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Culture Friday: A steady drumbeat


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: A steady drumbeat

Businesses pull back on Pride Month celebrations, policy battles over boys in girls spaces, and the importance of moral education after Dobbs

The Pittsburgh Pride Parade 2024 on the Andy Warhol Bridge, June 1 Associated Press/Photo by Gene J. Puskar

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 5th of July, 2024.

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.

A little celebration today. All those flashes you saw and booms you heard last night, that had to have been us! We are so happy to report that the June Giving Drive was an unqualified success. Thanks to you, we met an audacious goal. If you remember Andrew Belz joining us last week and saying down to the last few days we needed $400-thousand to meet the goal. You blew right by that.

BROWN: And I am reliably told, because of postal delays, checks arriving in the mail postmarked the last day of June are still arriving, so we’re still counting.

But you’ve done so much, we can already say this June Giving Drive has been one of the biggest we’ve ever had,

EICHER: that’s right and so we’re going to get busy putting it to work and making this program better and more than it’s ever been. So thank you, thank you so much for supporting us. We’re humbled and we’re grateful.

Well, speaking of fireworks, it’s time for Culture Friday, and joining us now is John Stonestreet. He’s president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast.

Morning, John!


BROWN: John, this is our first conversation since the end of June, deemed Pride Month by the cultural power centers, and I want to quote one of our WORLD Opinions writers, Bethel McGrew, who says this is the “Pride Month that wasn’t.”

She pointed to dialed-back pride promotion by Target and other progressive retailers and says she thinks we may have reached a cultural tipping point.

I’d point to one other thing. Just a few days ago the rural retailer Tractor Supply released a statement saying, “We have heard from customers that we have disappointed them. We have taken this feedback to heart.” They go on to list five ways the company is making changes, including: breaking ties with the Human Rights Campaign, ending pride festival sponsorships, and eliminating DEI roles in the company.

So John, was this the Pride Month that wasn’t? Has something changed?

STONESTREET: Yeah, I think there's a lot here. And I'm not sure that it was the Pride Month that wasn't. I think, though, that there was one segment of culture that was a lot quieter than previous years. I mean, look, if this is what qualifies as a quiet Pride Month, then that says a lot more about previous Pride Months than it does about this one. It was still plenty loud in almost every segment of culture. The big exception was in the business segment of culture. Now listen, there's different ways people understand culture. You can divide it up into like the political sphere and the art sphere and the education sphere and the religious sphere and the home sphere and the business sphere. And if you do that, when the business sphere gets behind a cause, it's really powerful, because that's where the money is. And the business sphere can touch all the other spheres.

There's been a group of people, many of them Christians, who have been trying to highlight different corporations, like, I know the HRC seems really scary, but you don't have to be scared of them. That's the Tractor Supply story. Praise God for this great work by these organizations. I know many of them, and they're just this is really important work that they are doing.

But one of the reasons that we mistake and think this is quiet is because many of us get to June and somebody says it's Pride Month, and we're like, what's all the other months of the year? Pride Month isn't loud because the drum beat never stops everywhere else, especially in the arts and the entertainment. So when it's just a little bit quieter, and by the way, I think there's another piece of evidence for this, and I'll end with this.

Pride parades became a thing practicing some agenda items that were put forth in a book back in the 80s called After the Ball. One of those was, we've got to calm down. We can't have any of this public perversion. We've got to be victims, and we have to control ourselves in public. Now, it's really, really hard anymore to make the case that this is a movement made up of victims. They're the victimizers.

Number two, I don't know if you saw clips, if you did not see clips, please do not Google it, but in San Francisco and in Portland and elsewhere, the commitments to be on their best behavior during these celebrations, apparently has been is over, and what happened was everybody was on their best behavior so that they could get the kids, so that children would be brought by their parents. Children are still being brought by their parents, but what they experienced in San Francisco was nothing more than aggressive child abuse. That signals to everyone that they think that they're in a new safe territory.

Now, do I think this movement has overstepped its bounds, Target and so on? Absolutely. Do I think this signals the end? Nowhere near it yet.

EICHER: A couple of Supreme Court items I’d like to bring up, John, and I’ll begin with the decisions on the power of the administrative state, the regulators, this term. I’ll begin by saying, being Mary Reichard’s editor all these years, some of her vast legal knowledge has rubbed off on me, and the term “Chevron deference” is a thing I understood before the term re-entered the public conversation. But with the reversal of Chevron, that legal doctrine that allowed regulators to write most of the rules that affect us on a day-to-day basis, instead of Congress, there’s a cultural issue here. After Chevron now, there’s now a very good legal argument that reinterpretations of Title IX—allowing men to compete in women’s sports—may end up getting reversed.

But I’ll ask how you think this might play out. We’ve obviously seen a backlash to pro-life after the Supreme Court reversal of Roe v. Wade. I wonder if the same thing might happen here. What do you think?

STONESTREET: Yeah, because I think the regulations that matter here are not just those being imposed by the Biden administration's reinterpretation of Title IX. That's one face of it. The other face of it is the state by state legislative issues where you actually have now states moving in opposite direction, states moving to say, No, we are going to protect our female athletes, particularly our high schoolers. We are going to protect their ability to compete, and we're going to protect their safety and privacy. And so all this sort of stuff is going to be squashed under our watch.

I think we're, you know, almost half the states now have done this. And in fact, I just saw a map of it this past week, and it's like all the states in the middle are protecting women and girls and their ability to compete and have privacy, and all the states on the outside are not. And it is, of course, Florida being the exception, and also the southeast. But man, especially when you talk about New England and you talk about the west coast and you talk about some of these western states, I do think we are seeing this. And we first noted that it was, as you mentioned, something that was emerging out of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and the state by state battle over Dobbs, that now we have a nation divided state by state over an issue of incredible moral consequence, and it seems that this is the way this is going as well.

So this Supreme Court decision might reign in the federal legislative rule makers that have been imposing new laws, and that's why we're also dizzy from one administration to the next. But it doesn't do anything, in a sense, to prevent the state level reinterpretation of this. And you have states now, and at least lawmakers openly flirting, not only in allowing this sort of competition of boys in girls’ spaces, but also eliminating parents from the process, so inserting themselves, because the only way you can ultimately do this is to insert the state and state officials in between the children and their parents. And this is a sort of language that we hear, and I think that's where this is going to go is again, a state to state battle.

EICHER: The other Supreme Court case, John, real quick, the emergency abortion decision tossed out on a technicality, basically, but it did require Idaho to have to scale back from a no exceptions abortion law. Do you think pro-lifers may be going too far in some cases? Is the strategy too much aimed at setting up challenges instead of writing laws a little more carefully? What's your sense?

STONESTREET: Yeah, it's a difficult one to really make sense of, honestly. I would say that there's real work to be done in clarifying, particularly the laws that apply to medical professionals and their care for women. Now I don't think that there is anything here other than some theater happening on behalf of medical professionals who are wanting to really push forward abortion rights, or maybe, in the best case scenario, ignorance of really what the law requires, and just not wanting to get their hands dirty and going, Well, I'm not going well, I'm not going to get myself in trouble, maybe a good bit of that as well. But there needs to be an awful lot of educating that happens, and there also needs to be great care now, as these protections are rebuilt into law.

I mean, look, it is something, isn't it, that we go back 150 years ago and you didn't need these protections, because people just had the moral framework. I mean here the doctors—a moral framework to know what could be done and what couldn't be done and how to do it, and what comes first, in terms of priorities, of life saving, you know, therapies and treatments and so on, and how that impacts. And the difference between intent, you know, that sort of ethical training as part of the profession, not to mention the cultural landscape has changed so dramatically when it comes to ethics that that framework is not there. So that means you have to put it in the letter of the law, I think, and then do a good bit of educating. So, you know, no one said, Well, some people did, but they were wrong. Most of us said the end of Roe means the beginning of the work, and this is another example of that.

BROWN: All right. John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center, and he's host of the Breakpoint Podcast. Thanks so much, John. Hope you enjoyed the Fourth.

STONESTREET: You too, thanks so much!

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