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Family Matters, Family Matters, 0817320334, 0-8173-2033-4, 978-0-8173-2033-1, 9780817320331, , Religion and American Culture, Family Matters, 0817392602, 0-8173-9260-2, 978-0-8173-9260-4, 9780817392604, , Religion and American Cultur

Family Matters
James Dobson and Focus on the Family’s Crusade for the Christian Home

Trade Cloth
2019. 304 pp.
22 B&W figures
Price:  $49.95 s
E Book
2019. 304 pp.
22 B&W figures
Price:  $49.95 d

The first full-length study of a pivotal figure in American evangelical faith

James Dobson—child psychologist, author, radio personality, and founder of the Christian conservative organization Focus on the Family—published his first book, Dare to Discipline, in 1970 and quickly became the go-to family expert for evangelical parents across the United States as American evangelicalism rose as a major political force. The family expert became a leading voice in the Reagan Revolution, and played a role in making American evangelicals even more firmly associated with the Republican Party. Dobson’s principle beliefs are that the family is the center of Christian America and that the traditional family must be defended from perceived threats such as gay rights, feminism, abortion, and the secularization of public schools. Dobson and Focus on the Family dominated Christian media through print, radio, and online venues, and their message reached millions of American evangelical households, shaping the cultural sensibilities and political attitudes of evangelical families throughout the culture wars from the 1980s into the 2000s.
Family Matters: James Dobson and Focus on the Family’s Crusade for the Christian Home by Hilde Løvdal Stephens is an insightful history and analysis of James Dobson’s rise to fame, effect on American evangelical culture, and subsequent descent from relevance. Extensively researched, Løvdal Stephens scoured through Dobson’s books, articles, and other materials published by Focus on the Family in order to explore how evangelicals defined and defended the traditional family as an ideal and as a symbol in an ever-changing world.
By contextualizing the history of Dobson’s reign, Løvdal Stephens’s discerning analysis fills an important gap in our understandings of the politics and culture of late twentieth-century conservative Christianity in the United States. She explores complex topics ranging from Dobson’s celebration of what he believes are timeless biblical values, such as maintaining strict and defined gender roles, to the ways Dobson and Focus on the Family balanced their basic ideals with real everyday lives of average American evangelical families, facing the realities of divorce, working mothers, and other perceived threats to the traditional family.
Hilde Løvdal Stephens is visiting associate professor of English at the University of Southeastern Norway.
“Løvdal Stephens provides a thorough examination of both Dobson and Focus on the Family, noting how Dobson's movement has impacted contemporary evangelicalism. Dobson’s belief that moral and social values are fixed, timeless, and divinely ordained was a driving force behind his effort to protect traditional values and an America based on those values. Recommended.”

Family Matters is an exemplary work of scholarship. It synthesizes an enormous amount of material and in so doing sheds new light on a man whose broadcasts and writings were arguably the single most important source of information about family dynamics and sexuality for an entire generation of socially conservative Americans.”
Journal of American History

“Hilde Løvdal Stephens’s book . . . is a deeply researched, well-conceived, and well-executed study of one of the most influential and underexamined figures in the history of the modern Religious Right.”
—Joseph Crespino, author of Atticus Finch, The Biography: Harper Lee, Her Father, and the Making of an American Icon

“ . . . Hilde Lovdal Stephens’s Family Matters: James Dobson and Focus on the Family’s Crusade for the Christian Home does an outstanding job capturing Dobson’s and Focus on the Family’s views on sex, family, gender and race, as well as their influences on evangelicalism. . . .For anyone wanting to better understand the culture wars of the late twentieth century and the evangelical relationship toward sexuality during this time period, this work is highly recommended.”
Fides et Historia

“This book [ . . . ] provides a service by not only offering a nuanced overview of Focus’s many publications, broadcasts, videos, and Dobson’s own voluminous writings, but Løvdal Stephens also decenters this material and demonstrates Focus’s output was about managing the expectations of white evangelical Protestants who were adjusting to a rapidly changing America.”
Church History

“Hilde Løvdal Stephens’s Family Matters offers the balanced, scholarly, historically nuanced study of James Dobson’s work that students and historians of modern American evangelical politics have been waiting for. With a keen attention to issues of gender, sexuality, race, and religion, Stephens avoids cheap polemics or caricatures as she traces the ideology and career of the Christian broadcaster and popular psychologist who was for decades at the center of the nation’s culture wars.”
—Daniel K. Williams, author of Defenders of the Unborn: The Pro-Life Movement before Roe v. Wade

“This study of Dobson deserves wide readership from scholars of contemporary American evangelicalism, conservative politics, and gender studies. Dobson’s personal papers remain unavailable to scholars, and so we can only wait for a definitive biographical treatment. But what Løvdal Stephens has produced is a superlative study of how Dobson’s public positions subtly shifted over time.”
Journal of Religion

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