Listening In — Richard Land, Mark Gregston, and James Gottry


WARREN SMITH, HOST: I’m Warren Smith, and today you’ll listening in on my conversation with three men who have some wise words regarding the family and how we should conduct ourselves during perilous times. My guests today are Mark Gregston of Parenting Today’s Teens, and James Gottry, with the James Dobson Family Institute. But we begin today with Richard Land.

Richard Land is president of Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Prior to taking that position, he was the long-time director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.  Richard Land is also a member of President Donald Trump’s Evangelical Advisory Group.  

I had this conversation with Richard Land, as well as the other guests on the program, at the recent meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, Tennessee.

Richard Land, welcome back to the program. I’ve had you on the show a number of times in the past.

RICHARD LAND, GUEST: I’m delighted to be with you.

SMITH: Well, thank you for taking Tom once again. And you know, in the past we’ve talked about apologetics. We’ve talked about your role as the head of Southern Evangelical Seminary and sort of the strategic role that institutions of higher education play. But I want to pivot in our conversation or in our running long, multi-year conversation and talk a little about public policy and the particular political era that we’re in. We’ve got a lot of evangelicals that are supporting Donald Trump. We’ve got some evangelicals who are adamantly opposed. We’ve got people in the culture that are adamantly opposed. You’ve been saying a few things lately about how you can have peace. What should be the ground rules for talking about politics in families, in church communities where there’s, in some cases, very severe disagreements.

LAND: We start with scripture. I can’t think of another time in American history when there have been as many issues that have a biblical context than now. I mean, obviously racism, slavery, they have been the besetting sin of America from the beginning. And the Bible has a great deal to say about that. That God has no respecter of persons and that in Christ there’s neither Greek nor Jew or a slave nor free male or female. We’re all new creations in Christ. But, you know, when you look at the abortion issue, you look at now euthanasia issues, you look at some states wanting to allow babies that are born to be euthanized. Infanticide. The Bible has a great deal to say about that. And it is all in favor of the sacredness of all human life from conception to natural death and everywhere in between.

And the Bible does have a great deal to say about, continues to say about racism. And we still are dealing with that issue in our society and need to continue to deal with it. And there are, as we have the party struggling to deal with this and to articulate the differing understandings of how to deal with it, we can have prudential disagreements about the best way to deal with these issues. For instance, I can preach against racism without endorsing any particular set of legislative actions to deal with it over another set of legislative actions to deal with it. When I go to churches, I’m often asked to give an update on public policy issues. And what I’ll do is I’ll say, alright, after I’ve preached we’ll conclude the service and we’ll have a five minute break and we’ll make an announcement before the end of the service that Dr. Land has agreed to stay and to answer questions and to give an overview for about an hour. And if you want to stay, stay, if you to go, go. And then I come down to the floor level. I leave the pulpit and come down to the floor level. And then I explain, look, I’m doing this because I’m giving you a very different level of authority here than I am when I’m up in the pulpit. When I’m up in the pulpit, I can say, “Thus sayeth the Lord,” speaking from scripture. But down here, I’m giving you my best assessment of what I think is the more prudential action to take as opposed to another action and here’s why. But you didn’t need to take that with a lot of salt, a lot of grains of salt that you don’t take it with when I’m preaching.

SMITH: Yeah. You know, I think one of the things that concerns me when I look at the political discourse today is the the willingness, the readiness, the ease with which even evangelical leaders who I think ought to know better theologically, are willing to jettison what scripture says about salvation or about lots of issues to support a particular candidate—

LAND: Or to engage in character assassination or to attack people and belittle their motives. You know, I find this all the time, you know, I’m sort of a triple loser when it comes to political correctness. I’m a victim of ageism, victim of sexism. I’m a victim of racism. They say, you know, “He’s an old white guy. What’s he know?” And I do plead guilty to be an old white guy, but that doesn’t disqualify me from having something to say. And that what I say should be taken as potentially valuable. Whether it’s valuable or not, depends on what I say. But I do think that we are confronted in this culture at this moment with in the last election I made it plain that Donald Trump was my last choice in the Republican primaries, but that once he became the nominee and Mrs. Clinton became the nominee for the Democrats, that in a fallen sinful world, sometimes Christians are confronted with making a choice between the lesser evil and the greater evil. And if we don’t support the lesser evil, we become morally culpable for allowing the greater evil to succeed.

SMITH: Well, I understand that argument and don’t disagree with it, but I think that the thing that concerns me is I understand whenever you’re confronted with those two choices, going into the ballot box and reluctantly pulling the lever for one or the other of the two. I think that’s a responsible course of action. It seems to me that you depart from a responsible course of action though, whenever you are willing to to to say things about your candidate that are just not true.

LAND: I agree. It’s always wrong—

SMITH: To overly defend them—

LAND: To not be a truth-teller. That’s always wrong.

SMITH: So, for example, whenever I hear—and just to get specific—I was at the March for Life. President Trump spoke, which is the first time a sitting president has ever spoken and I don’t think anybody would argue that that’s a bad thing. That’s a good thing if you’re on the pro-life side of things. But we also know that more taxpayer dollars are going to go to Planned Parenthood under the Trump administration than ever went to Planned Parenthood under the Obama administration.

LAND: But that’s not his fault. That’s Congress’s fault. 

SMITH: Well, he did promise to defund Planned Parenthood. He did not say I will promise to defund Planned Parenthood if I get a Republican Senate or if I–he said I will defund Planned Parenthood, full stop.

LAND: And he’s doing everything he can to defund Planned Parenthood, but we do live in a constitutional republic where he—now, let me tell you what he has done—

SMITH: So did he not understand—I understand what you’re saying, Dr. Land, but that’s a 7th grade civic lesson. Did he not know that when he made that promise?

LAND: He knows that. He didn’t know he was going to lose the House after two years.

SMITH: But he had it for two years and funding went up during the two years the Republicans were in control. As Christians, shouldn’t we tell the truth about that?

LAND: He made the promise to attempt to do it. He can’t do it by fiat.

SMITH: But he promised to do it.

LAND: Well, he promised to do it. He can’t deliver on promises that Congress won’t let him deliver on.

SMITH: Than should he not have made the promise?

LAND: No, I think he should have. That was his intention. And he may still do it if he gets reelected. He promised to take away the funding through the Mexico City policy. He did $500 million more than either George Bush, George W. Bush, or Ronald Reagan. They were expecting an $800 million hit. They got a $1.3 billion hit. I don’t think there’s any question that just going on the record that President Trump has been the most pro-life president in American history.

SMITH: I would say going on the rhetoric that that would be true.

LAND: No, record.

SMITH: But we’ve got more abortions than ever before—

LAND: That’s not true.

SMITH: Well, we don’t know about chemical abortions. We know that surgical abortions are down. But we also know that chemical abortions have largely filled that gap. We don’t know. We don’t know whether abortions have gone down or up.

LAND: But we can’t blame him.

SMITH: And we also know for a fact that federal dollars have gone up for abortion.

LAND: You can’t blame him for the erosion of the society. He has done more for the pro-life cause, he has attempted to do more to speak for the pro-life cause than Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush or George H. W. Bush.

SMITH: Well, let’s pivot to that erosion of the culture question because I agree with you that you can’t blame him, unless you can blame him. In other words, you can’t blame Donald Trump for the erosion of the culture, unless he’s doing and saying things that are actively contributing to that erosion and I think you could make a fair case that he is.

LAND: I think he’s doing far less to erode the culture than President Obama did, or Hillary Clinton—

SMITH: But is that the bar for us as Christians and who we’re going to support? Should that really be the bar for Christians and who we support that—

LAND: Who we would like to support, yes. Faced with a choice, I didn’t like the choice. I think it says a lot about the condition of the country that these were the two choices we were given. I think it says a lot about the moral temperature of the country that we’re going to be faced with similar choices in 2020. But when you’re faced with those choices, I think you have to make a moral judgement about which of these candidates do you think will do less damage or maybe do more positive good. And, if we’re going to—look, do I want a moral leader, do I want a president who is a moral leader? Do I want a president who does not attack people and caricature people and does not engage in language that I don’t think the president should engage in? Yeah. But we do need to remember that significantly flawed political leaders have been capable of doing great things for the country in spite of their moral flaws. Just in your lifetime and mine, Lyndon Johnson, who was a moral reprobate in the White House. There’s no evidence that President Trump has been anything other than faithful to his wife during his time in office. Lyndon Johnson was a serial adulterer and would be charged under the MeToo movement. John F. Kennedy was a moral reprobate in the White House and yet they both did great things for the country. Martin Luther King, Jr. was an adulterer, but he did great things for the country. I shudder to think about how we would have gotten through the Civil Rights revolution of the 1960s without significantly more bloodshed had it not been for the leadership of Lyndon Johnson and Martin Luther King, Jr.

SMITH: Well, I agree with that and stipulate for the record that that’s all true. That God is such a good God that he’s—

LAND: He can use the jawbone of an ass.

SMITH: Absolutely. And thank God, you know, the really, honestly, thank, I mean, I don’t mean I’m not glib when I say thank God that he does, because that’s all he’s got to work with really, with you, with me, with everybody else. But again though, I would—let’s stipulate that that’s true, but as Christians, should we therefore say that sin should increase so that grace should increase all the more?

LAND: No, no.

SMITH: Paul said, no.

LAND: We should criticize the president when he does things that we believe are not right. And I do, I do.

SMITH: But you may and I’m not gonna challenge you on that point, but I think you’ll agree with me that many do not.

LAND: Too many do not.

SMITH: That many evangelical leaders are willing to jettison what they know to be true and accept what they know to be false because they are afraid or concerned that it will hurt President Trump or their standing with President Trump.

LAND: Well, the evangelical leaders I know and that I circulate with in the realm don’t do that. I mean, they appreciate what he’s done in terms of nominating judges, which is countervailing the attempt by the Obama administration and would have been under the Clinton administration to weaponize the legal system against us. I guarantee you they were preparing to weaponize the legal system, the judiciary against us to compromise our right to share the gospel, to compromise our right to speak freely. And that has been retarded significantly. For instance, let’s look at the ninth circuit court of appeals, the most infamous appeals court in the country. It is now almost balanced because all of his judicial appointments to the ninth circuit have been strict constructionist conservatives. Now, frankly, I don’t care if a person is a strict constructionist. I don’t care whether they’re an atheist or they’re a Christian, because if they’re strict constructionist, they’re going to rule according to the letter of the law. They’re not going to try to legislate from the bench. And that is what the justices are supposed to do.

SMITH: Yeah, well you say that evangelicals that you know are not, but let me just give you one quick example. Dr. James Dobson has said that he thinks Trump is a Christian. And we have repeated on the record statements from Donald Trump that he’s never done anything of which he needs to repent. So just as a theologian, speaking as a theologian, how is it possible that that is not an axe to the root of the gospel? If you stand up and publicly say that a man who has not repented is a Christian—

LAND: I’ll let Dr. Dobson speak for himself. I will tell you this: I have been around the president now for about four years. Not on a weekly basis or even a monthly basis, but I’ve been around him.

SMITH: You’re on his advisory board.

LAND: I’ve been in the room with him. I’ve been in places where they’re 10, 12 people and he is a different man spiritually now than he was four years ago. Now, whether he is a believer or not, I haven’t had the opportunity to ask him that question. I will tell you just one anecdote. I was at a White House dinner that the night before the National Day of Prayer observance this last May and they had different members of the White House staff and cabinet at different tables that, you know, round tables. And I was at the table with the chief of staff. But there was a prominent evangelical evangelist who was at the table with the president and his wife. And after the dinner was over with and we were breaking up and, you know, reluctantly leaving the White House. You want to linger. This person walked up to Tony Perkins and myself and said, “Man, I was not prepared for this.” And we said, “What?” And he said, “He’s a different man than he was three and a half years ago.” He said, “In the way he talked to to us, the way he talked to his wife. He’s a different man.” Now, Dr. Dobson has been closer to the president than I have been. There are others that have been closer to him than I have been. And I don’t know what conversations they’ve had with him. I just know that I can see that he is a spiritually more sensitive man than he was four years ago. Now, whether or not he’s a born again believer, I would say to you the same thing I’ve said, when I was asked about George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. I said, you know, I have no doubt that both Washington and Lincoln believed that Jesus Christ was the savior. But I don’t know if they made that eternal translation from the third person singular to the first person singular, Jesus Christ is my savior. I would have to have a personal pastoral conversation with them before I could give you a definitive answer.

SMITH: You’re listening in on conversations I had with Christian leaders at the recent meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville, Tennessee. That was Richard Land, an advisor to President Donald Trump and the president of Southern Evangelical Seminary.

Later in the program, we’ll hear from Mark Gregston of Parenting Today’s Teen, and James Gottry, with the James Dobson Family Institute.

I’m Warren Smith.  More in a moment.

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Welcome back. I’m Warren Smith, and up next on today’s program is Mark Gregston. Mark Gregston is the author of several books on parenting teenagers, including What’s Happening To My Teen and Why Is My Teen Struggling? He has been called the “teen whisperer” because of his ability to connect with teenagers, but he says that ability comes not from talking to them, but listening to them.  

Mark, welcome back to the program. It’s great to—

MARK GREGSTON, GUEST: You bet.

SMITH: —visit with you again. You’ve always got a great story, which—

GREGSTON: I don’t know whether that’s good.

SMITH: They’re good. They’re good. You’re a storyteller, which is great. Which kind of transitions from me into what I do want to talk about because you’ve been on Christian radio for a long, long time. Now you’re sort of branching out beyond, you know, the Christian media and you guys are, you know, working on a television program now and you’ve been on secular programs. What are you hearing there that’s different than what you’ve heard in the Christian world all these years?

GREGSTON: Well, you know, I think sometimes the Christian world for me gets saturated. There’s a lot of people that hear the same thing over and over and over again. And I remember a guy saying a long time ago, why should some people hear the gospel twice when some people haven’t even heard it once? I don’t know who said it, but it stuck with me and I thought, you know, if we don’t reach out beyond our boundaries or limits, that maybe Christian radio may have for us. And it’s wonderful. We’re on 17-1,800 stations and so it’s been good. And now we’re on about 900 country stations as well with our little short feature stuff. It’s interesting to me that I’m always saying, how do we move to another group of people? How do we engage with other folks that are different than us and find similarities that we can engage and offer them help and hope. And so I think the same hope that is for Christians and for any believer and follower of Christ is the same hope that could be out there for other family members.

And so, I get to do the Hallmark Channel good morning, you know, The Home and Family Show and they tell you, “Don’t say certain things. Don’t say Jesus. Don’t say anything that could be divisive.” And, and I go, “I can operate within those parameters” and I can quote scripture without telling them where it’s from. They’re hearing truth, they’re hearing encouragement. I can say the word God, and that God has created us in these different ways. And so I’m not masking things. I am just being real and speaking their language in hopes that I’m pulling some people in to a new perspective of how God has called them into parenting and parenting teens and the struggles they’re going through are no different than the struggles that Christian parents are going through with their teens.

SMITH: Yeah. You know, Mark, I guess I originally got to know you is because of your residential facility in Texas. And I’m wondering if over the last couple of years, especially with the opioid epidemic that we’ve been seeing in this country, whether that’s changed the nature of the work that you do.

GREGSTON: Not, you know, not for us. I think it’s changed a lot across the board for so many kids because everything is so available and everything is so permissible and promoted at the same time. So when we get kids that come to us, of course when a child’s struggling, they’re going to be smoking pot, they’re going to be drinking a little bit, they’re going to take whatever is available to them. So if it is opioids, most of the drug problems that I see in kids comes from a parent’s, you know, pharmacy cabinet or wherever they store all their own medications, but they’re going to be doing different things. And so I hear the word meth a little bit more. I hear opioids a little bit more. I hear a little bit about heroin and cocaine is kind of normal. And these are 14, 15 year old kids that are just so lost, you know, in a world that they’re trying to figure things out and it’s so painful for them to some degree that they will take anything to change the nature of who they are. And so it’s not something that we have to deal with, meaning we’re not dealing with opioid addiction, but our kids experiment out of curiosity and out of an intent of just trying to connect with people because they just want to have relationships. And I think that’s what they’re lacking.

SMITH: You know, another thing that I’ve been hearing, Mark, and I was wanting to get your perspective is that we have really a crisis in masculinity—men and boys in this country—that even at the college level, I had a college professor at a Christian college tell me that the dirty little secret of Christian colleges these days is just that they’re basically girls schools with a few men showing up. That most colleges in America are 55 to 65% women. That men are maturing later. Boys are maturing later. They’re not taking on the responsibilities of adulthood. Are you seeing that, too?

GREGSTON: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. The American Medical Association has increased the age of adolescence to age 27. The American Journal of Adolescent Psychiatry has increased it to age 26 and I think what’s happening is that, you know, truly I think every one of us is created by God to be relational. We’re created as relational beings and what’s happening with kids, teens, and even preteens now is they aren’t having those relational needs met. And it’s because they spend so much time—and I’m holding up a smart phone—they spend so much time on these things that they don’t spend enough time engaging with each other one on one. And it’s through that engagement, the development of relationships, that a child matures. They get value. They find self-worth. They find purpose. It’s through relationships. And kids change because of relationships, not because of authority, not because of consequences really, but they change because of relationships. And so when the world is void of those relationships, then kids don’t grow up as fast. And I think they’re being preoccupied by trying to find relationships somewhere or fulfill those things in their life that they long for and they’re finding them in things that really aren’t happening. You know, I think about the guy who wrote the book Wild At Heart, you know, and he says that that every man needs an adventure to live, a battle to fight, and a beauty to rescue. And our kids are finding those, our guys are finding those in video games, you know, because they don’t have the relationships that you and I had while we were growing up.

And so what’s happening is it’s just being deflected to a later time. Kids are finding out that they’re not getting what they want from the very things they’re trying. And I think that’s why we have angry kids. I think that’s why they’re frustrated and anxious. And I think that’s why they fight depression. About 48 percent of kids now can be diagnosed by the DSM5, which is a diagnostic and statistics manual that psychologists and psychiatrists and counselors use. Forty-eight percent of kids can be diagnosed with something. And I would say that it’s usually in that sense of depression, anxiety, you know, that anger that is building up because kids aren’t getting what they really want.

SMITH: So, kind of at the end of the day here. And let’s just stipulate for the record that we can’t fully diagnose the problem nor prescribe the solution in a 10 minute radio segment or podcast segment. But any practical advice for probably parents, not a lot of kids listen to my podcast, but you know, for parents or grandparents that might be listening that might recognize some of these symptoms in their own in their own kids.

GREGSTON: Oh yeah. You know, and usually you find it out when something goes wrong. I mean, it’s never quite beforehand. I tell parents that have preteens, I tell them all the time, “Hey, just know this, that you’ve got to move from a teaching model, which is usually one through 12 years of age into a training model.” And that training model means that you’ve got to encourage independence. You’ve got to let them start making decisions, take control of their life. Quit doing everything for them. I mean, quit having lectures and move to discussion. I mean, very practical ways of helping them grow up. I mean, telling them, I want you to grow up. I want you to take control. I want you to make decisions and you have to let them do that instead of always telling them what to do. And so, parents, it’s coming. If you think that that the tools that you use in the preteen years are going to be effective in the teen years—this is the only time that I tell parents that are wrong. They’re absolutely wrong, and they will fail because teens today need something completely different. They don’t need all the information we give an a teaching model. They need wisdom to live life that is confusing to them and they’re trying to figure out how to apply those principles that you have to the world that they live in. To those people who have kids that are now, you know, in their teens and you’re finding out that you’re having pushback from your child and just something’s not going right: Look beyond the behavior that you see and know that there’s an invisible issue going on in their life. Behavior is that visible expression of the invisible issues. And that’s what you’ve got to touch on rather than trying to control their behavior all the time. I mean, and somebody goes, “Well, wait a minute, wait a minute, Mark, how do you know that?” I live with 60 high school kids. If I spent all my time just doing nothing but controlling their behavior, I would never get to their heart issues. And as a result, I am postponing the inevitable to a later time in life where their decisions will affect more people and it’s just a little bit darker and greater. That means when they get married or they have their own kids. And so even if you have that child that’s, you know, kind of the clown on a couch is playing video games. It’s time to start building some boundaries and saying, we got to make some changes here. Because what you’re doing is a allowing provision to quickly move to enabling and you’re not helping your child. I mean, scripture says if you rescue an angry man once, you’re just going to have to rescue him again. Get them through it, set some goals, be strong, push them to become the person that God’s designed them to be. And it’s not sitting on a couch at your home playing video games for the rest of their life.

SMITH: Mark, great advice. Thanks so much. Thanks again for being on the program for the work that you do and yeah, it’s great to see you again.

GREGSTON: Always good. Always good.

SMITH: You’re listening in today on conversations I had with Christian leaders at the recent meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville. That was Mark Gregston, of Heartlight Ministries, and the author of nearly a dozen books on parenting.  

After a short break, we’ll hear from James Gottry of the James Dobson Family Institute.

I’m Warren Smith.  More in a moment.

[BREAK]

Welcome back.  You’re listening in today on a smorgasbord of conversations I had at the recent meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters in Nashville.

Up next, James Gottry.

James Gottry serves as vice president of public policy for the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute. Gottry also writes about constitutional law, religious freedom, and cultural issues, and his work has been published in The Wall Street Journal, National Review, The Hill, and other print and online outlets. 

Previously, Gottry was the director of marketing and legal counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom.

James Gottry welcome to the program. You’re now working with James Dobson’s Family Talk Radio, but you’re doing the public policy side. Talk about that a little bit.

JAMES GOTTRY, GUEST: That’s right. Dr. James Dobson Family Institute and I am serving as the vice president of public policy. The reason we have a public policy department is because as Dr. Dobson always says, his love for family motivates his commitment to public policy because so much of what happens in the culture has an impact on families, has an impact on people of faith. And so we need to be equipped and engaged not just in the home with our kids, which is vitally important, but also outside the home in our communities.

SMITH: Yeah. And so what do you see and what’s the issue—I know you were at ADF for a while and they focus on religious liberty issues a lot and are you still seeing those religious liberty issues showing up in your life here or is it broader than that?

GOTTRY: Absolutely. People of faith are I think continually and more and more facing opposition if they choose to live out their faith in the community, particularly if they choose to live out their faith in their business. And people like Jack Phillips who everyone knows about who went to the Supreme Court because he wanted to live consistent with his faith in his cake artistry. And so we’re seeing a lot of that. Another thing we’re seeing is just really an attack on biblical values and understanding of human sexuality. Whether that’s denying the differences between men and women, whether that’s not respecting the dignity of each person by rolling back equal opportunities for women. Of course, pro-life issues continue to abound and just a couple of days ago, the Senate voted down two bills that would have just offered the most basic of protections for human life. So it’s across the board.

SMITH: Yeah. So, you know, I’ve been sort of covering this space for a long time and since you worked at ADF, you’ve kinda been in this space for a long time. You know, you look at ADF and they’re actually taking on lawsuits. They’ve got lawyers, they’ve got affiliate lawyers, they represented Jack Phillips. And then on the other side of the spectrum, you’ve got more advocacy stuff. Where do you guys sort of fit in the spectrum in the continuum of things? Are y’all a writing position? And I will have to say, too, that some are, you know, sign my petition and we’re going to deliver it. We’re going to, you know, take America back for Jesus kind of a thing. And others tend to have a more, I guess you could say, a more reasoned approach. They’re not just trying to build their database or mailing lists.

GOTTRY: Right. That’s definitely not what we’re trying to do. Dr. Dobson now for more than 40 years has worked to serve the family. This is a natural, it’s not even an extension, it’s a natural part of that. Just equipping families to teach their children about these issues that matter because their kids are going to hear about these issues out in the world. So the question is, are they going to get presented with a biblical viewpoint? Well, not outside the home they’re not. So that’s going to be their responsibility of parents to train up their children in that and also to be engaged as citizens. We are citizens of this constitutional republic. We are responsible for the direction of the country. So we need to be involved.

SMITH: Yeah. How has the era of Trump affected what you’re doing?

GOTTRY: You know, there have been a lot of great policies and laws coming out of this administration. So, that’s certainly been a positive thing. I mean, President Trump was the first president to speak in person at a national March For Life. And that was just earlier in January. 

SMITH: Yeah, he did that in the same timeframe that he signed a budget that gave more money to Planned Parenthood than any president in American history, though.

GOTTRY: Well, and right there, that illustrates the challenge that we have as believers. What we can’t do is sit back and just rely on any administration—whether that’s local or national—to set the course for us. It’s really important to have a president that’s going to be engaged on issues that matter to conservatives, to people of faith. It’s really important to have a Congress that is going to pass good bills and it’s really important to have judges that are going to take an originalist view of the Constitution. But that’s not all we need because we need to put people in office that will advance policies that are good for the country as a whole. We need to, you know, have judges on the bench that are doing those things. That’s all, again, we’re the drivers for that. 

SMITH: Yeah. You know, I once heard Dr. Dobson say—it was probably eight or 10 years ago now, it was not before the 2016 cycle. I think it might’ve been before the 2012 cycle. He’s basically said that the lesser of two evils is still evil and that, you know, when it comes to making a political choice. And yet this time around he’s gone sort of all in for President Trump. At what point do we—set aside the politics for a moment, because I know you’re concerned with more cultural issues and Dr. Dobson is too—at what point does our desire as evangelicals, as people of faith, does our desire for policy gains conflict with our understanding of the gospel and that it is a spiritual and a cultural problem with this country and not merely a political problem that is causing some of the pathologies that we see today.

GOTTRY: Right. I think to say that law follows culture is true but incomplete. To say that culture follows law is true but incomplete. So, yeah, first and foremost if we get political wins but don’t have cultural change, longterm we’re not gonna see the change or the difference that we want. And vice versa. So, for Christians first and foremost, we have a duty to be a representative of Christ and of the gospel. But understanding that the gospel, the good news—which is what gospel means—extends beyond the salvation message, which is critical and which is key. But it extends to good news about the sanctity of life. Good news about God’s design for marriage and family. Good news about the dignity of every person. And if the world isn’t hearing that message from us, who are they gonna hear from? 

SMITH: Yeah. Well, in that spirit, I mean, if there’s anything that is central to the good news, the gospel, it is the idea that we’re sinners in need of a savior and that we’re all saved by grace and that we’ve got to repent from our sin. We have a president who has famously said that he has never done anything that he needs to repent of. And we’ve got a lot of evangelical leaders who are saying that this man’s a Christian. How can both be true? And does that not reflect a compromise of what the gospel itself is whenever we have evangelical leaders who are willing to publicly say that someone who has never repented and seems to be proud of the fact that he’s never repented is a Christian?

GOTTRY: Well, I’ve certainly heard different things on that and I can’t speak to the state of anyone’s heart. What I do is wholeheartedly agree with you of what the gospel message is, which is that all of sinned—

SMITH: And what evangelical leaders are saying. I mean, you know, in other words, when evangelical leaders will state publicly and unequivocally, I think even Dr. Dobson has said that he thinks that Trump is a baby Christian, I think is the language that he’s used. How could that understanding be even remotely consistent with the biblical understanding of what salvation is?

GOTTRY: Well, I believe Dr. Dobson said that he believed that Trump might be a baby Christian, but you’d have to ask him about that. I’m not exactly sure what the quote is. Again, I think the gospel and what that means is very clear and we should not equivocate on that at all. We have all sinned, we are all in need of a savior. We are all in need of repentance and we need to be consistent in saying that. And then on the political side of things, I think when it comes to, you know, voting at the ballot box, we need to consider all the information we have in front of us, decide who we believe has the right character to be president. Decide who we believe is going to advance the policies that are best for this country. You know, one thing I’ve said before, sometimes the choice is not necessarily who you would most want for your neighbor, but it would be who you believe is going to do the most good for your neighborhood. There’s a lot of factors there that need to be considered.

SMITH: Yeah, no, that’s a good point. Anything else that you wanted to make sure you shared with our audience?

GOTTRY: I’d just love for people to visit DrJamesDobson.org to sign up for updates, to find us on Facebook—The Dobson Policy Center—also, Dr. James Dobson. Get involved in your communities. Get involved in, again, being ambassadors of the gospel and as citizens taking an active role in the direction of this country.

SMITH: Great. James Gottry, thanks so much for being on the program.

GOTTRY: Thank you.


(Photo/Land, Gregston, Gottry)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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