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Culture Friday: A bizarre cultural moment


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: A bizarre cultural moment

Stories from 2022 point to problems with fundamental worldview issues

President Joe Biden signs the Respect for Marriage Act, Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington. Associated Press Photo/Patrick Semansky

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 30th day of December, 2022.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday!

Joining us now is John Stonestreet, president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Morning, John!


EICHER: Well, here we are with mere hours remaining before the last grains of sand pass on the year that was 2022 and I thought it’d be good to take a look back.

2022 was the year we had a war break out in Europe. We had another year in which mass shootings made headlines around an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, a Fourth of July parade in Chicago.

We read about supply chains, quiet quitting, and border crises.

Fentanyl deaths, sexual abuse in the church, and a pushback on Covid regulations.

Gaslighting and goblin-mode were words of the year, depending upon whether you asked Oxford or Merriam-Webster. If you asked Dictionary.com, the word of the year was woman, and I think we all know the reason why. People had trouble giving a definition.

We had Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health. We had a new Supreme Court justice, and we had another election.

We said goodbye to a monarch who stood for a lot of history.

John, all of this in its own way is culture. I imagine the reversal of Roe versus Wade has to be not just the story of the year but the story of the last 50. What’s your year-in-review top story?

STONESTREET: Well, if you're asking me for one story, I'd have to choose the Dobbs decision just because of what it means culturally speaking. And potentially, in other words, now there is a huge roadblock to the defensive life that's out of the way. But if it really if you're asking me what changed, the most Dobbs didn't change that much. And I think one of the stories of the year is what we learned post-Dobbs in the midterms and beyond. But almost all of these headlines point to something deeper. And I think that's what's really important here. It's not the headlines themselves. It's not the stories themselves. It's what the stories actually uncover. Now that row is out of the way, we have come to see, but in particular, in Michigan, and even in Montana, where voters refused to pass a law defending and saving babies that were born alive after an abortion, not to mention some other states like Kansas, we have a huge worldview problem when it comes to the issue of life. If we thought the Supreme Court was now going to settle this issue by getting rid of Roe v Wade through Dobbs, and we were just flat out wrong, and the Supreme Court can't settle this, the culture settles this, given wherever it is on fundamental questions about life and meaning and purpose and morality and human value and dignity. The fact that the we can't define what a woman is, that's a weird headline that points to a much deeper reality that Carl Trueman and others have written about in terms of how we have so thoroughly misunderstood what it means to be human. And we think actually, that what our feelings imply is not just what we feel, but actually what the nature of reality is, itself. Look, we could also talk about the headline having to do with the death of Queen Elizabeth, that's an amazing historical marker. And yet the headlines almost tend to be, you know, a, a kind of critical theory mood-ish sort of treatment of Meghan Markel, as opposed to what this particular monarch accomplished, right. But you know, I gotta be honest, when you threw them all together. That's pretty amazing that all of this happened in 2022. You know, we should all be exhausted going from one of these headlines to the next to the next to the next to the next.

BROWN: I'm out of breath myself. Well, as the only woman in this conversation today, John, I made a mental note of the word woman being the dictionary.com word of the year. And, you know, I think it's in a way fitting that one of the other dictionaries chose gaslighting as word of the year. So do you think 2022 goes down as the year we all were gaslit on the question, what is a woman?

STONESTREET: It's, you know, again, this points to something so fundamentally bizarre about this particular cultural moment, and it's something actually that Romans one talks about, is that when you choose to worship something other than God, the creation rather than the Creator, then you just lose touch, you lose any sense of, of permanence, any fundamental reference point by which to define reality and to orient yourself and Of course, this is stuff that was talked about by some of the 19th century philosophers, most notably Frederick Nietzsche. And we seem to be kind of in the full on Wake of what he predicted in something like the parable of the madman. But you know, I also wonder if there's going to be a push back in 2023. Let's, let's, let's schedule a date for a year from now and see if we've settled on this definition of woman. The reason I asked that is because I just kind of wonder if this has just gone too far, the number of places right now that it is being exposed and proven where two things are happening. Number one, the overt hyper sexualization of children in the name of men claiming to be women. And number two, the the absolute, presuming of things that belong to women, spaces, positions, titles, rights, and areas such as education, and in the government, and so on. And the actual jumping past any sort of rationale, and just kind of making a claim that anyone who's not ready to go along with this bizarre agenda is somebody who's bad. I mean, this is just really crazy. It just is. And I don't say that in any sort of rude way, I'm not trying to call anyone else that, you know, clearly, there's mental disorders involved in this whole thing. And I'm not trying to make light of any of that. I'm just saying, This is so far over the top. And we seem to be hitting the bounds of what our culture is willing to accept. And that's what culture does culture is made of human expression. And then culture takes on a life of its own. And it kind of serves as a gatekeeper of what we are going to accept as a people and what we aren't going to accept as a people. And I've just got to say, I think we've hit the limit. So that's the deal a year from now, we'll gather together somebody, remember, we had this conversation, and we'll just see if the culture is going to rein us back in on this kind of insanity.

EICHER: All right, I've got it on the calendar, John 12/30. So December, the 30th, of 23, we'll be coming back. Hey, I think we also saw this year in 2022, Elon Musk emerge as a significant cultural player. And in a way, it seems as though he changed sides. But I wonder what you think is the impact this year of the revelations out of Twitter now that Musk has made them public, the Twitter files, what do you think about that?

STONESTREET: Well, you know, I think that's something too, that points to a deeper reality, which we're coming out of a two or three year stretch, where the culture has just absolutely lost any and all trust and public officials. You know, we've always had a healthy skepticism with state officials, that's just kind of part of it. This is just made that worse. We came out of COVID. Now there's a skepticism of medical professionals. And, you know, so called, you know, experts, we're tired of hearing the science says this is the same science that says the sort of insanity we talked about in the last question, and then turns around and says, you know, here's what you have got to believe. And here's how you got to behave. And Musk is, you know, seems to not be that sort of person. I don't know that he's changed sides any more than like a Bill Maher has changed sides, right? Bill Maher are now his must watch TV, at least, you know, the clips of what he said the night before. And you know, I can't imagine 15 years ago, finding myself agreeing with anything that that Bill Maher said, of substance. So what happened, what happened is that the cultural left has gone so far left that, you know, all kinds of people are to the right of them, including the Elon Musk and the Bill Maher's and the other. So I just think that's really been the big shift that we have seen take place. Musk is a fascinating character. I think he's going to go down in some ways, in our history books, like some of the other, you know, remarkable individuals that America has produced in the sciences and invention and business. I mean, you can just see the names he thinks differently. He's an interesting figure too, in light of what Ross Douthat wrote about a couple years ago and his book on the decadence of America, decadence not being decay as much as just basically stagnation, nothing new, no new ideas, no new anything. And Musk's is a obvious and very public exception to that and by you know, and he's also creating just havoc in California because of course, he was pretty popular in the early days of electric cars and everyone bought a Tesla and now you can't You're not allowed to have a Tesla because that means you like Elon Musk so but those poor folks in California are really you know in trouble and so you No I'll stop being sarcastic Happy New Year.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

BROWN: Thanks, John, and Happy New Year!

STONESTREET: Thank you both … and happy new year!

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