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Culture Friday - Florida’s fight against false gender narratives


WORLD Radio - Culture Friday - Florida’s fight against false gender narratives

Activists criticize new state law blocking LGBT curriculum in K-3rd grade

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a news conference at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in Miami. Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press Photo

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday, March 11th, 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.

By next fall when Florida schoolchildren return to school—pre-K to Grade 3—they’ll be shielded from classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation. That’s because a new law is likely to take effect July 1st that will outlaw that kind of curriculum.

After the state senate in Tallahassee, Florida, gave final approval this week in Washington, the president’s spokeswoman Jen Psaki blasted the measure as a form of bullying.

PSAKI: I think the most important question now is why are Florida leaders deciding they need to discriminate against kids who are members of the LGBTQI community? What prompts them to do that? Is it meanness? Is it wanting to make kids have more difficult times in school in their communities?

BROWN: Opponents tagged the parents’-rights measure the “don’t say gay” bill, a pejorative that’s made it into most news reports on the subject. Evan Donovan, a TV reporter in Florida, asked Governor Ron DeSantis about it and he got a little more than he bargained for. Donovan posted the exchange to social media.

[Reporter] ... what critics call the “don’t say gay” bill is on the Senate floor ...

[DeSantis] Does it say that in the bill?

[Reporter] ... I know that you support ...

[DeSantis] Does it say that in the bill?

[Reporter] I’m asking ...

[DeSantis] I’m asking you to tell me what’s in the bill because you are pushing false narratives. It doesn’t matter what critics say.

[Reporter] Well hold on. It says “advanced classroom instruction on sexual identity and gender orientation” ...

[DeSantis] For who? For grades pre-K through three, so five-year-old, six-year-old, seven-year-olds, and the idea that you wouldn’t be honest about that and tell people what it actually says. It’s why people don't trust people like you because you peddle false narratives. [applause] And so we disabuse you of those narratives. And we’re gonna make sure that parents are able to send their kid to kindergarten without having some of this stuff injected into their school curriculum.

EICHER: Here’s the part that LGBT groups most strenuously object to, quoting from the bill: “Classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”

One of Florida’s biggest employers is Walt Disney World, which lobbied quietly to try to stop the bill.

It faced a backlash from LGBT groups that accused the company of not doing enough and so now Disney says it’ll donate $5 million to them.

BROWN: Let’s bring in John Stonestreet. He’s the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast and he joins us now. Morning, John.


EICHER: From what I could tell, John, this did really seem parent-driven, part of the backlash we’ve been talking about recently, where parents are getting wise to some of the culture-war curriculum their young kids are being exposed to and they want it stopped. Do you think this particular measure will help?

STONESTREET: I think it will help a lot.

I mean, I think there is this sense that the sexual revolution is inevitable, it's inevitable, and all of its consequences and all of its extremes. And this is about as extreme as it can get. I mean, think about it, this wouldn't have been controversial 10 years ago, that third graders should not be included in conversations about sexual behavior. Now, we're talking about third graders not being protected from conversations about who they actually are. I mean, and actually, you know, pushing them towards an ideology that could lead down the road to either chemical, or even surgical disruption, or mutilation of who they are.

This is a protection of children, it would not have been controversial yesterday. And suddenly, it is, and I think there is a wake up call that's taking place. You know, you put a zoom classroom in every home and suddenly parents are up close and personal. They should have known I mean, it's not like this was a secret. It's not like, we weren't talking about this for the last, you know, several years.

But there is something beyond this. I mean, even more progressive parents don't want to hear their daughter who they raised as a daughter come home and say everything you've taught me about myself is wrong. And I'm not the one person you thought I was and, and look, if I was walking down the street with my young children, and a perverted man flashed us, I could take that person to jail because they were being exposed to something against their will and without their consent.

How is that not the same thing here? It's not controversial. The “don't say gay” moniker. It's irresponsible for media to have picked up on that. It's actually not true. And apparently, somehow the LGBTQ groups were able to hold Disney hostage for something that the Florida Legislature, I mean, this whole thing, you just put it all together and everything is backwards back to front, you know, from start to finish.

EICHER: The clip we heard a few moments ago—from the presidential spokeswoman—that came in response to an interesting question in the White House briefing room. A reporter reminded Jen Psaki that in 1994 when her boss was a senator, then-Senator Joe Biden voted for a bill that would cut off all federal funding for any school district that teaches acceptance of homosexuality as a lifestyle. This wasn’t about kindergartners or third graders. This was any school district that teaches gay acceptance. She didn’t answer the question, she flipped the script and, of course, got away with it. But I think that’s to your point about how this really wasn’t a controversy not all that long ago.

STONESTREET: Oh, absolutely. I mean, the only thing that is a class from K to 12 now is sexual education. It's only a questioning of who you are. And of course, I mean, there's so many things wrong with this. It's based on sexual stereotypes, that yesterday, just yesterday, we were told were bogus, and were the source of discrimination and bias.

And based on those same sexual characteristics, in many cases, suddenly suddenly, you know, we can know whether or not someone was quote, unquote, you know, born in the wrong body. It's just child abuse. I mean, it needs to be said that it's child abuse, there's not a gentle way to put this. It's absolutely awful.

And look, let's be honest about something else, while we're being honest about all these things: This isn't about a child being discriminated against. This is about adults creating a world in which their happiness is the only thing that can go unchallenged. That's really what this is about.

This is about teaching children something that is clearly controversial, at the very least, if not completely insane, in order to advance a way of life that allows me to pursue my own happiness. This is again about adult happiness versus children's rights.

BROWN: Up until Russia invaded Ukraine, we were having a little debate about so-called “Christian nationalism.” Kevin DeYoung has had a few pieces on this topic for WORLD Opinions and I mention Ukraine because some of those who are loudest in warning about nationalism are now flying Ukrainian flags and saluting the patriotic resistance to the Russians. But I wonder, and I know you’ve weighed in on this for Breakpoint, could you talk about the line between a harmful nationalism on the one hand, and a Biblical love of country on the other? How do you draw the line?

STONESTREET: Well, you know, one of the interesting things to do is look at where the Bible introduces the idea of nations, and how does it describe the idea of nations. It's certainly not something mentioned until after the fall, until after something goes wrong in the creation, but it is mentioned before Genesis chapter 11, which is typically when we think about nations being born, when at the Tower of Babel, God separates tongues and tribes and nations and languages, and spreads the people out over across the face of the earth. The chapter before, the descendants of Noah are described using terms of nations. And so it seems that there was a part of this kind of national identity that was part of God's plan, even before Babel.

Even the Babel story, though, you look at it, and the dividing into nations seems to be an act of mercy, not an act of judgment. And I think that's an important theological conversation. It's basically God looks at the project and goes, you know, what, if we don't separate them, then anything that comes into their mind will be possible. Now, hopefully, we've all reached that point in our lives where we realize we ought not do everything that comes into our minds. But that was actually something that God wanted to prevent.

And then you fast forward to the New Testament, and everything's culminated, where in a description of the new heavens and new earth in Revelation chapter seven, people from every tongue, tribe, nation and language are gathered before the throne dressed in white. So somehow, that nationalistic part of our identity carries into the new heavens and new earth.

Now, that's not to say that nations are sinless. Nations can be just as overcome and overwhelmed by sins, including certain sins as individuals can, and it needs to be redeemed and restored and the answer to sin is still Christ. The answer to sin is not being part of us and not them. It's not having a better constitution or a better history, or well intended founding fathers.

So you realize that being a part of a nation is not something we choose, it actually is something that God chooses. I think when nationalism stops being about stewardship, and starts being about alternative salvation, that's when you really start getting into idolatry, when being a citizen is the way of being able to manage and love our neighbor as ourselves and stewarding who we are called to be as followers of Christ, that is a healthy nationalism. So I don't have an allergy to the term nationalism. And I don't think Christians should. I think having an allergy to it is a shortcut to actually doing the hard work of theology that's required, you know, to be a part of this nation.

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

STONESTREET: Thank you Myrna. Thank you Nick.

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