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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 • Faith Now • United States

soundoff (3,194 Responses)
  1. Cicero

    It's wrong for folks to use religion as a bully-pulpit. It is also wrong for folks to ridicule somebody for their faith and beliefs. One of my favorite Christian saints is Francis of Assisi. He taught many things and said many things, one of them being "Preach the Gospel at all times and in all places. Use words when necessary." It's the heart of Christianity. God's wants hearts, not words. If every Christian truly lived the cardinal teaching of Christ, that is to say, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself." If every Christian truly did this and didn't use their "faith" as a ruse to harvest money, influence, power and control, the non-believers of the world would be stunned in their disbelief. Christianity call us to lay down our lives, our wants, our desires, our plans and to look to those outside ourselves and help them. The spirit of Christianity is a three fold spirit of right relation to God, right relation to self, and right relation to those around us. It is very simple, yet in that simplicity it can take a life time to understand and perfect. Those who have ears to hear, ought to hear.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • PumpNDump

      I'd love someone to prove the "3 miracles" any saint supposedly did in order to become a saint. Lol

      February 19, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Greg

      Thank you for this humble and substantive contribution. It is a refreshing departure from the typical user rancor.

      February 19, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  2. Thomas

    "When he was diagnosed, doctors game him 3 to 5 years to live."

    Personally, I hate it when my doctors game me anything.

    If I had three-five years to live, I might dedicate those years to convincing CNN to proofread their articles.... just once.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  3. SomeGreyBloke: Jesus Loves You

    February 19, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  4. Margaret

    I don't see from this article how Dobson is re-thinking Christianity. He's looking at his life from a very hard place now and preparing to leave all he's ever known...but I'm not seeing anything to indicate he's seeing Jesus any differently than he always did. If you have found something in the article that addresses this please post the quotation.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • 13Directors

      I wondered about that, also. I have nothing but empathy for this man and the countless others whose life has been taken by ALS.However, this article implies that his disease has produced a change of sort in him, but it all it sounds like is that his core circle has grown much smaller, but he still identifies with people with whom he shares similarities.

      February 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm |
  5. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    If "God" is perfect, and we are made in his image, then why is there any sickness? Religious people are so illogical! Their "God" gets credit for all good things, but no blame for anything bad, even though "God" (at least the Christian one) is supposed to be all good and all-powerful. But that's the human psyche for you: determined to hold onto comforting fairy tales no matter what reality slaps you in the face. Pitiful. How much further along toward a CURE for this disease and many others might we be if all religious people would devote their time and money to medical research instead of wallowing in and wasting time with their absurd illusions?

    February 19, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Margaret

      Leonore, you haven't studied the Bible.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Bonnie

      If someone took statements you made and twisted them into a myriad of lies and false beliefs, to the point where your original message is completely lost, would you worry about that person's health?

      February 19, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Jason Glugla

      Wouldn't it be easier to let everyone have their own beliefs and they can let you have yours. Is there really any purpose in directing venom towards faith which can give people comfort?

      February 19, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Len

      God is perfect we are not, are soul is iternal not our body. Life on earth is short your soul is eternal,our body goes back to dust.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • kebcarerra

      No one knows darkness without light . You can't have up without down , in without out etc. The understanding of the universe and it's workings were left out when it came to choosing what books to select for " the bible " , nearly four hundred years after the death of Jesus .

      February 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Tom Jordan

      It's easy for people to be cynical when bad things happen – easy to blame God. But, from my reading of this article, Dobson wasn't denying the dark aspects of life. He was learning a new, deeper lesson on how God can reach deeper in your soul even through the trials of life. I have interviewed many people who, through the realization of one's own mortality, have realized (many times for the first time) how much God loves them. He's not a fairy – He is One who helps the downhearted even when no one else will. My respect is very high for those who can thank God not just when things are going well, but when things are going very, very bad. Your perspective of religion (and God) seems a bit skewed by bitterness against people, my friend.

      February 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
    • Warren Miller

      I am 75 years old and at least once a month for a few days I am home bound due to pain that choses to take up residence in one or both legs. I can't find myself thinking about a god to heal me or to lead me somewhere. I am totally responsible for myself. The better that I take care of myself, the faster and better my body will heal itself. I do not see the biblical reference to being made in God's image as logical. I suggest that the people that that wrote these 'holy' books made a God in there own image. What I see in the Books that are the foundation of different religions is that they are codes of conduct,set down so many years ago. From the beginning of human time humans have been and still are, wild, and self orientated. The few humans that were not underlings, had to control underlings for our own good.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • ANONYMOUS

      SUFFERING HAPPENS ON THIS EARTH CUZ MAN CHOSE TO MAKE SATAN THERE god. IN GARDEN THERE WAS ADAM AND EVE AND GOD TOLD THEM NOT TO DISOBEY HIM AND THEY DID. SUFFERINGT HAPPENS ON THIS EARTH CUZ SATAN IS RUNNING LOSE AND ALL DEMONS AND IS OUT TO STEAL KILL AND DESTROY. GOD IS NOT IN ALL THE THINGS THAT MAN DOES TO DESTROY OTHER HUMAN BEING. BUT SINCE MAN CHOSE TO MAKE SATAN THERE god NOW WE HAVE ALL SUFFERING WE HAVE. BUT GOD MADE A WAY AND JESUS CHRIST DIED ON CROISS TO PAY FOR PUNISHMENT OF OUR SINS AND ROSE ON THIRD DAY SO YOU CAN HAVE A NEW LIFE IN HIM. IOT IS A BATTLE OF GOOD AND EVIL RIGHT NOW. WHY SPEND YOUR HWOLE LIFE BEING ANGRY ABOUT THIS AND THAT. COME RECIEVE POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT IN YOUR HEART AND LIVE FOR CAUSE OF CHRIST. WHY SPEND YOUR LIFE BE BOLD TO SIN WHY NOT BE BOLD TO LIVE FOR CHRIST. FIGHT IN SPIRIT TO SAVE SOULS. PREACH GOSPEL OF LOVE WITH ALL YOUR HEART TO SVAE PEOPEL SOULS!!!!! GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM COME HELP US ADVANCE CAUSE OF GOSPEL AND OBEYT SPIRIT OF GOD AND LET US REPENT OF ALL OUR SINS AND DO NO MORE SIN

      February 19, 2012 at 3:22 pm |
    • ANONYMOUS

      PEOPEL THINK GOD IS ONE WHO DOES ALL OF THIS SUFFERING BUT THEY FORGET THAT SATAN IS OUT OT STEAL KILLA ND DESTROY. GOD WANTS ALL MANKIND TO BE SAVED. SO YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE MAKE SATAN OR CHRIST YOUR GOD AND SAVIOR. CHRIST CAN BE WITH YOU CUZ IN THIS WORLD WE ARE GOING TO SUFFER. THIS WHOLE WORLD IS TAINTED AND WE NEED HOPE IN MIDST OF IT SINCE FROM BEGINNING MAN HAS CHOSEN TO MAKE SATAN there god INSTEAD OF CHRIST SO NOW WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE BUT JESUS CAME TO DIE ON CORSS AND RISE ON THIRD DAY SO YOU HAVE A NEW LIFE AND BE CLEANSED UP. LIVE IN POWER OF HOLY SPIRIT AND OBEY THE GOSPEL AND TURN FROM ALL KNOWN SINS...COME AND RECEIVE JESUS LOVE IN YOUR HEART!

      February 19, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
    • Guest

      This world is a flawed and broken place. You'd have to be in a coma not to agree with that. For those who have accepted Christ, it is their temporary home. We know there is something far greater awaiting us in the afterlife. "No mere man has ever seen heard or even imagined what wonderful things God has prepared for those who love Him". I Cor 2: 8-10 "God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in Heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay." I Peter 1:4 So, in light of the hope we have of something far greater, we have a better outlook and perspective on the suffering we do go through in this world. We are not afraid of death. And our faith sustains us through whatever suffering we do have. Christ said we WOULD have suffering in this world. "In this world you will have tribulation....but take heart, I have overcome the world". Therefore, Christians–true Christians–have a different perspective on life in general than a non-believer.

      February 20, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  6. Name*Chedar

    The purpose in life is learning the Sutras of the Buddha and achieve Buddhahood. There are no Sutras that exist in other realms. Only this Human realm has the Buddha's teaching. Don't loose this very opportunity.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Bill

      Spoken by someone who doesn't understand Buddhism. We Buddhists aren't evangelical – and samsara occurs whether you believe in it or not! The dharma is here when you are ready – no need to be led to it.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • miller

      "There are no Sutras that exist in other realms." That is a completely absurd statement; have you read the Amitabha Sutra?

      Bill is absolutely correct in his criticism of your post(s) btw. Tone down the preaching Name*Chedar; even in the West that's not the Buddhist way. You are acting like an idiot!

      February 19, 2012 at 5:35 pm |
  7. Emily

    Jesus is not so impressed when we preach to thousands as he is when we give hope, kindness, and unconditional love in places of frailty and in the act of dying. Jesus was 'made mature through suffering" (Heb. 2:10) and that is the gift he gives us as well in the midst of struggle. Here is a man telling a a simple, honest story "full of grace and truth" ...like Jesus.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Manny

      If God is all loving, why is there so much pain in world?
      If God is all powerful, why doesn’t He stop the world’s suffering?
      If God created everything, isn’t He responsible for creating evil?

      In this new message series, Pastor Miles tackles these difficult questions by looking to Scripture to reveal the truth of who God is in the midst of trial, pain, and evil. He challenges us to put aside our preconceived notions about God’s responsibility with regard to these “bad things,” and to shape our response to them appropriately.

      Evil: moral intent to rebel against God

      Trials: things that happen that we don’t like (such as not getting the raise you think you deserve)

      1. God created everything good.

      You may not agree with the concept of creation, but at least we can all agree that the things in Genesis 1 do exist and are good as the Bible says they are.

      Light is good, as it helps us to see our way and makes things grow. The ocean is beautiful and provides food and oxygen. The trees and plants convert nutrients from the soil to sustain our bodies. Whether you believe in creation or not, we can see that nature is good and coordinated, interdependent and synergistic, not corrupt and evil.

      2. God created man with the freedom to choose good or evil.

      In Genesis 2, God makes woman to give Adam love and appropriate companionship. He has made a beautiful world for Adam and Eve to enjoy and populate. He only warns them to stay away from one tree, but they may roam and enjoy the rest of the world to their hearts’ content for all time. Is that a good deal? Adam and Eve have everything they need to thrive and be happy.

      God has blessed you, too, more than you can imagine and given you many opportunities to enjoy your life. But just like Adam and Eve, we aren’t just happy with what we have. Somehow amid God’s glorious provision, we still find a way to get into trouble!

      In Genesis 3, the devil comes along to deny the truth God has spoken to Adam and Eve, and in their freedom, they choose to believe the devil over God. Thus, sin enters the world.

      Doing things on our own and rejecting God are the foundation for evil. God has provided abundant opportunities for us to be blessed, but people choose greed and evil over and over again. If there’s so much food in world, why are people starving? Because there are corrupt governments! God didn’t create starvation. He provided the earth and the food, not the oppression.

      3. Man rebelled against God and chose evil, which leads to death.

      Every one of us will experience evil around us, but we shouldn’t blame God for the evil of man. The pain that we receive on earth is less than we deserve. In fact, He can bring about good from evil. If you cling to God, in His goodness He can carry you through anything and even bring glory and sanctification through it.

      No, God is not fair, but actually more merciful and generous than you can imagine, as evidenced by the fact that you are alive today. Have you ever told a lie? Gossiped? Fallen prey to pride? Lust? Cheating? Jealousy? All of us have, of course, as a result of our fallen condition. And the penalty for even one of these sins is death – eternal separation from our holy and perfect God.

      Therefore, you don’t want God to be fair. You may be hurting and suffering terrible trials. But just like as a pregnant woman endures a painful labor to reap the joyful reward of holding her new baby, we can suffer the pain of this life knowing that in the end, we will have joy and glory in eternal connection with God if we choose relationship with Him.

      4. Man has the freedom to trust God to guide us through our pain.

      Just as you have the freedom to reject God, you have the freedom to trust Him.

      You wouldn’t want others to love you because they have to, but because they want to, right? God is the same way; He made love and relationships! God presents to us Himself and his creation and all He wants is a relationship with us, but He will never force Himself upon us. Love is only love if given freely.

      When you reject God, you have darkness, but when you accept Him, you have light, completion, and joy.

      As Pastor Miles said earlier, we are living on borrowed time; we are all sinners deserving while we complain about our pain and shake our fists at God, He goes on loving us, having mercy on us, and giving us life. Therefore, use the freedom God has given you before He returns and the freedom is taken away. Surrender your burdens and pain to Him and embrace the relationship He offers, knowing that you are blessed beyond what you deserve!

      February 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • michael

      @Manny – you start off with three questions and then dont answer then in the least. If god is the beginning and the end, sustains all things and nothing exists without continued support of god then indeed god is the fount of evil. According to the bible Satan fell long before he created earth and people so it was some fabled choice for evil that created something. Its not enough to say that choice created evil. God is all things. You have to just admit that it makes no sense, call it a mystery if you will, but there is death and hard actions of people against others in the world and its not possible that that exists apart from god sustaining it. You cant explain that, all you can do is start from the place of "god seems to say he's not responsible" + "god says he is everything" + "brokenness exists" – - – nothing explains all three, no matter what mental gymnastics you employ. A dualistic religion always faces this problem.

      February 29, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  8. Ben

    Is your god all-loving and all-caring? have you ever been to a children's hospital?

    February 19, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Keith

      Let me know if you get an answer to this I have asked the same question hundreds of times and NEVER GET A REPLY.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:36 pm |
    • Dale

      How could love for God be honest/true if He were to show you His awesome power like you are asking. You would be nothing more than His servant. Love cannot be forced.

      Quit making excuses for your selfish existence.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
    • ANONYMOUS

      GOD IS LOVING AND LOVE ALL MANKIND. WE HAVE NO RIGHT TO STIFF OUR NECKS TO LORD. HE WEEPS FOR ALL THOSE WHO REJECT HIM EVEN THOUGH WE GIVE MESSAGE OF SALVATION OF HOPE NAD LOVE TO PEOPLE. GOD IS JUST AND IN ORDER FOR GOD TO BE JUST HE IS ALSO HOLY. HE NEVER MADE HELL FOR HUMANS. HE MADE IT FOR DEMONS. BUT HUMANS CHOSE TO DO EVIL AND MAKE satan there god AND NOT MAKE JESUS AS LROD AND SAVIOR. SO NOW WE HAVE WHAT WE HAVE. JESUS LOVES THE CHILDREN AND SO DOES GOD. IN FACT IF A CHILD DIES AT A VERY YOUNG AGE THEY WILL BE WITH JESUS AND THE ANGELS CARRY THEM UP IN A BASKET UP TO HEAVEN THE BABIES AND STUFF CUZ JESUS LOVES THEMA ND TEHRE IS A SPECIAL PLACE IN HEAVEN FOR THEM. HEAVEN IS A MORE PEACEFUL PLACE. BUT DEATH WILL HAPPEN AND ITY IS ONCE APPOINTED TO MAN WE ALL HAVE A DAY. BUT IF YOU ARE OLDER AND HAVE UNDERSTANDING THEN YOU KNOW GOSPEL NOW......YOU KNOW HOW TO GET SAVED. ONCE YOU KNOW ABOUT HEAVEN AND HELL AND UNDERSTAND IT THEN YOU ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE. JESUS WEEPS FOR ALL THOSE THAT CHOOSE HELL. HE DOESNT WANT THEM TO GO THERE. HE WANTS THEM TO BE SAVED BUT YOU GOD IS ALSO HOLY AND AS A HOLY GOD HE CANNOT TOLERATE SIN THIS WORLD SO CHOOSE CHRIST AND FOLLOW CHRIST AND SIN NO MORE. NOT ALL SUFFERING IS OF GOD. SATAN IS OUT TO STEAL KILL AND DESTROY AND MAKE PEOPEL SICK AND HAVE TERRIBLE DISESES. NOT ASSUME EVERYTHING IS OF GOD. SATAN AND HIS DEMONS ARE RUNNGIN ON THIS EARTH TTRYING TO KILL PEOPEL AND TRYING TO KEEP YOU FROM RECEIVING GOD AND HATE GOD. RECEIVE GODS LOVE. BUT GOD IS ALSO HOLY GOD AND YOU MUST CHOOSE TO UNDERSTAND YOUR SIN AND TURN FROM IT. IF HE IS HOLY HE CANNOT ALLOW SIN TO ENTER HIS KINGDOM. SO CHOOSE THIS DAY TO RECEIVE FORGIVENESS OF CHRIST OFFERED TO YOU. GODLOVESTHEWORLD.COM

      February 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • John

      Yes I believe God does care. Now the god we created for ourselves in the OT doesn't quite seem that caring does he? Killing, exterminating women and children even infants. How horrible this desert dwelling fire breathing volcano god seems.

      March 1, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
  9. Nicholas Robinson

    When you were brought screaming into this life there was no god, only your mother to take care of you who released you from Eternity. And when she came into this world, there was no god, only HER mother to take care of HER, who released HER from Eternity.

    When you die, there will be no god, only Eternity to take care of you. To me, Eternity IS God. Who knows. Eternity might arbitrarily, randomly, decide to release you again once, or maybe ten million times. Or never. But Eternity is no god. And Eternity doesn't care or not care.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Nicholas Robinson

      Pardon me, I said "to me, Eternity IS God" and then turned around and said there wasn't any god (true). But what I know you know i meant was, Eternity is the final, random, ruleless, voiceless, choiceless, victimeless, judgmentless, care-less Arbiter of the universe's fate (if there is such a thing) and not a god (lowercase "g") that denotes some little deity invented by humanity that bumbles around everywhere killing people at will and creating maroons that spew its filth.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:25 am |
  10. woodrow

    The preachers role is to encourage fellowship. It was never anything more or less. There is no pinnacle of achievement.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  11. Tom

    How nice for Mr. Dobson to have a partner by his side as he goes through his final times, without care of such mundane trivialities as hospital visitation rights, life insurance, estate taxes, inheritance, and all that mundane physical world garbage.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Well said. Wonder how he'd feel if he'd been denied the opportunity to marry the person he loved as he denied it to others.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Dale

      What are you talking about dude?

      February 19, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • tallulah13

      I believe, Dale, that he is talking about equality, and about how Mr. Dobson worked with the "Moral Majority™" to deny equal rights to gays and lesbians who wish to marry their partners.

      Even now, though Mr. Dobson has denounced his part in the "Moral Majority™", I can find nothing to indicate he changed his mind about extending fair and equal rights to same se.x couples. I guess he just didn't that far in his personal enlightenment.

      February 19, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
  12. JJ

    Poor fool finally found prayer is nothing more than a great way to feel like you're making a difference in the world by doing squat to improve it. I was already dead and got yanked back. Wait until it happens to him... it will be a huge letdown, just as Falwell found out when he kicked the bucket. And that is a good thing for people like this.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Therese

      How do you know that he was not doing lots of things to improve the world in ways you approve – presumably materially, or through research or good works, or just kindness to others – BEFORE his illness? And he seems to be comforting others in a dark point in their lives while going through his own right now. That is certainly better than wallowing in self-pity, or in bitterness and gloating at his presumed disillusionment, as you are in your post. You have some growing to do in spirit and in compasssion, sir.

      With respect and compassion for Mr. Dobson, from someone who has seen ALS up close and personal.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:27 pm |
  13. Don'tBelieveTheLiesOfReligion

    Reality intrudes into a life of fantasy. It would have been better had he spent his obvious talents for communication and persuasion on truly trying to help others, rather than lying to them and taking their money.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Dale

      Your faith that there is no God is just as much of a stretch as this man's faith that there is one. The only difference is that you live with anger in your heart as you spew hate all over the comment section of this article. He, on the other hand, spent his whole life loving and encouraging other people. Congrats on being another hater.

      February 19, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • SoSueMe

      Dale, you need to bone up on the concepts of atheism and belief. Not believing in Santa Claus does not require the same amount of faith as believing in Santa Claus.

      February 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
  14. SLR3

    Buought me to tears! Why? Well, I have just recently gone from near suicide 18 months ago, loosing everything I've worked 30 years for, to finding my way when there was only darkness and despare. I am now living my dream as a blessing from the Heavens, energized in a way that there are no words. LIVE LIFE, NOW! Because it will be much a different thing in the end when you get there!!! Just be a Good person, love the World we are in, one another and Love Yourself.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  15. reason

    February 19, 2012 at 11:12 am |
  16. Bonnie

    I just visited his former church's website and also considered the fact that he made money off the word of God. 1st Corinthians 11:27-30 – "Consequently whoever eats the loaf or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be guilty respecting the body and the blood of the Lord. That is why many among you are sickly, and quite a few are sleeping (in death)."

    February 19, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Stabmaster Arson

      you are insane

      February 19, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • denise1970

      oh please...death is a natural course of life......i know people who have been ill, died etc and didnt work for a church, make money off of the lords name etc,and lived life as good, giving people....if you know ur bible so well, u would also realize that God doesnt punsh people like that....i found the story very touching,no matter what,and im sorry for anyone who suffers in thsi world

      February 19, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • Linda

      Wow, Bonnie. So he made money? Are you saying that every pastor that gets paid is going to be sick? I attended that church for 15 years. Ed Dobson didn't make money off the word of God. He worked hard caring for people, counseling people, visiting the sick, marrying people, burying people, teaching people, etc. He just happened to use the Bible as a guideline for his life and thought it important enough to share it with others. You are being extremely judgmental of a man you do not know.

      March 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
  17. zaphod

    I am glad I am an atheist. If this happens to me , I will terminate my life in the most peaceful way when it becomes too much to bear. Stupid ape like creatures we are and we think that we are the center of the universe. Have you ever looked at a dead body and realized that it looks like a toy that ran out of battery power? Don't sweat it too much, enjoy it while it lasts.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Paul

      This is why so many people reject atheists. You sound just as sanctimonious and haughty as the most far right evangelist, congratulations.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Stabmaster Arson

      Paul the atheist population is growing faster and faster as christianity dwindles. Who is rejecting atheists?

      February 19, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • Keith

      Did you see the reply by "Paul" typical of the hypocrites that exist in the religious community. It is OK for them to be haughty, dogmatic, hypocritical, angry and insulting but as soon as someone else does the same thing then we are deluged by hatred and vitriol.
      When will these people see the light.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:40 pm |
  18. Texanonymouse

    I had a family member who lived with ALS for years. I now live with one experiencing multiple myasthenic crises. While lifestyle changes are impactive, they have not decreased the grace and mercy of our Lord, nor lessened His love and our response. Death is not feared, though our reaction to the methodology fluctuates.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Derp

      We'll wait and see how you feel when it's you personally . .

      February 19, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Keith

      I am sorry for the ALS sufferers and I send them my own personal blessing. The sanctimonious claptrap from this person is sickening.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm |
  19. palintwit

    If Rick Santorum gets in the White House, we're sure to have more of the baby jesus in our daily lives. Whether we want it or not. Maybe he'll see to it that we get more nascar in our daily lives as well. More jesus ! More nascar ! More jesus ! Yeehaawwwwwwww !!!!

    February 19, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Name*Chedar

      When Santorum gets into the White House – the definition of life where it starts is when a person gets an erection – Bill Maher.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:10 am |
    • Dean

      Sounds like you could use a little more of the baby Jesus in your life.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Mara

      with the help of Our Dear Eight Pound, Six Ounce, Newborn Baby Jesus, donít even know a word yet, just a little infant, so cuddly, but still omnipotent, lying there in your...your little ghost manger, lookin' at your Baby Einstein developmental...videos, learnin' 'bout shapes and colors...

      With the help of sweet little baby jesus, we'll get more NASCAR :)

      February 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  20. Name*Chedar

    "Further, when a person is on the verge of death, at the last instant of life, when all faculties scatter and he departs from his relatives, when all power and status are lost and nothing survives, when his prime minister, great officials, his inner court and outer cities, his elephants, horses, carts, and treasuries of precious jewels can no longer accompany him – an excerpt from Avamtasaka Sutra, Chapter 40 part two.

    February 19, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • BL

      A singularly beautiful comment. His only path is total acceptance and knowledge that what he truly is, is timeless and eternal. Take comfort in the words of Siddharta Guatama:" This very body is the Buddha, this very place the lotus paradise."

      February 19, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • ArchieDeBunker

      Dear Chedar,

      There's one thing wrong with what the old Buddah said (or didn't say). The phrase "and nothing survives" should have one word added to it – the word "earthly" should be added. Jesus Christ made it perfectly clear during his life, and by his death and ressurection, that one thing does survive – the human soul survives. And since the human soul is the most glorious of our possessions – so much so that it surpasses by lmany magnitudes the totality of all our other possessions – the loss of possessions is really not such a troublesome thing after all. I guess that's what Mr. Dobson has been saying.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Don'tBelieveTheLiesOfReligion

      There's nothing to suggest that any human is in any sense "timeless and eternal". All evidence points to the fact that we are just like all other things that live; brief and based solely on our physical existence. You live and you die – game over. No "soul", no "miracles", no magic – just reality...deal with it. All the epistemological pain those who have been victimized by religions suffer is unnecessary. There's nothing to worry about when you die because there will be no more "you", just as there was no "you" before you were born and gradually became self-aware.

      February 19, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Keith

      Dear archiedebunker, what utter claptrap, JC was no better than the proverbial snake oil salesmen. If you believe any of that bilge then I am truly sorry for the shallow fearful life that you lead. In the words of the prophet GO GET A LIFE.

      February 19, 2012 at 2:47 pm |
    • ICARE

      I'll have you in my prayers whether you like it or not. That is why we are here in this imperfect life. He is the truth the life and the way. I took me a while to learn – but I have. Dr. Dobson is an awesome man of truth. I have learned from him what is important in this lifetime. Thank you God for your patience and your love.

      February 20, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
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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 and Eric Marrapodi with daily contributions from CNN's worldwide newsgathering team.