Vatican of the West - CSPM

Vatican of the West

In September 1993, Focus on the Family dedicated its new 45 acre permanent headquarters in Colorado Springs with 15,000 guests in attendance. Founded in California in 1977 by James Dobson, Focus built an influential Christian media empire through their flagship radio program, videos, audio programs, and magazines. As an advocate for conservative values, Dobson gained national prominence. By 2005, more than 100 evangelical Christian organizations made their home in Colorado Springs and our community became known as the “Vatican of the West” and/or a “Mecca for Evangelical Christians.

– From the CSPM Curator of History

Focus on the Family is a Christian ministry that offers advice and counseling for marriages, relationships, child-rearing, and more, all based on biblical principles. The organization publishes books and other literature, provides telephone and email counseling, produces digital media, and most importantly, conducts a daily radio telecast. Its work is intended to “protect…against destructive social influences,” and, “promote biblical truths worldwide.” The organization formed in 1977 by James Dobson in Southern California, but had grown out of its facilities by 1991. Subsidized by local organizations, it built and moved to a new 47-acre campus in the Briargate neighborhood in September, 1993. Boasting its own zip code and exit sign from the interstate, Focus on the Family became one of the most popular tourism sites in the region. From his new campus, James Dobson built a powerful media empire of the Christian right. His daily radio program had an audience of over 5 million listeners, his books sold over 16 million copies, with filmed lectures reaching a wider audience than any other evangelical outlet. Magazines and newsletters achieved a circulation of 3 million. Dobson promoted the traditional family, opposed feminism for breaking traditional gender roles, and spoke out strongly against both abortion and homosexuality. His own force of personality and general appeal made him the most influential leader the movement ever had. Such was the clout of James Dobson by the late 1990s that virtually every Republican presidential hopeful traveled to Colorado Springs to seek his blessing. Dobson continued to be the major player in the cultural wars through the early 2000s, including regular meetings and counsel with George W. Bush after his 2000 election. James Dobson may have reached the height of his national influence in about 2005, as did the influence of the Christian Right in Colorado Springs, which had one of the greatest concentrations of fundamentalist Christian activist groups in American history. By 2007, moderate Republicans in Colorado Springs were increasingly uncomfortable with the close entanglement between religious organizations and the party. After a scandal at the New Life Church and rising opposition to the overt political role played by religious groups, James Dobson stepped down as Focus on the Family Director in February, 2009.

Generously Submitted by Dr. John Harner, Professor of Geography & Environmental Studies, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs

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