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The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War Hardcover – March 6, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; First Edition edition (March 6, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312357907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312357900
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,997,223 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the deluge of books rushing to explain the rise of conservative evangelicals' influence on American politics, Gilgoff's offering makes a unique contribution: he argues that press-shy James Dobson should be regarded as the most powerful evangelical spokesman of the last decade (surpassing Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson). Gilgoff, a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, boasts extensive interview time with Dobson at the sprawling Focus on the Family campus in Colorado Springs, Colo., inside access that is complemented by excellent writing and a mother lode of information. Gilgoff argues that Dobson is a political powerhouse precisely because his constituency was built on dispensing no-nonsense family advice to millions of Americans desperate for help, not on any explicit political platform. When he ventures to make political statements, he commands a public trust few policy makers enjoy. Gilgoff traces the rise of evangelical influence in politics from the Moral Majority and Christian Coalition in the 1970s and 1980s to Focus on the Family in the 1990s and 2000s, walking readers through the backroom power brokering of everything from Roe v. Wade to Harriet Miers's nomination to the Supreme Court. This is a smart piece of investigative journalism. (Mar. 6)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"Dan Gilgoff has written an excellent account of the political activities of Focus on Family and its important role in national elections. Fair and factual, this book can be profitably read by allies and adversaries alike." -John Green, Director, Bliss Institute, University of Akron  
 
"After years of providing valued family counseling to millions o Americans, James Dobson has emerged as one of the most influential voices on the Christian Right and a powerful force in American politics. His story deserves to be better understood. Dan Gilgoff has write a fair, objective, and revealing book--one that offers deep insight into why Dobson seems threatening to some but appeals to so many others."-- David Gergen, Editor at Large, U.S. News & World Report
 
"In a time of overheated discussion about religion and politics, U.S. News reporter Dan Gilgoff went out and got the facts and reports them straightforwardly in The Jesus Machine. Gilgoff provides the definitive account of Dr. James Dobson, his Focus on the Family organization and other Christian activists, one that can be read with profit both by admirers and detractors of their movement." -Michael Barone, Co-author, The Almanac of American Politics
 
"Gilgoff is a writer and journalist of the first rank - dependably honest with the facts and yet able to interpret them in light of the big picture.  This is a book that evangelicals, as well as the critics of our movement, should surely read." -Richard Cizik, Chief Lobbyist, National Association of Evangelicals

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Customer Reviews

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Readers who pick up this book based on its provocative title are likely to be disappointed.
BookProgressive
My parents read his child-rearing books and my first education in adolescence was courtesy his book on the topic.
Nellie K.
This book is packed with information about how politics and religion intersect in today's politics.
Liz N.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Liz N. on March 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is packed with information about how politics and religion intersect in today's politics. The unusual thing about the Jesus Machine is that Gilgoff doesn't seem to lean one way or the other. It seems like folks on both sides trust him and talk. That's cool. And it will be fun to watch what happens in the '08 elections now that I feel like I know so much more inside stuff.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By M. Welsh on April 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
First let it be said that this book is not a criticism of Dr. Dobson, Focus on the Family, or Evangelical Christians. This book is an account of how Focus on the Family and Dr. Dobson have grown over the years.
Dan Gilgoff offers insight to how the Movement has grown and changed from its origins, as well as Dobson's roots and how Dobson's radio broadcasts can influnce the American voter as it did in the last direction.
Gilgoff has written a non partisan book which can be enjoyed by followers and adversaries.

Great read for all followers of (or those interested in) Dobson and Focus on the Family, as well as Evangelicals (to learn more about Dobson) and anyone who is into politics (might be a good read for a poly sci class or perhaps a modern religions course)
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By TLynnW on June 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you barely recognize the America we're living in and want to know how we got here, this book is revelatory. Gilgoff calmly and dispassionately explicates the rise to power of the religious right. The Moral Majority, the Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family are the showy vehicles--there's a whole lot more beneath the hood. Gilgoff has meticulously researched how congregations, pastors, think tanks, lobbiests, GOP operatives have combined into an awesomely effective political machine. This is the definitive how-done manual. And it's a great read too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By C. S. Wallace on August 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I am so glad I read this book. It is difficult for someone like me who believes that the intersection of religion and government is dangerous to the liberties I believe our country was founded on to understand why this movement acts in the way it does. This book helped me to see where they are coming from, without the divisive rhetoric that pervades most discussions of this topic.

I still found the evangelical vision for America a frightening one, and one I do not support, but a little knowledge about the movement helps remind me that these are human beings with deeply held beliefs, however frightening I may find them.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Love on August 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Before reading this book, I expected that it would inevitably take sides on what has proven to be one of the most controversial issues in politics. I am pleased to report, however, that Gilgoff does an excellent job of keeping his own views and opinions (whatever they may be) out of the book, and instead relies on the facts he collected during extensive researching and interviewing. In addition, the book reads very well and flows smoothly; not at all like a textbook. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to learn more about the influence of religion in today's politics.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Nellie K. on February 13, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I grew up in a family that listened to Dobson's radio program religiously, almost from the day it began. My parents read his child-rearing books and my first education in adolescence was courtesy his book on the topic. So as an adult I am intrigued by this man who shaped much of my upbringing. This book does the necessary job of acquainting the public with this influential person.

I read this book as a "recovering Christian" who didn't particularly enjoy (to put it mildly) being raised by Dobson's philosophies. I picked it up expecting it to fan the flames of my displeasure, but surprisingly and refreshingly it didn't. It explained in a very even-handed way who Dobson is, how he got to where he is today, and described in great detail the quiet influence he's had on American life. The knowledge seems essential whether you are a conservative Christian follower, or a Liberal thinker.

No matter which side of the fence you're reading this book from, I think it does a fair and honest job of revealing Dobson, like him or loathe him. It lets the reader form their own opinion, and personally, I realized I kinda do like the guy... After all, who can resist the kind grandfatherly voice that's won over middle America?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By James A. Stevens on January 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a remarkably even-handed account of the political rise of certain factions within the evangelical Christian community. Although James Dobson's name is front and center, it's not simply about him or Focus on the Family, although there's enough information about them to make your head spin. Paul Weyrich, the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council and the Arlington Group are all major players.

I tend to agree most with Genevieve Wood, who as she leaves the Arlington Group, claims there's too much fire and brimstone amidst the more politically motivated and not enough grace and mercy. And perhaps even more telling is that despite the even-handedness of the book, James Dobson STILL manages to come off as a mean-spirited, petulant bully...or, when he doesn't get his way, a petulant baby.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By G. E. Walter on November 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book clearly explains the growth of Dobson's influence and its relation to other evangelicals. In the end, it points out the current challenge to his focus on only two issues.
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