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Refocusing on the family

by Kwo, Sean

Abstract

Focus on the Family describes itself as a global Christian ministry dedicated to helping families thrive. The Colorado Springs-based nonprofit was founded by James Dobson in 1977 and has since passed on leadership to Jim Daly as of 2005. The organization claims to promote morals and values that are grounded in timeless, biblical principles. Yet, as Focus has continued to respond to new cultural needs, their discourse has had to adjust to stay relevant. I contend that Dobson’s discourse, which invented and defended an ideal “traditional” family, has become largely irrelevant to Focus’s constituents and Americans at large, but that in continuing the Focus legacy, Daly has had to creatively reinterpret both Focus’s and Dobson’s missions in his efforts to validate his own. I draw on Eliade’s theory of universal patterns to describe Dobson’s mission and Jonathan Z. Smith’s ideas about canon and exegetical ingenuity to show how Daly has to reinterpret his predecessors in order to simultaneously follow tradition and be innovative. Finally, I draw on the ideas of Talal Asad to show that the fluidity of Focus does not deny that it is a cultural unity, but rather that Focus’s struggle to balance contradictions presupposes a unity that, while imperfect, is uniquely Focus’s. Focus, like all cultural entities, is working to adapt tradition to modern condition, a process without an end in sight.

Note

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Includes bibliographical references.

Administrative Notes

The author has given permission for this work to be deposited in the Digital Archive of Colorado College.

Colorado College Honor Code upheld.

Copyright
Copyright restrictions apply.
Publisher
Colorado College
PID
coccc:9712
Digital Origin
born digital
Extent
41 pages
Thesis
Senior Thesis -- Colorado College
Thesis Advisor
Weddle, David
Department/Program
Religion
Degree Name
bachelor
Degree Type
B.A.
Degree Grantor
Colorado College
Date Issued
2014-05