Turning the Tables: Greg Laurie Interviews Dr. James Dobson (Transcript)

Dr. James Dobson: Well, hello everyone. I'm James Dobson and you're listening to Family Talk, a listener-supported ministry. In fact, thank you so much for being part of that support for James Dobson Family Institute.

Roger Marsh: For more than 40 years, Dr. James Dobson has been encouraging and equipping families to stand for righteousness in today's culture by modeling healthy marriages and parent-child relationships. For nearly three decades, Pastor Greg Laurie has been leading harvest crusades across the United States with nearly six million people attending in person at locations like Angel Stadium in California and Madison Square Garden in New York. And another two million people have attended harvest events virtually either through live or archived internet broadcasts. So now here is our host to introduce today's guest on Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

Greg Laurie: Hey, everybody. This is pastor Greg Laurie, and I have hijacked the studios of Family Talk Radio. I am holding as my hostage Dr. James Dobson. No, I'm just kidding. He's not my hostage, but I'm turning the tables.

Dr. James Dobson: We're going to throw you out of here too.

Greg Laurie: I'm turning the tables on the good doctor today because I want to interview Dr. Dobson a little bit so can hear a little more of his story. Here's some things you may not know about this familiar voice you hear on the radio every day. First of all, Dr. James Dobson is one of the most influential Christian leaders of this century. God has used him in a remarkable way in my life, in your life and in so many others. Jim Dobson was born in April 21st, in 1936 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He earned a PhD in child development at USC. He was an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at the USC School of Medicine for 14 years. He spent 17 years on the staff of the Children's Hospital of Los Angeles in the division of child development in medical genetics. Am I correct so far, doctor?

Dr. James Dobson: I think you got it. Yeah.

Greg Laurie: Okay. And this is interesting. Dr. Dobson has also served government advisory panels and testified at government hearings. He's had a close relationship with multiple presidents. Of course, Dr. Dobson has written many books that we're all well aware of from The New Dare to Discipline, to Bringing Up Boys, Bringing Up Girls, Raising a Strong-Willed Child. What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women, When God Doesn't Make Sense and many more. And I would just like to say on a personal note, Dr. Dobson, when our son Christopher went to be with the Lord in 2008, you called me and we spent about an hour on the phone. And that familiar voice that has brought encouragement and comfort to so many on the radio, you were there for me and I want to thank you for that.

And I want to say God has given you this ... Well, first of all, you look great. I mean, we're on radio, but people can't see you. You have like no wrinkles and you're vibrant. And you look like you looked when I saw you about five years ago. Have you found the fountain of youth or some special serum we need to know about?

Dr. James Dobson: Well, the Lord been good to me, Greg. Really, I had a heart attack and it was a major heart attack. I had a total blockage of the main artery down the front of my heart. And that means you lose the bottom part of the heart, which is where the pumps are. And my heart is beating like that of a younger man who hasn't had a heart attack. And I've also had a stroke after that. That was eight years later. And I've had prostate cancer and I'm healthy today. Last summer I just decided to see what's going on with me and I went to six doctors. I went to a cardiologist, I went to an ophthalmologist, I went to a dermatologist. I went to the whole route and not one of them found a thing to remark about. And that's just, the Lord has just said, I'm not through with you yet. I guess, I hope.

Greg Laurie: What is the difference between like, say turning 60, then turning 70, then turning 80. How do you see it at that point?

Dr. James Dobson: I don't feel any different. I'm doing the same work that I was doing then. I have the same objectives, which is to serve Christ with all my heart, soul, and mind. And I still have a lot of fun in life. I hunt, I fish, I love football.

Greg Laurie: You still play tennis?

Dr. James Dobson: I can't play tennis because the heart attack that I had makes it difficult to run, but I exercise every day. And as a matter of fact, on the 14th of December was my 23rd year of every day exercise. I think that may account for some of the-

Greg Laurie: Like what does a typical day of exercise look like for you?

Dr. James Dobson: It's 45 minutes. Mostly on the treadmill. It's mostly cardiovascular and I just don't allow myself options. I just do it. I'm tired of it. I am bored with it. I wish I didn't have to spend the rest of my life doing that. But if that's what it takes to live another healthy day, I'm willing to do it.

Greg Laurie: That's right. And I saw an advertisement in a magazine once a number of years ago, it was computer magazine selling some product, but I love the headline. The question was, is it an alarm clock or a calling that gets you out of bed in the morning? And I think for you, it's not an alarm clock. You have passion. And you have this passion now that you had as a much younger man. And this passion is maybe not as strong, maybe it's stronger than it's ever been. Would that be an accurate statement?

Dr. James Dobson: There's no question about it. When you see the time is short and it is for all of us, but as the years go by, you recognize it more. You realize that you don't want to waste a minute. You got things to do because the Lord has called you to do something.

Greg Laurie: That's exactly right.

Dr. James Dobson: And I'm just loving life, that Shirley and I are having a great time together. And we got two grandkids that I love like crazy.

Greg Laurie: I love grandchildren.

Dr. James Dobson: I do too.

Greg Laurie: It's been said that grandchildren are the reward for the pain your children put you through. And then it's the punishment on them for what they did to you, right.

Dr. James Dobson: You just hope one of them is strong-willed so they get paid back.

Greg Laurie: Didn't you write a book with that title? Now in your biography, Family Man, you were quoted to say the two most important things to you are number one, ensuring your family and loved ones get to heaven. And number two, living the best possible Christian life. Why are these two things so important to you?

Dr. James Dobson: Well, those are the eternal values. That's what we read in the Scripture and I believe it, that we're here for a purpose. It's just to serve the Lord and then do what he has called us to. My great-grandfather found the Lord when he was a young man and he began praying, he was a minister began praying that the Lord would become real to each one of four generations yet to come, I'm the fourth generation down. And I am the first member of four generations that hasn't been called into the ministry. I would've done it if the Lord asked me to, but he didn't. And so that has been really my ... I'm doing the same thing. I haven't really veered very much from four generations of people who love the Lord with all their hearts. And I'm very blessed by that.

Greg Laurie: Well, I would almost disagree with you a little bit. I mean, even though you are a doctor, you're a psychologist and you've worked in pediatrics. I mean your ministry, though you may not be called pastor Dobson. Your ministry has touched and I'm not even slightly exaggerating, millions and millions of people around the world and continues to do so. So you're in ministry, but your platform is maybe a little different-

Dr. James Dobson: It is a different title. I'm really trying to do what you are trying to do. We're really in this thing together.

Greg Laurie: You're just a lot smarter than I am. Well, when you think of the name, James Dobson, you can't help but think also of Shirley. There's certain names that are so familiar; Ron and Nancy Reagan, Billy and Ruth Graham and James and Shirley Dobson. So for many years, Mrs. Dobson was running the national day of prayer and Vonette Bright was before her, right.

Dr. James Dobson: That's right. And Shirley thought, when the Lord asked her to handle that responsibility, she said to him in arrogance, I can do that for a couple of years. And she was there for 25 years and she really did a super job. I'm telling you, that is one great lady. I fell in love with her in college. She was my homecoming queen, took us three years to get married. And we're still loving it. Still loving being together. I'm telling you, if I had a weekend to spend with anybody, it would be with Shirley. And it would probably be in our house, just the two of us together. She's working on her thing and I'm working on mine and I never get bored with her. I just don't.

Greg Laurie: Did you meet on the college campus?

Dr. James Dobson: We did. Yeah.

Greg Laurie: And do you remember the first thing she said to you?

Dr. James Dobson: Oh yeah. It's an old story. I played a lot of tennis in those days and you wear tennis shorts around the campus. And so she was coming toward me and she saw me and she wanted to know me and wasn't sure how to start it, a conversation. And she got up to me and said, "Hi legs," and I mean, anybody loves my legs ain't all bad.

Greg Laurie: That's true.

Dr. James Dobson: That was the beginning.

Greg Laurie: Now, when you and Shirley hang out at home, you both like to cook?

Dr. James Dobson: Yeah.

Greg Laurie: What do you like to cook?

Dr. James Dobson: I have many things I like to cook. And especially if I cook in doing that with her. So what we typically do Saturday morning is that, we get up and we have a late breakfast and then we're not hungry till about four o'clock and we will fix tacos or something, hamburgers or spaghetti-

Greg Laurie: You like tacos.

Dr. James Dobson: I do.

Greg Laurie: I love them too. Now one thing that people may not understand, is you start did a ministry called Focus on the Family, that you directed for many years. But now the name of your ministry is Family Talk.

Dr. James Dobson: That's right.

Greg Laurie: And that's a very important distinction. God used you and blessed you to launch that incredible ministry of Focus on the Family. But now with Family Talk, you're reaching a whole new generation of people.

Dr. James Dobson: We started from scratch again. Which is an interesting thing to do.

Greg Laurie: Now, when we use the word family, I mean, this is a ridiculous question, but in this day and age, it's not so ridiculous. Give us just your best definition of what a family is. A and B, why a family is important.

Dr. James Dobson: The family is the foundation. It's the ground floor for everything in the culture. It all sits on that foundation. And if you undermine it and you weaken it, you're undermining, you're weakening the foundation. The family was not man's idea or woman's idea. It wasn't the Christian idea. It came along in the Garden of Eden, with Adam and Eve. And the family was God's gift to mankind. And He said "For this cause of man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife. And the two shall be one flesh." That's the beginning of the family. You mess with that foundation. In fact, when the Supreme Court redefined marriage to be anything you wanted to be, or same sex marriage, and who knows where that's going, you're also tampering with the model for the relationship between Christ and the church. And how dare we? How dare we do that? There was a design to the relationship, the fundamental relationship between a man and a woman. And we have now tampered with it and I think we're going to pay a price for it, if we don't straighten around.

Greg Laurie: The Bible talks about sewing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. And I read a quote a while back that said, "A family can survive without a nation, but a nation cannot survive without the family."

Dr. James Dobson: I absolutely believe that's true because first of all, you've got the next generation at stake here. And what are they learning and what are they being taught and how much stability is there at that level. And if you don't have the family straight and don't have a clear perspective on how it's to be lived, you mess up the next generation. And you know what happens when that occurs. We've got 5,000 years of history to see what happens when the family begins to disintegrate.

Greg Laurie: Exactly. And if you've just tuned in, and you're wondering, who is this guy on with Dr. Dobson? My name is Greg Laurie and it's my privilege today to sort of turn the tables on Dr. Dobson and ask him a few questions. Dr. Dobson, coming back to the family and the breakdown of it. You've talked a lot about fatherless homes. I came from a fatherless home. I was conceived out of wedlock and I had a bunch of men that called themself my stepdads, none of them behaved as a stepfather and it set in my life in the wrong direction. And you can almost take every social ill today and trace it to the breakdown of the family, a divorce and a lack of a father. Here's just a couple of quick stats.

A child that comes from a fatherless home is 68% more likely to use drugs or alcohol, far more likely to become sexually active at an early age and three times more likely to commit a violent crime. 63% of a teenagers who attempt suicide live in fatherless homes. 71% of high school dropouts are from fatherless homes. 85% of all youth sitting in prisons grew up in fatherless homes. Fatherless sons are 300% more likely to become incarcerated in state juvenile institutions. And it just goes on and on. So God must have known what he was doing when he established a marriage between a man and a woman and created what we call a family.

Dr. James Dobson: Yeah. That's the way it's designed. And that's the way it works best. Most people know that boys need their fathers. I mean, you have to teach shows boys how to be men. They're not born knowing that. But what many people don't know is that girls need their dads, maybe more than boys do.

Greg Laurie: Why is that?

Dr. James Dobson: Well, they're very sensitive. They're more sensitive. They're more complicated than boys and they need affirmation. A girl's self-esteem hangs precariously on the relationship between that girl and her father. He's the first one to love her. He's the first one to kiss her, first male to kiss her or to tell her that she's pretty, or to build her up in her own eyes. The father is desperately needed for that and many men don't get that. They know that they should take their boys fishing and they ought to take them to baseball games and whatever.

They don't realize that they're looking past those little girls. We had an organization called the Institute and we brought the really bright smart kids, boys and girls. They were actually juniors and seniors in college to come to that Institute. And when I started writing the book, Bringing Up Girls, I excluded the boys. I brought in about 25 or 30 girls. And did that on two occasions, I fed them a good meal. And then I said, "I want you to tell me what should be in this book." And Greg, it was amazing. They wept, they were in a very safe environment and they weren't angry at their dads, but they felt like they did not even see them. And they would tell stories about how they long to be with their dads. And what a girl needs from a dad,

I call it the three Ts. They need time, they need touch, put your arm around them, hug them. A girl needs to be hugged. And talk and there's a couple of others, but those are the primary ones, that just sit down and talk. These girls who would come to the Institute that would say, "Do you know my dad didn't even ask me what we're going to do here. He didn't even, I would try to tell him that I was coming to this, the Institute on the family and they weren't interested." Now not all men are that way obviously, there's a lot of great fathers out there. So we have to be careful, what we're saying here.

Greg Laurie: Well, when you think about marriage, I mean, this is the foundation of everything. And one thing I've always emphasized is your first priority is to Christ as a man or a woman. But then if you're married it's to your spouse, the best thing you can do for your children is to love their dad or love their mom. Keep that marriage strong. And here we're talking about the importance of a father, but maybe there's someone listening, Dr. Dobson, the dad who has walked away from a marriage.

Dr. James Dobson: How did you cope with your circumstances? Seven dads, none of them were dads to you. How did you deal with that? How'd you come out to be a man's man?

Greg Laurie: You know Dr. Dobson, initially I put armor on, I had to learn how to cope and so I became hard, I became cynical and I carried that cynicism and that hardness through life. I also developed to sense of humor. A lot of times when you see comedians interview, they'll talk about tortured childhoods. And I get it because you develop humor as a defense mechanism, you make light of everything, even when it's not funny. But for me, what really changed me of course, was when I became a Christian. And for the first time I understood what a family should look like. I understood what a man should look like. I found some good godly male role models that were older than me.

When I was a new believer, I was a young kid. I hung around mainly with older men, not people my own age, because I needed an example. I needed a model. And then when I got married, I wanted to be the best father I could be. And we've been married 42 years and I wanted to be the best husband I could be. So I think the simple answer is, I accepted Christ into my life. I read the Bible, I believed the Bible. I applied the principles of the Bible, which work because they're God's word.

Dr. James Dobson: Yeah. That saved you. Didn't it? It really did.

Greg Laurie: It literally saved my life. I could be dead right now because a lot of people in my family, I mentioned to you in another interview we did, that in my family, they were either notorious sinners or notorious Christians. A lot of alcoholism on my family, who knows what path I would've taken.

Dr. James Dobson: Did you get into drugs?

Greg Laurie: Yeah, I got into drugs, I got into drinking. I got into drugs more than I got into drinking, but I mean I was smoking pot every day, taking LSD on the weekends. That was my lifestyle. And I wouldn't say I was an addict, but I did it every day. But I came to a point even before I was a Christian where I thought this is a dead end street and I can't live this way anymore. But what do I do? Where do I go? What is life about? And that brought me to Christ. But wait, hey, I'm interviewing you. Don't start interviewing me.

Dr. James Dobson: Let me offer something here.

Greg Laurie: Okay sure. It's your show. You can do whatever you want.

Dr. James Dobson: No, it isn't my show. I'm in your office.

Greg Laurie: This is Family Talk.

Dr. James Dobson: We came from completely different environments. I had a wonderful father and mother. And my dad was a godly man. I never saw him compromise. He loved me, prayed for me. And the day before he had his last terrible heart attack, he was off someplace praying for me, praying for his own future and what the Lord wanted of him. And the Lord said, "You're going to reach millions of people around the world, but it is not going to be through you. It's going to be through your son." And then he had a heart attack. And was gone. So I had that kind of influence and background. And you had the opposite, yet here we are sitting here, serving the Lord to the best of our ability. That's a miracle.

Greg Laurie: It is. And I think even, no matter what your upbringing is, if there's a cycle of sin in your family, you can break that cycle and you break it by committing your life to Christ and starting to do the right thing. I mean, there might be someone listening right now who has messed their family up. They've messed their marriage up. They've failed as a husband, as a father, as a wife, as a mother. Here's what we would say to you, repent and change your direction because look at the legacy of a father in Dr. Dobson's life. And then I wanted to be that father for my sons. I didn't have one, but I wanted to be that father for them.

Dr. James Dobson: Who was your role model?

Greg Laurie: Chuck Smith was a role model for me, as he was a pastor. Billy Graham, who I actually got to know very well was a clear role model for me. And then just other older godly men. They weren't famous people. They were just guys who loved God, loved their wives, loved their kids. And I would pick things up, watching them, observing them. You've been a role model to me, on the radio and then getting to know you as well. So I just looked for godly men that were living it and I followed their example. So Dr. Dobson, thank you for letting me hijack your studio today. It's been a privilege to interview you and thank you for all you do and our prayers that you'll keep doing it.

Dr. James Dobson: Greg, I'm really proud of you. I'm proud of the way you've lived your life. I'm proud of what the Lord is doing in your church and through your evangelistic effort and the end is not yet.

Greg Laurie: Amen. Thank you.

Roger Marsh: And with that, we conclude this special turning the tables edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk. This time, it was pastor author and evangelist, Greg Laurie's turn to turn the tables on Dr. Dobson, with pastor Laurie sitting in the host chair and interviewing Dr. Dobson about his life in ministry. And if you enjoyed this, turning the tables edition of Family Talk featuring Dr. Dobson being interviewed by pastor Greg Laurie, be sure to share your thoughts with us using our new listener feedback line. Call toll free (844) 823-2669. And remember, Family Talk is a completely listener supported broadcast. Thanks for making your tax deductible donation on our broadcast page, at drjamesdobson.org. I'm Roger Marsh. Thanks so much for listening today. Be sure to join us again next time, for another edition of Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk.

Announcer: This has been a presentation of the Dr. James Dobson Family Institute.

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