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February 18th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

Facing death, a top pastor rethinks what it means to be Christian

Editor's Note: The short film accompanying this story, called "My Garden," comes from EdsStory.com. CNN.com is premiering the latest installment in the "Ed's Story" series.

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – Ed Dobson is not afraid of dying. It’s the getting there that really scares him.

A former pastor, onetime Christian Right operative and an icon among religious leaders, Dobson has Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. When he was diagnosed, doctors gave him 3 to 5 years to live.

That was 11 years ago.

“I am a tad happy to be talking to you right now,” joked Dobson, whose voice has deteriorated since his preaching days, in a phone interview. Speaking with him feels like being exposed to a brief moment of clarity. He speaks slowly, but with an understated confidence and authority.

As pastor at Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a position he held for 18 years, Dobson would regularly preach to 5,000 people or more on Sundays. Back then, Dobson said he looked at himself as a man filled with lessons, proverbs and, most of all, answers.

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After retirement six years ago, the massive crowds went away.

“I went from 100 miles an hour to zero miles an hour overnight,” Dobson said. “That was a shock to my system.”

Dobson says the answers vanished with the crowds.

“I know that sounds a bit lame,” he said. “I know that that I should have all the answers, but the truth is, the more I live, the fewer answers I have.”

And yet the people Dobson comes in contact with – those who call him dad, husband and friend, or those who have read one of his 12 books and watched his short films, don’t agree with that assessment. To them, the last six years of Dobson’s life have led to a remarkable ability to put life into context. To them, Dobson is a man filled with lessons.

From 5,000 to 1

In the 1980s, Dobson rose to prominence as an executive at the Moral Majority, Jerry Falwell's evangelical political organization, which had influence with the Ronald Reagan White House. Dobson’s rise continued when he accepted the pastorate at Calvary Church in 1987. He cut a national profile, with Moody Bible Institute naming him “Pastor of the Year” in 1993.

After being diagnosed with ALS, Dobson suddenly felt unsure of himself. At times, he said, he didn't want to get out of bed. After years of intense Bible study, Dobson said this is not how he thought he would react to news of his own mortality.

“I thought that if I knew I was going to die, I would really read the Bible and if I really was going to die, I would really pray,” Dobson said. “I found the opposite to be true. I could barely read the Bible and I had great difficulty praying. You get so overwhelmed with your circumstances, you lose perspective.”

Eventually, Dobson regained perspective. But feelings of listlessness led him to take his preaching to a more personal level. He now meets with congregants one-on-one. Sitting with them in their homes or offices, Dobson provides whatever help he can. “Most of the people I meet with have ALS and basically I listen," he said.

“When I meet with someone and look into their eyes, it is like I am looking into their soul,” Dobson said. “We are both broken, we are both on the journey and we are both fellow pilgrims.”

Going from 5,000 congregants to one at a time was a big change for Dobson, forcing him to reevaluate his job as a pastor. “I am trying to learn that one-on-one is just as important as speaking to thousands,” he said. “I reemphasize – I am trying to learn that.”

During his one-on-one meetings, Dobson says he remembers Adam and Eve being charged by God to work the Garden of Eden. For years Dobson’s garden was Calvary Church – the baptisms, weddings, the Sunday preaching.

“Whether it is preaching to 5000 or meeting one on one, I am trying to take care of the garden,” he said.

The wind knocked out

One way Dobson strove to tend the garden is by writing a book about dealing with serious illness. In 2007, he wrote “Prayers and Promises When Facing a Life-Threatening Illness.”

Dobson’s son Daniel read the book while deployed in Iraq. After returning home, Daniel made it his mission to turn the book’s stories into videos.

He pitched the idea to Steve Carr, the executive director of a faith-focused production company called Flannel. “When I met Ed, when he came to our office, something really spoke to me,” Carr said. “Not too long before that, I had been diagnosed with Leukemia.”

“I thought that this guy, he has been where I am right now and he has somehow mastered it,” Carr said.

So far, Flannel has released five Dobson films, available through the company's website. There are plans for two more. Though the films range in topic, from loss and forgiveness to healing and growth, all are centered on lessons Dobson learned through his battle with ALS. The videos toe the line between a dark look at a dying man's life and an uplifting glimpse at someone who exudes clarity.

"My Garden," the most recent title in the series, centers on Ed’s struggle to deal with ending his preaching career.

Dobson talks about the films as if they are his swan song, his last words of encouragement to a group of supporters he has inspired for decades.

“My desire is that people who have had the air knocked out of them, whether divorce or losing a loved one or illness, that they will get a sense of hope by watching the films,” he said.

Surviving (with help)

The series’ first short film opens with Dobson explaining what it was like to be told he had ALS. After lying in bed, Dobson gets in the shower, brushes his teeth and starts the day. Even he would admit, however, it is not that easy.

Dobson has lost much of the function in his hands and is seen struggling to brush his teeth, his frail body using two hands on the small brush. Though he is able to do a lot, including drive, Dobson wouldn’t be able to make it on his own, a fact he is keenly aware of when about when describing his wife, Lorna.

“She is my right hand, my left hand, my left foot, my right foot, my heart and my brain,” Dobson said. “Without her, it would be impossible to go on.”

Standing in the kitchen in one video, Lorna helps puts Ed’s belt and gloves on. The two don’t speak on camera, but their love is obvious.

“Our love has grown each year of marriage,” Lorna said. “I didn’t want to just wither in the sorrow of how our life was changing. It took a while to get used to what our life was going to be like but I realized that I needed to be more available to him.”

Dobson says he is also more available to her.

“I am no longer a preacher,” said Dobson. “Today, I would say I am a Jesus follower. Period.”

Lorna said she continues to learn from her husband. Throughout their life together, she said she learned by being in church with him, by raising three kids together and by loving one another.

The last 11 years, however, their love has changed. Dobson's illness has taught her to focus on the important things, she said, primarily their kids and five grandkids.

After tending the garden for decades, Dobson is now being tended himself, largely by Lorna. “ALS forced me into a situation where I grew in understanding of what it means to obey Jesus,” Dobson said in the latest film.

“It took me quite a while to find an alternative purpose," he said. "But the good news is out there – there is a purpose for everyone.”

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Death • United States

soundoff (3,195 Responses)
  1. ron

    I don't hear a "rethinking" of Christianity here. What I do hear is a man who has become more humble. I wouldn't agree with him on much about religion. But facing our own mortality is a heavy thing. Living with the kind of suffering that comes with ALS is even heavier. From one human being to another: I wish him and his family all the grace and comfort possible on this challenging journey.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • toadears

      I have known two dear Christian friends who died with ALS. It is one of the hardest ways to go. The man had a loving wife. The woman patient had two pretty selfish sons, so the church ladies, including my Mom, took care of her. It's a hard, hard road. God help this man and his wife to soldier on.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

      LET US BE FILLED WITH POWEROF HOLY SPIRIT AND LET THIS WORLD SIN NO MORE. LET US PREACH AWAY WITH ALL ORU HEARTS AND SOULS......HOLYDESPERATION.COM! LET US PREACH CHRIST WITH ALL HEARTS AND IF YOU RE NOT SAVED TURN FROM SIN AND TURN TO CHRIST AND RECEIVE HIS FORGIVENESS OF WHAT HE DID ON CROSS FOR YOU...OH LET US SEE THE SORROWFUL SINS WE HAVE DOEN IN HEART AND LET YOUTSELF BE SET FREE BY LOVE OF JESUS ON CROSS

      February 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I lost my father to ALS. It's a horrible thing and I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  2. SKyle

    When I heard a conservative named Dobson was dying a slow, painful death, I rejoiced! Nevertheless, it's not Dr. James Dobson like I had hoped. Oh well, one down, one to go.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • SciGuy

      You reveal much about the scriptural teaching of the depravity of man with your comment.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • ron

      I grew up in fundamentalist Christianity and I was hurt a lot (it took me years to heal fom it). But as one human to another, I could never wish ALS on another human being.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • opinion8it

      seriously? you wish death on people you've never met and we're all supposed to be okay with that? Do you want to kill me too?

      February 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • toadears

      My bet on this one is that is probably exactly how your neighbors feel about you and your family.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I don't agree with the politics of either of these Dobsons, but I wouldn't wish ALS on anyone.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  3. Boruch N. Hoffinger

    This should have been my first comment:
    Perhaps I was hasty...I'm sorry for Ed Dobson's suffering...perhaps, with enough
    faith he can pull through.
    All of Mr. Dobson's followers should give charity in his name. Help orphans, etc. (I give charity
    often.)
    Miracles are everywhere!

    February 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      Dude, you forgot to include your address and phone number in your screen name.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  4. dan

    I'll take a bunch of delusional believers over a bunch of dull and tight a$$ed atheists. At least the believers make for good company and conversation.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Don Juan

      You think that because you can't keep up. You see, you have to have intelligence, coupled with logic and reasoning skills in order to understand.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Boruch N. Hoffinger

      Belief in G-d is not delusional.
      This is a statement made by the uneducated.
      Go here is you are open-minded: http://www.noahidenations.com
      So, it 'Darwinian Evolution' is 'bunk' where did we come from...how did we get here...why
      are we here?
      Darwinism Has Been Disproved Before

      http://chabad.info/index.php?url=article_en&id=20548

      Also, the basis of Science is math. Sir Roger Penrose (One of the world's leading mathemeticians) stated that for the world to happen by accident it would be represented by a number 1 with 23 zeros.
      Would you bet on these odds? (All the scientists that 'believe' in Darwinian Evolution are practicing bad science.)
      bhoffinger@aol.com
      bhoffinger@aol.com

      February 19, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Don Juan

      ^^^Has zero understanding of evolution and possesses less than a 2nd grade science education.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • toadears

      Hitler, Geroge Soros, and Henry Kissinger will be in hell waiting on these kids. Luckily, it's pitch black so they can't find you. perhaps you will hear their screams.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Don Juan

      ^^^Child like world view.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • JC

      Adults with imaginary friends are stupid. You sound right at home with them!

      February 19, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  5. Ann

    I don't see how anyone could help but be inspired by Mr. Dobson's journey of faith coming to the reality of what's really important – one on one caring for people.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      That's great! Too bad it couldn't be done without religious delusions leading the way. It must be that, without those delusions, caring for people is impossible. At least that's what the delusional folks would have you believe.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • toadears

      T wat, t wat t wat...tomorrow is a school day. Enjoy it now.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  6. SOMEONE WHO CARES FOR YOUR SOUL SO MUCH!

    I GREW UP IN A CHURCH THAT DID SEVERAL TIMES OF A WEEK RITUALISTIC THINGS BUT YOU MUSTA BEEN IN WRONG CHURCH. I CAME TO UNDERSTAND TRUE MEANING OF SALVATION AND GOSPEL AND RECEIVED IT. CHURCH IS SUPPSOED TO TRAIN YOU TO PREACH GOSPEL AND LIVE IN POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT. BE FILLED WITH POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND LET GOD BREAK THRU YOUR COLD HEART. IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED PWOER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND UNDERSTOOD WHAT SIN WAS AND IT PUNISHMENT AND WHAT JESUS DID FOR YOU RETURNT O LORD AND LIVE IN HIS LOVE AND LIVE OUT IN POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT. DONT LET DEMON TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE. LET JESUS TAKE FULL CONTROL AND SHARE GOSPEL WITH EVERYONE. IF YOU ARE TRUELY SAVED YOU CAN BE AN OVERCOMER. LIVE IN POWER OF JESUS CHRIST. IT NOT ABOUT RELIGION RITUAL IT ABOUT RELATINOSHIP WITH JESUS CHFRIST AND BE FILLED WITH POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND LIVING IN IT AND LET JESUS TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE AND YOU WILL FEEL SO FREE AND NOT RELIGIOUS SPIRIT BUT IN HOLY SPIRIT. IF YOU ARENT SAVED CHECK OUT GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM TO SEE HOW GET SAVED......

    February 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Don Juan

      Yes, by all means, let's embrace the mindset of bronze age goat herders. You're a clown that never had an original thought in your entire life. Sad that you can't make sense of the world without a magical sky daddy.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Who is this Jesus Chfrist person? Also, your caps lock is stuck.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • JT

      You must have just now discovered the Internet after receiving your first PC. Now you can spew your ignorance and delusions to the entire world in ALL CAPS! You must leave your trailor only to go to church.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • SOMEONE WHO CARES FOR YOUR SOUL SO MUCH!

      TALLUAL IF YOU ARE INTERESTED GO TO GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM IF YOU WISHT O BE SAVED

      February 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Jarod

      Ya , ya , whatever ....

      February 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • tallulah13

      So is this Ch-Frist person anything like the Jesus Christ of the bible?

      Jesus Christ (correct spelling) seemed like a nice enough guy, had some pretty good ideas. Too bad he was murdered. Even worse, too bad that some people think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread that Jesus got tortured to death, because it makes them think they don't have to be responsible for their own actions. How pathetic is that?

      February 19, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Asherah Akrudakrud

      If she wants to do clockwork religion, fine. Some see beauty in ritual; others merely see clockwork.

      February 24, 2012 at 3:05 am |
  7. opinion8it

    FYI – for those of you out there that keep making the false assumption that christians are political right wingers and atheists are democrat - please get a clue. True Christianity is not owned by any political party nor will it ever be.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      No, it will only be hijacked for religious delusional causes that are perpetrated by right-wing Republicans.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • opinion8it

      @WhatWhatWhat? - I agree, people are using God's name to do terrible things, but these people are only swaying weak minded individuals who have been seduced by "false prophets". The warning was there in front of them, but they chose to be blind to it for earthly gains.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • toadears

      As usual, T wat, the TEENAGER, is incorrect. I watched the Republican party march into church with sample ballots in 1998. I protested then and I protest now. Those 80 year old Christians didn't need people to tell them how to vote! It is just the other way round. The Republican party needed to polarize the Christian vote by coming up with some polarizing issues. They met with that religious whack in Colorado Springs and planned to use abortion and gay rights to polarize the Christian voter. The pastors should have never let them in the churches. God is not Republican, Democrat, American, or human. God is great and made for eternal material. We are human animals and die off. Life is a test to see if you are worthy to become eternal.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  8. HRPufnstuf

    EVERYBODY over 18-20 years old is dying. Most of us just don't know when or how. Live your life to the fullest, don't do anything you would be ashamed to be the headline on tomorrow's paper, try to leave the world a better place than when you came in.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • JC

      No one under 18 is dying anymore?

      February 19, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Don't you know? Teenagers are immortal. That's why it's okay if they smoke or drive drunk or take drugs.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • toadears

      Tall Loo Loo n, a 16 year old teenager wrapped his car around a tree in this town last month killing himself and critically injuring his passenger. The passenger will live, with handicaps. The boy's mother is currently inconsolable. Teenagers die all the time. Ever heard of the drug ecstasy?

      February 19, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • tallulah13

      toadears, apparently you have no grasp of sarcasm. You don't even seem to have any common sense. You seem to possess little more than ill-tempered malice. I pity you, truly, but even more, I pity the people who have deal with you in real life.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • toadears

      Tall loo loon...don't pity me, Yank. LOL I'm more honest than the lot of you. And what you call ill tempered malice the rest of the world calls blunt honesty. wah wah I have insulted a Yank. As for being a sarcastic or sardonic comedian? Keep your day job.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  9. David

    Hate to break this to you Dobson, but death isn't a big deal. Do you remember what life was like the millions of years before you were born? Were you suffering, was it pleasurable, did you care one way or another? The answers is none of the above. You didn't exist. It didn't bother you at all. That's what awaits you in death; what awaits all of us. No eternal worshipping of a god, no suffering forever in a lake of fire. Just enjoy life the best you can and when it's over, it's over. It's no big deal, really. I know we all like to think we have magical invisible souls and that we're all special. We're not and we need to get over it. With a very specific amount of brain damage, we could become someone else easily. I'll never understand why people just can't accept that while our brain is the most advanced thing nature ever created, doesn't make it magical. And it doesn't mean that who we are is going anywhere after we die. And to date, there's nothing scientific in existence that can prove this wrong. For the record, I'm agnostic, not atheist. There may be a supreme being out there, or in another dimension. But I have to go with what I know and what I know is what life was like before I was born. It didn't bother me and neither will death. But in the meantime, gonna enjoy myself best I can while the rest of you argue about it.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • points to ponder

      What if you had existed, but your memory was wiped clean when you were re-born? Since you don't remember it, then you claim you did not exist.

      Maybe the brain was the most advanced thing "nature" created, but that is quite a questionable statement concerning the brains of some people, and what comes out of their mouths, especially from someone who claims they can only go by what they know.

      If you did not exist before your conception, how to you get here? Did a "part" of you have to exist prior, and if so, will a "part" of you exist after?

      February 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Boruch N. Hoffinger

      Dear David:
      What you are saying is that the world/universe happened by accident!
      The odds of this happening are: 1 with 23 zeros!
      Animals cannot talk..they cannot talk about a mutually interesting subject, that would
      benefit someone else (Planning a surprise birthday party) and connect to each other like
      human beings...animals do not/never did have such amazing abilities.
      We were made in the Image of G-d!
      Go the 'The Torah' for AMAZING discoveries!
      YES! You have a soul...invisible...ever see radio waves, etc. Do they exist? Ever
      hear animal sounds...all of them? Dog whistles, etc.
      Go to 'Hidabroot.com'
      Read about 'Science and Torah'
      This will AMAZE you..guaranteed.
      Boruch N. Hoffinger

      Belief in G-d is not delusional.
      This is a statement made by the uneducated.
      Go here is you are open-minded: http://www.noahidenations.com
      So, it 'Darwinian Evolution' is 'bunk' where did we come from...how did we get here...why
      are we here?
      Darwinism Has Been Disproved Before

      http://chabad.info/index.php?url=article_en&id=20548

      Also, the basis of Science is math. Sir Roger Penrose (One of the world's leading mathemeticians) stated that for the world to happen by accident it would be represented by a number 1 with 23 zeros.
      Would you bet on these odds? (All the scientists that 'believe' in Darwinian Evolution are practicing bad science.)
      bhoffinger@aol.com

      February 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • toadears

      Named for a Jewish King who had strong faith in God. irony.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  10. SOMEONE WHO CARES FOR YOUR SOUL SO MUCH!

    SUFFERING HAPPENS IN THIS WORLD AND NOT EVERYTHIGN IS OF GOD.....SATAN RUNS LOOSE ON THIS EARTHA ND DEMONS LIVE INSIDE OF PEOPLE AND CAUSE DISEASES AND PAIN....SATAN IS OUT TO STEAL KILL AND DESTROY AND YOU MUST PLACE WHOLE TRUST IN CHRIST CUZ THIS WORLD IS GONNA END AND WE MUST RECEIVE CHIRST WITH ALL OF OUR HEARTS AND TURN FROM OUR SINS AND TURN TO CHRIST AND LET HIM BE THE HOPE THAT LIVES THRU US AS WE PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL SO THAT WE SAVE SOULS!!!! COME RECEIVE JESUS IN YOUR HEART

    February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • JC

      So Satan is stronger than God. So we should pray to Satan? Gotcha.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Don Juan

      Notice how all the exceptionally stupid always seem to have stuck "cap keys"?

      February 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • SOMEONE WHO CARES FOR YOUR SOUL SO MUCH!

      GO WILL ALWAYS BE MORE POWERFUL. HE SHOWED HIS POWER WITH HIS DEATH ON CROSS AND RESURRECTION SO THAT YOU COULD HAVE A CHANCE TO HAVE GOD IN YOUR HEART WHILE WALKING THRU THIS LIFE. THIS WORLD IS GONNA BE FULL OF SUFERING TIL END CUZ OF WHAT HUMANS CHOSE. BUT GOD MADE A WAY FOR YOU TO RECEIVE CHRIST IN YOUR HEART TO BE WITH YOU THRU IT ALL. WE WILL SUFFER FOR SAKE AND CAUSE OF CHRIST. DEMONS LIVE INSIDE OF PEOPEL AND YOU HAVE A CHOICE. LET SATAN CONTROL YOU AND YOU KEEP SINNING OR LET CHRIST CONTROLY OU AND YOU CAN BE OVERCOMER AND BE SET FREE OF CHAINS OF SIN AND LIVE IN PWOER OF HOLY SPIRIT. GOD WILL ALWAYS BE MORE POWERFUL BUT SATAN HAS HIS RUNNIGN LOSSE ON EARTH CUZ HUMANS CHOSE TO DISOBEY GOD. BUT GOD HAS MADE A WAY FOR YOU TO RECEIVE JESUS AS LORD AND SAVIOR TO BE WITH YOU MIDST OF THIS WARFARE SO YOU CAN LIVE IN HIM AND BE AN OVERCOMER.....IF NOT THEN YOU LET FLESHY DEMON CONTROL YOU AND YOU KEEP HAVING TO SIN.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • JC

      If God is stronger, why doesn't he just get rid of Satan? For that matter, why did he create an angel he knew would try to overtake heaven, forcing him to cast him out and inspire him to create and rule Hell? Surely God KNEW that would happen. I guess it was his plan? Satan is just an employee of God then, isn't He?

      By the way, SATAN ISN'T EVEN IN THE BIBLE,lol. Just an afterthought they had to make up to justify all the other stuff they made up in the first place.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

      ANGEL HAD A CHOICE. ANGEL DECIDED TO REBEL AGAINST GOD. HE DECIDED HE WANTED TO BE ABOVE GOD AND SO HE WAS THROWN OUT WITH ALL THE OTHER ONES WHO REBELLED AGAINST GOD AND THAT WAS WHAT HELL WAS MADE FOR. NEVER MADE FOR HUMANS. BUT HUAMNS CHOSE TO FOLLOW AND OBEY THE EVIL ONE INSTEAD OF CHRIST. SO NOW WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE AND YOU CAN HAVE JESUS COME IN YOUR HEART. SURE GOD KNEW WHAT WOULD HAPPEN, BUT THAT WHY WE HAVE FREEWILL. HE WILL NOT FORCE MANKIND TO CHOOSE HIM HOWEVER WE PREACH IT TO YOU SO YOU WILL KNOW AND YOU CANNOT SAY YOU DIDNT HEAR MESSAGE

      February 19, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • opinion8it

      @JC - You misunderstand what Satan is. If God is truth, then Satan is the opposite; untruth. As a child, you sort out what is true and what isn't and this is how you mature in earthly things as well as spiritual things. God does not battle with Satan, nor did he ever. It is man that battles with untruth and lack of knowledge and throughout history, we have been doing just that, regardless of whether you "believe" in it or not.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • JC

      @opinion8it

      It sounds like YOU mistunderstand what Satan is all about. Instead, you've simply rationailized Satan into something less tangible and put it with the rest of "it's all God's way". You should look up where 'satan' comes from. It is NOT in the new testament AT ALL. It is actually a JEWISH term – and it's used more as an adjective. A way of saying someone or something was not to be trusted,etc. But of course, Christians love to pick and choose, mix and match and just plain come up with stuff that suits THEIR religion.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • toadears

      JC you just did.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • Believer

      Satan never mentioned in New Testament? How about the story where Jesus tells Peter "Get behind me Satan". I believe that Martin Luther put it perfectly when describing Satan as Gods monkey. Whatever Satan does for evil, God turns into good. Look at the story of Joseph for example, or even the above article. Satan caused ACL on this man in order to try and weaken his faith, but God made his faith stronger through it.

      February 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  11. Karen

    ALS is a terrible dis-ease. I don't agree with Dobson about God (or Adam and Eve) or life purpose, but gaining life perspective is really a lucky bonus at the end. It's good to find that love, companionship, being heard, and time together is plenty.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I agree.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  12. michael

    Letters to Morrie was more inspiring than a right-winger facing mortality (we'll see about the immortality part). I came from that background and can say its a hard life, being evangelical, so much self-controlling behavior modification repeated 5 times a week, surrounded by others reinforcing the fears. At the core, most of these people dont trust themselves, their perceptions or ability to think about difficult things. They want quick pat answers they can repeat from the man up front. I'm amused that most will gladly believe that the earth moves around the sun even though you can't prove it by sight alone, yet they balk at slightly more difficult science (e.g. radio carbon dating) because it makes for more difficult thinking about belief. Or not believing evolution because the time required is so long. Better to belief in an earth of <10,000 years because thats a time frame we can imagine more easily based on our personal lifetime scale. Funny how the 10,000 years roughly corresponds to how long writing (5,000 years) and oral history (maybe going back another 2,000-5,000) can hold.

    But brains are not to be trusted, especially ones own, so anything beyond how to drive a car or memorize John 3:16 is suspect. Back to this preachers slow journey toward passing, its an interesting study in how ones fast held beliefs can transform and who knows where he will go from here. Perhaps, perhaps, he will delve a little deeper and see that we are all in the same boat of not really knowing the meaning of having consciousness on this planet, at this time, knowing we are in 1 galaxy of billions and reflecting on our brief instant here. I don't wonder that we have used our story making skills to try to contain the wonder and awe, but I think most thoughtful people realize the hubris of thinking we have it figured out by retelling stories of a few thousand years ago over and over again.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • SOMEONE WHO CARES FOR YOUR SOUL SO MUCH!

      I GREW UP IN A CHURCH THAT DID SEVERAL TIMES OF A WEEK RITUALISTIC THINGS BUT YOU MUSTA BEEN IN WRONG CHURCH. I CAME TO UNDERSTAND TRUE MEANING OF SALVATION AND GOSPEL AND RECEIVED IT. CHURCH IS SUPPSOED TO TRAIN YOU TO PREACH GOSPEL AND LIVE IN POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT. BE FILLED WITH POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND LET GOD BREAK THRU YOUR COLD HEART. IF YOU HAVE RECEIVED PWOER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND UNDERSTOOD WHAT SIN WAS AND IT PUNISHMENT AND WHAT JESUS DID FOR YOU RETURNT O LORD AND LIVE IN HIS LOVE AND LIVE OUT IN POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT. DONT LET DEMON TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE. LET JESUS TAKE FULL CONTROL AND SHARE GOSPEL WITH EVERYONE. IF YOU ARE TRUELY SAVED YOU CAN BE AN OVERCOMER. LIVE IN POWER OF JESUS CHRIST. IT NOT ABOUT RELIGION RITUAL IT ABOUT RELATINOSHIP WITH JESUS CHFRIST AND BE FILLED WITH POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND LIVING IN IT AND LET JESUS TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR LIFE AND YOU WILL FEEL SO FREE AND NOT RELIGIOUS SPIRIT BUT IN HOLY SPIRIT. IF YOU ARENT SAVED CHECK OTU GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM TO UNDERSTAND HOW TO PROPERLY GET SAVED

      February 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • JennGen

      Wow....? Cynical and over-analytical much?I thought this was a beautiful story of hope, of truth and of courage.....And I'm atheist. Your words (among others') are almost poisonous....Nothing is good anymore–someone ALWAYS has something negative to say....Very sad to me.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • michael

      @JennGen What part was moving? Yes, he has a horrible illness and is facing it with some courage and the support of a wife and community he has served for years. Granted. But I dont think his videos which still espouse a world-view that to me, is toxic for most people who do not believe his way, is inspiring. His 1-1 meetings are reinforcing that world-view with like-minded people. His illness does not make me melt and say "oh, poor poor thing, its okay for him to hate gays and unwed mothers" (excuse me, not hate them directly, just hate their choices and want to legislate against them and exclude them from everyday life -> moral majority, remember?). So my comments were pointing out the blackness still underneath his beard, effected speech and sureness that comes through his videos. The twisted beliefs are still there and still very very dangerous to anyone who doesnt belief in his theology. Would he sit down with a gay man who is not a christian and have a quiet conversation about the end of life ... unlikely.

      February 19, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  13. SOMEONE WHO CARES FOR YOUR SOUL SO MUCH!

    YOU CAN GET SAVED...YOU JUST HAVE TO UNDERSTAND JESUS DIED ON CROSS TO PAY FOR PUNISHMENT OF OUR SISN THAT WE SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR CUZ WE CHOOSE TO SIN! WE CHOOSE TO SIN AND THEN THING GOD OWES US SOMETHING. TURN FROM SIN AND FALL ON KNEES AND PRAY TO JESUS AND RECEIVE HIS FORGIVENESS OF SINS. JESUS IS ONLY WAY TRUTH AND LIFE.....GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM BE FILLED WITH HOLY SPIRIT PREACH CHRIST SO MUCH. HE LOVES YOU AND WANTS YOU TO BE SAVED......PRAY WITH ALL YOUR HEART JESUS I AM A SINNER AND HAVE BROKEN YOUR LAW AND COMMANDMENTS I TURN FROM SIN AND SURENDER TO YOU ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE AND I WILL PREACH CHRIST CRUCIFIED AND I WANT YOUR DIVINE LOVE TO COME INTO MY HEART AND I WANT TO FOLLOW YOU ALL THE DAYS OF MY LIFE CUZ CHRIST IS ONLY WAY TRUTH ANDLIFE AND I KNOW JESUS LOVES ME WITH AL MY HEART AND I TURN FROM SIN. NO MORE WORLDLY SINFUL WAYS!

    February 19, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Karen

      You can tell people things without yelling at them :)

      February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • JohnRJohnson

      You are the follower of one of the dozens and dozens of religions on this planet, many of which are older than yours. Show some respect and sensitivity. People like you give Christians a bad name.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  14. SOMEONE

    YOU CAN GET SAVED...YOU JUST HAVE TO UNDERSTAND JESUS DIED ON CROSS TO PAY FOR PUNISHMENT OF OUR SISN THAT WE SHOULD HAVE TO PAY FOR CUZ WE CHOOSE TO SIN! WE CHOOSE TO SIN AND THEN THING GOD OWES US SOMETHING. TURN FROM SIN AND FALL ON KNEES AND PRAY TO JESUS AND RECEIVE HIS FORGIVENESS OF SINS. JESUS IS ONLY WAY TRUTH AND LIFE.....GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM

    February 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • JC

      But what if....just what IF....THE JEWS WERE RIGHT????????????????????

      lmao...you're gonna burn in hell

      February 19, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • opinion8it

      ...and after all that, then what? I think you missed the point of the article.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • sybaris

      sorry, to your god flesh is meaningless. Your jesus man sacrificed nothing

      February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Boruch N. Hoffinger

      Sorry, Jes-s did not die on the cross for everyone.
      Jes-s (Sorry not to spell out his name...not being disrespectful) was a Jew...a 'Tanna.'
      I suppose you, and millions of others never heard the term 'Tanna.'
      He is named in the 'Talmud' ('Gemara')
      Paul was a secret Jew who helped create Xristianity so that non-Jews would negate idolatry.
      Who knows more about Jes-s than the Jews?
      No one.
      If you are looking for universal spirituality...refreshing...deep..meaningful...something
      EVERYONE can believe in, EVERYWHERE: 'the 7 Noahide Laws' is for you.
      http://www.noahidenations.com...many others.
      bhoffinger@aol.com

      February 19, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • SHOUT NAME OF SALVATION

      JESUS WAS PERFECT AND SINLESS AND ONLY SACRIFICE THAT COULD BE GIVEN TO PAY FOR SINS OF THIS WORLD. SIN SI BREAKING OF GODS COMMANDMENTS. LOOK AT YOU RHEART. YOU HAVE SECRET SINS YOU AHVE DONE. JESUS IS ONLY ONE WHO CAN SHED HIS BLOOD OVER THOSE SINS AND BREAK YOU FREE OF THAT GUILT AND CLEANSE YOU AND SET YOU FREE. LET JESUS COME INTO YOUR HEART AND SET YOU FREE. BY HIS WOUNDS YOU WILL BE HEALED. HE IS WAY TRUTH AND LIFE AND ONLY ONE.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • Asherah Akrudakrud

      Since when did Jews believe in a hell? Sheol is not quite hell. Hell (Gehenna) was inspired by the burning trash dump of the valley of Hinnom, in Jerusalem, and so some might have come to think of a hell, but Jewish thought on the afterlife trended in multiple directions – Sheol, the world-to-come (resurrection/ ha'olam haba), reincarnation, and other positions besides. (Hinnom is no longer a garbage dump and is actually a rather nice park nowadays.)

      February 24, 2012 at 3:10 am |
  15. Daniel

    People think how they live when they face on death. People can realize the most precious thing when they know that it's not important to have something on earth. So God gives every one death. God wants us to understand what is important in our lives, why we live on earth now.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  16. cutedog2

    In regard to suffering, Dobson wrote, 'Like a rogue wave, adversity crashes onto the peaceful shores of our lives and knocks us flat. Amazingly, the jolt awakens our senses, and we suddenly remember that God is in control, no matter what.' Sometimes there are no answers this side of Heaven as to why bad things happen. I wish you peace Mr. Dobson, you and Lorna are a blessing to one another.
    From; A fellow follower of Christ.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • JC

      "we suddenly remember that God is in control, no matter what."

      That's right, and that's how we know God CHOSE to give this man ALS. Maybe once he's dead he'll know what he did to make God give him a disease. Maybe it was so this article would be written..............God is mysterious.........

      February 19, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • sybaris

      Funny how his god chose to end dobsons life rather than lengthen it to carry the message, as absurd as it is, to others. This god of his, so wateful and not very smart.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  17. JC

    LOL, God gave him ALS. It was after all part of His plan, wasn't it?

    February 19, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
  18. opinion8it

    Alas, if more "religious leaders" really thought about what is is to be a Christian PRIOR to becoming leaders, there would not be so many Christians going astray.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • toadears

      Amen. I am not surprised that he is struggling with all this now. Time wasted on temporary politics. And God is neither Republican or Democrat. Not even an American or a human. We are small. We don't last. Death brings that closer to us. God is great. We are not.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  19. Modern Athiest

    Your 'god;' is stupid. Putting testicles on the outside wasn't exactly a good idea.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Dave

      you'd prefer them in your mouth?

      February 19, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • opinion8it

      I could talk to God and put in a word for you - where would you like them? In your mouth???

      February 19, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Tim

      Thank you. That comment is very helpful and almost relevant.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • JohnRJohnson

      I guess some modern athiests are just as misinformed as many evangelicals. Testicles are "on the outside" for a very good reason. In that way, they are protected from the heat of the body, which is capable of rendering a man infertile. Grow up. Read a book.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • WhatWhatWhat?

      @JohnRJohnson, that's only a good idea in hindsight. If they were designed correctly, the condition you listed would not be a factor.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • toadears

      I want those words to echo in your brains over and over at the next funeral of someone in your life who you really loved.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Bizarre

      Yes, and putting a playground and recreation area (pun intended) adjacent to the sanitation system is quite bad design.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • SciGuy

      It's quite humorous to read those who likely couldn't design a toaster pretend to be valid critics of the Creator and sustainer of the marvel known as the human body.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  20. Neal Kelley

    Now this guy is spiritually awakened. What is more meaningful with one person is much better then meaningless talk to thousands.

    February 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.