This is part 1 of a 2-part conversation between NC Family President John L. Rustin and Focus on the Focus on the Family President Jim Daly, regarding the perspectives found in Daly’s new book, “Marriage Done Right.” Daly shares his personal testimony along with valuable suggestions for the church regarding marriage.
INTRODUCTION: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters! We are excited to have Jim Daly with us on the program. Jim is President of Focus on the Family, “a global Christian ministry based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, that is dedicated to helping families thrive in the United States and around the world.” I am sure that Jim Daly is a familiar name and voice to many in our audience. Jim is with us today to bring a refreshing, practical, and hopeful perspective on marriage. He has just released a new book called, “Marriage Done Right: One Man, One Woman” and he’s here to discuss his new book on an incredibly important topic. Jim, welcome to Family Policy Matters!
JIM DALY: John, it’s great to be with you. Thanks for having me.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jim, as you know the North Carolina Family Policy Council owes a great deal to Focus on the Family, as we were actually founded in the early 1990’s by an initiative and outreach of Dr. James Dobson and other national leaders who saw a need to establish vibrant family-oriented public policy organizations in states across the country. We are so grateful for our partnership with Focus on the Family and all that you do to promote, protect and preserve, not only the “institution” of the family, but, in very practical ways real living, breathing families across our nation on a daily basis.
JIM DALY: I appreciate that. You know, Dr. Dobson and the group that worked around him, Tom Minnery and others, I am just really proud of the work that they’ve done for so many years. You know hopefully it’ll be more than just a stop-gap measure that the activity in 38 states, I believe, the Family Policy Councils operate. They’re there to help locally at the state level to develop and defend the family. So, we’re praying for you often.
JOHN RUSTIN: Thank you! And I tell you the alliance of Family Policy Councils, Focus on the Family, Family Policy Alliance—formerly CitizenLink—are all working together in an incredibly powerful and effective partnership across this nation. So we’re delighted to have the opportunity and the privilege to be a part of that. Now Jim, I’ve enjoyed reading your new book, “Marriage Done Right” and I particularly appreciate how open and transparent you are about your life and your marriage, and particularly about your childhood and your upbringing that has had such a profound impact on the perspective that you bring to the leadership of Focus on the Family. Talk, if you would, for our listeners about your background and how that has really affected the way that you think and speak about marriage.
JIM DALY: I appreciate that. You know, all of us have a testimony, I love to start with that. So, the Lord bought those testimonies with the price of his blood, so we don’t own them. He just asks us to walk through them faithfully, and that’s what I’ve tried to do. I think the irony is when Dr. Dobson and I talked about me becoming president of Focus on the Family, you know I laugh because the humor in it, from my perspective, was that God gave me just about every family type to experience. So I was in a normal dysfunctional home where my dad was an alcoholic. My mom died when I was nine, they divorced when I was five and my mom remarried when I was eight, she died when I was nine. Our stepfather walked out the day of my mom’s funeral. So, I ended up in foster care for a year then my biological father reappeared and reclaimed us and I was with him for a year and then he died and then I moved in with my brother. Went through junior high and high school living with my brother, who is eight years older than me. So, you know, it really gave me a wide variety of experience when it comes to family type and family formation. So, today when I am speaking, I’ll have a single-parent mom come up to me and she’s so appreciative that there’s hope for her little son or her little daughter. And although the deck may be stacked against them, with God there is no deck, it’s all forward and future. And so I try to encourage people that bottom-line, it’s a relationship with Christ, that’s why I am here, that’s why I stepped forward to be saved as a 15-year-old who played football. I had a great Christian football coach who guided me into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and man I am so grateful to him and to the Lord for answering that call.
JOHN RUSTIN: Thank you for your faithfulness in seeking the Lord’s direction for your life, and that is a great testimony. And God is truly the author of our individual stories. Jim, it’s no surprise to anyone that the institution of marriage is under a great strain today. But I found it interesting in your book that this is not, as you talk about, this is not the first time marriage has been under attack in America, so to speak. Talk about the history of marriage in our nation and what has been done to ‘right the ship’ when things have drifted off course in the past?
JIM DALY: When you look at that, there were areas of New York that were desperate, the burglary rate had gone up, the percentage of rape had gone up. Mostly, ironically in this case, is the Irish districts in New York where orphaned kids were shuffled off and there was just a lot of crime. And there was a Catholic priest who came in and basically founded Catholic education through that situation, and he wanted to teach kids manners and morals. Over the course of about 20 years, that neighborhood, that area completely changed. And that’s when the Irish became more involved in politics, in police work, etc. And they did a 180 and it was a spiritual revolution, I would say a revival that occurred. And so I think we, as Christians should never put the potential of revival outside of what God could do to change the course of a nation. And right now, man, I am praying for that because I think this nation desperately needs a revival in the hearts of men and women.
JOHN RUSTIN: There’s no doubt about. One of the main challenges to marriage today is what you call the “evolving definition of the family.” The foundational idea that we’ve really operated under for hundreds, if not thousands, of years is that the healthiest place to raise a child is in an intact home with a married mother and father. But this is really being severely undermined in many ways in our present day. Talk about why it’s so important for a child’s development to have both a mother and a father in the home.
JIM DALY: I just read a letter today and I can’t remember the woman’s name, but she was raised in a two-mom lesbian household. This letter is powerful. In that letter, she described so clearly the issue and what she says in that letter is “Mom I love you and I’ve stood by your side, but now that I’m married, have a little distance between my childhood, and now seeing my husband, the father of my children, interact with my kids, I missed having a dad.” It just continues through there, and really is a lamentation about the fact that by construct, by her mother’s choices, she ended up being deprived of a father, and the impact that made on her. And the fact that she can’t even talk about it because if she does she feels like she’ll be reprimanded by the gay community for being bigoted or hateful. I think that letter really describes the impact. In that letter she says, “There are many of us, children of same-sex households, who are desperate inside, we’re dying.” I don’t mean to imply anything, and I don’t mean to imply that these are bad people, but I think if you just listen to your children, you’ll understand what depriving a child of a mother or a father can do to them, psychologically, emotionally. And I think that letter is—hopefully we’ll be posting that on Focus on the Family before too long. But I think that captures it, the family and the definition of the family, and the way that some people in this culture want to make marriage just about anything. It really sets the culture up for failure. And there’s no way that you can’t look at the empirical evidence to say that a child does best with a mom and dad. It is the truth. It’s simply the truth and we’ve got to begin to understand that and embrace it. We’ve got to, in my opinion; we’ve got to start to rid ourselves of political correctness and think of children as the most valuable commodity in this country and to protect them from that kind of social engineering. That’s what my book, “Marriage Done Right,” is mostly about: How do we protect kids? How do we reenergize the institution of marriage the way God designed it, and embrace it once again.
JOHN RUSTIN: In your book, you say that the church, and even Christian parents, is really culpable in the breakdown of the family, and to some that may be a hard thing to hear. For those who promote and defend the family, it’s not always the easiest thing to say but it is the truth, that we’ve all been a part of this in one way or another. Explain that for us if you would. What do you mean by that when you say that the church and even Christian parents are culpable in the breakdown of the family?
JIM DALY: When you look at it, our divorce rate is not that far different from the world’s. I mean if the world’s running at 50 percent, most experts say we’re probably in that 35-38 percent divorce rate within the Christian community. I mean, think of that statement. And I remember sitting down with a gay activist and the first thing this person said to me was, “You guys haven’t done so well with marriage. Why not let us try? We might be able to improve the statistics.” And all I could say to that, you know I’m sitting in that meeting thinking “Lord give me something wise” and I responded and just said, “You know, you’re right, but the fact that we choose not to live the truth of God’s word doesn’t nullify the truth of God’s word, it just means we’re pathetic living it.” And that’s the point. If we’re not serious about our faith, how do we expect to have the power of the Holy Spirit working through us, and how do we expect to be a witness to a world that desperately needs the Truth of God. And I think it starts with us. And it doesn’t mean we’re not going to have failure. We don’t have to project perfection, But what we need to project is a commitment to God’s Word in a much stronger way than we do in this modern era.
JOHN RUSTIN: Jim, what are some practical ways that Christians can reinforce the Biblical model of marriage in our culture today, which that culture often seems so opposed to this traditional view? And also, why is it important that we are willing— as you have done in your book—to talk about the struggles that we go through, kind of the real-life side of relationships in marriage, when we are having these discussions with policy leaders or members of our family, friends, neighbors, that sort of thing.
JIM DALY: At the core of the issue is our selfishness, so let’s start there. As human beings, we are selfish creatures. So when we’re looking at the institution of marriage, even within the church, the culture has seeped in, gushed in, flowed in, to where it’s impacting our ability to understand or care for one another. It’s something I’m reminded of constantly here as I’m recording a radio broadcast for Focus on the Family. I think, “OK Lord, I have failed miserably with Jean, my wife, yesterday. So forgive me for that.” And I’ve got to go home and say, “Jean, forgive me, I was thinking of myself and not of you.” But part of it is when Jesus says to us men, and I think it applies to both, “Lay your life down for one another.” What does that mean? If a burglar was to come into our home with a gun, I would jump in front of that bullet for Jean and my boys. I love them that much and I would do all I could do to protect them. OK, that’s what a man should do! But what about if my wife wants to go shopping this weekend and look at furniture for three hours. Am I willing to lay my life down for that? Or do I really want to watch that Bronco game? That’s the challenge. It’s those little incremental, selfless acts that I think undergird a marriage that lasts a lifetime. And I think within the church we have to recommit ourselves to loving each other in that way. Sure, that’s a silly example. There’s other ways that we have to lay our lives down for one another, but we’ve got to become more serious about it. And when we handle marriage lightly within the church, how should we expect the world to respond? Why don’t they redefine marriage because it’s not working for us. And, I don’t want to be hypercritical, but it starts with us. We are the witness of our Lord Jesus Christ! And if it’s not working for us, they’re gonna say, “They can’t even do it, and they’re committed to each other.” So, I want to look at the log in my own eye, and in our eye, as a community of believers first, then look at the speck in their eye. The Lord will deal with them, but man we’d better not be the stumbling block that causes them to fail.
JOHN RUSTIN: I like what you said earlier that we’re not called to perfection, and I think we often in our culture today feel like we have to present a perfect image of marriage, and that’s just not reality. We need to be real; We need to be transparent and share with and walk alongside other couples who are facing challenges and kind of work through this together and with the Lord’s help and putting seeking the help and guidance and assistance and mentoring of others who have been through struggles as well. That is very helpful in enabling us to move through this thing that we call marriage successfully, but also to be that salt and light in our culture that portrays that Christ-like love and His intent for the marriage relationship to those who may have grown up in a broken home or have never experienced what that truly looks like.
You’ve been listening to Part 1 of a discussion about a refreshing, practical and hopeful perspective on marriage with Jim Daly, President of Focus on the Family. I encourage you to tune into Family Policy Matters next week for Part 2 of this engaging discussion.
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