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Focus on something else for a change

Well, as many of you might have expected, I’ve had enough of the Focus on the Family Ministry Re-Education Camp-- though I’m told that if and when these Camps become mandatory for all U.S. citizens, my two weeks’ time will be credited to my account.  I’m heading back to secular life and striking up the blog again.  Thanks for waiting, everyone-- I see we’ve left the half-million-visitor mark in the dust while I was away, but please, let’s keep this in perspective.  A half million visitors in 11 months may be all right for a humble blog, but Focus on the Family gets that many visitors every week.

I’ve heard rumors that some of you don’t believe I went to Colorado Springs at all.  “Didn’t you speak at a symposium at Wayne State and go to a reception with Barrett Watten where you met artists Amy Vogel and Joseph Grigely, and then didn’t you hang out at the Cass Cafe with old friend Mysoon Rizk as well as Charles Stivale and a bunch of other people?” asked one of my friends.  “Yeah,” said another, “and weren’t you hard at work on your book and a mess of other things you were supposed to be doing this fall but couldn’t even think of doing because you were completely consumed by the election?” “Isn’t this just another one of your ruses?” said a third.  “I bet you weren’t even in Madison Square Garden for the Republican National Convention, either.”

What a bunch of doubting Thomases I have for friends!  ("Doubting Thomas” is a brand new expression I learned in Colorado Springs.  See John 20:24-29.) I can tell you from personal experience that the Welcome Center has a three-story corkscrew slide named “A-Bend-A-Go” (see Habbakuk 2:1, “I will stand at the watchpost, and station myself at the three-story corkscrew slide").  And in a way it was good that I was there in November, because November is their “Marriage Theme Month.” Which makes sense, after all, since October was “Homophobia Month.”

But really, enough was enough.  It wasn’t the homophobia so much, or the repeated showings of The Passion of the Christ (not that there’s anything wrong with having an obsessive fixation on Christ’s battered, bleeding, nearly nude body!).  Instead, it was the child-beating.  I’d forgotten about the child-beating.  Which was stupid of me, since before Dr. James Dobson became a major power player in the Republican party (and what’s up with you conservatives trying to claim that liberals are exaggerating about this?  are you all on drugs or something?), he was renowned as a “Christian childrearing expert” who counsels parents to begin striking their children at around the age of fifteen months, preferably with a wooden spoon, preferably on the back of the leg.  In books like Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child:  Birth through Adolescence, Dr. Dobson promoted an entire regime of child torture, starting with the wooden spoons and moving right through neck-pinching, with special tips on how to produce maximal pain on tiny necks while leaving minimal physical signs of abuse.  How could I have forgotten?  So this is why these people didn’t have any problem with Abu Ghraib!

Anyway, Dr. Dobson hasn’t let his child-torture business lie fallow while he’s taken on his larger crusades against gays, lesb***ns, and Arlen Specter.  Focus on the Family Ministries still runs a vibrant child-beating laboratory, informally known as the “Spare the Rod Room,” where spanking implements and techniques are tested night and day.  Wooden spoons of various designs, materials, and swing-weights are rigorously researched for their effects on the tiny, fleshy legs of toddlers and infants, with the parent’s comfort uppermost in mind.  Around here, they say that nothing is worse than developing bursitis or “palm splinters” by using a heavy, unwieldy, or shoddily made wooden spoon when you “dare to discipline” your child!  But the constant thwacking kept me up at night, not to mention the poor little buggers’ piercing screams.  Ah, well, Christ went through far worse, and look where it got Him!

Still, I’m looking forward to a good night’s rest for a change.  And more blogging!

Posted by on 11/21 at 03:45 PM
  1. Uhh, welcome back. Maybe.

    Posted by  on  11/21  at  06:28 PM
  2. Thanks.  I guess.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/21  at  06:31 PM
  3. As someone who lives waaaaay to close to this loon for comfort: Thank you! (Oh, and--aagh.)

    Posted by Psycho Kitty  on  11/21  at  09:07 PM
  4. I’m sending a white van in your direction. The deprogramming is nothing to fear: We drink good beer, watch Janet Jackson’s halftime show, listen to Howard Stern, hang out with Bono and say the F word a lot, and read Joyce. Don’t make this difficult Michael. When we open the doors, hop in.

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  01:44 AM
  5. Wherever you were, thank God you’re back!  I was worried those “Christians” would steal your mind and then what would those of us who need to know there are other rational people out there do?  If they were really Christians, they would be reading the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes instead of the old testament.  But that’s an argument for another day.  Welcome back, Michael. We missed you!

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  02:40 AM
  6. A-bend-a-go is fun, Michael, but you haven’t lived until you’ve played F.O.F.’s Playstation 2.  Hot Pursuit: Escape From Pharoah’s Army and Creation!, the strategy game where you build a world in seven days.  I was doing very well on the latter until I hit the wrong button and mistakenly created Adam and Steve.  Big mess.  Had to reset the game.

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  03:53 AM
  7. This really isn’t fair. I didn’t get to inflict wooden spoons and neck pinches on my kids when they were growing up, and pretty soon they and I are going to be of that age where I’m entering my second childhood and they get to take advantage of all this FOF instruction to torment me.

    What is it with these guys and bashing on kids, anyway? It seems like it’s all Dr Phil can talk about, too.

    Posted by PZ Myers  on  11/22  at  05:42 AM
  8. On a more serious note here, I read the reviews of the book, and noticed that it was frequently mentioned that Dobson compared dogs to children and likens disciplining of one to the other. 

    So, what kind of dog would you like?  One that responds to you with happiness and doesn’t cower, and obeys, even if it takes some time to get to that point?  Or one that learns to obey immediately, but cowers, is dangerous to others, and is basically unlikeable.  If you want the first kind, never ever strike the dog.  If you want the second one, hit away.

    Same with children.  Real discipline (learning) takes a lot of self-discipline, a lot of patience, a lot of time, and Dobson’s ideas are for people who can’t be bothered to invest the love, time or energy into disciplining their child. 

    The origin of the word discipline is from the Latin word for pupil.  It used to mean one who was taught, not one who was bullied.

    I suppose the sight of people screaming, yelling and beating their kids in order to control them makes me sick, just as all forms of bullying makes me sick (not that I haven’t on occasion yelled at my kids!  But I know it was a failure on my part, not something to glory in).

    So, Michael, I couldn’t laugh, I was too upset.

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  06:32 AM
  9. Aren’t the reviews of the book simply terrifying?  Not just the skeptical ones-- the laudatory ones too.  On a certain level, after all, there is nothing funny about these people.  Nothing funny at all.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/22  at  06:46 AM
  10. I’m happy to say I’ve missed Dobson’s work.  Is he along the lines of the Ezzos, those Babywise freaks?

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  07:08 AM
  11. I know Dobson all too well, I spent years and years as right-wing opposition researcher.

    The man is a freak who has built himself quite a financial empire telling parents that it’s OK to beat their children, reject their gay children or send them to widely discredited reparative therapy, and so on. He’s the Dr. Phil for the right-wing social agenda, except that he’s been around for a few decades.

    But the truly disturbingly creepy thing about Dobson is how unoffensive much of his advice is-- so much of his ordinary stuff is generic advice about childrearing, family dynamics, etc. I think he lures many people in this way, but it’s not really what he’s all about. At at the heart of his beliefs is not “pro-family Christian values” but holier-than-thou dominion over anyone smaller, weaker or less influential than he is. There is no room for theological, religious, or political diversity in this world view-- anyone who isn’t in lockstep agreement is going straight to hell.

    Posted by zoe kentucky  on  11/22  at  07:16 AM
  12. Also, in terms of influence, while Pat Robertson is a household name, Dobson is and has been far more influential than Robertson for a long time. Dobson has been flying under the radar screen and isn’t viewed as a wacko the way Robertson is, it is the secret to his success. But he’s just as wacko as Roberston, if not wackier.

    If you’d’ like to get a quick synopsis of how scary he and FOF truly are, try this: PFAW’s Focus on the Family fact sheet.

    Posted by zoe kentucky  on  11/22  at  07:23 AM
  13. It’s great to have you back, Michael.

    Emily: if you’d like to see how Dobson fits in with the conservative political philosophy, check out the work of linguist/political consultant George Lakoff: Moral Politics (especially chapter 21), or the shorter version of Moral Politics, Don’t Think of an Elephant!. In a nutshell, it’s all about the Strict Father model of child rearing applied to everything from economic policy to international relations.

    Posted by Ross  on  11/22  at  07:25 AM
  14. As you know, San Francisco has several respected firms that could assist Mr. Dobson’s research into child abuse techniques.  This pillar of the community comes to mind:


    Of course, they’d need an ethical intermediary.  Our local purveyors of torture equipment unanimously oppose its use on minors.

    Still, this is the age of the ethical intermediary.  Log Cabin Republicans is probably a good place to start.  Andrew Sullivan’s rolodex may also contain a few.

    Peace, Jarrett (http://urbanist.typepad.com)

    Posted by Jarrett  on  11/22  at  11:48 AM
  15. I dunno, Jarrett.  No one among my LGBT friends seems to want to touch this one-- it appears they’ve all got “moral values” or something.  And of course there’s no guarantee that they would use any of Dr. Dobson’s techniques in the proper Christian way.

    Posted by Michael  on  11/22  at  12:30 PM
  16. Michael --

    I wasn’t suggesting that LGBT folk would adopt any of Dr Dobson’s techniques.  Quite the opposite.  I’m sure that if Dr Dobson’s research leads met with the best of the SF Leather community in a Fair-and-Balanced torture competition, the Dobson team would have their reddened necks handed to them. 

    No, Dr. Dobson would be the net beneficiary of any technological exchange.  At best, the “Bend-a-go” might arouse a little curiosity in our more high-ceilinged districts, but even there we wouldn’t need his technology, just the branding.  I’m sure our people can duplicate any thing that his people came up with, while cutting the cost and adding a coffee maker.

    Why suggest such a collaboration?  Just that Christian selflessness that prevails out there by the foggy bay ...

    Peace, Jarrett

    Posted by Jarrett  on  11/22  at  01:02 PM
  17. Michael, welcome back! It’ll be great to have you blogging regularly again.

    I ran across something on Dobson some years ago. As you say, not really funny at all. Imagine being brought up by a Dobson parent, in a Dobson family. Reading your post just now made me want to call my parents and humbly apologize for the headstrong, spoilt child they let me be, ages ago. And thank them for sparing the rod. 

    I’ve spent much of this month in a welter of hatred and disdain for anyone who voted Bush, but really, thinking about how much the Dobsons and Robertsons influence their world, it might almost be a case of “there, but for the grace of god, ...”.

    Posted by  on  11/22  at  06:17 PM
  18. I actually thought you went to the FOF event - I guess that shows once again, as Trudy the Bag Lady put it, “No matter how cynical you get, you can’t keep up.”

    Posted by  on  11/23  at  08:14 AM
  19. Well, I for one don’t think you should get any credit for the two weeks you spent at camp FOF, and I plan to take the matter up with the designated cabinet-level FOF culture czar who will eventually have jurisdiction over my district in the Delay/Dobson administration.

    Posted by  on  11/23  at  10:10 AM
  20. Yes, but which implements cause the most pain without leaving any bruising?  You never know when some busybody at the supermarket, the Christian bookstore, or (when the parents still haven’t yet fully embraced the Way and started homeschoolong)even the whelps teacher will start asking questions about where the child got the bruise.  And since the chid is evil and needed to be punished, the child will probably be evil again and tell the truth!  So we need to know how to cause pain without evidence.  Hopefully some police interragators were on hand to demonstrate such techniques.

    Posted by  on  11/24  at  04:48 AM
  21. New research reveals that Rich people are finding it difficult to get into heaven but not to worry, the super rich are doomed anyway--take it from Dr. Wu. Here’s why--ever notice how all real work is given to the next underling, who in turn does the same? Nowadays a rich person is even too slothful to call his broker to sell a stock--he depends on the broker to do it. (The broker in turn sloughs it off to some 20-something fresh out of Yale.

    Clue from History: Remember how the Ottomans formed a kick-ass army with underlings they captured. Janissaries they called them. Well, the Janissaries kicked ass themselves one day and took over the Ottomans.

    That day coming soon here. It used to be that the inventors of Capitalism –white, protestant northen Europeans-were religiously motivated to work hard (hard work would fend off the devil) and not spend (spending too decadent) They amassed a fortune and invested. Fast forward to today--their offspring became the idle rich who piss away their days “overseeing” the work of their hires. Some overseeing. That’s why I say the days of the super rich ruling the roost are coming to an end and Janissaries like you and me are in for some good times.

    Posted by  on  11/24  at  02:44 PM
  22. I now associate A-Bend-A-Go with Abu Ghraib, McDonalds playgrounds with imperial torture tactics, and tube slides in general with colonial invasions of childrens’ bodies.

    thanks a lot, michael.

    Posted by some 20-something fresh out of Yale  on  11/24  at  08:23 PM
  23. I am inarticulate on the subject of the man who made Ted Bundy the hero of the anti-porn movement.

    But while I’m here, can I ask you to update my URL in your blogroll?  Oh, I just did.

    Your adoring fan,

    Posted by Avedon  on  11/28  at  01:44 AM
  24. So does this mean that “compassionate conservative” Bush “beat” his kids? Or does he prefer to simply beat the working class, the gay, the non-Christian.... Why settle for a wooden spoon when you have all three branches of government to work with?

    Posted by Steve Parks  on  11/28  at  06:02 AM
  25. Focus on the Family dispenses lots of “made-up” studies on its web site and in its publications… junk literally MADE UP by Dr. Paul Cameron, a discredited former doctor who has been kicked out of every major professional organization in America.  (Google his name and prepare to be shocked.) James Dobson is obsessed with gays (and some of his former associates think they know WHY), and he publishes ludicrous stuff about us such as “33% of homosexuals eat feces...” I am not kidding.  He PUBLISHES this absurd lie and about 4,000 others - all made up by Paul Cameron in order to demonize gays to the ignorant.  Many good people go to Dobson for child-rearing info and end up destroying the lives of their children because he has these made-up lies in his publications.

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