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Culture Friday: A family blindsided

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: A family blindsided

Former NFL player Michael Oher of The Blind Side fame sues to end conservatorship of the family that adopted him out of foster care


Michael Oher is selected by the Baltimore Ravens during the first round of the NFL football draft April 25, 2009, in New York. Associated Press/Photo by Jason DeCrow

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 18th of August, 2023.

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

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

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

JOHN STONESTREET: Good morning.

EICHER: John, a strange and very sad story this week, I’m sure you’ve followed it, involving the Tuohy family and the pro-football player Michael Oher. The story told in the Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side” that became a successful Hollywood film. Here we had a great, positive adoption story that’s turning out to be the opposite: not great and not positive. How bad is this?

STONESTREET: I think it's hard to tell. I mean, I think the most important thing that we have seen, and that we can conclude is that what we see in a story has a lot more to do with the assumptions that we're looking through than anything else. I mean, people are already absolutely certain that either, you know, Michael Oher was the victim of a family with a white savior complex, or is completely ungrateful and lying about the whole thing. And anyone who claims to know what the punchline is doesn't, I mean, we just don't know, we don't know the backdrop, we don't have that story. You can go by the movie, but movies don't always, you know, track reality. And that seems to be the thing that triggered all this at the very beginning. This is a, you know, a disagreement that has gone public and has been for a long time. And it's tragic. I think that at the very least what we can say is, it's equally wrong to romanticize adoption, and to demonize adoption as some sort of, you know, form of cultural imperialism. And look,  the world's a much better place when families realize that they have a responsibility and an opportunity to bless those who don't have the same sort of family situation. And at the same time that even our best actions can be, you know, driven by bad motives. The thing is, adoption has been one of the most significant long term goods that Christianity has brought to the world, and it is a Christian thing. You trace the basically the sort of language that Paul uses in the New Testament to describe how we have been adopted into God's family and grafted in and some of that language that describes the gospel. And this is when it enters culture, this is when it enters the world, this very idea that outside of a birthright, others can be embraced. And so that's why it's one of the most important things and this kind of woke attack that's happened on adoption. I'm not saying that Michael was guilty of that again, I don't know. But it's fitting that narrative for an awful lot of people who think that it's fundamentally wrong to have that sort of kind of an integrative approach to family ever. And that's a tragic way of preventing an awful lot of people from being helped. On the other hand, it doesn't help that romanticize this. I mean, we know the stories, people who sign up to be adoptive parents sign up for something that is very difficult. And it doesn't always have that happy ending that we want it to.

EICHER: Kristen Waggoner, the lawyer who runs Alliance Defending Freedom, writing in WORLD Opinions, touches on the Michigan legislation targeting counseling for those with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria, targeting conversations between counselors and clients. Waggoner says it’s not just Michigan: “In Indiana, for example, two parents lost custody of their child after they refused to deny the child’s biological sex. In California, lawmakers are weighing a bill that would make it harder for parents to win a custody dispute if he or she does not affirm the child’s claimed “gender identity.” A similar bill was proposed last year in Virginia. And a few months ago, in Oregon, a would-be adoptive mother was told that she is unfit to adopt or foster because she wouldn’t support a child’s gender transition or take the child to a pride parade.” So here’s my point and I’d like your comment: You can win all day long at the Supreme Court, but these same battles have to be fought over and over. And she kind of makes that point, too, that it’s just going to require us privately and publicly to contend and contend again. There’s no end zone and no spiking the football.

STONESTREET: Well, I think she's exactly right, as usual, on a number of levels, the first is that a lot of what we're seeing right now, in terms of conscience rights and freedom of religion is taking the form of, of needing to protect freedom of speech. And the reason that freedom of speech is so closely connected with the way that religious freedom has been attacked over the last really 20 years is that it's really been attacked by, not by directly attacking it, but by trying to shrink it down to, you know, the ability to believe whatever you want in your own head, your own heart, maybe your own house of worship, and your own home. But not outside of that, not in terms of how you order your public life. And the most obvious example that you are ordering your public life around your deeply held beliefs is that you're actually saying it out loud. And the ability to say it out loud is really significant. And so that's why so  many of these cases that ADF and First Liberty and some of these other organizations are, are dealing with have to do with speech and expression. And we're going to have to work that out. And we can again, all thank, Justice Kennedy, who was quite sure that his initial decision to expand the definition of marriage, which in effect changed. It wouldn't have any of these consequences, because we'd all be super nice to each other and hold no animus and it wouldn't, you know, compel anyone's conscience. And all of that was just, you know, he was in a fantasy world when he wrote all that. And because it's exactly turned out as many folks predicted, and even worse.

REICHARD: John, I saw your piece in Breakpoint about the Boy Scouts. The Scouts held its National Jamboree in West Virginia this year, for the first time in six years. What struck you about that?

STONESTREET: Well, I think the first thing that struck was the first thing that The Washington Post article highlighted, which is the LGBTQ presence here. And, of course, we have been assured at various stages, that the Boy Scouts are still just exactly what they've always been. And there have been sign after sign after sign that it's not, and every time somebody's brought this up, you know, we've been assured by the leadership or, you know, Advocates and Defenders that, oh, no, everything's fine. And then it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. The story of this is that this only makes sense that the prominent place of the LGBTQ presence there is kind of the natural progression of how this organization, which has been incredibly important in American history, and I can't stress this enough, you know, the sort of intermediate institution, the sort of shaping, you know, cultural institution that has been highlighted throughout American history as being a way of forming strong citizens and, and allowing people to become the sort of people who govern themselves and contribute to society. There's not been a more important organization in the history of the United States, than the non-governmental institution, than the Boy Scouts except the church itself. And that's if you put it all together, you look at the number of congressional leaders, business leaders, Supreme Court justices, vice presidents and presidents. There's not an Ivy League school that can claim the sort of connection that the Boy Scouts have. And yet this year's jamboree was a shell of its former self. And what it's now chosen to highlight is anything but the sort of growing young men that it's always been known for. So this is a long devolution in the wrong direction. And it continues, and it's sad.

REICHARD: Yeah, I grew up with the the adage “Scouts Honor.” We don't hear that anymore.

STONESTREET: No, it doesn't mean anything anymore. Right? It doesn't, unfortunately.

REICHARD: What lessons might Christians learn from the whole debacle with the Scouts?

STONESTREET: You know, I think that certainly the church should play that role in terms of shaping young men. And I also am grateful for things like Trail Life USA and others that are actually providing I think, substitutes. And I think a lot of times we want to get into cultural institutions and reform them, but a lot of times we have to replace them. And it seems like there's a real opportunity here that's being seized by a lot of Christians to do that. So I think that's the most important lesson and fundamentally what you actually say you believe matters as an institution. Pay attention to that and pay close attention to it.

EICHER: All right. John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center, and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks John.

STONESTREET: Thank you both.


WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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