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Controversial and Thought-Provoking Articles for the Savvy Christian

James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and the Roles of Christian Women

Posted By Denise Miller Holmes on Friday

Savvy Article #1003

Alert—I’m about to go against a Christian icon. I confess that throughout the years, the rigid view of women’s roles from Dobson and Focus on the Family have annoyed me. And now, an reporter has published an outrageous quote of mine, so I need to explain.

First, this is where I agree with Focus on the Family. I agree that our society, since the late ’60s, has been losing healthy family structure. In the ’70s, women were burning their bras, and the trend of throwing one’s children into daycare (so a mom could work a full-time job) was growing.  This trend was, and is, destructive to the family.

Sometimes, one extreme must meet an opposite extreme in order for society to gain balance. Enter—James Dobson and Focus on the Family.

But Dobson’s radio broadcasts and main magazine, Focus on the Family, began to grate on me in the 80s. I stopped listening and reading for awhile, but a year or so later I went back to their material and was just as agitated.I perceived Focus’s message to be this—if a mom worked a part-time job outside the home, or dare go back to school, the Institution’s brows would furrow, and the woman would be spanked for dereliction of family duty.

The message was sometimes subtle. It was there, under the surface, in the way Dobson communicated that a woman is completely fulfilled through her children, and the descriptions of women who dutifully performed their household chores.

His tone was often patronizing and oddly … controlling. It was as if he blamed women for all the ills of society—that evil rebellion of burning bras and working—and it was up to him to shove us back in line.

I personally know women who are not 100% fulfilled by raising their children. There are women, yes, dedicated Christian women who love their families, who desire … MORE.  They may be educated, or desire an education. They may want to write, or speak, or work in fashion, or… you fill in the blank.

And where do these Christian moms fit in Focus on the Family’s world? Well, in the past, they’ve been sent to the wood shed. Any desire for fulfillment outside the home, even part-time, was shamed.

In the ’90s, a Focus on the Family letter to the editor supported my feelings beautifully. A women wrote and told Dobson she was tired of him teaching that women should not work. Explaining that she was not a 24-hour-with-children type of person, she cherished her part-time job. “My job keeps me sane!” she said.

That letter was honey to my taste buds. :) The Proverbs 31 woman speaks!

The truth is—a part-time endeavor is not a slippery slope. Women who are dedicated will not run out on their families because they receive praise and intellectual stimulation from an outside job. If anything, it makes them better moms and wives.

I’m thinking Dobson disagrees.

But now, he is not with Focus. As a woman with a need to achieve, I’m glad. Focus on the Family has a new leader and a new magazine, and I hope it will adapt a more balanced philosophy about a woman’s role.

And now for my outrageous quote.  Go to Jan Parrish’s article, The new face of Focus on the Family.

About The Author

Denise Miller Holmes
Denise Miller Holmes enjoys teaching biblical topics, and especially researching and communicating what Christians believe about the world around them. She sometimes turns established viewpoints on end. A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Journalism, Denise also has a Masters degree in Counseling Psychology, and has been a Christian for over 35 years. She belongs to the writers’ groups Words for the Journey and American Christian Fiction Writers.


10 Responses to “James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and the Roles of Christian Women”

  1. Jan Parrish says:

    This is so true. Women don’t any need more guilt piled on from ministry. Thankfully, the 80’s are past and Focus is presenting a new face.

  2. Kay says:

    I never listened to Focus on the Family regularly, but I listened from time to time. I didn’t got the impression that you did. But that may be because I strongly held those opinions myself. I wouldn’t be likely to notice opinions that I agreed with.
    When a friend challenged me to look at some of my opinions in light of scripture, I started rethinking.
    In other words, she said something like, “Does it actually say anywhere in the Bible that women should not work outside the home?” It does say we are to be keepers of the home, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something else, too.
    I am one of those women who doesn’t find complete fulfillment in my wife and mother roles, so this was a nice discovery for me.
    I think we all need to evaluate from time to time our beliefs and opinions and be sure they line up with what God actually said. It’s easy to tout something as being “the way Christians should do things” and be completely wrong.

  3. Robbie Iobst says:

    Interesting, Denise! I never have been a regular reader or listener of Focus so I can’t speak to what their tone is or has been. But I believe that every woman, if she puts Christ first and focuses on her relationship with him, everything else, including if she should work in or out of the home, will fall into place. Matthew 6:33 I also know that guilt is a huge weapon the enemy uses on mothers. If they work outside of the home, he whispers that they are not good mothers. If they stay at home with their kids, the enemy whispers that their lives would be better if she worked ouside of the home and brought home a little money.
    I love the way you write Denise.

  4. Susan says:

    Well said, Denise, and you speak to the frustration of many Christian women.

    I understand your “alert.” Once I said something very mild, like commenting on that Focus on the Family, like they obviously did well financially, seeing all their nice buildings. I could see the judgement and being labeled as not spiritual by one pious Christian. Also, I had stopped listening to Focus on the Family, for as a working wife, it really didn’t minster to me.

    Yes, wives and mothers are under attack and homemaking has been demeaned, though it is a most serious business. Children have been ignored and not well supervised by both parents and guardians. These are areas of concern and vigorously need to be rectified
    But God gave women many different gifts, too, to be exercised. Huldah was an OT prophet who advised King Josiah. Lydia was a married woman with children who was a prosperous merchant. Priscilla was a tent maker like Paul and was one of the teachers of Apollos — a man — who became a dynamic preacher contending with Paul. Looking at the whole Word, we can’t ignore these.


  5. Friends, thank you for your intelligent comments. It’s almost as if you write thought-provoking articles yourselves. :D (Oh yeah, you do!)

  6. Just wanted to stop by and say thank you for your lovely comment on my post at katdish’s blog today. It means a lot to me. See you around!


  7. Sue says:

    Great post Denise and good quote! I am a stay at home mom and very thankful for that opportunity but I agree that women don’t have to be at home 24/7 to be a Godly woman. We all have different callings and desires and no one should tell a women what is or isn’t appropriate for her family. That would be for them to decide.

    When a ministry or church delve into the management of people it can get very messy.

    Much better to go to the Word and see what God says about things :)

  8. Marty: Thank you for visiting my site!
    Sue: I agree. There used to be a ministry called “growing kids God’s way” and the whole mentality was rigid and bothered both my husband and me. We have to be careful how we communicate our ideas and own the fact that these principles are being filtered through a human being.

  9. Maxine Hennis says:

    Hi Denise,
    My recollection of the ’60s and 70’s is that the feminist movement was saying that a woman, in order to be true to herself and equal, needed to get a job outside her home. There was something very demeaning about being only a wife and mother. Focus on the Family, and other Christian organizations, were trying to remind Christian women (their main target I believe) that they were not inferior if they chose to stay home and be a wife and mother. That was the message the NOW, etc., were putting out about women.
    It served to make women in general discontent with their lives. I believe a truly “liberated” woman is one who can choose to work outside the home or not. Many have to, but that doesn’t mean they all like it.

    Very thought-provoking, my friend.

  10. Maxine, thank you for the reminder. I remember how women were maligned for staying home and it wasn’t right. I also think that Dobson was an extreme the other way and maligned women if they worked. But you know, sometimes it takes another extremist to bring balance. After all these years, I’m hoping that’s what will be achieved. Thanks for commenting on my article!

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