james dobson
Christian conservative leader James Dobson, the founder of the Focus on the Family ministry, has gained a new title: novelist. His new book is titled 'Fatherless'. RNS photo courtesy Hachette Book Group.

As novelist, James Dobson portrays a bleak future for families

(RNS) Christian conservative leader James Dobson, the founder of the Focus on the Family ministry, has gained a new title: novelist.

james dobson

Christian conservative leader James Dobson, the founder of the Focus on the Family ministry, has gained a new title: novelist. RNS photo by Harry Langdon.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Working with co-author Kurt Bruner, a Texas pastor, he’s out with “Fatherless,” the first of a dystopian trilogy that looks into the future when the elderly outnumber the young, advancing the culture wars to new dimensions.

Dobson, 76, answered emailed questions from Religion News Service about his new project.

Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why did you venture into fiction after writing about real-life parenting for so long?

A: This is my first novel, but not my first foray into fiction. I have always believed in the power of narratives to influence thought and shape the spiritual imagination. While with Focus on the Family I challenged the team to create a radio drama series called “Adventures in Odyssey.’’ My co-author, Kurt Bruner, led that team for several years. We couldn’t be more excited about the potential of this new trilogy to embody themes on which I have been writing, speaking and broadcasting for decades.

Q: With a plot that includes parents of more than two children being dubbed “breeders,” does “Fatherless” depict your worst nightmares? 

A: Actually, that term is already being used in some circles today to disparage those who consider children a blessing rather than a burden. As we said in the prologue, a happy home is the highest expression of God’s image on earth. Marriage and parenthood echo heaven, something hell can’t abide. In 1977 I founded what became a worldwide ministry dedicated to the preservation of the home. That effort placed me in one cultural skirmish after another, unwittingly confronting forces much darker than I knew. I don’t pretend to comprehend what occurs in the unseen realm. But I know that we all live in what C.S. Lewis called “enemy-occupied territory.”

Q: Your book foresees a future in which the elderly are encouraged to end their lives to help younger family members pay for college. Do you fear this is where the country is headed?

A: These novels don’t predict the future, they simply project the trajectory of current demographic trends. The story is set in the year 2042 when the economic pyramid flips, too few young bearing the burden of a rapidly aging population. These trends are already creating headlines around the globe. Japan, for example, has the oldest average citizen on the planet. Last year they sold more adult diapers than baby diapers, a trend coming fast to every developed nation in the world including the United States. A few weeks ago the finance minister of the newly elected government said the elderly need to “hurry up and die” because they can’t sustain the social safety net. Bleak? You bet.

Q: In general, do you consider your book’s premise to be far-fetched?

A. Not in the least. The best demographers tell us it is inevitable since we can’t go back in time and make more children.

james dobson

Christian conservative leader James Dobson, the founder of the Focus on the Family ministry, has gained a new title: novelist. His new book is titled 'Fatherless'. RNS photo courtesy Hachette Book Group.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

Q: What are some of the real-life issues today that made you write this future fantasy?

A: The single threat to our future is the trend away from forming families to begin with. Marriage is in drastic decline. For the first time in history more women are single than married. Raising children is now considered an inconvenient burden rather than life’s highest calling. For the first time in our history there are fewer households with children than without. The most basic human instinct, forming families, is in dramatic decline. And the implications of that reality, as we’ve depicted in these novels, are breathtaking. That’s why we chose the looming demographic crisis as the backdrop to these stories.

Q: How much did you write in comparison to co-author Kurt Bruner? How did you share the writing duties?

A:  We both enjoyed the collaboration process. Kurt and I met at the start of each (part of the trilogy) project to brainstorm the characters, the story arc, etc. Then Kurt did the heavy lifting on the flow of the story while I made sure the trends and scenarios depicted had academic, medical and sociological veracity.

Q: It’s been almost three years since you left Focus on the Family’s radio ministry. Do you miss it?

A: I haven’t had time. The day after I left Focus on the Family I started a new radio show called “Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk” heard on over 1,100 stations. I continue to enjoy the opportunity to connect with listeners.

Q: “Fatherless” is the first of a three-part series. Can you give any hints about what’s coming up?

A: The first book, “Fatherless,” released last month. The second, “Childless,” is scheduled to come out in October. The final installment, “Godless,” will release in early 2014. Each storyline builds on the previous theme with an entertaining mix of political intrigue, spiritual warfare, futuristic speculation and educated conjecture about the kind of world our children will face.


  1. Perhaps James Dobson should have the humility to think about the damage done to marriage by the Christian right: if women would rather go childless than submit to patriarchy, maybe patriarchy should take a good hard look at itself.

    The feminist revolution (which Mr Dobson no doubt blames for the falling birthrate) was in large part a response to the degraded status of women in societies which were progressing in every other way. Its a bit like the Civil Rights movement being a response to segregation. Blacks organised because they had a bad deal. Women too.

  2. Could only read about 3 of the Q & A answers before getting nauesous. As a popular bumper sticker here in Co. Springs proclaims ” Focus on your own damn family” and that about sums it up for me. Nothing but your typical donate your tax free money to me and no doubt this “novel” by Dobson will be advertised in Christian circles as some sort of incredible Christian literature and work of genius. I’ll predict not.

  3. No kidding. Of course he jumps to the conclusion that feminism is turning women into selfish harpies, and never stops to think that women turned away from their forced gender roles due to being taken for granted, exploited, abused, and having no legal rights to prevent it.

    The conservative American myth of raising perfect little homeschooled angels in your cute little house with a white picket fence and being a housewife comfortably supported by your doting husband is not how it was for most of history (even today that’s really only something that can be managed with a very specific type of societal/financial privilege). Back in the day being a wife could end in all sorts of awful ways – if your husband died or left you, it was basically a death sentence (even TODAY widowed/unmarried women make up 70% of the world’s poor). You couldn’t stop your husband if he wanted to have an affair. Chances of dying in childbirth were astronomical. It was perfectly okay to beat or kill wives who displeased you. Divorce was completely in his hands, and in many cases it was likely not even the woman’s choice to be married to him in the first place. The only reason prostitution became a thing was due to the fact that it was the only way a woman could support herself in a world that did not exactly give her lots of options. Yes, the idol of “traditional marriage” that Dobson and his ilk so fervently worship was historically such a garbage deal for women that selling your body for money was seen as THE HEALTHIER LIFESTYLE CHOICE. Let that sink in for a while.

    Ironically, if Christians would just listen to the concerns of feminists and work towards fixing our toxic, sexist culture I am quite sure marriage and family could actually be a good thing for women again. But of course it’s not like Christians who vote Republican are ever going to do anything practical about it, not when they can condescendingly wag their fingers at women and blame us for things men have done. If you care so darn much about getting women back into the sphere of family life, how about some universal healthcare so we know if we have sick babies they won’t die because they were born in the wrong socio-economic braket? How about promoting comprehensive sex ed and contraception access as a matter of public health, so abortion rates will plummet and people can build more stable families? How about not demonizing and punishing single mothers anymore? How about making this world a place that is friendly to women in GENERAL so that they would WANT to become mothers?

    And of course we have the implication that all religions and philosophies that don’t jive with his particular brand of fundagelical “values” leads to the destruction of family and community. Last I checked, all of the most populated nations on Earth are decidedly non-Christian. I’ll take “White Americans need to get over their cultural superiority complex” for $500, Alex!

  4. Oh wow – that was like reading a grumpy old man’s complaint about how things were so much better in “his” generation. How awful.

    The fifties/sixties were actually abnormal for their high marriage rates. We are headed back to a more normal plateau – with longer lives, but thats not necessarily a bad thing. The birth rate isn’t anything that new either; people just have forgotten what it was like previous to modern medicine when a couple could have eight children and lose all of them to disease – and often the mother as well to childbirth and still end up alone. If one or two survived, they were doing well! Who wants to go back to that? It’s still that way in many parts of the world – childbirth still kills more women worldwide than anything else.

    The misery of American privilege is sometimes a bit much to take.

  5. You should have more children in order to support the older population??

  6. Bearing children was always presented in the Bible as a great blessing (the terms ‘gift’ and ‘reward’ have been used to describe children as well). However, there’s no verse that says couples are REQUIRED to bear children, whether they want to or not. Due to the fact that in those days people always wanted children, deliberate childlessness was never an issue; (Onan being an exception, but that’s because he went against the law requiring him to give his brother an heir). So I’m not so quick to agree with Dr.Dobson or Dr.Mohler, although I admit they may be right and I wrong.

    As a single hoping to marry someday, I do not want children. However, if the Lord through the Holy Spirit reveals that it’s His will that my wife and I have children, I will accept. Also, if the wife He blesses me with wants children, I am also willing to put her desires before my own, as well as the Lords. I have prayed to the Lord that He would not give us any children, and I have felt through the Holy Spirit that He does not detest me for asking this prayer (meaning He is not angry), but if He insists that we have children, then I know that it will be better off for me in the long-run.
    Perhaps the world IS becoming over-populated and He has given more people the desire to be barren; I do not know… (again, in Bible times, even the unbelievers all wanted to bear children). Christians should definitely seek God’s will through prayer on this issue…

  7. I love Children but I don’t want them myself. I agree with some the things Dobson believes. I might also Vote Republican although I consider myself a independent. Today’s society it is very hard to raise a kid with incomes that go up and down. It is not like what was in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. We need to stop worrying about the fact that there might be fewer people that want kids. As long they aren’t aborting kids but instead putting up for adoption or using other non abortion methods. I might be pro-life but it does not mean I want kids myself. I fear that I could provide them. I hope I can get a good paying when I’m done college but what happens if end up back in a dead end job. IF some wants big family and kids then fine. Hopefully they can handle raising them physically, mentally, emotionally and financially. It costs 250,000 to raise kid from birth to 18 years old. This does not include extras like college. i don’t believe the earth is overpopulated and that is not a reason why I don’t want kids. I don’t believe every married couple needs to have kids.

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