Friday, June 22, 2007

The Jesus Machine by Dan Gilgoff

The full title of this books is The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America Are Winning the Culture War. The title sums up the book quite nicely. I had this professor who referred to titles as contracts with the reader. Well, Dan Gilgoff's book would pass this stupid little test.

Gilgoff is not concerned with what can be done to combat the increase of the political power of Evangelicals, as I thought he would be. Instead, he just describes how the Evangelical movement has changed in the last forty years. While the book is ostensibly about James Dobson and Focus on the Family, Gilgoff is careful to place both Dobson and Focus in the proper context. He charts the rise of the Christian Right, beginning with Moral Majority, and then Christian Coalition, and then what is commonly referred to as the New Right, of which he sees Dobson as the unofficial leader.

Gilgoff asserts that Dobson filled the void left as the political influence of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson declined, and that what makes Dobson's rise to political prominence so interesting is that Focus on the Family was intended to be apolitical. But, in 2004 Dobson actively campaigned for Republican candidates whose values aligned with his. According to Gilgoff, Dobson's increased involvement in politics is what sealed the 2004 election for Bush.

I was surprised at the understanding that Gilgoff had of conservative Christians. Later I found out that he minored in religion at George Washington University, and regularly writes about the intersection of politics and religion for US News & World Report. He writes well, and had a clear understanding of his subject matter. More importantly, Gilgoff was able to show how influential the Christian Right has become in the political arena.


Alyson said...

Two questions: Do you think this book explains the issues well enough to someone who isn't all that familiar with this political arena? And do you think this book would be interesting to someone who doesn't particularly, um... appreciate the "Jesus Machine?"

Carlton said... both questions. I have no affinity for Dobson or any other members of the Christian Right, for that matter.
Intimate knowledge of politics is not a prerequisite. However, I am worried that this will be above your head since you are a girl.

Christopher said...

The Jesus Machine would be a badass transformer

Alyson said...

Sometimes girls are dumb. Sometimes girls do not understand politics or religion or machinery.

Nathan said...

I'm with Chris on this one. I'd like to see blueprints for a Jesus Machine prototype by next Monday, if at all possible. Let's make this work people.

Christopher said...