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Culture Friday: Adult conflicts, children’s lives

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Adult conflicts, children’s lives

How Hamas harms children, mutilation by another name, and communists harass a Christian coffee shop in Colorado


Emily Hand, right, a released hostage, reunites with her father, Nov. 26, 2023, in Israel. Associated Press/The Israeli Army

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 9th of February, 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

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!

JOHN STONESTREET: Good morning.

EICHER: John, I know you’re following developments in the Middle East, in particular the war in Gaza over Hamas. Given all the back and forth that’s gone on over the remaining hostages, I thought a reminder was in order about what’s at stake here. And we should note well that there really was no distinction made among women and children and elderly. Hamas grabbed everyone they could get their hands on October 7th. Let me take a few minutes to tell you the story of one former hostage. This audio is courtesy of Israeli television. It’s about a young girl named Emily Hand.

THOMAS HAND: She’s still afraid.

That’s her father, Thomas Hand. He’s Irish-Israeli. Hand is part of a collective farm, a Kibbutz that was overrun October 7th by Hamas.

They kidnapped his eight-year-old daughter Emily. She’s nine now and was among the hostages released in November. But Emily still won’t talk about what happened, not directly.

HAND: She actually has code words for Gaza, terrorists, she has lots and lots of code words. [Emily’s voice Hebrew] She doesn’t even want to say it.

Terrorists dragged Emily from her home in her pajamas. She was given other clothes to wear and she had them on when she was released and taken to a hospital. But when she got there, she promptly ripped off the clothes and tossed them in a wastebasket.

HAND: Just threw them in the bin. She didn’t want anything, anything from them.

Three men were her guards. They moved location to location, her father believed, to stay a step ahead of Israeli defense forces.

HAND: I’m sure they messed around in the head [Arabic] … be quiet or I’ll kill you with this knife … to an eight-year-old child as she was then. Barbarians.

And so Emily’s code words are maybe a little more understandable. So too her continual fear, her memories of seeing people she knew, neighbors, lying dead, as she was taken away to Gaza, thinking her father was either kidnapped, too, or killed.

HAND: She always wants to know that the door is locked, that the shutters are down. She wants to be secure, feel secure in the house.

Emily wants to be secure, feel secure. That’s interesting. She probably is secure now, and what she wants is to feel secure, because I doubt she does.

Couple of observations: Emily speaks in code about the experience. It’s literally unspeakable, so she has to come up with other words. 

Her father ascertained that Emily was threatened with death if she didn’t keep quiet. Holds up a potential murder weapon and threatens an 8-year-old. Dad’s comment is one word, “barbarians.”

Can you address the core issue here of the adult world breaking into the world of children—and I think of the Palestinian kids who have had this war foisted upon them by Hamas. Children receiving instruction in Jew-hatred in schools. Some of it if not all of it courtesy of the UN refugee relief agency. 

Again, bringing adult conflicts into the lives of children.

What does that do to human beings culturally?

STONESTREET: You know, I think it’s an interesting question, given the story to, you know, to ask the question this way. In other words, we all kind of internally recoil whenever we hear a story that involves the targeting of children. And that tells us something, doesn’t it? I mean, it tells us about, I think the natural way we think about children. And these are things that you can find traces of in history, not that there hasn’t been, you know, the dehumanization and the mistreatment of children throughout times past, particularly before Christian civilization because there were, but even then there was a sense that at least the little ones should be protected. 

And it points to something about how we are made and who we are and how we think about what it means to be human. And maybe it's because children don’t make the choice to come into the world, they’re here, not on their own, and they are absolutely you know, dependent. And we can harm them in so many ways. Here, in a sense, this little girl comes back physically unharmed, but mentally harmed deeply. 

I think about a document that was produced by a set of organizations. And I was proud to be a part of the signees last year, called The Promise to America’s Children, looking at a completely different set of issues, but also recognizing the same reality that children have the right to be protected in their hearts and minds. In other words, how they think and how they imagine the world. That certainly includes the right to not be abused physically or sexually, but also not to be subjected to unwarranted and untested and irreversible medical experimentation, like we’re doing in the name of gender ideology.

And then they have the right to their most important relationships, which of course, is the family. So whenever, for example, an educator steps up and goes, “Parents should get out of the way because we know best for the child,” that’s a violation of that right. Because their most important relationship, the one that actually establishes and determines their long-term success, is with the parent. And that's when you hear the story of an Israeli little girl getting taken out of that context, out of that protection into Gaza, she is deeply harmed even if she comes back, physically unscathed.

BROWN: John, I want to talk about another atrocity towards children, specifically girls. As you know, on February 6th, global attention was drawn to what’s known as International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation or FGM. 

To be clear FGM, a despicable practice. Involves partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or other injury to the female genital organs for cultural or non-medical reasons.

Huge problem in Africa. So much so that more than two decades ago, African leaders declared FGM a global crisis. Here in this country in the 1990’s, lawmakers outlawed FGM.

Here’s my questions: How can we clearly call out one form of mutilation while applauding another form of mutilation, under another name—namely, so-called transgender surgeries?

STONESTREET: You can if you have devolved into a Romans 1 culture, where you call up, down and down up. That’s really the only explanation. I mean, these things are so identical, and President Obama was crystal clear on female genital mutilation and good for him, he was willing to step up and do it. And yet at the same time, his State Department would advance a different form of harmful practice, aimed at someone’s the sexual aspects of one’s identity, and aimed at children, and would withhold federal aid in the name of that, and President Biden has picked that up after President Trump has not. So. you know, he joins with all these voices, but then his policies have turned around and actually advance the very same mutilation. You know, I challenge someone to actually put these two things on paper, female genital mutilation, and irreversible, whether chemical or surgical interventions to a child’s natural healthy development, and figure out a way to prove that these things are different. It’s impossible. It’s literally the same practice. Only one dates back thousands, thousands of years and one started yesterday.

BROWN: Well, John, I wonder, have you heard about what’s happening to the owners and patrons of a coffee shop in your state? For seven months a group known as the Denver Communists has staged monthly protests outside the Drip Cafe. The Colorado coffee shop is being targeted for its faith based beliefs, namely that homosexuality is wrong and a sin. The owner says he doesn't hate anybody. LGBTQ community members are welcome and served at the shop, yet the protests continue. The property reportedly vandalized and customers harassed. So John, several years after what happened to Barronelle Stutzman and Jack Phillips, what have we learned? Are you hopeful outcomes will be different?

STONESTREET: Well, you know, my understanding of the story is that it's different in one way, is that the owners of this coffee shop haven't been targeted by the state. And that has been the case for both Barronelle Stutzman, for Jack Phillips and for Lorie Smith, although hers was a pre-enforcement challenge, which was quickly followed up with some other things. But then here's what happens in Colorado: state actors, whether we're talking about the Civil Rights Commission, misbehave, and they mistreat people of faith and they show obvious scorn. And then they go to the Supreme Court and they get smacked down. And when they get smacked down, then they come back and double down on it and one of two ways.

So right now the state legislature, other state actors are contemplating similar legislation that would extend the same sort of anti-discrimination statutes and laws to nonprofits like us here in Colorado, so that we would actually be subject to the same sort of government scrutiny that the Supreme Court said the state was improper to level against Jack Phillips. So it's completely upside down.

But then here's the other way that state actors do, they get out of the way, and then that private actors then harass other private citizens. And that's been the ongoing struggle for Jack Phillips, where an attorney, a man who dresses and speaks and acts as if he is a woman, and fashions himself as a civil rights advocate, as an attorney, has gone on now a 10 year campaign of harassing another private citizen. This is not something that should ever be allowed, he should actually have been ordered to cease and desist by all kinds of different state actors. But instead, they have essentially enabled and encouraged this sort of misbehavior. So I can't imagine that there's going to be any state actors…of course, you know, the Denver Communists that what they were called? What a, what a great name, the Denver Communists have every right to protest, this is their right to do it. But the targeting of slander, the vandalism, these things are illegal, these are things that should be stopped. So if you're asking me, given the track record of my state, whether they will hold themselves accountable, to follow the clear instruction of the Supreme Court, or to hold citizens accountable to the law, if they're on this side of these issues. So, no, I don't have a whole lot of faith that anything will be different this time around. But good for the owners of the Drip Cafe for being clear, for being clear on loving customers, being clear on their own convictions. And God bless them.

BROWN: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks so much, 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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