Faith, Media & Culture

Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

Parable projects long-term impact of societal trends. It’s never too late to try something new. At 76, Dr. James Dobson, the conservative psychologist/author of over 80 nonfiction Bible-based books on marriage and family who currently heads up Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk radio ministry, is adding novelist to his list of titles.

The founder of Focus on the Family has co-authored (with Kurt BrunerFatherless (FaithWords/Hachette Book Group, Jan. 15, 2013) which offers a dark, dystopian view of a not-too-distant future born out of current trends.

“Often the best way to communicate vital truths is to weave them into a story,” Dobson says. “The New Testament parables offer a great example of that. Fatherless takes the demographic realities of today, combines them with our nation’s economic, moral and ethical drift and imagines a future 30 years from now that’s at once familiar and frightening…

Dobson asks “What happens in a world where growing up with the protective love of a father becomes the exception rather than the norm? What happens when the very old outnumber the very young?” He adds “Demographers tell us the decline in marriage and parenthood is fueling an unprecedented drop in fertility. The global population soon will begin to decline. We already see, in places such as Japan and Russia, that economic turmoil always accompanies dwindling population as the few young and healthy are burdened with the ballooning aging and feeble. The best projections show America on a trajectory to tip downward in a few short decades. This book is a fictional account of what current demographic, sociological and cultural shadows portend. But it’s also a celebration of God’s design for families.”

Here’s the rather provocative plot as summarized by the press release:

(It’s) 2042, and a long-predicted tipping point has arrived:  For the first time, the elderly outnumber the vigorous young creating an untenable economic and moral situation. How will a debt-crippled nation pay for the health care needs of a growing number of seniors living longer? As laws change allowing the elderly to end their lives, they become viewed as financial liabilities, as do the disabled. Jaundiced eyes turn toward any couple with more than two children, making monetary problems worse. Caught in an intensifying battle between competing cultural agendas is reporter Julia Davidson—a journalist seeking to revive a flagging career; influential young Congressman Kevin Tolbert, a Christian facing his own dilemmas; and a supporting cast of engaging characters who find themselves deep in an ominous conspiracy. In the dystopian tradition of 1984, Brave New World and The Hunger Games, Fatherless projects the headlines of today into the desperate choices of tomorrow.

Note: Fatherless is actually the first offering of a planned trilogy that is set to include the follow-up books Childless (summer 2013) and Godless (2014).

BTW, earlier this year I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. Dobson to talk about Building a Family Legacy, a new eight-part video series on building strong families that updates his well-remembered film series from 1978 which has been seen by over 80 million people).

Here’s what I wrote then: Like many Americans who get their impressions of people through the news media, I was expecting an angrier sort.  That definitely wasn’t who I found.  Even on the contentious issue of gay marriage, Dobson (while firm in his opposition) made clear that Christians needed to treat everyone they meet with respect and compassion. He wasn’t the fire breather I had been primed for.

But, most impressively, from talking with both Ryan and his sister Danae (also an author) I was given the impression of a man who had earned the deep love and respect of his children and who was true to the message he’s been preaching for over 20 years.

So, I like the guy and I think what he has to say is worth paying attention to. I’m looking forward to reading his book.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
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