Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Waxing and waning

It looks like a Maryland outpost of the Christian Coalition, an organization founded by religious media mogul Pat Robertson, wants to switch its allegiance to Focus on the Family. The Christian Coalition of Maryland wants to make the switch to Focus because it believes Focus can better support it in local initiatives.

Local organizations like this are important parts of both the Christian Coalition and Focus. Both rely on grassroots support, and these groups provide a local contact point between local supporters and the national organizations.The groups affiliated with Focus are actually fairly autonomous, often starting out as free-standing organizations that then tap into Focus for advice and support.

The move, which is being resisted by the Christian Coalition's national headquarters, was made in the wake of a decade-long dispute with the IRS, according to the Frederick News-Post. But it seems like it's another pretty clear sign of who's rising and who's falling in the politically-charge world of evangelicalism.

Robertson reached his zenith nearly two decades ago, when he was influential and respected enough to make a run at the United States presidency in 1988. But in recent years, some evangelicals feel he's been more of an embarrassment. Most recently, he suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's recent stroke was a judgment from God, and he also appeared to suggest that Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez should be assassinated.

Focus on the Family has its own bevy of critics, of course. Its founder James Dobson has defended himself on a variety of fronts in recent years. But these days, at least when it comes to politically active evangelicalism, Dobson's the man. As the influence of Robertson and Jerry Falwell wane, and with up-and-coming leaders seemingly less willing to adhere solely to the Religious Right's party line, I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot from Dobson in the months to come. And lots of conservative Christians will be listening.


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