From Publishers Weekly
Dr. James Dobson is a man without secrets, according to this biographer; Dobson's life and beliefs are open for all to see in his speeches and writings. Now readers get a well-rounded and thorough look at this evangelical leader whose books Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child are influencing a second generation of parents. Buss does a masterful job of weaving together the many facets of Dobson's life and career as gleaned through interviews with family, friends, business associates and Dobson himself. Readers will learn of Dobson's early life as the child of an itinerant evangelist, his courtship and relationship with his wife Shirley, his first career as a psychologist and medical research program administrator, and the birth and growth of Focus on the Family. The struggles are there as well: Dobson's workaholic tendencies, recent health scares, and Focus leadership issues. Especially interesting is information on Dobson's interview with convicted serial killer Ted Bundy and Buss's assessment of Dobson's political influence and aspirations. The book is filled with Dobson's trademark humor, but also his religious convictions and concern for the endangered modern family. This is no light read for folks interested in a little dirt on Dobson; it is a meticulously researched examination of one of the most influential modern evangelical Christians.
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About halfway through this sympathetic biography, one of Dobson's associates says that Dobson isn't "trying to win political position or social approval." That's right, and how ironic. For Dobson is very highly approved by his admirers, and there are enough of them to make him crucial to many real politicians for getting and holding their positions. As the premier voice of the Christian Right, he has helped many Republicans into office and one very prominent Democrat, former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle, out. The only son of a Church of the Nazarene preacher, Dobson has a doctorate in child psychology, not divinity, and although he calls Focus on the Family, the organization he founded, a ministry, it is a service agency dispensing Christian-oriented psychological counsel to groups and individuals via speakers, books, recorded media, and Dobson's weekday half-hour radio program bearing the ministry's name. He has been successful from childhood on--talented athlete, scholarship-winning student, valued university hospital faculty member, writer, and speaker--yet is devoted to his convictions far more than his career (in 25-plus years, he has never taken a salary from Focus). Buss covers Dobson's most famous activities--his death-row interview with Ted Bundy, his ardent lobbying of Congress and the GOP on issues affecting the family and marriage, his advocacy of candidates he deems family friendly, and his current campaign to put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court--more fully than his leadership of Focus, but that makes the book cook. All friendly introductions to such controversial figures should be as readable and enlightening. Ray Olson
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