By Mark Wingfield

Thirty years ago, when my wife and I were parents of newborn twins, James Dobson was considered the go-to expert for Christian parenting. What we didn’t know then is just how wrong some of his advice was.


Dobson was required reading in our Southern Baptist young adult circles. We didn’t know any better. His books Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child were deemed instant classics, but now we understand some of the parenting advice in those books is not only wrong but dangerous. It is rooted in a retributive view of God that elevates physical punishment I wouldn’t recommend to any parent today.

Years later, when I became a pastor interacting with parents with young children at church, I learned Dobson’s influence was alive and well and stoking obsessive fear in some young adults who still gave him and his books space in their heads. I’m thinking of one young mom with preschoolers who was completely obsessed with fear that her 3-year-old was going to find porn on the internet.

What kind of parent lets a 3-year-old roam freely on the internet anyway? She sure wouldn’t. But just to make sure, she had bought the latest greatest computer lockdown safety system money could buy in 2004. I suspect she was more concerned about her husband than her kids.

This was a woman driven by fear of everything Dobson and Focus on the Family told her was scary about parenting. And it was a lot.

Transgender is the new boogeyman

But now Dobson and Focus on the Family are obsessed with more than kids learning about the birds and the bees; they are obsessed with everyone out there “grooming” kids to think they are transgender.

I can speak with some authority on this because I dare you to find a Baptist pastor with more transgender friends than me. Because of my unexpected advocacy for the trans community beginning in 2016, I have personally talked with hundreds of trans Christians and keep in touch with more trans friends than most churches could claim in their entire sphere of influence.

As BNG previously reported, Focus on the Family and its various political advocacy groups are the single most influential driver of anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans legislation now sweeping statehouses across the nation.

As from of old, the primary communications tactic is fear.

The latest example is a March 19 article in the Daily Citizen, Focus on the Family’s online newspaper, with the headline, “Protect Your Kids from ‘Trans’ Activism — Look for These Red Flags.”

Notice the quotation marks around the word “trans.” That’s because Dobson and Focus on the Family do not believe transgender identity is a real thing. They think it is fake.

Once more with feeling: That simply is not true.

Of the hundreds of transgender people I’ve talked with in the past eight years, not one — not a single one — has told me they were groomed or recruited to become trans. Instead, they all tell similar stories of knowing innately from the time they were 4, 5 or 6 years old that who they were on the inside did not match who they appeared to be on the outside.

It was the church that tried to groom them to be something they weren’t. Evangelical Christians are far more dangerous to transgender kids and adults than any transgender person is to evangelical families.

The fear Dobson and Co. carry is acknowledging that transgender identity is real.

Making one mom’s story the national norm

In the March 16 article written by Nicole Hunt, a regular scare writer for the Daily Citizen, we meet Erin Lee, who is identified as a mother from Northern Colorado whose 12-year-old daughter was “targeted” by “activists in the trans community.”

“In an exclusive interview, Erin told the Daily Citizen that her daughter was invited to attend what was being called an art club meeting at school. But it was actually a gender and sexuality awareness club,” the story begins. “At the meeting, adults told her daughter that if she wasn’t entirely comfortable in her biological sex, she was trans. Activists informed her she was queer if she wasn’t sure who she was sexually attracted to, and they advised the kids that it was OK to lie to her parents about the meeting.”

It continues: “Erin and her husband, Jon, immediately pulled their daughter out of the school and began to fight back against the school system that, according to Erin, ‘had a deep agenda to transition children behind parents’ backs.’”

Pause. Stop. Wait a minute.

I have trouble believing any of this story is true. I understand these parents may sincerely believe the story is true but c’mon. How can public schools work on such a sinister agenda when they’re struggling to teach kids how to read?

And even if this story were true in this one place — which, again, I highly doubt — it is not representative of public schools nationwide. It simply is not true.

There is no evidence of a mass conspiracy to tell pubescent girls they ought to consider whether they’re lesbians or transgender males.

Oh, the irony

Yet the Daily Citizen article quotes Erin saying: “This agenda targets the most vulnerable girls — 11 to 14 years old is typically the target because they’re starting puberty. No 12-year-old girl is comfortable in her body.”

Then the writer interjects that these evil teachers and art group leaders are “encouraging these girls to hate their natural bodies.”

That’s ironic coming from a group of evangelicals who believe women are second-rate to their husbands in God’s created order and whose primary purpose in the world is to pop out as many babies as possible.

It gets weirder, though. Erin tells the writer there were warning signs she missed and wants to alert other parents about to protect their children. What are these lurking dangers? Here is the verbatim list:

  • Artistic interests
  • Interest in anime
  • Participating in video game chats
  • Unrestricted use of a smartphone
  • Unmonitored access to the internet
  • Reading Warrior Cat
  • Reading Wings of Fire
  • Any anthropomorphic art — which is animals with human-like qualities

I am not making this up.

Here are some quotes from Erin:

  • “If your kids are reading these books or playing video games like this, they’re absolutely being targeted by this agenda.”
  • “There are some really subtle themes of same-sex relationships or changing your sex that happens in those stories.”
  • “The furry movement is real. People identifying as animals is very closely tied to the trans movement.”
  • “This ideology has absolutely infiltrated all schools.”

This scary article turns out to have its own agenda: Getting Christian parents to take their kids out of public schools, or as the article calls them, “government schools.”

The writer intones: “In public schools, the adults are the ones indoctrinating children with this ideology, telling them to keep secrets from their parents and teaching them about sexuality before they’re ready to learn about it. Even if your kids don’t attend a government school, you must remain vigilant because trans ideology is all around us.”

Let’s say this yet again: This is not true. Focus on the Family is peddling lies, yet again. They are working overtime to scare young parents into believing boogeymen are lurking everywhere when they are not.

Someone needs to dare to discipline Focus on the Family.

Mark Wingfield serves as executive director and publisher of Baptist News Global. He is the author of Honestly: Telling the Truth About the Bible and Ourselves and Why Churches Need to Talk About Sexuality.

This article originally appeared in Baptist News Global.