The third is a woman who says she has really enjoyed all of his wonderful programming but has of late become a little tired of the overemphasis on politics and abortion (although she is very prolife). She just thought he might want to know.
OBVIOUSLY he ignored this.
And the final one is... a bit mysterious. It is something about a young girl being featured as a role model in Clubhouse magazine (which I forgot existed till reading this). The family is very upset because they feel this girl was young and immature and not a good Christian.
This family would appreciate it if in future the magazine would only feature "mature Christians" and gives examples like Amy Carmichael and Fanny Crosby who "have proved themselves faithful." Honestly, my main thought at this letter was, this is an abusive household.
I would guess he didn't listen to that one either though, because it is NOT good marketing to feature Fanny Crosby in your magazine aimed at preteens. Featuring a peer makes much more sense and Dobson is smart enough to know that.
I actually do find this selection of letters fascinating, although not quite as "scathing" as they claim. It is interesting to me to read things from people being like hey so maybe less abortion talk? Just a little? Maybe what you're saying about feminism makes no sense?
We know it didn't matter in the long run, but I appreciate a window into people being skeptical or bothered.
Dobson claims after reading this report he "feels as though he has been hit with a 2x4 about 400 times." I WISH that was true, but I don't believe it for a second.
We are now moving into a section where our good author friend Rolf asks Dobson questions about some of the criticisms of himself and he answers.
First question!
"You were criticized in an article in Christianity Today magazine for the way you confront people who have failed to meet your high standards. You've gained a reputation as someone who can be unduly harsh on certain occasions. How do you plead?"
"Guilty, your honor."
You fucking nerd.
Anyway, basically his explanation is that he is MUCH BETTER but that the real problem was that before he always said things in writing. So he would get frustrated at someone working for him and write a scathing rebuke.
He has realized this is not ideal. Partly because the words will always stay just as angry (I would also guess because people can bring them back later?) even when the situation is past. The written word is dangerous. Also he noticed his staff started doing it to each OTHER.
Can we pause, as we have done before, and ponder what a terrible work environment it constantly seems like Dobson created? Like he just always reads like the WORST FUCKING BOSS EVER.
Anyway. His final reason was that face to face encounters were better because sometimes the person gave him a logical reason he hadn't considered or sometimes he saw them look vulnerable and it made him less irritated.
I need to point out this means he was writing this shit...
without having ever SPOKEN to someone. There may have been a perfectly reasonable explanation for what he was angry about but he had never bothered to ask what it was. Jesus. Fucking nightmare man.
He assures us he has never been vicious or a tyrant to work for which... sure.
He only ever got angry when people didn't adhere to policy they should have known! But he recognized he needed to make some changes, so he has. Cool. Cool story. Very relatable and endearing.
Second question!
"I suppose your tendency to be touch, especially in writing, would apply to your relationship with business associates too."
Not... a question. More of a statement. But sure! Let's dive in.
Dobson assures us (to no one's surprise) that it absolutely did and God had to knock him right out of that as well. Apparently after Dare to Discipline came out he was really freaked out about being a one hit wonder. But for some reason Hide or Seek took him forever to write.
By the time it came out, he was super nervous. He did many interviews. He met with his press agent, a man named Ernie Owen, for lunch. Over lunch he basically grilled him.
"How come I can't find copies of Hide or Seek in the Christian bookstores?
Where are you advertising the book and why are you not keeping me informed of your plan?" He apparently just went on this way, in the way you do if you are a complete jerk. Eventually Ernie was like hey, why are you acting this way? Why are you so uptight about what we're doing?
Did Dobson realize that he was being an asshole and apologize? LOL No, of course not. Have you even been reading my threads, kids? He was pissed at Ernie. He claims he kept it under wraps and Ernie didn't know, but I don't believe that for a millisecond.
He particularly cites that he was angry that Ernie had "made him feel foolish for insisting on quality work from my publishers." I think that's the key right there, I don't think Dobson is okay with ANYONE making him feel foolish, ever, about anything.
He leaves lunch and heads back to work and LO AND BEHOLD God speaks to him and is basically like hey bro, you know your book won't sell unless I want it to anyway so why are you being such an asshole about it? He immediately repents... but no word about apologizing to Ernie.
He claims it was him being "spanked by the Lord" and that he released the book to him. The book took off and has been selling well ever since. Praise be to baby Jesus.
"My point is that I am an intense person with strong opinions about how things ought to be done. I was especially that way when I was younger. I also had a pretty powerful temper in those days. But the Lord is beating those characteristics out of me. If I can live another 100...
years, I may turn out to be a pretty nice guy."
As someone who has watched you for about 30 Dobson, let me assure you that you have not been improving. If your god is responsible for your character growth, I'm not impressed.
Also no part of me believes your temper has improved.
"Speaking of Hide or Seek, that book is about building self-esteem in children. You have been criticized in recent years for being the guru of self-esteem, which some of your critics consider to be unbiblical."
Okay, so there is... a lot to unpack here.
Want to take a second? Let's all breathe. I know I need it.

Breathe in.

And out.

Look at this adorable little bear.

Ready? Let's go.
Okay. Let's take apart this question, shall we? So the first part of this is that critics of Dobson have been upset that he is promoting self esteem among children. The second part is the idea that Dobson is some sort of guru of self esteem. Both of these things are fucking crazy
I have never read Hide or Seek. I cannot cite it specifically. But I can say that the idea of "Christian self esteem" isn't rooted in self at all. That's the whole point. Your self worth only comes from God. It can ONLY come from an external source. Internal worth is evil.
That is what his critics are angry about. The idea that he might be encouraging children to value themselves for who they are inherently.
I want you to think about that because let me tell you, if you didn't grow up with this it's hard to overemphasize how much it fucks with you.
And if you DID grow up with that I want you to take a minute and say a firm "fuck you" to anyone who ever told you this. Probably just to yourself, but hell make a phone call if you want. I support you.
The point is that we were taught before we understood ANYTHING that we had no value, no worth. Worth was GIFTED to us by God, it was handed to us because we were his children but just imagine how slippery that slope is. Imagine all the ways it can go wrong.
It is abusive to teach children that they don't have inherent worth and value for exactly who they are. And what we are talking about here is a group of people up in arms that Dobson was teaching them ANY worth or value, even one based in an abusive lie. We'll get into it.
The idea that DOBSON is accused of being a self esteem guru is hard to even laugh at. He hates children. I mean, I know he doesn't think that is true but his language about them DRIPS with contempt. We'll get there. It makes me angry.
So he is upset about the criticism, some of which seems "deliberately designed to distort his beliefs and teachings." He seems more upset about that than anything, which is on brand. He says he will explain his views and let everyone decide for themselves if he is a heretic.
He explains how we are in this era of Western thought that is selfsh and disgusting and it becomes all about the "personhood of self" and all anyone cared about was "self-aggrandizement, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification." Those things don't all seem the same but sure.
He assures us this is in direct opposition to the Bible because "God clearly hates haughtiness, independence, selfishness, and pride." AGAIN, not all of those things sound like the same things and I feel like there are some real critical fucking differences. But okay.
Critical or not, apparently "one cannot read the Bible without understanding that fact" so apparently I missed some memos.
He finds it "incredible" that there are Christians claiming that HE is a proponent of this "humanistic psychobabble."
Pay attention to the words, kids. Humanistic is a big one. It immediately means it can't be trusted. Anything that was humanistic or new age-y when I was growing up was something that was truly evil, something that was intended to lead me astray.
I once went through a Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul book and copied down all the poems in the poetry section and talked about which ones I liked and which ones had to be ignored because they were too humanistic or new age-y. No lie, it's in my teenage journals.
However Dobson clarifies that what HE is doing is not that at all. He is encouraging parents to try to protect their child's emotions during their critical years of development because he feels self-hatred is "besieging" a generation.
He then gives a sketch of a girl he will call Tracy. I will not repeat it. It's disgusting. When he talks about teenagers, particularly ones who are doing poorly, he talks about them as if they are literal monsters. He describes every flaw that she has, physical and emotional.
He describes how everyone hates her, describes her so ghoulishly that it's hard to imagine being anything but repulsed by her (at 14!). He says her parents "are also products of the system that values physical attractiveness and they treat her with the same disdain as her peers."
He assures us that what she needs is a friend who will tell her that she is loved and cared about and that God loves her. ALSO her parents need his book so they know how to support her. He is outraged anyone would suggest anything else, really.
He tells us how kids like this kill themselves all the time or they "sink into drug abuse, sexual immorality, and crime." AGAIN his middle thing is not the same as the other things. He does not see how it could be "unbiblical" to try to protect them from this system!
He also does not see how his biblical ideals are the very things that hold up the bedrock of this system. So there's that. But his next point is important, and I will agree with him on this one thing (fucking rare).
He talks about the idea that people will say there is no such thing as low self-esteem, that the REAL problem when someone claims to hate themselves or whatever is that they actually are too proud and it's cleverly hiding. Look, his reasoning is nonsense and I don't care.
But I want to say to YOU, that this shit is toxic and it sticks. I know that when I was a kid I heard it. I don't know how often. The basic logic is that you are thinking exclusively about yourself in that frame of mind, so it can't be self hatred, just Satan tricking you w/pride
Y'all, I am 34 years old. I haven't been a Christian for going on 6 years. I haven't believed THIS kind of nonsense in much longer than that. But let me tell you something. When I am not doing well, when I am depressed or going fucking crazy with anxiety or something like that...
I still hear it.
Oh, I don't call it the same things NOW. I don't believe in Satan. I don't believe I'm being "tricked" by anyone. I didn't really then (Satan: sort of undervalued in my upbringing). But I will say that I'm being overdramatic. That I'm just looking for attention.
And at the core of those claims is the belief that I am making this about myself in a way that is PRIDEFUL. That I am taking up space that
I.
Do.
Not.
Deserve.
To.
Take.
Up.

That *I* am tricking someone, or manipulating someone. That I can't be trusted, even by myself.
Y'all, this shit is toxic and it kills.
So like before, I want you to say fuck off to anyone who ever told you this. Who knows, maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm the only one who internalized it that deep, maybe it's the enneagram 3 in me. But I doubt it.

You deserve to be heard.
To his minimum credit, Dobson also thinks this is nonsense. He says if kids emotions can't be crushed, why does anything that happens to them matter? There are some problems with that logic, but whatever. At least one of the examples he gives is a WEIRDLY graphic sex abuse one.
I won't repeat it but it was specific in a way that baffled me as to why he would include it.
He ends this answer by quoting the Psalms. Specifically "As a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him."
"THAT is the tenderness with which the Heavenly Father approaches wounded, pathetic human beings who have been shredded by life. Thank goodness HE knows the difference between a broken spirit and haughty self-sufficiency."
So I... have a lot to say to that. Pity is never a great word. I am a survivor of all kinds of things (including Dobson himself, I would argue) and I don't want you to fucking pity me. I don't want god to either, thanks.
I'm also not big on the "wounded, pathetic human beings."
I was reading some research today written by an evangelical about sexual assault in the church and it was... horribly abrasive, but the thing that stood out to me the most was just how much it fetishized brokenness. That's what we are taught as Christians, right?
You don't want "haughty self-sufficiency" (which would be humanistic, incidentally), you want to be BROKEN for god. That is literally the goal. You want to get to the place where you recognize you are too broken to do life, that God has to do it for you.
Put like that it sounds... you know. Severely abusive. Not at all healthy. Like an absolutely terrible thing to teach your children. And yet Christians do it every single day.
This shit really does have consequences. If you grew up with this, you're not crazy, this is traumatic.
"Another common criticism of the Focus on the Family ministry is that it is geared only to white, middle, or upper-class families who know nothing of the problems of the poor. Is that valid?"
So I gotta tell you, I love this chapter because how else can I know these conversations were even HAPPENING, fam? I am SO GLAD that people were leveling that criticism at him from early on. I honestly didn't know. It isn't something I ever heard anyone say when I was young.
Dobson hastens to tell us that when he began that was true because he only had his own lens to go through. He says since he didn't "come from a minority family or one that experienced extreme poverty" which is typical. We've been over this. Dobson comes from MONEY, y'all.
He is minimizing that, which is important to his brand but I'm not going to let it slide. He claims this was pointed out to him and now they talk about "inner city families" and single parent families and people struggling with finances and such on their show.
He even brings up that he has a really good black friend! Dr. Tony Evans, super good friend, they support his ministry. Also they were starting a ministry in Spanish. So like... they were doing super great, they are trying, still room for improvement, etc.
Like I said, I am thrilled that this was brought up. I'm interested they tried to address it in whatever capacity they did. I think, however, that even if Dobson was totally sincere (which I never believe), that it doesn't matter. It's not just about the OPTICS or surface level.
Dobson is absolutely teaching from his own lens and that means he is teaching middle and upper class VALUES. He is teaching that as the central points of what it means to be a good Christian family. He may be telling people how to try to adapt to it from different places.
But he is instructing people how to attain what he considers to be the correct values, the correct lifestyle, the correct understanding of our country, money, politics, etc. A few POC on your show has no impact on that. He's got a lot invested in keeping power structures intact.
"You are sometimes accused of being a chauvinist - of giving men a higher place in society than women. Are they equal in God's sight or not?"
Look, we can all guess the answer to this question. Dobson is a complementarian. He believes in separate but equal, complementary roles, mutual submission, but like MOST submission to the husband by the wife. Anyone who grew up in the church is aware of the pitch.
He tries to give a warning, that of course this requires extreme caution, that the husband should never bully his wife or not take her opinions into account, that he should only be the last word where NO compromise can be found, that even then he must care for her feelings.
He follows that by saying that the other pitfall is JUST AS DANGEROUS. "With the current sensitivity to male chauvinism and authoritarianism, it would be easy to disregard the concept of masculine leadership altogether." Blah, blah, don't throw the baby out w/the bathwater.
He does this a lot. He warns against something he said that absolutely does support and protect abuse. And then warns that the other side is JUST AS DANGEROUS. He does that in some of his child rearing books too. It is just as dangerous to NOT spank as it is to beat your child.
"You have given so much attention to the home schooling movement on your broadcasts. Why do you seem to advocate this unconventional option of education over others?"
Dobson insists he does NOT, that he has done shows on homeschooling, private, AND public school, and that he thinks the right option will vary depending on the school. He's a smooth fucking operator. Blames it on his audience for thinking he is promoting one over the other.
But it's the background too, right? Like you can say you aren't SAYING homeschooling is better but you also spend an inordinate amount of your time shrieking about the downfall of civilization and how brainwashing starts in the schools. You're sort of stacking the deck there.
"There are those who think your position on abortion is extreme because you wouldn't even permit it in cases of incest, rape, or where the child is defective. How do you justify such a position?"
So what he does here is a neat dance and there are several components to it.
1) He literally almost never mentions the rape and incest thing. Only obliquely, only in very quick passing. We know he's CAPABLE of being graphic in descriptions, he was a few q's back. But not here.
2) He focuses exclusively on the idea of the "child being defective" which is bizarrely ableist terms. There ARE complications with that, ones I do not feel qualified to go into. But I know there are disability communities that do have concerns around abortion for disabilities.
But Dobson doesn't really care about the disability, it just adds fodder to the fire. That the child may be "defective" but we don't have a right to kill it, etc, etc, etc.
3) He never, ever mentions abortion as an early stage option. He ONLY talks about how you could literally kill a baby the minute before it is born and it wouldn't be murder but as soon as it is born than it is. He literally must know that is a lie. Late term abortion is so rare.
4) He never ever explains or in any way justifies his position that abortion is morally acceptable if the mother's life is at risk, just asserts it. It doesn't really make sense, does it? After all, if the fetus is JUST as fully human, why does the mother get precedence?
These are all really familiar to me, and I suspect to any other Exvie. I'm shocked he didn't find a way to bring Planned Parenthood into it, seems like a missed opportunity. Overall, it hit all of the points in a pretty small amount of space.
The book closes out with a few humorous anecdotes about people criticizing him. One time someone called him racist because he referred to the Black Plague. One time someone thought he was a poor role model because he had their dog on the couch in a picture.
He says the only comments that bother him are when people accuse him of pride, or of "getting too big for his britches" which is hilarious because I feel like that is the most OBVIOUS criticism to throw at Dobson. And also when people say he is unbiblical. Which is ALSO easy.
Rolf sympathizes with him, notes that the fact that people are so open in their criticisms shows how close they feel to him.
"For Dobson, living in the limelight must feel at times more like living under a heat lamp."
Cool?
All right, y'all. I love you, take care of you. Please feel free to comment, message, RT, whatever. I appreciate all your engagement and you.
These threads are kind of a lot of work, if you want to buy me lunch, I appreciate it.
CashApp - $BethanySparkle
paypal.me/BethanySparkle
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