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October 23, 2006


Andrew Sullivan writes:

the notion that Falwell's past, Dobson's current political clout and the "Left Behind" series' success do not capture something important about "the religious and political currents in modern America" today is preposterous. For David [Brooks] to deny this says much more about his blindspots than about America.

Sullivan is right: Brooks has this weird tic that causes him to repeatedly deny that the most powerful Christian political leaders in the country are actually nothing more than individuals who the left likes to stereotype. His evidence? People who aren't these guys and don't get involved in politics sell books, and command theological respect. Indeed, there's an advancing effort to blunt criticism of Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson by emphasizing the vastness of the evangelical movement and underscoring its stubborn resistance to stereotyping. Sullivan, I think, deals with that one well:

Falwell may indeed no longer be a central figure in American Christianism. But he was a critical early force in building the movement that now runs the GOP, along with Pat Robertson. You cannot narrate the emergence of the new Republicanism (in which Brooks played a part), as I do in the book, without mentioning Goldwater's nemesis. As for Dobson, his influence is indisputably enormous. Last year, Dobson's group spent $150 million on spreading its message. Dobson's estimated listening radio audience is in the tens of millions a day (some claim 200 million), and his multi-media complex in Colorado Springs is so vast it has its own zip-code. The president vets Supreme Court nominees through him. This is irrelevant to what has happened to conservatism in the last decade? Please.

Maybe, in a vacuum, Falwell, Robertson, and Dobson are powerless. But so long as they control massive amounts of money, reach massive numbers of Americans, and fool the great majority of the GOP to believing in their importance, they're important.

October 23, 2006 | Permalink


How is David Brooks still writing for the New York Times? Is he ever right?

Posted by: spike | Oct 23, 2006 3:48:33 PM

It's amusing that Brooks thinks Dobson isn't representative or dangerous given that his platform-- anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, anti-comprehensive sex ed, and anti separation of church and state--matches that of the GOP. If Dobson doesn't speak for millions, then neither does the GOP.

In any case, there are different questions getting conflated. Do Dobson and his ilk speak for most Christians? Of course not. Do they speak for most evangelical Christians? Probably not, given that a third of evangelicals vote Democrat and probably another third aren't as conservative or rigid. Do they speak for most fundementalists, including fundamentalist Catholics? Probably. Fundamentalism, by definition, doesn't allow for a lot of variation, although there are certainly fundamentalists who think Christians should focus less on winning votes and more on winning souls and others who think homosexuality isn't the biggest problem facing the country and still others who don't like the meanspiritedness of Falwell and other leaders. Most of them, though, are down with the basic program mentioned above.

Posted by: david mizner | Oct 23, 2006 4:40:13 PM

Now, now. Brooks does occasionally get something right. I'm sure I'll think of an example or two. Eventually.

But 200 million listeners for Dobson? If there is a God, please let them all be furriners.

Posted by: mwg | Oct 23, 2006 9:13:01 PM

mwg -

Actually, a lot of them are. I listen to Dobson every so often and they talk about the millions they reach, world wide. But he still has a domestic audience of tens of millions. Unfortunately, only a small percentage of his listeners are like me - I listen to here how he perverts my faith with his hatred. To say he has little political imfluence, is like saying he's only a little against the "Gay."

Posted by: DuWayne | Oct 23, 2006 9:56:39 PM

Is the shot taken from a campaign ad ? ( Only half kidding. I was thinking of negative advertising and the power of accurate portrayal. )
It's crisis time for the ladies right now. The pharmacy isn't functioning properly on birth control. That makes a lie out of anti-abortion. That point should be hit hard : unless you think there is a population shortage.

Posted by: opit | Oct 23, 2006 10:02:34 PM

Not to discount Dobson's reach but does it really matter that "it has its own zip-code"? Not sure about that one.

Posted by: space | Oct 24, 2006 3:22:53 AM

From Slate:
"Dobson's clout emanates from Focus on the Family, a Colorado Springs-based ministry he founded that is awesome in scope: publishing books and magazines, disseminating Dobson's weekly newspaper column to more than 500 papers, and airing radio shows—including Dobson's own—that reach people in 115 countries every week, from Japan to Botswana and in languages from Spanish to Zulu. The ministry receives so much mail it has its own ZIP code."
He has 7 million listeners in the United States.
He is part of the movement which attempting to establish a Theocracy...what kind of Theocracy is still to be hashed out AFTER they rid the country of the perverse.
All kidding aside, these people are dangerous. They have had a near unfettered access to the airwaves for years and reached a lot of people.
Fortunately, truth is beginning to stir and the bullshit is beginning to unravel under its own weight of lies and distortions. Good progressive talk radio is growing ( Air America is only one).....But, these are the people whom Jefferson, Madison, and Paine worried about the most because they had seen their like before, in Salem, and elsewhere in Europe in what would have recent history to them.
The theocrats, dominionists, endtimers do not believe in the Constitution, nor the Declaration of Independence and actively plan agendas designed to undermine and void them.

"The price of Liberty is constant vigilance. Religious fundamentalism and zealous patriotism have always been the forces which require the greatest attention."


Posted by: marcus | Oct 24, 2006 8:17:55 AM

"How is David Brooks still writing for the New York Times? Is he ever right?"

Posted by: spike

David is one of those pretend liberals who writes for the right; making them look harmless, or liberalism look bad. He cultivates the 'well-meaning liberal' image, but that's just because it helps with his propaganda.

Posted by: Barry | Oct 24, 2006 3:17:36 PM

"The ministry receives so much mail it has its own ZIP code." Wow--My University has *two.* I suspect a number of high-volume mail users have their own ZIP codes; generally if you have an internal post office contracting with the USPS, I think you get one.

Posted by: David | Oct 24, 2006 7:08:00 PM

I'll just point out that I went to a Catholic school in a country that wasn't America. I was spanked by nuns and made to sit in church and in boring religious education classes and despite all this I never heard of the rapture until we got the internet and started hearing all these whacky Americans going on about it. Personally I don't see what the rapture has to do with Christianity as it doesn't seem to have anything to do with, you know, Christ. It doesn't matter who Jesus really was or what he really said, you can still take the words attributed to him in the bible and get some sort of guidence or comfort from them, but I'm afraid that the book of Revelations stuff is nuttier than a lumpy chocolate bar.

Posted by: Ronald Brak | Oct 25, 2006 5:06:11 AM

David Brooks also likes to chuckle dismissively at the notion that there are people who call themselves neoconservatives who have a consistent and well-documented set of beliefs.

In fact, as near as I can tell, chuckling dismissively seems to be David Brooks's entire ideological raison d'etre, like pugnacious nationalpopulism is for Hannity/O'Reilly/Limbaugh. Context and consistency don't matter--it's an ideology: Chuckle ergo sum.

Posted by: pk | Oct 25, 2006 11:11:09 AM

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