By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
When I was a liberaltarian columnist for a great Western newspaper, I got well acquainted with Focus on the Family, the big Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs. The Focus organization, run for many years by James Dobson, was one of several Christian mega-churches that settled in Colorado and helped make the state Republican Red.
For many years, Focus was content to preach family values, and many young families appreciated the counseling that was offered. Then Dobson decided that the country was going to hell, and he had to get involved politically. It was a major misjudgment. The more he ranted about abortion and gay marriage and Democratic politicians, and aligned himself with the crazies of the Republican Party, the more he alienated the West's voters, who are live-and-let-live, libertarian types.
Like much of the West, Colorado is now at least purple, if not blue. So I found it significant when the Washington Post interviewed Jim Daly, the new president and CEO of Focus, and he sang a conciliatory, rather than confrontational, song.
Daly was here for President Obama's White House Conference on Fatherhood. He didn't abandon his organization's long-standing opposition to abortion and gay marriage in the Post interview, but he was no Republican shill. (Indeed, he sent ripples through in the faith community when he took over from Dobson in February and announced, "What we want to see is more families like Barack Obama's.")
Of particular interest were Daly's remarks about abortion. He's one of the first, if not the first, of the major Christian leaders to support the notion that working with pro-choice supporters to reduce the number of abortions in the United States is a noble goal. In doing so, he's testing the sincerity of Democrats like Obama or Hillary Clinton, who say they want abortion legal and safe—but also rare.
"I would like to sit down with those who may be pro-choice when they say, 'Let's make abortion rare,' " said Daly. "We need to find a kinder, gentler way to approach this topic and see if we can make abortion rare without, as pro-lifers, abandoning our desire to see it eliminated altogether. That would be a great starting point.
"The very fact that those who can support abortion would say, 'We would like to make it rare,' says something about the fact that they must not feel good about it. So let's start the dialogue," Daly said. He suggested, for example, that liberals and conservatives could cooperate on creating a national adoption database.
"It doesn't need to be a caustic or acidic kind of thing. I think oftentimes there is such polarization on the issues," said Daly. "We just want to be in the debate and express our concerns from a biblical perspective and hopefully be respected in doing that, and, at the same time, we have to respect those who oppose us as well.
"The nation will decide," said Daly. And he added, "I wish this president were a conservative. He's an incredibly engaging person, and he's hip."