Can Focus on the Family Ever Accept Accountability?

by | Jul 7, 2023 | Theology of Marriage and Sex | 46 comments

Focus on the Family Accountability
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So much has happened with Focus on the Family this week!

We’ve had an op ed published, and there are signs that Focus is refusing to accept accountability. I wanted to write it all up in one round up post, so here we go!

First, Focus on the Family has now deleted over 700 comments pointing people to The Great Sex Rescue.

As I told you about last week, Focus on the Family recently published a reel featuring Juli Slattery actually giving some good talking points from our research about sex–speaking against obligation sex; against male entitlement; and making people aware of sexual pain.

That’s great!

But these are all things that were not talked about by Focus on the Family or Slattery until we started those conversations. And we are the ones who have done major research involving over 32,000 people now into these things.

Yet Focus on the Family doesn’t cite us.

And not only that, they delete comments that mention us. They use our material, but refuse to let others hear about us.

So far they’ve deleted about 700-800 comments that I can see (there are over 1000 comments on the reel, but only a few hundred are visible).

Late last week The Roys Report covered the story.

And they used a headline I loved: Focus on the Family Reverses Position on ‘Obligation Sex,’ but Deletes Author Who Exposed Message’s Harm.

I spoke with reporter Rebecca Hopkins, and she wrote:

For years, Focus on the Family has promoted the teaching that Christian wives are obligated to give their husbands sex. Now, they seem to be reversing course—while also deleting references to the researcher that first exposed the harm of so-called “obligation sex.”

Author and researcher Sheila Wray Gregoire had previously called out Focus on the Family (FOTF) for promoting obligation sex. Gregoire’s survey of 20,000 evangelical women and 2021 book, “The Great Sex Rescue,” concluded that Christian teachings requiring women to have sex with their husbands, regardless of women’s emotional and physical needs, increase sexual pain and harm marriages.

On Monday, FOTF published an Instagram reel from an excerpt of an April 2022 FOTF interview with psychologist and former FOTF staff, Juli Slattery, that promotes Gregoire’s talking points……

But then FOTF deleted hundreds of comments people made to their Instagram post that referenced Gregoire’s research. Gregoire’s research shows that evangelical marriage books and organizations that promote them carry a big responsibility for spreading those messages. The deletions mean the change hasn’t gone far enough for real accountability for past FOTF teachings, Gregoire said.

“Focus on the Family would rather escape accountability and pretend they did nothing wrong, instead of grappling with the fact that many of the books they have recommended, and even those they have published, have actually caused demonstrable harm,” she told The Roys Report (TRR).

Rebecca Hopkins

The Roys Report, Focus on the Family Reverses Position on ‘Obligation Sex,’ but Deletes Author Who Exposed Message’s Harm

Read the rest here

I’m so grateful that reporters noticed what was going on and wrote this piece.

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The issue of accountability for Focus on the Family is an important one.

This week I published this Fixed it For You:

Focus on the Family Fixed it For You

And this is really the issue to me. Focus on the Family is trying to say: Sure, churches taught harmful things, but now you can trust us to correct it.

But can we?

The video series that they are offering is by Gary Thomas and Debra Fileta, and as the Roys Report noted, there are issues with that book failing to cite me as well, but also with the book promoting obligation sex messages, and even pressuring women to send nude photos.

Gary Thomas spoke up in the comments section of The Roys Report, claiming we were misrepresenting him. I quote the entire passage, and take it point by point, right here, so you can judge for yourself. 

I loved this comment left by Emily West, and directed at Gary Thomas:

This article is not about you[, Gary]. It is about professionalism. It is about honoring the 8th commandment. FOTF failed to cite sources, and then blockaded all references to those sources.

If you wish to discuss your book and its harms, you’ve come to the right place.

The days of evading public critique are over, and those who wish to teach are truly being held to a higher standard. I acknowledge that must feel like a destabilizing change. But the impacts on our lives matter. Saying that women can flash their breasts to reset power imbalances in marriage is harmful. Comparing grown men’s sexual urges to the life-or-death needs of infants crying in the night is harmful. Suggesting that women feel lubricated and aroused when giving hand jobs postpartum, when we are actually bleeding from lochia, is harmful. Men don’t need boudoir images to avoid straying, they need to be transformed into those who no longer see women as objects. Please see Cusick’s “Surfing for God” or Stringer’s “Unwanted” for real solutions to lust, not management strategies that rely on the continued objectification of wives. The pornified style of relating has to be scrubbed from Christian resources, and Gregoire et. al are the very first to use data to unequivocally reveal this for what it is. In doing so, they call us to a higher standard–one in which sex is intimate, mutual, and humanizing.

I am grateful to TRR for covering this matter in such a timely way. Christians need to get our act together. We need to cite sources, examine evidence and acknowledge harm. We need to treat men and women as made in the image of God, not as bodies to be consumed. And if we get new info, we need to cite it.

Emily West

The Roys Report, Comments Section

There needs to be accountability when someone has taught harmful things. 

Until you have repudiated those harmful things, confessed them and warned others away from the harmful teachings, you cannot be trusted.

What is Focus on the Family Promoting about Marriage Now?

Yet Focus is currently featuring teaching on sex that we know contains the obligation sex message.

And I thought this photo of the marriage section of the bookstore at Focus on the Family’s headquarters speaks volumes. A reader sent it to me after visiting their bookstore last month. It’s only the one half of the books, covering the first half of the alphabet, but let’s see what’s visible:

Focus on the Family marriage bookstore

A few things that stand out to me:

  • Josh Butler’s book Beautiful Union, which has been largely criticized (Rebecca and I talk about it on our Male-Centric Sex podcast, and I’ve written about how My Vagina is Not My Most Holy Place )
  • Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect, which scored 0/48 on our healthy sexuality rubric. You can read my Open Letter to Focus on the Family about Love & Respect, and our onesheet download. The fact that they are still selling it like this shows how little they care about what research has found about harm being done.
  • Tina Konkin’s How God Used the Other Woman, about how her husband’s affair made her realize how much she had damaged her own marriage. I wrote a post when Focus on the Family published this about why we shouldn’t blame the spouse when someone has an affair. 
  • Dannah Gresh’s book Happily Even After, about how they have rebuilt their marriage after her husband’s porn addiction (despite how she wrote multiple books about girls’ modesty right as her husband was using porn). The book does not use an evidence-based approach to porn recovery.
  • Multiple books by Matt and Lisa Jacobson. I recently “fixed” one of Matt Jacobson’s horrendous quotes advising parents to discipline toddlers harshly if they embarrass you in public. 
  • His Needs, Her Needs by Willard Harley (barely visible off at the top right), which also scored very poorly on our rubric of healthy sexuality, and that we talked about in The Great Sex Rescue.

And those are just the things I noticed! You may notice more (and remember, this is only half of the books they have).

Looking at these books, do you believe that Focus on the Family recognizes the problem with the obligation sex message?

Do you believe that Focus on the Family recognizes that male entitlement to sex is a bad thing?

Do you believe that they are safe?

I’m so grateful to The Roys Report for covering this story.

I hope that the rest of us see through Focus on the Family’s attempts to appear healthy while still peddling the same books and messages that harmed people in the first place.

By not repenting, they show that they aren’t safe. I hope the Christian world will listen, because right now we’re spending $100,000,000 a year supporting Focus on the Family–money that could go to fighting sex trafficking; to helping abused women; to supporting actual pregnancy crisis centers.

We can do better, and we deserve better.

Focus on the Family Accept Accountability

What do you think? What will it take for organizations to accept accountability? Do you see any other problems with the books they have for sale? Let’s talk in the comments!

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Andrea

    Is anyone else convinced at this point that Gary Thomas is a sex “addict?” (I put it under quotation marks because it’s a controversial term and, also, I hate how it’s been used to make the perpetrator seem like the victim.) Didn’t Andrew Bauman or someone else in his line of work do a detailed analysis of Married Sex to demonstrate that Gary Thomas has a pornographic style of relating (PSR)? I remember when Gary’s wife jumped into some social media comments to defend him and made some vague statement about how he’d been through a lot in his life. The vagueness of the statement made me think it was about sex. Because if it was anything else, like an abusive childhood for example, she would have been concrete and a concrete statement would have done a lot more to engender pity from others, which is what she was trying to do. Gary has also stated in his writings that his wife lives with a lot of pain, like one of those mysterious women’s ailments that doctors can’t figure out, like those inexplicable ailments that tend to afflict abused women. And given his latest book, just imagine how he treats his wife in the bedroom!

    Some years ago Christianity Today published an anonymous article by a man who wrote about how much porn he watched, strip clubs he’s attended, just a bunch of really gross stuff to further traumatize women with “oh poor me for being a man, male sexuality is so uncontrollable.” I can’t find it again regardless of how much searching I do on their site. I’d love to look at it again and see if I can spot some Gary Thomas turns of phrase (I have a literature degree, I’ve been trained in close and critical reading, I am qualified to do this). I don’t think CT would publish just any man’s piece with all that filth, it must have been someone famous in cahoots with the editor at the time, the now former editor who also harassed women while golfing with the HR guy who was the one to receive the women’s complaints. So, if anyone knows what I’m talking about and has a link to the article, post it here, I’ll keep checking, and then I’ll do a detailed analysis.

    • Phil

      I think we need to be careful not to go right or left wing for the sake of the cause in directing a fight with Gary Thomas or other authors themselves. Labeling someones work as wrong and harmful is much different than labeling the author as X. Andrews work which I have not read that you reference may prove someone has a pornographic style of relating in their work but that does not preclude them to be a sex addict or anything else for that matter. Maybe there is a place for that analysis but it is not here as far as I know. It should be made very clear-Sheila and Company do NOT attack authors personally in their work. They are calling out the work of authors who’s writings are harmful and they are NOT personally attacking the authors. I do believe that we should follow the lead and must be direct and concise as well as professional as is Sheila and Company.

      • Phil

        I am replying to myself – seems I do a lot of self talk and write to myself – you may as well witness it first hand. What I have witnessed with many of the arguments that come from “the other side” is that the authors or their supporters view the work of Sheila and Company as a personal attack rather than a constructive proof of harm with a quest for change. This point it seems is a primary crux of the Bare Marriage ministry challenge. Hence I re-state how important it is for US to keep the focus on the calling out of the harmful work with a call for change and NOT a personal attack on the authors themselves. When we choose to cross that line it changes the message and the focus and if you have ever attacked anyone directly/personally with words then WE know the results. They put up a shield and defend themselves – this method will yield ineffective results on the long term. Seems most authors and their supporters have chosen to view the message as a personal attack and so they shield themselves. However, a couple of them have acknowledged and changed course. Heck even FOTF is changing course it seems. Ok so yes they should cite – agreed – and they should not delete the messages that direct them to the resource that caused the change. However – just think how little progress would have been made had the work thats been done by Bare Marriage would have been about how bad an author is, or how dum an author is because they couldn’t see it. I suspect that at this point FOTF folk view that they are being personally attacked and that the work Bare Marriage has done should not be acknowledged publicly even though they apparently see they are correct. And now to top it all off they are being held accountable for not citing their work. Long story short many years ago I had a HUGE argument with my M-Law. Bottom line is during a disagreement over a subject matter she was pushing, I said to her “But we love you” her reply was no you dont or you would do as I say….(summary). I exploded on her and then walked off. The next day I had the debate – do I apologize? NO. Because I was right. Should she apologize? Yes – that was a horrible way to try to get your way. Did she apologize NOPE! Neither did I. My point was correct my behavior was not. What she did was several months later was follow me back to my beach house we were staying ar and had a discussion with me that she really just wanted the best for me and my wife and family. I captured that as her form of apology and? We moved on….I dont think in this case we will ever see FOTF apologize, admit or cite. That is a disappointment. However, my understanding is the real focus here is for change. What if FOTF slowly changes but never apologizes, admits or cites? what if those books slowly fall of the shelf? Is that sufficient for us? I dont know the answer but it certainly is an interesting question.

        • Phil

          And I am still thinking…lol – so after the beach incident with M-Law their was more work to do. There were passive aggressive comments that would fly (during our visits that where happening for years. (not over same topic). I had to call her out on it. Call her out I did. And that was the final catalyst that produced change. However, the final straw came during covid – my in laws were staying in a place long term to run from harsh winters of the North less than 2 hours from our house when covid hit. It was time for them to return North but instead they came to our house for 5-6 weeks. That is when we lived in unison and our entire relationship has changed for all of us, me, my wife and family included. Now when we get together my M-law tells all of us sometimes in a group and sometimes one on one how great of a family we have. So you see..I dont have the answer to my above question. It does appear that sometimes you need to “strike” more than once and in different ways…so I am certainly not saying we should not ask for accountability…I am just asking the question…what is sufficient?

        • Darwin

          I think fotf has started to realize the harm that they have done, but they are afraid of the backlash if the general public realizes just how bad their teaching is. By starting to acknowledge a healthier way to talk about sex, they may be starting the slow process of steering a very large business. If they can slowly and quietly change the message without people noticing, they can put their sins behind them without upsetting the ship. If they publicly admit to it though, the loyalists will be angry at the “liberal” new ideas, and everyone else will be angry at their bad teaching that they would be bringing to light. Both of those angry groups won’t buy books and the whole enterprise might go bankrupt.
          And just like so many other religious organizations lately, they think that saving the ministry is more important than being honest with those they minister to.

          • Ladybug

            Darwin–I think you hit the nail on the head. The question is, will they in retrospect go back and correct the narrative? Not likely. A silent storm still leaves a trail of destruction in its wake.

            That’s a line I wrote in a letter to my mother earlier this week.

            My mom lived a messed-up life until…many years into my life. Then, when I was a young teen or tween, she “found Jesus” and “got her life right with God” in a church which heavily leans fundamentalist. To her credit, she settled down with my stepdad and turned her life around. She started “raising everyone right”. I became a Christian in that environment, and soaked up the toxic teachings. I didn’t know any better at the time, because it promised me what I didn’t have growing up…the way to have a good family. (Maybe that’s why she soaked it up too.)

            But she didn’t come back and get me. She cut me loose like wreckage threatening to sink a ship. The letter I wrote last week was written around 25 years after the original one where she cut me loose. I haven’t written one like it in the intervening years.

            I had a new reason for writing a letter this time and asking her to break her vow of silence. My non-Christian dad who had claimed me and paid for me and raised me on weekends and helped me as best he could, when she left him, despite all the things she took from him and did to him…if he hadn’t done all this, I probably wouldn’t even be alive today…recently told me at 43 years old that he is not even actually even my biological dad. That he did all of that because he LOVED me and couldn’t bear to see me go through all of that heartache.

            I sent my mom, whom I live halfway across the country from, who does the weekly church bulletins and picks up old ladies to bring to church, a letter, written gently and openly, to please tell me the rest of the story.

            She texted me, “Nothing to tell.”

            As though that could erase my life and all the damage in it.

            I tell this story because it seems very parallel to what is happening here.

            Zaccheus, when he met Jesus, got out of his tree and said, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”

    • CMT

      I agree with Phil, I don’t think it’s helpful to diagnose people based on their writing. Point out where their ideas are flawed, unhealthy, dangerous, absolutely. Talk about the negative impacts and hidden implications of their words.
      But giving someone a controversial label based on what they wrote in a book seems like an ad hominem attack.

    • Mara R

      Andrea, I feel ya.
      And honestly, my inclination is to go down the road you suggest.
      But I have to step back and listen to wisdom and the preference of what this ministry wants. (Thanks Phil for reminding me)

      Even so, it’s hard because those people don’t mind attacking Sheila and Co. They don’t mind ad hominin-ing this ministry up one side and down the other. But they do it because they don’t have any defense or excuse for what they’ve said and done and for doubling down on their error. Ad hominin-ing is all they have left. Poor souls.

      We have evidence and the Bible on our side. We don’t have to stoop to their level.

      • Andrea

        Here’s the thing, though. There are ad hominem attacks that are entirely unfair, such as claiming that someone has nothing to contribute to a discussion because she’s a woman or the attack on Jesus in the Gospels that went something like “What good has ever come out of Nazareth?” One’s genitals or chromosomal make-up have nothing to do with one’s debate skills, ability to preach, etc. and one’s hometown has nothing to do with his divinity. But if a sex addict is writing books on sex and marriage, that is something worthy of investigation. It is an ad hominem attack in the sense that we’re attacking the person rather than their argument, but if the personal is connected to their argument, then I don’t think it’s unfair. If we found out that a big promoter of vegetarianism secretly eats meat, publicizing their diet might technically constitute an ad hominem attack, but nobody would call that unfair. And the fact that a sexual harasser editor of a Christian magazine published an anonymous article by a man talking about all the porn and strippers he’s watched makes me want to vomit. (Sorry for all the food analogies.) And since Gary Thomas will not back down from the argument that all men helplessly lust, it is logical to suspect him as a possible author of such an article. But I cannot find it anywhere, maybe CT has even scrubbed it, so it will probably come to naught. He’s shown us enough of who he is in his book and even more so in his responses to criticism.

        • Nessie

          I see your point about not wanting advice from people in an area they themselves are failing.

          I think Sheila’s platform for calling out issues is based on quantifiable research. If there were something a bit more concrete, something quantifiable, verifiable, etc., it would be worth exploring more. I think my concern would be in possibly tainting the authenticity, legitimacy, and integrity of Sheila, Joanna, and Rebecca’s work with going in a direction that is based more on (albeit educated) hunches.

          I don’t think you are the only one to have serious thoughts go down that path though. I suppose we can use that thought process and apply it to what we choose to read and absorb, to attribute it to discernment until/unless something more comes to light. Just my 2 cents’ worth.

  2. Lindsey

    Sheila, would you say that these books above (the ones mentioned and pictured from the bookstore photo) are unredeemable from front to back? I’m genuinely curious of your opinion because I can appreciate pointing out things that have turned out badly for some marriages, but would you say that there is zero content in these books in their entirety that could be beneficial to married couples? If not, then that perhaps could be a reason for them still promoting them.

    • Lisa Johns

      I’m not Sheila, but I will answer in part: in at least one of these books, there is NOTHING redeeming. Some of the others I have not heard of, but I’m guessing that there is enough harmful messaging in them to make small crumbs of goodness not worth sifting for. There are better resources elsewhere. And I’m with Sheila, the millions of dollars that FOTF rakes in every year could really be put to good use elsewhere. I wouldn’t support them if I were starving and they had the only food on earth.

      • Laura

        Love and Respect is the most unredeemable and worst “Christian” book ever written. It reeks of sexism and misogyny. BDSM communities talk about using this book on their submissives (there was a post about this here). Several secular YouTubers made videos about the damage this book has caused many women. When people outside the church notice the harm of these “Christian” books, they may not want to have anything to do with Jesus. At one time in my life when I was a new Christian and heard sexist teachings from the pulpit, I didn’t want anything to do with Jesus because I thought if these teachings came from the Bible then Jesus must be a male chauvinist. But, I really did not know Jesus because I did not read His Word. I just heard the teachings from the pulpit and did not bother to read the Bible.

        His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley is also unredeemable and sexist. That book was the source for our premarital class 24 years ago. I hated that book and by the time I got to the middle of all that sexist garbage, I was pretty much done with it. My fiance (now ex-husband) never read the book, but he believed that sexual fulfillment was really his number 1 need in the marriage.

    • Anonymous

      Why oh why can’t the majority of those teaching in and to the church repent when they get things wrong?

    • Aron

      I don’t believe it is possible to call them partially healthy because even presumably healthy couples can be harmed by corrupt advice. They absorb the good and are inclined to believe the bad with it because if part A is helpful then why wouldn’t part B be also? “It must be true if it’s by a Christian author, and my church just used this book for a Bible study!” Like Jesus said, a little leaven leavens the whole lump. Or to put it another way, would you eat a pan of brownies if you knew it only had a quarter teaspoon of poo baked into it?

      • Lindsey

        This is why it’s so important to know what God’s Word says. We live in a fallen world. I like to think people are generally well meaning. I don’t believe you throw the baby out with the bath water on this one though personally. For me and others I know, FOTF has put out beneficial content over the years so to say the whole thing is rotten is based off feeling, which we are all certainly entitled to. What may be helpful to me, may not be helpful to you type of thing. It would be very interesting to collect data on those who say some of these books have been harmful and those who have said the teachings have been helpful and see the differences between them. This is the first time I’m hearing that these books (only two specifically from that list above) have been harmful. I’ve only heard other married couples and women friends rave about them so this is interesting. It would be fascinating to be able to dig deeper on why those differences exist.

        • Kel

          Mmm. Just because someone feels something is helpful doesn’t mean it is objectively. And error mixed with truth is the worst.

          In addition if people have never been exposed to truth what they read may be the the best they have seen and therefore they think it is great because it is not as bad as some other stuff they have read.

          Our background matters when approaching this stuff too. I grew up in a family where everyone mattered therefore when I tried to read Love and Respect 20 years ago I was repulsed and couldn’t get far as the way he treated his wife was disgusting. Though I felt bad that I couldn’t get into a book that so many were raving about, now I understand why even more and am glad I never read it.

          I also read part of the Power of a Praying Wife back then too but couldn’t get into it either. Not that I remember why really. I think I found it overwhelming. I did have one positive take away from it which I did find useful and that was I can do things that put me in a positive framework for sex. Like having nice nightwear, doing something positive for myself before bed like a relaxing soak in a tub, that was useful to me as a mum to 4 under 7yo.

        • Lucie09

          Has it not been the case though, that verses from the Bible have been consistently taken out of context, and misinterpreted, and/or twisted round to suit the author’s agenda? Also, if you’re searching for answers to problems in your marriage, and are perhaps in a vulnerable position, and you find a book that claims to have the answers you’re looking for, and presents them in a persuasive manner with Bible texts to back them up – why wouldn’t you believe them? The author is a pastor who’s written best-selling books, has been married to his high school sweetheart for 20+ years, and they live a picture perfect Christian life and have the marriage to match. What I’m trying to say is: is it enough to ‘know what God’s Word says’ when God’s Word is so often mistreated? I mean, how is it that people have used the Bible to teach horrible messages about sex and marriage, and women for so long? If it should be obvious that it is not Christ-like, then why were these teachings not challenged and called out earlier? Why were they allowed to prevail for so long?

          Another thing I’d like to add: if a book has received a huge amount of praise, it can sometimes be difficult to voice an opposing view. When a book and author reaches cult status, it’s not easy to openly dislike it when it feels like everyone else around you loves it.

        • Nessie

          I read the Bible a lot a decade ago when I was immersed in a SBC church. Their MO was to use the “In humility consider others as better than yourself,” verse- a lot. That made me feel like I was being haughty if I questioned the preacher. A little questioning was ok, and I got the typical canned answers of needing to listen to the church elders, the preacher, etc. as they studied these things far more extensively and for more years than I had. If I questioned beyond that, I was not being humble, and the Bible is pretty clear on how God feels about a haughty spirit. Things like that made it really difficult to discern, as they had so many ready-made answers to respond.

          Add to that many people find themselves in churches because they are looking for the love of God in part because they grew up in homes in which we did not find acceptance or love, so it is pretty easy to be deceived. Adam heard directly from God not to eat of that tree yet he did. So while it may seem clear, there are lots of factors that can complicate our understanding and following of Spirit-led discernment.

          Some of these books were raved about in some marriages I knew (though there was often a sadness behind many of those women’s eyes…) but I can say that they brought destruction and great harm to myself and my family as well as many other families/women I know personally. If these women hadn’t recommended these resources, I wouldn’t have trusted them so much and thus been hurt/abused so badly. As Sheila has shared before, if it is fine for some but unhealthy or harmful for others, shouldn’t we opt for the resources that hurt no one?

        • Angharad

          Lindsey, it’s also worth reflecting on whether the couples who rave about these books HAVE been helped by them – they themselves may not even realise that they have been harmed by the books they think are so wonderful.

          I’ve seen an example of this myself. One of my dear friends was married to a verbally and emotionally abusive husband. She was given ‘Love and Respect’ to read by some well-meaning friends and for a while, she raved about how amazing this book was, and how it had ‘saved’ her marriage. Of course things had got better. When her husband was screaming at her, or belittling her, instead of defending herself, she was being ‘submissive and respectful’ and apologising, and bending over backwards to calm him down. So in the short term, the book ‘worked’.

          But abusers tend to escalate. He gradually got worse, turned on their kids as well and finally became physically violent toward his wife. She eventually left to protect herself and her kids. Now she regards that book as incredibly harmful because it prevented her from taking action to protect her kids earlier. Now she’s out of that situation, she can see how harmful the book’s teaching was – but at the time, she thought it was amazing and widely recommended it.

      • Phil

        Freakin hilarious Aron. Totally off topic but you reminded me of something that happened last week. My wife has long hair – about half wayish down her back. When we first started dating I always loved finding her hair in my truck and various places. I was super proud lol. Then we got married and I started finding it in more places. Now It is not uncommon for me to pull one of her hairs out of my butt! Fast forward 23 years and last week I was serving up some chocolate ice cream for my self and decided to add some peanut butter to my ice cream. So I grabbed the brand new jar of peanut butter and a spoon from the clean side of the sink. Slapped the peanut butter in the ice cream and got ready to dig in and there it was. The perfect color match and an exact match to length. Yep you guessed it. There it was – her hair in my ice cream and peanut butter. Nope not proud. Nope its not ok lol. Now I am like CRAP! ITS EVEN IN MY PEANUT BUTTER! Needless to say I ate it but it just wasnt that good. Love my wife but yeah old hat I guess…it made for a fun shstick…but not so great for the appetite..
        HAVE A GREAT WEEKEND EVERYONE – I have taken up enough bandwidth here today – I am out – Peace.

    • Maria

      When considering whether there may be some good in these books, I use the analogy of side effects from medication. The bad teaching is the side effect. The medication is whatever truth the book contains. But I don’t think we need to consume truth wrapped in harm. Sure, not everyone (maybe not even the majority!) will be harmed by reading these books. Background, family, spouse, etc etc all play into how a person receives a book’s teaching, just as body chemistry and health history play into how our bodies react to medication. But FOTF isn’t acknowledging that their books have side effects, much less reformulating (except superficially), or issuing a recall. They hold immense power but don’t seem too interested in the attendant responsibility. And THAT’S the problem.

    • Carrie

      if an over-the-counter medication on the market helped some people but seriously harmed or killed (and I’m not being dramatic here- 4,000 women a year DIE from domestic violence a year- more than 10 women a day), would you want it to continue on the market?

      Would you say it’s helped some so let’s continue to promote it as helpful and give people hope so they want to try it but make sure it has a disclosure statement somewhere on it in tiny print that it may be harmful if you have X condition- and you would only know if you have that condition if you try the medication and it makes you feel worse instead of better?

      I understand how the world can have a “me first” attitude of “well it helped me and if it hurt you then it’s your fault” but I just don’t understand how this fits in a Christian world view.

  3. Lisa Johns

    Roys came through!! Awesome! 😁❤️

  4. Laura

    In the comments section of the Roys Report that you linked here, I commented to Gary Thomas that if this were college or university, he would be expelled for not citing sources. I’m sure that might make him mad, but I don’t care. Focus on the Family has no focus on authenticity. They don’t care about plagiarizing and want to take credit for work that does not belong to them.

    For the many years, I have been in church, up until a few years ago, I would devour books in the Christian section or Christian bookstores because of the label “Christian.” As I reflect on those times, I believed because these books were labeled as “Christian” the authors must know God better than I do, have more biblical knowledge, and love Him. For the most part, there was nothing Christlike found in many of these books. Just a “Christian” label slapped on there which is part of the “Evangelical Industrial Complex.” I feel like I have been more deceived by these teachings than I have in the secular world. At least, secular (what many Christians would refer to as because the books aren’t labeled “Christian”) books on marriage, family, mental health, and other life issues are evidence-based and have sound advice from experts in those professions. Many pastors do not have psychology degrees and have not had trauma-informed education. Gary Thomas is not a Dr. Ruth or a Dr. Phil so who does he think he is to dictate to others about sex and marriage? He’s just a pastor who happens to write books.

    • Lucie09

      What’s scary is that many of these people who write Christian books on sex, relationships and marriage are the last people on earth you would go to for advice if you actually knew what their own marriage was like. From the books Bare Marriage has discussed, it seems like the authors are either addicted to sex/porn, or have a spouse who is addicted; is in an emotionally abusive marriage; or whose marriage is difficult, and far from happy or loving. But how is a person who is looking for resources to know? You can’t possibly, because you just assume that because its a ‘Christian’ book you can automatically trust what it says. It’s not until you start reading that you realise something’s wrong. The fact that someone can write a marriage book based on their own deeply unhealthy, flawed experiences, throw in some Bible verses to make it look legitimate, and market it as a helpful resource for Christians is terrifying to me.

    • Bernadette

      Maybe a bookstore with one section labeled “By Christian authors and in line with Christian principles.” (The last part can be implied)

      Another section labeled “These Author’s may not be Christian, but they sure do understand Christian principles, even if they don’t realize it!”

      And absolutely NO “Christian” books that go against Christian principles!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        that would be lovely!

    • Randall Friesen

      It’s time for an old guy to respond. There’s a lot of truth in what Sheila Gregoire is saying. There’s a lot of truth in what FOTF says, too. It’s true that those “who are not for us are against us.” It’s also EQUALLY true that those “who are not against us are for us.”
      I appreciate you all for calling out those who have taken liberties with Scripture and with science. Please stay humble as you do this. It’s okay to be angry at injustice; it’s not okay to discount someone’s story just because it doesn’t match your preconceived notions. I believe that my marriage and my inner life were helped by some of the stuff you derisively label as toxic; there’s probably lots of folks out there who have had the same experience (including some pretty sharp and aware people), so please consider the impact your labels have on us. We’re people, too!

  5. CMT

    Can FOTF accept accountability for pushing obligation sex messaging? I don’t know. Have they ever accepted accountability for telling parents to wrestle screaming children to the ground and hold them there till they stop resisting (in Dobson’s book about the “strong willed child?”)

    FOTF was very present in my upbringing-broadcasts on the Christian radio station, the Adventures in Odyssey cassettes, the books I read, the ways my mother in particular parented (not that she ever wrestled anybody to the floor, that was a bridge too far for her I think). I never heard obligation sex messaging from them because I was out of the bubble by the time I was old enough for that stuff. But I think that teaching is of a piece with everything else they were saying. How can they really accept accountability for one component, without reassessing and probably tearing apart the whole project?

    • Mara R

      CMT: “Can FOTF accept accountability for pushing obligation sex messaging? I don’t know.”

      I really don’t think they can. It’s like knitting or a crocheted blanket. Start pulling one thread and whole things comes unraveled.

      It must be hard being a major multimillion dollar ‘ministry’ (cough, cough) and you start to suspect that some parts of your platform (if not the entire building) is built on shifting sands. If they let it collapse in part or as a whole, if they start to deconstruct themselves in one area and it turns into a domino effect, what will be left? Where will the money go? I’m sure they are motivated by the fear of losing money, power, influence, and control over women.

      I may be wrong. But I feel that they won’t change themselves. They will have to be forced out of power by those who refuse to support them any more.

  6. Lisa Johns

    The question of plagiarism is really interesting for me personally. I started grad school I’m January, and I could be dismissed from the program for it. Why is it that a small university considers it important enough to give grad students the boot for it, but a large “Christian” organization does it with impunity then complains for being called out?
    My university doesn’t have even a tenth of the revenue that FOTF does. Maybe if it did I could commit plagiarism and not have them remove my incoming tuition by expelling me. 🤷‍♀️

  7. Joy

    I wonder–Slatterly says that she respects Sheila’s work. What will it take for her to break away and stand up with you? If she has been healed by your work it would be cool to see her share her story publically and credit you on a personal level. Or even if she had already healed but now completely resonates with your work.

    • Lisa Johns

      If she has found healing it’s been relatively recently, I think. She was still preaching “sex as a sacrifice” as recently as last year when I was listening to a Pure Desire podcast. My thought is she still has a ways to go.

  8. Terry Estes

    Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! About three weeks ago my twin sister sent me a link to your YouTube episode 166 on Ephesians 5. It confirmed everything I have felt in my heart from a very young age. Now, I cannot get enough of your teaching. Yesterday there was a Focus on the Family post on Facebook about Love and Respect. I put the link to your episode 175 on almost every comment. I’m an inner healing minister is a great church. They honor women and celebrate all the gifts God has put within them as well as giving them a place to use those gifts.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so glad you found me! And I’m so glad you’re at a healthy church too.

  9. NM

    I have so much anger at FOTF. My sister and I were talking yesterday about Dobson’s Strong Willed Child, its complete and total ignorance of child development, and how it sets parents up for a miserable power struggle with their children. We both read it with our first kids and have so much regret. We have changed our parenting so much and apologized to our kids, but there is definitely damage done that I can’t undo. Between that and Love and Respect, FOTF did tangible, significant, lasting harm to me and my family. And I am very, very angry.

    • Lisa Johns

      I know the feeling. Hugs.

  10. Viv Z

    Sheila and team, I appreciate your work to research, reform and restore healthier sexuality and relationship in our Christian communities. I hope at some point in your work you will also engage with family building issues around adoption and abortion topics. I saw you mentioned funding “actual crisis pregnancy centers” in your post above about Focus on the Family’s lack of accountability for harmful teachings about sexuality. This is deeply triggering for me to read even though I know we don’t agree about everything. Because crisis pregnancy centers are often veiled covers to manipulate vulnerable women to complete a pregnancy and relinquish their child for adoption. (Adoption is an institution backed by a billion-dollar for-profit industrial complex with deeply unethical practices in need of serious reform.) Adoption can never heal a relinquishment wound and the loss of an entire biological family that many adoptees suffer in closed adoption and currently unenforceable open adoptions. (Large doses of fear, obligation, and guilt (FOG) adoptees often experience can make it appear otherwise without any malicious intentions of well-meaning adoptive families and communities). Adoption is not an ethical substitute for comprehensive sexuality education, reproductive rights, and access to appropriate medical care. I’ve learned that many adoptees are vehemently pro-choice, even those who are practicing christians. The New Yorker recently published a piece called Adoption Aftermath/The FOG centering adult adoptee voices. I hope this is something you will consider in the future. It seems closely related to your research and journey towards more comprehensive understanding of human sexuality, relational needs and experiences. Thank you for your witness, your teaching and your commitment to modeling accountability and learning in your own work.

  11. Lisa Ann McMichael

    I’m a clinical psychologist and I want to thank all involved in illuminating the damaging messages concerning sex that has been promoted in the Christian circles. It is disheartening that FOTF has refused to accept responsibility and culpubility for its contribution. It is these types of messages that can prevent people from finding Christ.

  12. LJ

    They’ve done so much damage. One of the big reasons I have CPTSD is because my parents used The Strong Willed Child as a parenting Bible – and I have Asperger’s with sensory issues which makes an authoritarian parenting style with corporal punishment orders of magnitude more damaging. Not that it’s a good book for neurotypical kids – but the harsh authoritarianism, spanking, yelling that was amped by orders of magnitude by my sensory issues – I’ll never fully recover from that mess. And God forbid that I “talked back” by asking clarifying questions to understand what my parents wanted or say I was in the middle of something (mid-poop for example) when my parents wanted me to do something NOW, NOW, NOW! I really could go on and on about the damage his parenting books did.

    Accepting accountability would mean Dr. Dobson et al need to be paying a LOT of people’s therapy bills – including my own. And suffice it to say, Dr. Dobson owes me a LOT of therapy money. FOTF is far more concerned with building their empire a la Dominion Theology than with Jesus or people.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m so sorry, LJ. I can just imagine how awful that was!

    • Lisa Johns

      Ugh, yes, CONSTANTLY being slapped or kicked for “bAcKtAlK…” — nothing ever makes up for having your voice silenced while you were growing up. I’m so sorry. But I have to say, you are very articulate now, and I think you’ll have a lot to add to any conversation! 😁❤️

  13. Mel

    It amuses me to see a group full of people who bemoan “Cancel Culture” cancelling people they don’t agree with or want to be accountable to. So much irony. Sing it with me: “You’re telling on yourself, you’re telling on yourself…”

  14. A2bbethany

    Interesting to read this today, after hearing about James Dobson mentioned in the sermon. He was preaching about praying and the effects it can have. Apparently Dobson had a 4th gen legacy, great-grandfather who prayed. And felt the Lord promising to bless his children to the 4th generation. That’s quite a story!
    Unfortunately that is tainted by sin and greed and politics/power.
    I guess the promise of God is always changing to the sins of the children.

  15. Ashley

    Hey! Im not sure about in Canada, but in the States you have real legal rights you can stand on if you feel you are being plagiarized. You can sue FOTF if you feel they are using your research. Make sure it is copy written. If you win, by law, they have to site you. They will not be able to hide behind their non-movement on these issues anymore. They will eventually be forced to change things and maybe even issue and apology. I encourage you to take legal action.


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