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Culture Friday: An evangelical fault line


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: An evangelical fault line

With the “Respect for Marriage Act” passed, what is on the horizon for evangelicals?


MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s the 2nd 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: I think we need to start where we left off last week, now that the marriage redefinition bill passed, and I think the only bit of drama was the rejection of some amendments to make protection of religious liberty more explicit, more robust.

It probably says a lot about what we can expect, after this gets published in the statute books. I wonder about what’s also on the horizon for evangelicals. Do you see a new fault line here, given that both the big Christian college coalition and the national association of evangelicals are on the side of the “Respect for Marriage Act” and so many other evangelicals are opposed to it?

STONESTREET: I think that's absolutely going to be the case that there's some sort of divide. I mean, I don't think it's the only source of a divide in evangelicalism. Evangelicalism, has more fractures than we could account for here. But it does seem to be at some level, those that will basically say, you know, what, this is what marriage is, and we can't change our mind on this. And those who have made peace, you know, kind of with the cultural narrative, and then I think that's what happened on the life issue as well, if you remember, and those who doggedly supported and stayed with this idea that life is valuable, ended up winning out even within the church. I think, you know, there's also those who believe, agree with us, but, you know, basically, in an attempt not to be overly controversial, or to give the culture another thing to hate us for, you know, maybe they haven't made their peace with same sex marriage, but basically are saying, you know, it's not a core issue. It's not a hill to die on. And I think that that's not true either. Because we're not talking about us,  even if it did give us all the religious liberty protections we wanted, it's exchanging kind of this porridge of religious liberty in exchange for this redefined institution. And now of course, we're in a cultural moment, that's even more confused than when Obergefell was decided by the Supreme Court, where the “T” which was barely present in the acronym back in 2015, now basically runs the cultural show. So this is another kind of place upon which to build even further evolution, and expansion of the definition of marriage to other relational arrangements, which further endangers children. I look back at the history of the church, and every time the church has collided with culture that I can find whether it's a new culture, whether it's a pagan eyes, culture, whether it's a culture that needed revival, like, you know, the pre Victorian England, it almost always involved the church standing up for and protecting children. So I guess I look at it and go, Why would it be any different for us today, the church has a responsibility to stand up and protect children from really bad ideas. And so I think it's our calling right now. And all this is part of the same thing.

EICHER: I want to ask specifically about the protests going on in China. I know you’re culture and not international politics, but there seems to be a cultural issue here similar to what we experienced in this country over the level of government control we were willing to accept in connection with Covid. China is actually under fire for its zero Covid, harsh lockdown policy and I wonder what thoughts you have on that? Tiananmen Square is a distant memory, but can you see the Chinese regime starting to come apart?

STONESTREET: Well, that's a great question that would require me to be far more prophetic than I claim to have talent for. But it is interesting, isn't it? I mean, particularly coming right on the heels of Zhi Jing ping winning a third - and I put winning in quotes there - a third term as a leader and really becoming more Chairman Mao, like than any leader since and, you know, it's always interesting to see what ends up you know, triggering human beings to rise up and say, Look, no more no more control because the level of control that the Chinese government has placed on its citizens is remarkable. We were thinking and talking this week and in our editorial staff about this move from The no child policy to a one child policy to now to child policy to now, you know, no restrictions whatsoever. And by the way, all of this is an attempt to control fertility in the population, which they've clearly made themselves unable to do. And it's had incredible socio economic consequences, both in terms of young men, you know, being productive to crime spikes to just not enough babies. And one can imagine a very close future. In fact, if I were going to predict something, it would be that the Chinese government, within our lifetime will actually mandate women to have a particular number of children. But it is a vision that sees nothing bigger to what it means to be human than the state, than to those who control there's nothing eternal, there's nothing metaphysical. There's nothing godlike about us. And so, basically, it isn't, you know, Nietzsche's vision of the Übermensch, the Superman controlling everything else. And whenever we see that lived out in a real life context, it's horrible. It's horrific. Of course, we might also say this, that most of the western world, particularly media, had this fascination with China's zero COVID policy as if it were the ideal way to handle this. Some countries like New Zealand followed along. And that's all been proven just absolutely ridiculous. And you look at China and go like, this is 2022. We haven't really thought much about COVID in a while. I know Dr. Fauci has, but the rest of us really haven't. And so, you know, you're still dealing with this? That's an amazing sort of thing. So, but that's if I put on my political hat and you told me not to do that. So I won't.

BROWN: Here we are in the season of Advent and many people love to see those Hallmark channel movies over the holidays, one actress who’s synonymous with those films: Candace Cameron Bure. She left Hallmark in favor of an openly Christian channel—not the first time—but she came under fire for an interview she did with The Wall Street Journal.

“I think that Great American Family [the channel she went to after Hallmark] will keep traditional marriage at the core.”

She took a lot of flak for that, but do you think this one will blow over ?

STONESTREET: I have so many thoughts. The first is thank you for recognizing that it is not yet Christmas season, but it is Advent, which is not precisely the same thing. And you need to prepare for Jesus coming before we start, you know, putting the wisemen up, but so I appreciate that as a good Anglican, the second thing that comes to mind is I don't have a whole lot of thoughts, except sarcastic snarky ones, about Hallmark Christmas movies, especially those that play all year round. But I am always impressed when someone is willing to do the hard thing. And it is an amazing thing that this is what counts as a hard thing. You know, basically, not even saying that we're going to do a movie that critiques same sex marriage or critiques this brand new way of thinking about sex and, and identity and sexual orientation. But you know, the only movies we're going to do are going to have marriages that look like the vast majority of marriages have since the beginning of time. You know, that shouldn't be a controversial thing. But it actually is, that shouldn't be a controversial thing to say, I'm just not going to participate when apparently, what is expected of all of us is that everyone must actually celebrate. And that's what she's being asked to do. Of course, Disney went along with that, this mandate to celebrate and to over celebrate, and to hyper celebrate. And we saw what happened there, this past week, pleat bombing of their latest film, and the swapping out of the CEO, you know that that's where the motto has come from ‘woke is broke.’ Now, I don't  know if that's always going to hold true if that's going to hold true in every segment. But I am much more curious. And I'm hopeful that the the executives that are making these decisions for the great American Family Channel, have as much, you know, confidence in what's true and, and conviction as this actress does. Because what we have seen and I think in far too many cases is this. When the heat comes on, that there tends to be a buckling among execs. And I think as Christians, we need to be really clear about that. And what our calling is, if we do find ourselves in charge of, you know, this Christian channel that happens to do these sorts of movies.

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

STONESTREET: Thank you both.

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