Last week, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson announced on his Facebook page that after he retires from Focus in late February, he will start a new Christian family ministry with his son, Ryan.
The nonprofit organization in Colorado Springs will be called James Dobson on the Family and include a radio show hosted by father and son.
You can read more about James Dobson on the Family in a Gazette article by clicking here.
But who is Dobson’s son? Even in Colorado Springs, Ryan Dobson is not well known.
Ryan Dobson is on vacation and plans to sit down with The Gazette for an interview when he returns to town later in January. In the meantime, his books and videos provide a lot of information on his background.
Ryan was born in 1970. His mother was a 16-year-old single mom, Ryan said in a youth talk he gave in November. He was adopted as a newborn by James and Shirley Dobson, and he has a sister named Danae.
In his teens and early adulthood, Ryan was in a rebellious state, according to interviews he’s given. His rebellion was reflected in his appearance. His body has several tattoos, and he has periodically dyed his hair bright colors and worn ear rings. He also regularly shaves his head and wears a bushy beard.
“I was rebellious sometimes,” Ryan told the Denver Post in early 2009. “I always knew the difference between right and wrong. Sometimes I chose wrong.”
As for his education, Ryan dropped out of Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois, according to the Denver Post. But in 1995 he earned a degree in communications from Biola University in Southern California.
Beginning in the late 1990s, Ryan served for three years as a youth minister at a church in Orange County, Calif., according to the 2005 book “Family Man: The Biography of Dr. James Dobson,” by Dale Buss.
At the time, a mentor suggested to Ryan that he become a professional Christian speaker, Buss writes, and that’s when Ryan’s disjointed life found some focus. In 2002, he became a client of the Ambassador Agency of Nashville, a talent agency for Christian authors and lecturers.
“Ryan began to fully grasp the opportunity before him, as if finally assuming a birthright,” Buss writes. “By the end of 2003, Ryan Dobson had become one of the nation’s most sought-after speakers to Christian youth.”
In 2003, Ryan published his first book, “Be Intolerant.” The book revealed his black-and-white conservative views on religion and his no-nonsense communication style — qualities similar to his father’s. Ryan didn’t actually write the book; rather, it was sewn together from some of Ryan’s lectures by a ghost writer, Buss writes.
Publisher’s Weekly said ”Be Intolerant” had the “subtlety of a two by four to the side of the head.”
Ryan is known for looking untidy in his lectures — scraggly beard, wrinkled and untucked shirt, rolled-up jeans. For Ryan, his appearance reflects how he views himself — a wild-eyed preacher in the wilderness. “God has called me to a sort of John the Baptist-type role,” Ryan told Buss.
Though Ryan worked in the 1990s for the Family Research Council, which is affiliated with Focus, he’s never been employed at Focus. Ryan has said often that he never wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps at Focus.
Buss writes that Dobson agreed with his son that he wasn’t going to be a future Focus leader. “Many Focus insiders also don’t believe that such a thing would ever occur, citing the simple fact that just as no one else has proven to be another James Dobson, neither has his son,” Buss writes.
Ryan’s untidy appearance has caused some observers to speculate that Ryan didn’t fit the clean-cut image that Focus prefers for its executives. Also, Ryan’s marriage in 1999 to a woman named Cezanne ended in divorce in 2001. Focus has rules against hiring people who divorce for reasons not sanctioned by the Bible.
It is rumored that Ryan’s divorce was due to Cezanne’s abandoning the marriage, which would allow Ryan to re-marry, according to biblical teachings.
Focus spokesman Gary Schneeberger said Ryan’s divorce was not a factor regarding any employment opportunities he might pursue at Focus. “That would not have stood in the way,” he said.
“He never wanted to succeed his dad,” Schneeberger continued. “Ryan had no desire to work for Focus.”
In 2005, Ryan Dobson remarried, to Laura, and has a young child named Lincoln.
Ryan recently founded KOR Ministries, an online faith-based site where Ryan’s podcasts on religion and social issues air. On the site, Ryan’s bio notes that he was ordained in 2007, but doesn’t specify who ordained him.
Videos posted on his personal Web site, www.ryandobson.com, show him speaking at a youth event held at New Life Church a few years ago. His delivery is fun and down-to-earth, and his message is hardcore conservative.
Below are some quotes from Ryan in the video lectures:
On gay marriage: “I don’t believe gay marriage is good for our country. Why? Because the countries that have adopted civil unions and same-sex marriage … have had a giant decrease in heterosexual marriage. The cause and effect of that is that more and more are born out of wedlock in single-parent families.”
“I don’t think gay marriage is good for America.”
On family values: “A scientific fact: Kids raised in single-parent families often don’t do as well as kids raised in two-parent families.”
On science: “All science backs up the Bible … (because) my God is the creator of science.”
On abortion: (In a Nov. 11, 2009 youth lecture, Ryan relates how he was talking to a passenger on a plane who was pro-choice.) “So I asked him, ‘How do you feel about Hitler?’ (Ryan’s point was that abortion, like the Third Reich, has taken millions of lives.)
On tolerance: “You know that whole thing about we can always agree, compromise, and we can all get along along? That doesn’t work.”
On his tendency to say what he thinks: ”I tend to cannonball. I’m much more splashy.”
“I have little self-control over this part of my body (points to his mouth).”