Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Newt and the Doc

Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and longtime conservative firebrand, will be James Dobson's guest today and Friday on his daily Focus on the Family radio program. On today's program, Gingrich promoted his book, "Rediscovering God in America" by calling for the abolition of the controversial Ninth Circuit court.

"The Ninth Circuit is so consistently wrong, it is so consistently radical, it is such a violation of the spirit of American history, that we'd be better off if we simply abolished it," he said. Gingrich will be back tomorrow to discuss radical Islam -- and I think it's safe to say he won't be asking Dobson's listeners to sing "Peace Train."

Gingrich was the latest in a long string of political and cultural heavyweights who have appeared on Focus on the Family's flagship program -- another sign that Dobson still wields a great deal of clout. Many pundits believe Dobson's the unquestioned leader of traditional evangelicalism. I blogged a couple of days ago on Dan Gilgoff's new book "Jesus Machine," which makes precisely that point.

But others believe Dobson's "Jesus Machine" may be running out of gas.

Case in point: This article from The Economist, a well-respected and fairly conservative news magazine, which suggests that Dobson may be falling out of step with his diverse and changing evangelical base.

"The 70-year-old Mr. Dobson (who has already suffered a heart attack and a stroke) is increasingly looking like a relic of an ancient regime rather than a harbinger of a new order," the Economist article reads.

Dobson's still a power. Republican presidential candidates will surely make pilgrimages to Colorado Springs to talk with the longtime kingmaker. But Focus' constituency is aging, and Dobson's main mode of communication is through a half-hour radio program - a forum nearly as antiquated as, um, newspapers. A cadre of up-and-coming evangelicals now question whether the evangelical movement's preoccupation with abortion and same-sex marriage is really the way to go.

Stay tuned. This will be one of the most interesting religion stories to follow through the 2008 election.


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